American League East 2024 Preview

March 13, 2024

Baltimore Orioles – As a team last year, the Orioles finished second in the American League in saves, fueled by the breakout season turned in by Félix Bautista. He will miss the season after undergoing elbow surgery, but all will not be lost for the franchise. Craig Kimbrel signed as a free agent and will take over as the primary save share. He finished third in strikeouts among qualified relievers in the National League in 2023 and converted 23 of 28 save chances for the Phillies. Yennier Cano will operate as the eighth inning option, and will often take on the toughest lineup pockets on opposing teams. He logged 72 appearances last year and tied for the major-league lead in holds (31). Getting Dillon Tate back and using Danny Coulombe versus left-handed pockets will enhance the bridge options for the upcoming season.

With this in mind, here’s the team’s high-leverage results over the last three years:

Projected 2024 Hierarchy: Craig Kimbrel | Yennier Cano | Dillon Tate

Primary Holds Candidates: Cano, Coulombe, Mike Baumann, Keegan Akin

Boston Red Sox After tipping their hand about potentially trading Kenley Jansen, he remains a Red Sox as of this writing. He will open the season as their “closer” unless a last-minute deal occurs. Even though he missed time down the stretch, he went 29-for-33 in save opportunities last year (87.9 save percentage) and he’s tied for ninth all-time with nine seasons with 30 or more saves. How he performs early on may set his trade market. He’s an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Chris Martin played Robin to Jansen’s Batman well last year, recording a team-high 23 holds along with three saves, and 46 strikeouts against eight walks over 51.1 innings. His 1.03 WHIP makes him an alluring target in leagues with holds or SOLDS categories. With eyes on the future, the team signed Liam Hendriks. He plans on returning near the Trade Deadline (August 2), but how much and in what situations Boston deploys him in will be determined as the season progresses.

Here’s Boston’s high-leverage results since 2021:

Projected 2024 Hierarchy: Kenley Jansen | Chris Martin | Josh Winckowski

Primary Holds Candidates: Martin, Winckowski, Isaiah Campbell, Brennan Bernardino, Justin Slaten, Greg Weissert

New York Yankees – This bullpen may lean heavily on Clay Holmes early on this year. He turned in a career-high 24 saves last season and finished strong being scoreless in 12 of his last 13 outings. His 66 appearances in 2023 represent the second most in his career and he will utilize his 64.8 ground ball percentage in leverage events. However, getting him to save situations may be a weak link for this bullpen. Tommy Kahnle will open the season on the injured list and oft injured Jonathan Loáisiga projects as the main set-up option early on. One bright spot will be Ian Hamilton. He will take over the vacated multi-inning role filled by Michael King last year, and has shoved so far this spring. In deeper formats, he will retain value by providing vulture wins, ancillary saves, and strikeout upside.

Since 2021, here’s how this leverage ladder has performed in high-leverage events:

Projected 2024 Hierarchy: Clay Holmes | Jonathan Loáisiga | Ian Hamilton

Primary Holds Candidates: Loáisiga, Caleb Ferguson, Nick Burdi

Tampa Bay Rays – It happened, the Rays stopped spreading the wealth in the bullpen and relied upon Pete Fairbanks as their “closer” when he was not on the injured list. He set career highs in appearances (49), innings (45.1), strikeouts (68), and saves (25). He also ranked seventh among American League relievers with an 86.2 save percentage. His save total represented the most by a Tampa Bay reliever since Sergio Romo recorded 25 in 2018. Setting him up affably, and filling in as the “closer” when necessary, Jason Adam remains a rock in this leverage ladder. Through 117.2 innings with the Rays, he ons a 0.875 WHIP with 144 strikeouts versus 37 walks, and secured 20 saves. Colin Poche led all relievers with 12 wins last season, but it’s a tough feat to repeat. He’s only the sixth reliever in team history with consecutive 65-plus game seasons.

Taking all of this in, here’s the teams high-leverage results since 2021:

Projected 2024 Hierarchy: Pete Fairbanks | Jason Adam | Colin Poche

Primary Holds Candidates: Adam, Poche, Shawn Armstrong, Garrett Cleavinger

Toronto Blue Jays – Anchoring a deep, and pliable leverage ladder, Jordan Romano has recorded 36 saves in back-to-back seasons. He accomplished this total despite missing 18 days with back inflammation during the second half. His durability will determine his ceiling for 2024, along with how he handles left-handed hitters, but from a saves standpoint, he remains a reliable source. Erik Swanson set career-bests in games (69), innings (66.2), and strikeouts (75) in his first season with Toronto. He also finished third in the American League with 29 holds. Tim Mayza, Yimi García, Chad Green, and Trevor Richards will also factor as bridge relievers this year.

Here’s the Blue Jays high-leverage trends since 2021:

Projected 2024 Hierarchy: Jordan Romano | Erik Swanson | Yimi García

Primary Holds Candidates: Swanson, García, Tim Mayza, Chad Green, Trevor Richards

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