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End of May Bullpen News & Notes: Are We Back to 2022 Crazy Levels?

We have reached the end of May.  Hopefully, the end of the school year finds you well, and I hope you have not grown tired of your children being home ALL DAY yet.

Let’s take a look at some numbers. Interesting names are below, but look at the number of pitchers earning saves and save opportunities. Are we seeing a return to 2022 levels of bullpen insanity?

  • Ryan Helsley leads baseball with 18 saves, with 10 of those in May.  Emmanuel Clase and Robert Suarez have 17 saves each.
  • JoJo Romero leads baseball with 18 holds. Hunter Harvey is right behind him with 17 holds.
  • Mason Miller leads all relievers with a whopping 51 strikeouts in 26 innings.
  • There are 118 pitchers through the end of May with at least one save.
  • There are 202 pitchers through the end of May with at least one save opportunity.

Fantasy Baseball Bullpen Report

AL East


We are watching the situation in Toronto. Jordan Romano has struggled.  Yimi Garcia has not.  And Chad Green came off the IL this week after the Blue Jays sent down former top setup guy Erik Swanson. This is how things work in bullpens, year in and year out.  One year a guy is unhittable, the next year he is in the minor leagues. Swanson is too good not to bounce back, and his family issues at the start of the season had to weigh heavily on him, putting baseball as a distant second in his life. Last night we learned that Romano was unavailable due to a sore elbow. The team calls it soreness after his last outing Wednesday against the Chicago White Sox. This will be something to watch in the coming days. Romano hit the IL Saturday with elbow inflammation; the team said there was no structural damage in the elbow, so hopefully, it is a short stay. Manager John Schneider said that Garcia will get most of the save chances.

AL Central

Jhoan Duran has hit his stride, earning four saves this week for the Minnesota Twins. The downturn in K rate is a little troubling; he’s at 22% for the season after a 32.9 K% in 2023. He’s also lost almost two ticks off his fastball and his command has been spotty. Duran now has nine saves on the season. He’s making up for it with a 59% groundball percentage. Griffin Jax continues to be the top setup option and has ten holds on the season.

Michael Kopech continues trying to close out the scant Chicago White Sox wins and has five saves on the season.  The moribund White Sox should be massive sellers leading up to the deadline, and it is possible that a contending team could swing a deal to land the mercurial Kopech for a middle relief role.  Should that happen, look for rookie Jordan Leasure to step into the closer role. Leasure has two saves and eight holds with a 2.66 ERA and has been effective in a high-leverage role.  The problem is that this bullpen has zero defined roles, and manager Pedro Grifol appears not to know how he wants to deploy his weapons.

AL West

Carlos Estevez earned the only save in Los Angeles this week, although veteran Luis Garcia pitched three times.

Oakland: Mason Miller blew a save this week amid the swirling turmoil of trade rumors. He did earn two other saves this week. It’s possible a contending team seeking to upgrade their closer spot could pay a ransom for Miller’s services. In that scenario. it would appear that top setup guy Lucas Erceg would take over, but not so fast: Erceg hit the IL this week with a forearm issue. Egads. Austin Adams has quietly been racking up holds, and has 13 on the year. Look for him to step into the role vacated by Erceg. Scott Alexander could see an increased role too.

NL East

Atlanta will be without the services of top setup guy A.J. Minter for a while; he’s been placed on the IL with hip inflammation. Look for Joe Jimenez and Pierce Johnson to be the highest-leverage relievers in the short term behind closer Raisel Iglesias. Iglesias earned his 14th save on Friday night.

Edwin Diaz was placed on the 15-day IL Wednesday with a shoulder impingement. The New York Mets appear to be imploding.  Adam Ottavino got the save chance on Wednesday and blew it. We can call this a committee right now with Reed Garrett and maybe Jake Diekman depending on the situation. Ottavino is still the lean based on experience; he has over 40 career saves in his ledger. Garrett did earn his third save on Thursday night.

Trade rumors are beginning with Tanner Scott‘s name attached to them. Scott has been excellent in May, with three wins, three saves, a spotless ERA, and a .87 WHIP. Walks remain a bugaboo, but he’s had only five in 10 May outings. Should he be an early trade candidate, the question in Miami will be who will close.  The second question will be, should you be interested in adding that person as your closer?  My best guess is that despite his struggles early on in the rotation, A.J. Puk would be the most logical candidate. Puk has been better since returning to the bullpen with a 4.05 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. Oddly, he has a bloated 18.1 BB% and a paltry 14.3K%. It’s rare to see those kinds of numbers. But he’s also been limiting hard contact with an excellent 85.7 MPH average exit velocity.

Philadelphia: calling this a co-closer situation between Jose Alvarado and Jeff Hoffman, who earned his fifth save Friday night. Alvarado has nine saves on the season.

NL Central

Cincinnati:  Alexis Diaz bounced back with three saves this week, moving his total to 11.  Perennial closer candidate Lucas Sims earned a save after Diaz had pitched two nights in a row. Fernando Cruz has moved into the top leverage spot for the Reds now, and his strikeout ability is eye-catching: 48K% is video-game-like.

Trevor Megill is battling elbow soreness in Milwaukee after taking a comebacker off the elbow earlier in the week. He was not expected to need an IL stint. Don’t be surprised if lefty Bryan Hudson gets some save chances in the interim. He has been outstanding: four wins, a 1.13 ERA, and .75 WHIP along with a 31.1 K% and low 5.9 BB%.

Ryan Helsley continues to be one of the top closers in baseball at this moment. He leads MLB with 18 saves and continues to be successful despite a bit of a downturn in his K rate (24.5%). This feels like nitpicking though. Everything else looks great: a 2.52 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 52.1 GB%, and a fastball velocity of 99.4 MPH.  Those who selected Helsley a sa closer two in fantasy drafts are reaping those benefits now.

NL West

Colorado: Jalen Beeks has six saves this month for the Rockies with a 3.55 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. There’s a saying in fantasy baseball analyst circles: never a Rockies pitcher. Beeks seems miscast as the closer even though he has done ok in the role. Tyler Kinley had a save earlier in the week.  This feels like a committee right now and I would avoid it unless totally desperate for saves.

Evan Phillips is back this week and should bump the committee of Daniel Hudson, Alex Vesia, and Blake Treinen back down to high-leverage roles in the seventh and eighth innings. What a job they did covering Phillips: six saves between them in Phillips’ absence. I expect Phillips to be right back in the top role.

San Diego: let’s stop and reflect momentarily on this dominant bullpen that no one saw coming. Robert Suarez has been one of the top closers in baseball with 17 saves this season, but Jeremiah Estrada has been the story this week. If you are in a league that rewards holds, consider bidding on Estrada. Get this line for May: two wins, a save, 23 strikeouts in 11.2 innings, a .77 ERA, and a .43 WHIP. There isn’t a fantasy team that doesn’t need those statistics. Estrada boasts a whopping 45.9K% this morning.

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