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The Wild World of MLB Bullpens

At long last, the MLB season is well underway despite a series of cancellations due to the wacky weather spring offers here in North America.

Every week we will do a quick dial around the American and National Leagues, checking on bullpen usage patterns to try and give you the most current updates on happenings.  The chart will be updated weekly as well to try and give you an idea of who is closing and who is getting holds.

Keep in mind this is far from a perfect calculus.  Expect more pitchers than ever to get saves this year as we continue to see relief pitchers throw more innings than starters.  It won’t be uncommon for many teams this year to have multiple pitchers get 5-10 saves even if they have a primary closer.  We will do our best help you sort through the morass each week.

If you have questions my DMs are always open.  Find me @mdrc0508 on Twitter.

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Fantasy Baseball Bullpen Report for April 8

AL East

MLB Bullpens 4-8 AL East

Felix Bautista showed little rust this week despite not having had much of a Spring Training.  Continue to deploy him with confidence.  He has three saves and seven strikeouts for the Baltimore Orioles.

AL Central

MLB Bullpens 4-8 AL Central

The Chicago White Sox received some good news this week when Liam Hendriks rang the bell in completing his chemotherapy treatments for non-Hodgkins lymphoma. There is no timetable for his return, although he is on the 15-day IL at this time and not the 60-day IL, which may indicate that management thinks he might be able to ramp up quickly and get his job back.  Reynaldo Lopez is likely miscast as the closer despite his velocity ramp-up. Lopez has been shaky this first week despite earning a save. He is best used as a stopper and should Hendriks be able to return, he can go back to that role.  After one week the Sox have statistically the worst bullpen in baseball.  The Sox designated veteran Jose Ruiz for assignment this week.  Things have been so bad that they signed Alex Colome to a minor league deal this week.  It’s tough being a Sox fan.

AL West

MLB Bullpens 4-8 AL West

The Los Angeles Angels had an interesting bullpen to consider before the season started.  Would the closer be Carlos EstevezJimmy HergetJose Quijada?  Both Herget and Matt Moore have chipped in with three holds each.  Estevez has yet to earn a save, and Tucker Davidson and Quijada both earned a save last week.  I wouldn’t read too much into it yet; Quijada got the save on a rest day for Estevez, and Davidson’s save was a four-inning opportunity.  Continue to use Estevez…for now.

Texas looked to have Jose Leclerc in the driver’s seat, but lefty veteran Will Smith was signed at the end of the spring to help out as well.  Leclerc did convert a save opportunity on Wednesday night, but Smith also converted a chance last Sunday night in the weekly ESPN game. As we say at times here, context matters.  Manager Bruce Bochy had Smith in San Francisco and used him well there.  Look for the masterful Bochy to mix and match with Leclerc likely getting more chances than Smith, but both earning saves.

NL East

MLB Bullpens 4-8 NL East

Atlanta put setup guy Collin McHugh on the IL this week with a shoulder issue.  Closer Raisel Iglesias was still not throwing as of this writing, further cementing AJ Minter’s status as the guy getting save opportunities for the Braves.  Joe Jimenez looks like a good candidate for holds.  Don’t look now, but Jesse Chavez has two holds on the young season, as does Dylan Lee. Chavez also has a save.

Trouble could be brewing in Washington with Brandon Finnegan struggling out of the gate. Setup man Carl Edwards Jr. has been good to start the season and Hunter Harvey could see opps too, even though manager Davy Martinez gave the vote of confidence to Finnegan this week.  One to watch for sure.

NL Central

MLB Bullpens 4-8 NL Central

Not much news in the NL Central, but how about the Pittsburgh Pirates having five saves in the first week?  David Bednar has three, Wil Crowe and Duane Underwood one each.  Looking for cheap holds?  Colin Holderman is cementing his status as a handcuff in Pittsburgh and could continue to get chances.

NL West

MLB Bullpens 4-8 NL West

In Colorado, Daniel Bard remains on the IL as he continues to work through anxiety and command issues in his bullpen sessions.  Meanwhile, former Padre Pierce Johnson has performed well thus far in a small sample size with two saves and seven strikeouts in three innings.  Until we heard differently, Johnson is a usable asset in deeper leagues.

Los Angeles continues to have injury issues with Daniel Hudson working his way back from knee problems and Brusdar Graterol struggling with some back tightness last week.  This led to an opportunity for Evan Phillips to earn two saves in the season’s first week.  It’s likely too early to glean too much here based on the circumstances and small sample size, but the fact that Phillips got the job done may breed some more confidence in manager Dave Roberts using him more in the role.  Continue to deploy Phillips. There is still no timeline for a Hudson’s return. As long as he is out, Phillips may be the best option here.

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