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MLB Bullpen Depth Charts…Pass the Excedrin

It’s only been two days into the 2022 baseball season, and we already have headaches following bullpen usage. Every Saturday we will attempt to make sense of what is happening out there at Fantrax. We will do this in two ways: with charts for each of the six divisions that you can easily access, and with a bit of a narrative interpreting and reporting what is happening in each place as news becomes available. Any and all feedback will be welcome.

Remember that the color shading for each bullpen indicates a level of comfort with what we think we know, and can change daily, in all honesty.  Green means we feel pretty certain we know who the closer is, yellow means it is murky, and red means it could be a daily guess, and this may be a bullpen you do not want to touch right now.

MLB Bullpen Updates for Week 1

AL East

AL East Bullpens

There probably won’t be many opportunities in Baltimore this year, but with the trade of Cole Sulser and Tanner Scott to the Miami Marlins last week, look for Dillon Tate to get the bulk of the chances. Paul Fry may get some too depending on the situation.

The Boston Red Sox have a murky situation here.  While many analysts looking for a reinvigorated Matt Barnes, manager Alex Cora has refused thus far to name a closer.  Those who drafted Garrett Whitlock to close must be disappointed to see him stretched out as a bulk reliever and not be closing. Name to earmark: old friend Hansel Robles could sneak into a few chances here, but I still think their best option most nights will be Barnes. Jake Diekman also has closing experience.

One of my favorite phrases, not invented by me, is “Rays are gonna Ray.” Andrew Kittredge came on in the eighth yesterday and got the win, while J.P. Feyereisen got a hold and Brooks Raley the save. This kind of thing will happen in Tampa, where manager Kevin Cash is well-known for playing matchups.  Still, I think Kittredge is the best bet for the bulk of the save opportunities…right now.

AL Central

AL Central Bullpens

The Minnesota Twins made a bold move trading erstwhile closer Taylor Rogers to San Diego for RHP Chris Paddack and Emilio Pagan. What to make of the Minnesota pen?  My best guess is that manager Rocco Baldelli uses a committee approach as they sort through the remains of the bullpen.  Look for Pagan, Jorge Alcala and Tyler Duffey to all get save opportunities in the short term.  A name to file for later: Jhoan Duran, who likely has the best arm of the bunch but lacks the experience of the others. Baldelli also announced that the Twins would add Paddack to a burgeoning six-man rotation. This will be on to watch in coming weeks.

Game one of the season for the Chicago White Sox saw Liam Hendriks give up two leads on their way to a walkoff loss to the Detroit Tigers.  No change in hierarchy here, but Hendriks will look to locate his fastball better and perhaps trust the slider more than he did yesterday. He is firmly entrenched as the guy on the South Side.

AL West

AL West Bullpens

Many have been wondering what would happen in Seattle with the injury to Ken Giles. If game one was any indication, and it may not be, Paul Sewald got the eighth, and Drew Steckenrider the ninth, earning his first save. I’d look for manager Scott Servais to use Sewald, arguably his best arm, in crucial situations, which means he could be used as early as the sixth inning or get the closing opportunity in the ninth inning. My best guess is that Sewald, Steckenrider, and Diego Castillo will all get chances based on matchups, which means all could get 8-10 saves this year.  Add Giles to the mix when he returns and remember that Andres Munoz lurks as the closer of the future.  A headache for fantasy players!

It’s hard to say what will happen in Texas.  They have experienced arms in Matt Bush and Greg Holland, some guys coming back from injury in Jose Leclerc and Jonathan Hernandez, and intriguing pieces in Joe Barlow and Garrett Richards. Many expected manager Chris Woodward to name Barlow the closer based on last year’s success, but he suggested he will use him in higher leverage roles earlier in the game to start the year. This will be a fluid situation, but give a slight push to Holland and Bush.

NL East

NL East Bullpens

Manager Don Mattingly told the media this week that his first choice for save opportunities in Miami would be Anthony Bender. That’s interesting because the Marlins just traded for Cole Sulser and Tanner Scott, who now appear to be locked into setup roles. Dylan Floro remains injured but will add to the mix when he returns.

NL Central

NL Central Bullpens

Raise your hand if you saw the first save of the season going to….David Robertson of the Chicago Cubs on Opening Day. I am still not convinced he is their closer, although he has the most experience closing games in the Chicago bullpen. This still looks like a committee.

Moving down to Cincinnati, Tony Santillan earned the save on Opening Night while Art Warren and Hunter Strickland did not appear in the game. Lucas Sims is injured and could very well prove to be the best option when he returns in a few weeks, but maybe a small FAAB bid this weekend might net you a few saves if you grab Santillan.

NL West

NL West Bullpens

Colorado appears set to use Daniel Bard, who saw an uptick in velocity this spring, as the closer with Alex Colome in a setup role.  A name to watch that I like: Robert Stephenson, who is on the Covid-19 list to start the season. This could be a volatile bullpen and will certainly be one to watch.

Craig Kimbrel earned his first save as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers last night. He made it interesting, giving up two hits and an earned run while adding two punchouts.  The highwire act may continue for a bit, but Kimbrel should be the best option for saves at Chavez Ravine this year. That is one deep bullpen in LA, though.

Well for those of you who were gathering shares of Robert Suarez and Pierce Johnson, or Emilio Pagan, or even Dinelson Lamet as the closer in San Diego, let me introduce you to Taylor Rogers.  Manager Bob Melvin immediately anointed Rogers as closer, who got his first save Friday night. Moving over to Minnesota in this trade were Paddack and Pagan, who likely will become part of the aforementioned committee in Minnesota. Interesting to note: Lamet was brought in to get one out in the eighth inning last night.

San Francisco used Jake McGee in the eighth last night and gave the ninth to budding closer Camilo Doval. McGee pitched a clean eighth, but Doval gave up three earned runs and a home run to Jazz Chisholm, Jr.  That didn’t go as planned. For those raising eyebrows over this, especially after manager Gabe Kapler announced McGee as his guy, McGee was brought in to face the heart of the order.  I still think McGee will get the lion’s share of the chances at least to start the season.

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