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Closer Updates: A Quick Look At Every Bullpen Thus Far (A’s to Yankees)

As we pass the season’s quarter-mark, it’s probably time to check in on each team’s closer situation. As always, this week’s edition will be jam-packed with speculation, injury updates, and advice on who to snag if you’re out their searching for saves.

Arizona Diamondbacks – After acquiring Addison Reed from the White Sox, the Dbacks hoped that he would be the answer to their bullpen inconsistencies. While Reed is firmly entrenched as the closer, something reiterated by manager Kirk Gibson, he has struggled (12 saves, 4.57 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 10.8 K/9) and his days might be short-lived considering the performance of Brad Ziegler this season (26 appearances, 2.28 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 7.6 K/9).

Atlanta BravesCraig Kimbrel has been posting another excellent season as the Bravos’ closer (11 saves, 2.20 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 16.5 K/9) and he reached an impressive milestone earlier in the week. Kimbrel’s save against the Cards on Sunday allowed him to become the youngest pitcher to earn 150 career saves at the tender age of 25 years and 355 days. What was the reaction of manager Fredi Gonzalez? “It’ll impress me when you save 150 more,” he joked.

Baltimore Orioles – Given the struggles of Tommy Hunter (11 saves, 6.06 ERA, 1.84 WHIP, 8.3 K/9), the closer situation in Baltimore has become a hot topic. With Hunter on the bench, manager Buck Showalter’s decision comes down to Darren O’Day (18 appearances, 0.52 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 6.8 K/9) and Zach Britton (18 appearances, 0.76 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 5.7 K/9). While each are strong candidates, O’Day will probably take the job eventually given his higher career strikeout rate (8.0 versus 5.9).

Boston Red SoxKoji Uehara is comfortable as the closer in Beantown and he’s had a strong first quarter of the season (9 saves, 1.08 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 13.5 K/9). Many thought that he would come down to earth after last year’s dominant run, but the 39-year-old Uehara has proven so far that he’s no flash in the pan.

Chicago Cubs – Manager Rick Renteria recently named Hector Rondon the Cubs’ closer after his strong start to the season (5 saves, 1.31 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 10.5 K/9). Rondon has been perfect in save opportunities thus far and seems determined to keep Justin Grimm, Jose Veras, and Wesley Wright at bay. Although the Cubs may not give Rondon a plethora of save opportunities, his ability to shut the door will make him valuable and certainly roster-worthy.

Chicago White Sox – With Matt Lindstrom on the disabled list, the White Sox are also going with a closer-by-committee approach to the ninth inning. With Ronald Belisario (1 save, 4.15 ERA, 1.00 WHIP), Daniel Webb (17 appearances, 2.63 ERA, 1.50 WHIP), and Jake Petricka (1 save, 1.78 ERA, 1.15 WHIP) as contenders, the wait-and-see approach might be best for those searching for saves in South Side Chicago.

Cincinnati Reds – After a terrible spring training injury, Aroldis Chapman returned to the Major Leagues with a vengeance (2 saves, 3.60 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 16.2 K/9). Despite the fact that Chapman has only been back for a little while, he already leads the league in 99+ MPH pitches and is back to his old self. The biggest early season value for the Reds bullpen was Jonathan Broxton, who was dominant as Chapman’s replacement (5 saves, 0.82 ERA, 0.91 WHIP).

Cleveland Indians – After being removed from the closer role, John Axford will have to prove he can be consistent before regaining the ninth inning. Until that happens, Cody Allen (3.50 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 12.5 K/9), Marc Rzepczynski (2.35 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 9.4 K/9) and Bryan Shaw (1.57 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 7.4 K/9) will continue to battle for save opportunities. Each are effective relievers, but Shaw may have the slight edge given his strong performance in the past week.

Colorado Rockies – One big surprise of the season’s beginning was veteran closer LaTroy Hawkins. After he signed a deal with the Rockies, Hawkins came out of the gate strong after many thought that his days were numbered (considering the looming presence of Rex Brothers). That being said, Hawkins has certainly cooled off (10 saves, 4.41 ERA, 1.53 WHIP) and Brothers is starting to be as impressive as many had hoped (21 appearances, 2.70 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 7.7 K/9).

Detroit Tigers – Veteran closer Joe Nathan joined the Tigers bullpen after a two-year stint with the Rangers and he’s proved as consistent as ever. Although Nathan’s struggled on occasion, his performance thus far (11 saves, 3.24 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 8.1 K/9) has been a marked improvement over Detroit’s closer performances in previous (post)seasons.

Houston Astros – After a bunch of shuffling and injured relievers, Chad Qualls has climbed to the top of the pile in the Astros bullpen (3 saves, 3.29 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 10.5 K/9). Although recent acquisition Kyle Farnsworth should make a push for the ninth, Qualls will be the short-term favorite. As always, buyer beware when it comes to scavenging saves from this squad.

Kansas City Royals – As most expected, Greg Holland is having another dominant season closing for KC (12 saves, 2.16 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 13.5 K/9). In fact, he should return to the All-Star Game for the second consecutive season and this may even be the year that Holland finally cements himself in that top tier of elite closers.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – After Ernesto Frieri struggled mightily at different points in the season, manager Mike Scioscia decided to go with Frieri and Joe Smith in a closer-by-committee approach. Since that transition, the pair have both pitched well and should remain co-closers in the near future. Scioscia will likely continue to play the matchups until one eventually wrestles the job from the other.

Los Angeles Dodgers – This just in, Kenley Jansen is as good as advertised but he may not be among the best just yet. The 22-year-old has started 2014 with a bang, collecting 12 saves and posting a 15.1 K/9. However, his ERA (4.12) and WHIP (1.53) leave something to be desired. Jansen certainly has all the potential in the world, but he’ll need to improve his command before ranks above closers like Craig Kimbrel or Aroldis Chapman.

Miami MarlinsSteve Cishek just keeps getting it done in southern Florida (9 saves, 2.08 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 10.4 K/9). Although he may not have the biggest name in the closer business, Cishek has been consistent this season and is providing a wonderful return on investment for any owners that snagged him at the end of their draft’s closer run.

Milwaukee Brewers – Perhaps the biggest surprise of the season has been the dominance of Francisco Rodriguez (17 saves, 1.57 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 11.0 K/9). When manager Ron Roenicke made K-Rod his closer over Jim Henderson, the fantasy world was abuzz and many figured that Henderson would eventually work his way back into the role. However, Rodriguez has been dominant, to say the least, and may end up posting some career best numbers if he continues the pace.

Minnesota TwinsGlen Perkins is another closer who has pitched well so far (21 appearances, 3.38 ERA, 1.03 WHIP) and continues to prove that he’s quite reliable in the ninth inning. Not only does Perkins lead the American League with 13 saves, but he’s had tremendous command and posted an impressive 12.7 K/9 (versus his career average of 7.1).

New York Mets – After shorts stints with Bobby Parnell, Jose Valverde, and Kyle Farnsworth, the Metropolitans are currently settled on Jenrry Mejia as their closer. Although Jeurys Familia and Daisuke Matsuzaka could eventually knock him from that post, Mejia has serviceable numbers (1 save, 4.65 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 9.5 K/9) and a very loose grip on the number one spot.

New York Yankees – Despite a short stint on the disabled list, David Robertson has been tremendous in his first full year as the Yankees closer. With a stat line that almost resembles Mariano Rivera (8 saves, 1.54 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, 11.6 K/9), manager Joe Girardi has to be pleased that the front office didn’t search the free agent market for a new closer this past offseason.

Oakland Athletics – After quite a bit of uncertainty (and a series of rough outings from Jim Johnson), Sean Doolittle has recently been named the A’s closer. With a strong stat line (3 saves, 3.27 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 12.3 K/9), Doolittle will have to prove that he can handle the pressure before earning any sort of job security. If he struggles, it’s tough to tell if they’ll go back to Johnson or Luke Gregerson first.

Philadelphia PhilliesJonathan Papelbon is well on his way to another strong season with 12 saves, 2.08 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 7.3 K/9. Although there were some concerns at the beginning of the season regarding his velocity, Papelbon has proven to be just as effective as ever. If he stays at this pace, he’ll certainly reward fantasy owners that showed some faith in the veteran reliever.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Pirates closer Jason Grilli has been on the disabled list for some time and many expect him to be activated this Saturday. Although it’s not certain he’ll return immediately to the ninth, he should have his old job back pretty darn quickly. Mark Melancon has been strong as his replacement and may still be a valuable setup guy given his numbers this season (21 appearances, 6 saves, 2.25 ERA, 0.95 WHIP) once Grilli returns.

St. Louis Cardinals – With the activation of Jason Motte from the DL, many will wonder whether he will return to the ninth in short order. Trevor Rosenthal, who currently sits atop the closer perch, has been underwhelming this season (13 saves, 4.98 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 11.2 K/9). When Motte last pitched in 2012, he was the saves co-leader (42) and the Cards are still paying him $7 million this season. If Rosenthal doesn’t start improving quickly, there will be some writing on the wall.

San Diego PadresHuston Street is turning in another great closer performance (15 saves, 0.50 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 10.5 K/9) and seems to be on pace for his eighth 20+ save season. One of the best relievers so far this season, Street is taking full advantage of both PetCo Park’s dimensions and the Padres’ improved rotation.

San Francisco GiantsSergio Romo has been tallying up with saves so far with 15 and he’s provided a solid return for whomever drafted him before the season started (22 appearances, 3.00 ERA, 0.76 WHIP). If Romo keeps up this pace, he could make a push to be an All-Star for the second time in as many seasons.

Seattle Mariners – One surprise of the young season has been the performance of Fernando Rodney (11 saves, 3.12 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, 11.9 K/9). Although his numbers have not been dominant, they’ve brought consistency to a Seattle bullpen that struggled last season. There were those that thought Danny Farquhar would take the job in due time (myself included), but Rodney has proved those naysayers wrong.

Tampa Bay Rays – Closer Grant Balfour has struggled as a Ray this season (8 saves, 6.06 ERA, 1.53 WHIP) and there would be rumbling of a coup de Joel Peralta if he weren’t struggling as well (5.40 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 8.3 K/9). Although each of these relievers can bounce back, it may be a situation to keep tabs on if they struggle because Jake McGee is having a strong season to date (20 appearances, 1.42 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 9.0 K/9).

Texas Rangers – After manager Ron Washington surprised the fantasy world by giving Joakim Soria the closer gig over Neftali Feliz, Soria went on to prove his skipper was right. With a strong start to 2014 (7 saves, 2.40 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, 12.0 K/9), Soria’s performance seems reminiscent of his time in Kansas City and he should be a reliable closer for the rest of the season.

Toronto Blue JaysCasey Janssen recently returned to the ninth after starting the season on the disabled list (back) and Jays’ fans could not be happier. After a disastrous run by Sergio Santos (5 saves, 9.00 ERA, 2.00 WHIP), Janssen has brought stability back to a struggling bullpen with a strong start (4 saves, 0.00 ERA, 0.80 WHIP). 

Washington Nationals – Veteran closer Rafael Soriano has been another pleasant surprise this season, which a dominant 10 saves, 0.95 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 8.1 K/9. With strong seasons from Tyler Clippard (23 appearances, 1.77 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 12.4 K/9), Drew Storen (18 appearances, 1.17 ERA, 0.65 WHIP, 10.0 K/9), and Craig Stammen (13 appearances, 2.52 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 7.2 K/9), the Nats have one strong bullpen thus far.

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



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