It has been a tumultuous season for the back of bullpens in the National League.
At last count, only five closers still have their jobs with the teams they started the season with. Because of injury, inefficiency, or trades, you’ve had to mix and match your relievers trying to stay on top of the situations in the Senior Circuit.
Amazingly, Cincinnati’s Raisel Iglesias wasn’t dealt by the trade deadline, and has produced very good numbers. He strikes out more than one batter per inning, and should be solid heading into next year.
Wade Davis has been holding down the fort in Colorado, but he has blown six saves and has an ERA north of five. Adam Ottavino has picked up save opportunities, and has pitched excellently. Try to get him on your team for the stretch run.
Los Angeles’ Kenley Jansen has been one of the top closers in baseball over the past five years but was put on the disabled list on August 10 because of an irregular heartbeat. Originally thought to be sidelined for more than a month, Jansen could return sooner.
In the interim, Scott Alexander has been getting a shot to close. He has blown two saves recently, so don’t hold him in too high regard.
Even though he changed his name, Felipe Vazquez continues to thrive in Pittsburgh. When he was Felipe Rivero last season, he had 21 saves and a 1.67 ERA. Vazquez has 26 saves and a higher ERA this year, and the Pirates traded for Keone Kela, the former closer for Texas. This bullpen should remain stable.
Bud Norris has been respectable for St. Louis, but he struggled in July. Jordan Hicks, a 21-year-old flamethrower, is the Cardinals’ closer of the future. Keep an eye on him and stash him if you can.
A situation to watch is the bullpen in Arizona. Brad Boxberger has been steady, but Archie Bradley is lurking in the background. Seventh-inning pitcher Yoshihisa Hirano is a 34-year-old Japanese import, but outside of two bad outings this season has been impressive.
A.J. Minter is excelling in his chance to close in Atlanta, and incumbent Arodys Vizcaino has been on the disabled list for nearly a month and is just beginning to resume throwing. Minter is a good bet to get save opportunities for the next few weeks.
The bullpen is in upheaval in Milwaukee as closer Corey Knebel has been blowing up. The Brewers have gone to a closer-by-committee approach with Josh Hader, he of the racist tweets and all-star season, and lights-out setup man Jeremy Jeffress sure to get opportunities to close.
Kirby Yates seems to have a stranglehold on closing duties in San Diego with Brad Hand gone. He is 4-for-4 in save opportunities, and veteran right-hander Craig Stammen shouldn’t be a threat.
Will Smith is the anointed closer in San Francisco. The left-hander has nine saves and strikes out more than one batter per inning. The Giants also have Tony Watson, Mark Melancon, and Sam Dyson, and Hunter Strickland could be activated by the end of the week.
In Chicago, Pedro Strop is the latest closer. He has been pitching well, but the Cubs also have Steve Cishek and Brandon Kintzler.
There appears to be another closer-by-committee situation, this time in Miami. Drew Steckenrider, Tayron Guerrero, and Adam Conley are on the list, but Steckenrider seems to have the best stuff and the inside track. Deposed closer Kyle Barraclough is currently on the disabled list, so he can still be a factor.
The bullpen is in flux in New York, as Robert Gsellman has gotten saves but has also been used earlier in the game. The Mets still have experienced reliever Seth Lugo they can turn to, and he earned his first career save this week.
Young right-hander Seranthony Dominguez has been closing for Philadelphia, but he’s also blown save opportunities recently. The bullpen also includes Pat Neshek, Luis Garcia, and Tommy Hunter, who all have saves.
It’s a toss-up for save opportunities out of the Washington bullpen. They added experienced righty Greg Holland, and also have Matt Grace and Justin Miller. The key is the health of closers Kelvin Herrera and Sean Doolittle, who could be back from the disabled list rather quickly.
READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL? Next week we’ll kick off our coverage on how NFL rosters are shaping up, and who to look for among the young quarterbacks.
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