On Tuesday May 22 I will be leaving for a much-needed vacation and will be retuning on May 30 so I wanted to update all of my followers on news and notes on the bullpens from around the league. I will resume my usual bullpen reports on May 31, but be sure to follow @mlbdailybullpen for those on Twitter for all up-to-date news on bullpen situations as the staff at Rotoinfo.com continues to give the best coverage of MLB bullpens in the industry.
American League East
Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles have been the biggest surprise in all of baseball through the few seven weeks of the season with their pitching staff being the biggest reason for their success. Closer Jim Johnson leads all pitchers in saves with 15 on the year, and has a sub-1.00 earned-run average to support his great start. His job is probably one of the safest in all of baseball, but if there was someone else to own form the Orioles bullpen it would be Pedro Strop, who has recorded three saves this season when Johnson was unavailable. In holds leagues Strop is a must-own, with seven holds to go along with a 1.14 earned-run average with 20 strikeouts in 23.1 innings of relief.
Boston Red Sox: We saw the Red Sox bullpen struggle through the first few weeks of the season, but since then they have started to settled down with everyoneâs roles pretty much set. Alfredo Aceves will be the teamâs closer for the foreseeable future, but he doesnât have that great of a hold on the role. Once some of the Red Sox starting pitchers become healthy they may decide to move Daniel Bard back into the bullpen after struggling in the starter role. For now Aceves is safe with not many options besides him currently in the Rod Sox bullpen. This is a situation to continue to monitor as the season progresses.
New York Yankees: The Yankees are without the best closer in the history of baseball, Mariano Rivera, for the first time since he took over the role in 1997. David Robertson struggled in a few appearances in his absence, but was recently placed on the disabled-list, which opened the door for Rafael Soriano to close out games. Soriano has had a lot of success in the closer role in the past, which actually landed him a huge contract from the Yankees following the 2010 season. Robertson is expected to return in the upcoming weeks, but if Soriano can get the job done it will be his to lose. In holds leagues, Boone Logan has emerged into a solid option with a high strikeout rate. He currently has 25 strikeouts to just six walks.
Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays lost Kyle Farnsworth in Spring Training, but it hasnât been much of an issue for their bullpen like originally anticipated. The emergence of Fernando Rodney has given them a rock in the ninth inning and he has yet to blown a save in 2012. He is a perfect 13-for-13 in save chances and will hold onto the job possibly up until or after the return of Farnsworth. It is hard to imagine the Rays will move him back into a setup role after a great start, even with the success of Kyle Farnsworth last season.
Toronto Blue Jays: The Blue Jays had a lot of new faces in their bullpen to start the season, and have seen three different pitchers close for them so far. Sergio Santos, who is currently on the disabled-list, is the teamâs primary closer option and was having a solid season before being sidelined. Francisco Cordero failed to get the job done in his absence and now Casey Janssen has entered into the role for the time-being. Janssen is doing a good job in SantosâÂ absence, but will return to a setup role once he is healthy to return. Even if he doesnât close, Janssen is worth owning in holds leagues.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox: The White Sox have had their issues in terms of their bullpen through the first seven weeks of the season, with a handful of players recording saves so far. Addison Reed is currently the teamâs closer and has really only had one bad outing in 17 appearances. He should continue to get the call in the ninth inning with Hector Santiago and Matt Thornton being used in setup roles. All three players should be owned depending on the league type, with Santiago and Thornton being rostered in holds leagues and Reed in all formats.
Cleveland Indians: The Indians bullpen has been one of the most consistent in all of baseball in 2012 and has been a pleasant surprise in the American League. Chris Perez leads the bullpen with 13 saves and is currently tied for second in the category in all of baseball. Both Vinny Pestano and Tony Sipp are racking up the holds, since the Indians continue to be is close games, and should both be owned in holds leagues. If the Indians continue to win, Perez will be in a heated battle with both Fernando Rodney and Jim Johnson for the American League lead in saves when it is all said and done.
Detroit Tigers: Jose Valverde had a great 2011 season, but so far in 2012 he has been far from it. He is currently sidelined with a bad back, but hasnât been placed on the disabled-list, so it is uncertain when he will return to action. In his place, Joaquin Benoit will take over the closer role until he returns, and can really have some value if he is out for an extended period of time. Either way, if you own Valverde you should go to the waiver-wire and grab Benoit as a handcuff in case the injury is more serious than originally anticipated.
Kansas City Royals: The Royals lost their starting closer for the year before the season started, but since then the emergence of Jonathan Broxton has been a great surprise for those who took a chance on him on draft day. He currently has eight saves on the season and should have the job for the foreseeable future. There are a few players that have the stuff to close in Aaron Crow and Greg Holland, but they are both better served in setup roles at the moment. If Broxton was to falter, Holland would probably get the first crack at the closer role, but it doesnât look like Broxton is going anywhere anytime soon.
Minnesota Twins: Matt Capps entered the season as one of the closers with the shortest leashes, but has been solid all season and has rewarded those who drafted him with nine saves so far this year. There is a chance he will be moved before the trade deadline with the Twins in rebuilding mode, so if that is the case, Glen Perkins would be the likely candidate to take over the role. Perkins is worth owning in holds leagues this year despite a shaky start. So if there was someone to keep your eye on in the bullpen if Capps was to falter, it would be Perkins.
American League West
Los Angeles Angels: The Angels entered the season with Jordan Walden as the teamâs closer, but that was short-lived after a rough start. Walden was replaced with Scott Downs in the ninth inning, but there has been recent speculation that possibly Ernesto Frieri could take over the role. It was confirmed on Saturday that Downs is the teamâs closer for now, but it is worth noting that Frieri has been one of the best relievers in baseball this season. He would be next in line to receive save chances if Downs was to falter or suffer an injury.
Oakland Athletics: The Athletics started the season with Grant Balfour as the teamâs closer, but after a few rough outings they made the move to Brian Fuentes. Fuentes has been solid in the role, but he is not the best pitcher in the AthleticsâÂ bullpen. Ryan Cook is emerging as one of the best setup men in all of baseball and has yet to give up an earned run this season. Fuentes is likely on a short leash, and Cook would be next in line to take over the ninth inning if Fuentes falters. He has the track record of going through slumps, so if he does expect to see Cook move up the depth chart.
Seattle Mariners: Brandon League was one of the better closerâs to own in 2011, but this season has already recorded three blown-saves through the first seven weeks. There isnât much competition in the bullpen, but next in line would be setup man Tom Wilhemlsen, who has been solid for those in holds leagues. Wilhemlsen has high-strikeout potential, but doesnât have the secondary pitch to be a solid closer just yet. So for now Leagueâs job is safe, but if he continues to be inconsistent, look for the Mariners to consider their other options in the ninth inning.
Texas Rangers: The Rangers signed veteran Joe Nathan in the offseason and made him their starting closer for the 2012 season. He replaced Neftali Feliz, who was moved to the starting rotation, and has been solid as of late after a slow start. Outside of Nathan, the Rangers have plenty of good arms to keep them in ball games, led by Mike Adams. Adams would likely slide into the closer role if Nathan was to falter, but he is better suited in the eighth inning. The biggest surprise in the Rangers bullpen so far this season has been Alexi Ogando, who was moved from the starting rotation to a mid-relief role. He has been a solid contributor in the holds category and with starting pitcher eligibility in most leagues he could be used in all fantasy formats.
National League East
Atlanta Braves: The Braves bullpen was used a lot in 2011, and so far in 2012 they are showing the effects of all the innings pitched. Craig Kimbrel is leading the National League in saves with 13, but hasnât looked as sharp as last season. Both Johnny Venters and Eric OâFlaherty have had their ups and downs in 2012, but has still been good enough to use in holds leagues. Kimbrel has one of the safest jobs in all of baseball, so a switch this season is highly unlikely. If he was to falter for some reason, Venter is the guy, but he is better served in the eighth inning role.
Miami Marlins: The Marlins went and spent the big bucks on closer Heath Bell this offseason, but he was off to a terrible start through the first few weeks and was already demoted for a short period of time. He has recently took over the closer role once again and appears to have worked out his troubles and now has five saves on the season. When Bell was demoted briefly the Marlins promoted Steve Cishek to the ninth inning role, but it was short lived after blowing the only save chance that he got in that time frame. If Bell was to falter once again it would likely be Cishek to get the chance once again. The odd man out in this equation is Edward Mujica, who has been solid for those in holds leagues thus far in 2012. He is a solid setup man, but likely wouldnât be best used in the ninth inning.
New York Mets: The Mets revamped their bullpen signing both Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch to take over the first two spots on their bullpen depth chart. Francisco is currently the teamâs closer, but as he has shown in the past, he has a hard time with his control. If Francisco was to lose his job Rauch would get the first crack to take over the role with Bobby Parnell likely second in line. Parnell has the best stuff in the Mets bullpen, but the Mets donât want to rush him into any situations since they are in a rebuilding year.Â Francisco picked p his 10th save on Sunday and appears to have a decent hold on the closer role for now, but it is only a matter of time before he starts to crumble once again.
Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies decided to part ways with both Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge this offseason and signed top free agent closer Jonathan Papelbon. SO far Papelbon has been excellent for the Phillies, who have been is many tight games this season. He currently has 12 saves with 19 strikeouts in 16.1 innings as the new closer in Philadelphia. Antonio Bastardo and Chad Qualls are splitting the setup duties for the time-being, but Bastardo is starting to pull away from Qualls, who is starting to revert back to his old habits. If Papelbon was to go down with an injury expect the Phillies to go with Bastardo over Qualls despite Quallâs experience in the ninth inning role.
Washington Nationals: The Nationals have one of the best up-in-coming closers in Drew Storen, but he is currently on the disabled-list and has yet to play this season. The team opened the season with both Henry Rodriguez and Brad Lidge splitting the duties, but Rodriguez eventually pulled away from Lidge and is currently the teamâs closer. Rodriguez has faltered as of late, but the Nationals appear to have enough confidence in him to stay in the role until they get healthy. Tyler Clippard picked up right where he left off last season, but will not get a chance to close as the Nationals find him better used in the eighth inning role. Sean Burnett is the likely candidate to close out the ninth inning if Rodriguez continues to struggle.
National League Central
Chicago Cubs: The Cubs made a switch in the ninth inning a few weeks ago removing Carlos Marmol from the closer role in favor of Rafael Dolis, who has also struggle in the role. Dolis has recorded four saves this season, but has also blown two save chances since taking over for Marmol, which suggests he may not be the answer. Next in line is James Russell, who has had a great season so far in 2012. He is left-handed, which goes against him, but he has great stuff that could be used for the closer role. If the Cubs decided to make a switch, they also may try and give Marmol a chance again once he returns from the disabled-list, but that is highly unlikely considering the struggles he has had over the last two seasons.
Cincinnati Reds: The Reds went out and spend a lot of money on Ryan Madson this offseason, but he ended up hurting himself in Spring Training and will miss the entire season. With Madson sidelined the Reds used Sean Marshall in the closer role to start the season, but have recently made the switch to Aroldis Chapman. Supposedly Marshall hasnât lost the job completely, but if Chapman continues his recent success Marshall will likely be pushed into the eighth inning role. The other piece of the Reds bullpen is Jose Arredondo, who has been solid all season. He is worth owning in holds leagues and will help anyone looking for strikeouts.
Houston Astros: Brett Myers has been great for the Astros so far in 2012 with 10 saves in 11 opportunities. However, the Astros will likely be sellers at the trade deadline in a few months and try to move Myers since he will be a free agent at the end of the season. If that was to happen I expect Brandon Lyon to take over since he does have some experience in the role. Lyon has been solid for the majority of the season, but hasnât been that useful in holds leagues due to lack of opportunities. Wilton Lopez has also stepped up his game this season and has become a solid mid-relief pitcher for the Astros. He is an inning-eater and can be used in any situation. I donât expect him to be in consideration if Myers was to get traded or injured, but he would be a solid setup man.
Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers had one of the best bullpens in all of baseball last season, but this season is a different story. Both John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez are struggling to start the season and havenât had many situations that have been beneficial to their fantasy owners. The opportunities will come eventually, but it is crazy to think that Axford has just six saves and Rodriguez has only seven holds so far this season. Outside of those two, the Brewers bullpen has been very inconsistent and hasnât showed much fantasy value or future fantasy value.
Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates had a very good bullpen a season ago and this season it has pretty much been the same. Joe Hanrahan is the rock of the Pirates bullpen and has nine saves through the early portion of the season with 17 strikeouts in 14.2 innings of work. Outside of Hanrahan, Jason Grilli and Juan Cruz have shown fantasy upside for those in holds leagues. Grilli is tied for the league-lead with 10 holds and Cruz sits with seven. Due to the lack of fire-power in the Pirates offense the bullpen should get used often and in return it should produce a lot of fantasy value in terms of holds and saves for the remainder of the season.
St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals picked up right where they left off last season and the bullpen has been solid so far. Jason Motte has just seven saves, but that is in part based on the fact that the Cardinals offense scores so many runs. When he is actually used he has been solid and has just two blown-saves on the season. Outside of Motte, there really isnât any competition for possible save opportunities. Both Mitchell Boggs and Fernando Salas would be the likely candidates, but they have struggled with command this season and arenât going to push Motte out of his role any time soon.
National League West
Arizona Diamondbacks: The Diamondbacks were one of the biggest surprises in all of baseball in 2011, but this season they have struggle some and especially in the bullpen. JJ Putz isnât the same pitcher that he was a year ago but has recorded nine saves so far this season. David Hernandez would be second in line if something was to happen to Putz, who is sitting on a 6.43 earned-run average through 14 innings, but it doesnât appear the Diamondbacks will make a move any time soon. Hernandez is really the only other relief pitcher to own on the Diamondbacks and that is only in holds leagues for now.
Colorado Rockies: the Rockies traded away Huston Street this offseason and gave the closer role to veteran Rafael Betancourt, who has done a decent job in the ninth inning so far in 2012. He is the most experience player the Rockies have in the bullpen and will likely hold onto the role for the rest of the season as long as he doesnât start to struggle. Outside of Betancourt, Matt Belisle is a decent player to own in holds leagues, but he doesnât do much for you outside of the holds category. Rex Brothers was recently demoted after a terrible slump, but he will likely be back up later in the season once he fixes his mechanical problems. Brothers probably has the best stuff out of all the pitchers in the Rockies bullpen, but his lack of experience will keep him to pushing Betancourt out of the closer role.
Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers opened the season with Javy Guerra as their closer and he was great through the first few weeks of the season before having a meltdown about one month ago. The role was then given the Kenley Jansen, who is running away with it. Jansen is a strikeout machine and a fantasy playerâs dream. Through 21 innings, Jansen has 34 strikeouts, five saves and a 2.49 earned-run average. He will not be leaving the closer role this season as he has been very successful since taking over the reins. Josh Lindblom would be next in line if Jansen was to falter, but he has no experience in the role and is better served as a setup man. Lindblom is a must own in holds leagues as he is tied for the league-lead with 10 holds this season.
San Diego Padres: The Padres traded for Huston Street this offseason, but is currently on the disabled-list and Dale Thayer is the teamâs closer for the foreseeable future. Since Street went down with an injury Thayer has recorded five saves and has yet to give up an earned-run. He will likely move back into a mid-relief role once Street returns, but for now he has shown he can get the job done. Outside of Thayer, Luke Gregerson has emerged as a solid eight inning setup man and is a player to own in holds leagues. If something was to happen to Thayer at this point, Cashner would be the player to likely get a chance to close for the Padres.
San Francisco Giants: The giants lost Brian Wilson in the first few weeks of the season and made Santiago Casilla the closer. Casilla has been all they could ask for in the closer role picking up 10 save so far with just one blown-save. It was kind of surprising the Giants didnât give the role to Sergio Romo, who is probably the best reliever in their bullpen, but either way I guess they canât go wrong. Romo and Javier Lopez have been great for the Giants this season in mid-relief and have some value in holds leagues. If something was to happen to Casilla I expect Romo to get the first crack at the ninth inning role with Lopez as the second option.
Matthew Beck is a Fantasy Sports Columnist for Rotoinfo.com. If you have any questions or comments feel free to e-mail him atÂ firstname.lastname@example.org.Â Also follow him on TwitterÂ @MatthewRBeckÂ for up-to-date Q&A and fantasy information.Â