Buck’s Bullpen Briefs 9-1-15

By on September 1, 2015


It was another interesting week in major league bullpens: a couple of top closers are dealing with injuries, and their understudies are reaping the benefits of their absence. There are new ninth-inning men in Seattle and Boston, but will they be able to hang on to their new gigs?

Minnesota fans (and many Fantasy owners) are holding their collective breath as one of baseball’s top closers tries to pitch through a couple of maladies. The Twins are in the midst of the Wild Card playoff race, and the team would undoubtedly like to head in to September with their closer healthy and ready to roll.

The Royals are also a prominent part of the playoff mix, due in no small part to their deep and talented bullpen. That ‘pen might be tested, though, as the K.C. closer is dealing with some health concerns of his own.

The loss of set-up man / sometime closer Jake McGee left a gaping hole in the Tampa Bay bullpen, but one of the team’s former starting pitchers is stepping up in a big way to stake his claim to a high-leverage role. Is he worth owning just yet?

All of these stories and more in this week’s edition of Bullpen Briefs.

Note: Stats are current as of close of play on August 31, 2015.

Bullpen Briefs

Who’s Out?

Minnesota closer Glen Perkins received an injection August 19 for his neck injury, but now the southpaw is dealing with back spasms. Perkins has pitched only twice since August 17, and he has logged just two saves since July 23. Perkins is not expected to require a DL stint, but his health concerns are of considerable interest to his Fantasy owners. Hopefully, those owners have already grabbed set-up man Jepsen – who has notched four saves in Perkins’ stead – as an insurance policy.

Carson Smith lost his hold on the closer’s gig in Seattle after he blew his fourth save August 22, but he has pitched well in a set-up role since then. Smith has excellent stuff, and it’s possible that he could eventually find himself back in the ninth-inning mix in what has been one of baseball’s most tumultuous bullpens. For now, though, it looks safe to drop Smith in most mixed leagues.

Boston’s Junichi Tazawa was showing signs of asserting himself as the Bosox’s closer, but the veteran set-up man imploded for four earned runs August 23, and then issued four walks before being removed from a save situation August 28. Tazawa, who posted a woeful 9.44 ERA and 2.25 WHIP in August, was removed from the closer’s role August 30, and it looks to be safe to drop him in most standard leagues.

Who’s In?

Tom Wilhelmsen received the call to close August 23 after Smith had blown his fourth save of the year (and second in a week) the previous game, and the veteran has racked up four consecutive saves since then. Wilhelmsen – who worked as a bartender during a hiatus from baseball several years ago – is prone to bouts of wildness, but he saved 53 games for Seattle over the course of the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Grab The Bartender if he’s available in your league, as he looks like the best bet to be serving up saves for Seattle in the near future.

Jean Machi has stepped into the void created by Tazawa’s struggles, but he has hardly distinguished himself in his new role. Machi allowed two earned runs in recording his second save August 24, and then coughed up three walks and another earned run in notching his fourth save August 31. Machi is a must-own reliever while he’s Boston’s closer, but his 5.29 ERA and 1.45 WHIP this season should tell you that his hold on this job is far from secure. Alexi Ogando could receive a look in the ninth inning if Machi can’t get the job done.

Reliever on the Rocks

Kansas City closer Greg Holland had to take a few days off recently due to a “cranky” arm, and “cranky” is certainly one word to describe the mood of Holland’s Fantasy owners lately. The onetime elite closer has scuffled to a 6.08 ERA and 2.03 WHIP in 15 appearances after the All-Star break, and opponents are batting .339 against him during that time. Holland doesn’t seem to be concerned, but his struggles could mean that set-up man Wade Davis might find himself in more save situations.

Arizona’s Brad Ziegler has been a pleasant surprise this season, but the D-backs’ closer has surrendered seven earned runs and 10 hits in his last 2.1 innings of work. Whether this is simply a bump (a big bump, mind you) in the road or a sign of a bigger issue remains to be seen, but Ziegler bears watching as he tries to work through this rough stretch. It’s noteworthy that the veteran submariner had allowed earned runs in only two of his previous 30 outings prior to his recent blow-up.

Relievers on the Rise

Tampa Bay’s Alex Colome’ has been arguably the team’s top reliever in recent days, and he’s making a strong bid to step into the big shoes vacated by Jake McGee, who could be done for the season following knee surgery. Colome’ has allowed just one earned run in 23.1 innings since the break, while fanning 27 batters and walking just four. Colome’ struggled as a starting pitcher, but he owns a stellar 1.35 ERA and 0.94 WHIP as a reliever. Rays closer Brad Boxberger has had his share of troubles lately, so it’s conceivable that Colome’ could find himself in the mix for saves sometime soon. Colome’ is a decent speculative add in deeper Fantasy leagues.

Keep an eye on…

Former Seattle, Tampa Bay and Detroit closer Fernando Rodney wound up on the north side of Chicago after being designated for assignment by the Mariners. Though he doesn’t figure to be in the late-inning mix right away, keep in mind that Rodney logged 85 saves while he was a member of the Joe Maddon-led Tampa Bay Rays. Maddon has shown that he’s not afraid to shake things up when he feels the time is right, so the Archer of Crooked Hat could find himself in a high-leverage role. Rodney is probably not worth rostering in mixed leagues, but keep an eye on what role he plays in the Chicago ‘pen.

That’s all for this week; good luck in your fantasy leagues and we’ll talk again soon.

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