Bullpen Briefs: Grimm Reaping Rewards for Fantasy Owners

By on August 17, 2015


It was a relatively quiet week around major league bullpens; although there were no true closer changes, we did see a couple of hierarchies solidified…and a couple of others become less stable. Those situations – and what might be coming down the road – are the subject of this week’s edition of Bullpen Briefs.

Injuries have struck the bullpen in Detroit, and it’s uncertain whether the early leader in the race for the closer’s chair will be healthy enough to claim his prize on a long-term basis. Meanwhile, a former closer-in-waiting is bringing some serious heat in his quest to become the main man in Motor City.

Bruce Rondon (photo Marilyn Indahl / USA TODAY Sports)

Bruce Rondon
(photo Marilyn Indahl / USA TODAY Sports)

Speaking of former closers-in-waiting, we again bid farewell to a former top set-up man who was released yet again…will he be back in 2015? There’s another familiar name working his way through a rehab assignment; will he be just what the doctor ordered for the ailing bullpen in Oakland?

Two bullpen hierarchies were rearranged when the injury bug bit some key members; though the teams’ closers weren’t affected, their supporting cast is becoming rather thin. What was once a closer-by-committee in Atlanta looks to be becoming a one-man show, as a former top prospect is carving out a ninth-inning niche for himself. Things are not going quite so well in Oakland or Boston, though, as both of those teams are still searching for someone to anchor their beleaguered bullpens.

Note: Stats are current as of close of play on August 16, 2015.


Who’s Out?

It looked like Alex Wilson was going to run away with the closer’s job in Detroit, but a bout with arm soreness has derailed that train for the time being. Wilson has pitched in three straight games, allowing one run and three hits (including a walk-off game winner) in a total of 1.1 innings of work. Wilson remains in the ninth-inning mix, but right now, he appears to be the “1a” option behind Bruce Rondon. More on him a bit later.

The Colorado Rockies placed set-up man Boone Logan on the disabled list August 14 with elbow inflammation; it’s not yet known how long he will be sidelined. It’s been a tough year for the Colorado bullpen.

Former highly-touted (some would say overly so) reliever / closer in waiting Joba Chamberlain was released by the Blue Jays August 14 after allowing 10 runs (eight earned) in five innings of work at Triple-A Buffalo. Chamberlain started the year as the primary set-up man in Detroit, so it’s possible that he could latch on with another team before long.

Juan Nicasio has enjoyed a decent season in the Dodgers’ bullpen, but he landed on the disabled list August 14 with an abdominal strain.

Who’s In?

While Tigers’ manager Brad Ausmus has been rather noncommittal about his top choice for closer, it’s clear that Bruce Rondon is likely to play a big role in the ninth inning going forward. Rondon’s triple-digit fastball once had him pegged as the team’s future closer, but he missed the entire 2014 season and part of the ’15 campaign while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Rondon blew a save chance August 15, but Ausmus said afterward that Rondon would receive the next save opportunity. Rondon’s command remains a concern, and he will have a difficult time holding down the closer’s role long-term if he can’t find the plate. For now, though, both Wilson and Rondon should be owned in most Fantasy leagues.

Relievers on the Rocks

First, let’s put this thing in context: Wade Davis has been one of baseball’s best relievers over the past two years, and he has surrendered only six earned runs in 47.2 innings this season. What’s concerning is that four of those six tallies have come in his last four appearances, and his rough stretch comes on the heels of a weeklong layoff due to a back injury. This may simply be a case of having to shake off some rust, but Davis bears watching as he works through this tough stretch.

The Seattle bullpen has provided plenty of fodder for our “…on the Rocks” section this season, and it’s Carson Smith’s turn this go-round. Smith owns a 6.23 ERA and 1.85 WHIP in 14 second-half appearances, and he has allowed earned runs in five of his last 10 outings. Fernando Rodney, meanwhile, has not allowed a run in nine of his last 10 appearances, and he could find himself back in the closer’s chair in short order if Smith can’t right the ship.

Relievers on the Rise

Justin Grimm has been a very pleasant surprise for the Cubs this season, posting a 1.34 ERA and 1.01 WHIP through his first 42 appearances. He has logged three saves since June 30, and he looks to be well on his way to becoming the Cubs’ go-to option when closer Hector Rondon is unavailable. Grimm has fanned 49 batters in 33.2 innings this year; he is an intriguing roster stash in deeper mixed leagues.

Arodys Vizcaino has allowed only one earned run in 16.2 innings this year, and he has seemingly locked down the ninth-inning job in Atlanta for the time being. The former top-shelf prospect has the stuff to close games, and if he can continue on his current course, he could be the Braves’ long-term answer in the ninth.

Keep an eye on…

Former Oakland closer Sean Doolittle continues to work his way back to the majors, allowing only a solo homer and fanning four in three innings of minor-league rehab work. The A’s bullpen has been a bit of a mess since Tyler Clippard was traded; Doolittle could very well find himself back in the ninth inning mix by the end of the season.

With Koji Uehara out for the season, the Red Sox have more questions than answers in their bullpen. Set-up man Junichi Tazawa blew his first save opportunity as the ninth-inning man August 11, and it’s uncertain whether he, Jean Machi or possibly Alexi Ogando or Ryan Cook will step up and assert himself as the top man in the Beantown ‘pen. Monitor this situation closely; right now, Tazawa looks to have a slight edge, but this is very much a bullpen in flux.

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