The closing situations are an absolute mess across most of baseball, as many of the situations that were in flux during the off-season remain in flux one week into the year. It's foolhardy to cast a general philosophy for all bullpen situations because each one has it's own personality. Sometimes the shiny toy that pops onto the scene is worth jumping all-in during the FAAB bidding, while other times he might simply be fool's gold. To help you parse your way through some of the more confusing situations, here's a deep dive into the latest news. Also, if you're wondering, the listing is merely alphabetical, not by importance.
Around The League:
Atlanta: The Braves activated AJ Minter from the injured list on Thursday. The plan was for Minter to be used in the 9th inning, if a save situation presented itself, but with the Braves up by 9 runs, Minter wasn't actually called upon until the Cubs cut it to 9-3 in the 9th inning. Minter immediately walked a pair of Cubs and allowed an inherited runner to score, but managed to finish the game. Minter remains the more talented arm (SwStr% is off the charts, when healthy) between he and Vizcaino, but it's doubtful there will be any defined roles established in the short-term.
Baltimore: Baltimore has been using Mychal Givens in the firefighter role this season, pitching him three times, but none have been in the 9th inning. As a result, Paul Fry, Richard Bleier, Mike Wright Jr, and Miguel Castro all have saves, yet all have also pitched in other situations besides the 9th inning. The Orioles are embracing the concept for a committee bullpen approach and with virtually no lead man, this situation should be avoided for fantasy. Besides Givens, none of the other relievers scream "closer" and with closer-of-the-future, Evan Phillips, starting the season in Triple-A, Richard Bleier has the most interesting skillset of the group. Bleier has some interesting parallels with Zack Britton, before Zack Britton started missing bats, with pinpoint command and a heavy groundball rate. If I were forced to add anyone in this bullpen outside of Givens, it would be Bleier, but even as it stands, Givens is a "hold", at best. Personally, I'd prefer not to drop Givens until at least another week or two of games to confirm his role is definitely out of the 9th inning.
Boston: While Matt Barnes saw the first save of the season, he was brought in to face Khris Davis in a key situation in the 7th inning of Wednesday's game and was left in for the 8th inning. After Boston took the lead in the top of the 9th, Ryan Brasier was called upon and converted his first save. Barnes remains the most likely reliever as the head of the committee, but like most of the league, it seems Boston isn't afraid to take an unconventional approach to their bullpen (is it still unconventional if more than half the teams in the league do it?).
Kansas City: Kansas City is another situation that feels a bit like a reliever carousel with both Ian Kennedy and Brad Boxberger each registering saves in the team's first two games. While Kennedy has a more attractive repertoire than Boxberger, the latter has the closing experience. All of this might be moot, however, thanks to the much-awaited debut of former top prospect Kyle Zimmer. The former 1st round pick in 2012 is now 27 years old after myriad of injuries prevented his normal progression to the majors. Don't be fooled by his delayed arrival because by the end of the season, there's a good chance he will be the primary closer of this team. It's not all rainbows and butterflies - he followed up his perfect debut with an ugly three walk performance that resulted in him getting pulled and charged with two runs - but Zimmer has the best arm of this group and is absolutely your target in dynasty formats.
Los Angeles: Relax, Kenley Jansen, owners. This isn't necessarily a negative post about Jansen, it's more of an observation to consider as we head into the weekend. Jansen will be returning to Colorado and the associated high altitude of the Rocky Mountains this weekend. Don't forget, Colorado was the same place that restarted the issues related to his heart murmur (and ultimately his off-season surgery). Everything should be a go this weekend, but with the poor pitching of Joe Kelly and Pedro Baez, it is possible that Caleb Ferguson would be the one to get the call, in case Jansen needs someone to fill in for him.
Milwaukee: With Corey Knebel officially done for the season, Josh Hader has already been used to save four games for the division-leading Brewers. While Hader is undoubtedly elite in the 9th inning, it's not where he provides the most value for Milwaukee. As a result, those speculating on saves need to grab Jeremy Jeffress, who saved 15 games for the Brewers in 2018 and began his rehab assignment (shoulder) on Thursday. There's a strong opportunity for Jeffress to become the most valuable FAAB acquisition of the season if he can take the job and hold onto it.
Minnesota: The Twins closing situation remains very much in flux, yet that's exactly the way manager Rocco Baldelli said it would be before the season started. Right now, Taylor Rogers, Blake Parker or Trevor May are all viable options in the 9th inning, and while May still possesses the skillset we desire, the theory behind not using him in the 9th is the same reason so many other teams are choosing to use their best reliever in the most important spots. Blake Parker is the one we'd grab, but again, there's not going to be a firm closer (for now anyway).
Philadelphia: Much was made (and rightfully so!) about the Phillies' busy off-season, but unlike the rest of their team, the bullpen looks about the same as it did last year. In fact, prized bullpen signing David Robertson has been terrible in his three performances, walking 5 of his 15 batters faced with an additional 5 hits allowed and just one strikeout. His issues haven't been velocity-related because his fastball is sitting in the low 90's around the same levels it has been for the last several seasons. Instead, command has been the problem. Is it early season rust? Is it injury related? Time will tell, but for now, Robertson probably won't be seeing high leverage situations. Unfortunately, Seranthony Dominguez, this column's favorite for the job, hasn't gotten off to a great start either after blowing his save opportunity against the Nationals on Wednesday. Dominguez still probably is the best bet for saves both in the short-term and long-term, but Hector Neris may also have a chance to throw his hat into the ring at some point. This situation is far from concrete, but it's still much more favorable than the situations in Kansas City or Baltimore.
Seattle: With Anthony Swarzak grabbing a save in his first game back, the company line in Seattle remains that the 9th inning will stay a committee. From my perspective, the company line is the wrong line to follow, in this case. Jumping on the Anthony Swarzak bandwagon might be reactionary, but he's the only member of the Mariners bullpen that has ever displayed the skills necessary to be a closer. Yes, his 2018 was poor, but he was injured for much of the season. Here's the hoping for a return to the 2017 version that saw him post a 14% swinging strike rate and 44% groundball rate.
St.Louis: The Cardinals bullpen has gotten off to a rocky start with both John Hicks and Andrew Miller not looking particularly sharp. The 2018 pre-season favorite Dominic Leone is finally healthy and has been really pitching well, as has converted starter John Brebbia. It's possible those two see some work in the 9th inning if Hicks falters, but it's more likely that Hicks turns it around and eventually translates his high velocity and devastating breaking pitches into more swing-and-misses. For what it's worth, Alex Reyes did see work in the 9th inning the other night, but if the Cardinals are interested in using their best reliever in the most important spots, Reyes seems like the logical one to use in those spots.
Subscribe to see our closer tiers & rankings, along with our handcuff grades by clicking here.