The Orioles’ bullpen has struggled out of the gate over the first six games of the season mainly due to a poor showing from Darren O’Day (five runs and 11 base runners over 2.2 innings with 1 K). Baltimore ranks 19th in the majors in bullpen ERA (4.43) with batters hitting .319 against them. Their relievers do have three wins and three saves while recording a loss. Zach Britton has yet to blow a save in three opportunities, but he’s allowed eight base runners over five shutout innings with four strikeouts. Brad Brach continues to do an excellent job behind him (four shutout innings with one allowed and five Ks).
Boston Red Sox
Boston can’t win a World Series title without strength in their bullpen. The locals have grown weary of Craig Kimbrel. He’s yet to blow a save in two chances while allowing a run and four baserunners over three innings with five Ks. His stuff is tough to hit, but Kimbrel needs to throw more strikes. After seven games, the Red Sox bullpen is fourth in the majors in ERA (1.47) with batters hitting .129. They’ve issued ten walks in 18.1 innings, which will be a problem over the long haul. Matt Barnes has done a nice job in his four appearances (no runs and two hits over 4.2 innings with seven Ks), and Joe Kelly hasn’t allowed a run over 3.1 innings with three walks allowed. Tyler Thornburg looks to be a month away from returning to the majors.
New York Yankees
After seven games, New York has the best bullpen in the land. Their relievers have a 1.13 ERA over 24 innings with only four walks and 28 Ks, but Aroldis Chapman has yet to pick up a save. He’s thrown two perfect innings with four strikeouts. Dellin Betances has a win and a loss after three games after allowing a run and three baserunners over 2.1 innings with three Ks. Tyler Clippard remains the seventh inning man. Over 3.1 innings, Tyler’s only mistake is a home run while chalking up four Ks. Adam Warren could be making a case to be pushed into the starting rotation after tossing six perfect innings with seven strikeouts to start the season.
Tampa Bay Rays
Alex Colome doesn’t draw the attention of the top closers in the game, but he does a nice job when given a chance. He’s 3-for-3 in save conversions with no runs and two hits allowed over 4.1 innings with three Ks. After eight games, the Rays sit 8th in major league baseball in bullpen ERA (2.38) with two wins, no losses, and three saves. For now, Erasmo Ramirez looks like the best arm in the 8th. He’s thrown 3.2 shutout innings with three strikeouts. Danny Farquhar had a chance close for the Mariners in 2013 (16 saves), but he seemed to lose his way in the 2015 season (5.12 ERA). After 3.2 innings in 2017, Danny allowed a run and four hits with a pair of strikeouts. Tommy Hunter is looking to revive his career as well (no runs over 3.2 innings with four Ks).
Toronto Blue Jays
After surprisingly starting the season on the DL, Roberto Osuna returned to the mound on April 12th. He threw a shutout inning with a K in a non-save situation. Over the first week of the season, Jason Grilli picked up a loss and save while allowing a run and four baserunners over 3.2 innings with four Ks. Joe Biagini looks to be the third options for saves. He’s been a workhorse over his four games (one run and seven baserunners over 6.1 innings with three strikeouts). After seven games, Toronto is about league average in bullpen ERA (3.67 – 14th), but they’ve taken three losses.
Chicago White Sox
For the second straight season, the White Sox have pitched well out of the bullpen in early April. They're third in the majors in bullpen ERA (1.13) despite earning no wins or saves after six games. David Robertson has two shutout innings with four strikeouts under his belt, which is a good sign after struggling with his command in 2016 (32 walks over 62.1 innings). Nate Jones was a popular closer in waiting in high stakes drafts in March. His game appears to be off after his first three outings (two runs and eight baserunners over 3.1 innings), which includes four walks. Zach Putnam threw the ball great over 6.1 innings (no runs and two hits with eight strikeouts).
Cody Allen has nine strikeouts over 3.2 innings of work while allowing a run and five hits. He’s converted both of his save chances. Andrew Miller hasn’t allowed a run over 4.1 innings with no walks and five Ks leading to a win and a hold. Brian Shaw picked up a vulture save on April 5th and a win on April 11th. Over four innings, he’s allowed a run and four base runners with three Ks. The Indians surprisingly rank 18th in bullpen ERA (4.43) after seven games even with three wins and three saves.
Detroit continues to have some disaster risk in their bullpen. After seven games, they have a 6.95 ERA (27th) with two wins, a loss, and four saves. They cut out some of the dead weight by sending Bruce Rondon (six runs and seven base runners over 1.1 innings) back to the minors. He was replaced by the electric arm of Joe Jimenez. Over five years in the minors, he has a 14-6 record with a 1.57 ERA with 207 Ks, and 53 saves over 143.1 innings. Batters only have 82 hits against him. Joe is the future closer in Detroit with possible value in saves over the second half of the year. There hasn’t a been a ton of excitement in Francisco Rodriguez after four games. He’s allowed two runs and seven base runners over 4.1 innings, but he does have a win, three saves, and a blown save. Justin Wilson hasn’t allowed a run or hit over 4.2 innings with five Ks.
Kansas City Royals
The days of the Royals having a strong bullpen appear to be over. After seven games, they have a 7.77 ERA (29th) with three losses, and no saves. Their relievers have issued 19 walks in 22 innings. Closer Kelvin Herrera allowed a home run in his only chance to pick up a save. Over two innings, he allowed a run and a hit with one strikeout. Joakim Soria has yet to allow a run over four innings with three walks and four Ks. Peter Moylan hasn’t allowed a run or hit over 4.2 innings with five Ks.
I’d have to say Brandon Kintzler was the last closer drafted in most of my high stakes drafts. After 4.1 innings of work, he’s yet to allow a run with four Ks leading to three save conversions. For now, Ryan Pressly appears to be next in line (two perfect innings with two strikeouts). Matt Belisle has six Ks over 3.1 innings, but he’s allowed a run and six base runners. At age 37, his arm has no real upside in the 9th. Tyler Duffey could be a dark horse for saves (three shutout innings with three Ks). After seven games, the Twins are fifth in the majors in bullpen ERA (1.50) with a win and three saves.
Last year Houston had one of the better bullpens in the majors. After nine games, they have a 4.41 ERA (17th) with two wins, two losses, and two saves. Ken Giles converted his first two save chances, but he blew up in his last two innings of work (four runs and six baserunners) putting his job at risk. Will Harris had short term success closing in 2016 (15 saves). Will has yet to allow a run over 4.2 innings with three Ks. Luke Gregerson blew up on April 8th when he allowed six runs, six base runners, and two home runs. In his other four innings, Luke hasn’t allowed a run. The sexy arm in this bullpen is Chris Devenski. Over eight innings, Chris has 14 Ks with one run and three hits allowed. Devenski may be closer to starting than closing.
Los Angeles Angels
Cam Bedrosian has a win and two saves in his three appearances in 2017 (no runs over 3.2 innings with five Ks). Andrew Bailey has a pair of wins while pitching three perfect innings with two Ks. He should remain next in line for saves even when Huston Street returns. Street remains a couple of weeks. I’d keep an eye on Bud Norris. He struggled in his second outing of the year when he allowed two runs and three baserunners over two-thirds of an inning. Bud has four shutout innings with his four Ks and no walks in his last two appearances. The Angels are 9th in the baseball in bullpen ERA (2.45) with five wins and two saves.
It appears the A’s will be juggling closers all season. Santiago Casilla hasn’t allowed a run or hit over four innings leading to a save. He pitched in a setup role in his last outing due to the Royals having a couple of lefties due up in the 9th inning. Sean Doolittle has been sharp in his three outings in 2017 (no runs and seven Ks over 2.2 innings) leading to a save conversion. Ryan Madson appears to be third in line (no runs over 2.1 innings with three strikeouts). Oakland is 7th in bullpen ERA (2.36) after eight games with a loss and two saves.
Sam Dyson officially kicked the chair out from under his noose on Tuesday night (three runs and four baserunners) leading to his second blown save and third disaster outing in four appearances. Over three innings of work, Sam allowed 11 runs and four baserunners resulting in two losses and two blown saves. Jeremy Jeffress allowed a run in three of his five appearances (three runs and five baserunners over 2.2 innings). My bet is Matt Bush to close of Texas, but his game appears to be off as well (two runs and four baserunners over 3.2 innings with five Ks). Keone Kela allowed one run and five baserunners over three innings with six Ks at AAA. I’m sure he’ll be called up soon to put his name in the closer ring. The Rangers are 28th in bullpen ERA (7.71) after seven games with a win, three losses, and no saves.
Seattle pitched poorly out of the bullpen after nine games (6.91 ERA – 26th) with batters hitting .328 against their relievers. Edwin Diaz threw the ball well in his first two outings (no runs over three innings with four Ks), but he failed miserably in his last outing on April 9th when he allowed three runs and five baserunners to help the Mariners blow a six-run lead in the 9th. Dan Altavilla hasn’t allowed a run over four innings with eight strikeouts. His AFB is almost 97 mph while featuring an upside slider. His game made a step forward in 2016 at AA (1.91 ERA with 65 Ks over 56.2 innings) after Seattle moved him to the bullpen. Steve Cishek is getting closer to pitching in a minor-league game. My sense is that he is two weeks away at the minimum.