Crowdsourcing Bullpen Roles

With less than a month before Opening Day and fantasy baseball prep ramping up, I thought I’d take a look at bullpen roles for each major-league team. Most leagues still use saves as a category and it’s important to know who’s slated for the closer role, as well as the #2 and #3 guy in each pen if you’re in a large league or a league where every team is scrambling for the guy next-in-line to get those precious saves.

I used eight sources to determine how the fantasy experts are projecting each team’s bullpen. The sources are: FanGraphs Bullpen Report, CBS sports, Rotoworld, MLB.com, ESPN.com, Roster Resources, Fantasy Alarm, and Fox. For each team, I’ve listed their closer, setup guy #1, and setup guy #2, with the number of lists they are on out of the eight sources. I’ve also listed the projected saves for each pitcher based on the FanGraphs Depth Charts.

Locked In Their Roles

 

Kansas City Royals

Closer: Greg Holland (all 8 sources)

Setup #1: Wade Davis (all 8 sources)

Setup #2: Kelvin Herrera (all 8 sources)

 

Comment: There’s no question how the Royals’ bullpen is set up, which is not surprising considering how successful they were last season when they rode a tremendous bullpen all the way to the seventh game of the World Series.

 

FanGraphs Depth Charts: Holland—37, Davis—1, Herrera—1

 

Philadelphia Phillies

Closer: Jonathan Papelbon (all 8 sources)

Setup #1: Ken Giles (all 8 sources)

Setup #2: Jake Diekman (all 8 sources)

 

Comment: All eight sources have the Phillies’ pen lineup up as Papelbon, Giles, and Diekman. The one thing to watch for here is if the Phillies can find a taker for Papelbon’s contract. He’s owed $13 million this year and has a vesting option for another $13 million in 2016 if he finishes 55 games this year or 100 games over 2014-2015. If he goes, Giles is the guy to have.

 

FanGraphs Depth Charts: Papelbon—36, Giles—2, Diekman—2

 

Atlanta Braves

Closer: Craig Kimbrel (all 8 sources)

Setup #1: Jason Grilli (all 8 sources)

Setup #2: Jim Johnson (7), James Russell (1)

 

Comment: The Braves are opening a new ballpark in 2017 and Kimbrel is owed $9 million this year, $11 million next year and $13 million in 2017, with a $13 million club option for 2018. Does a team that doesn’t look ready to compete in the next two years really want to spend $20 million on a closer during that time? If Kimbrel gets traded, Grilli is next in line.

 

FanGraphs Depth Charts: Kimbrel—39, Grilli—2

 

 

Two Spots Set, What About That Third?

 

St. Louis Cardinals

Closer: Trevor Rosenthal (8)

Setup #1: Jordan Walden (8)

Setup #2: Seth Maness (5), Matt Belisle (3)

 

Comment: Rosenthal and Walden look to have the late-game roles locked in, but the #2 setup guy isn’t as certain. Maness is a ground-ball machine (career 61.5% GB%) with a low strikeout rate (15.9%) but a career 2.66 ERA. He picked up 3 saves last year. Belisle had a 4.87 ERA last year with the Rockies, but is projected to be much better this year (3.52 ERA—FanGraphs Depth Charts).

 

FanGraphs Depth Charts: Rosenthal—42

 

Cleveland Indians

Closer: Cody Allen (8)

Setup #1: Bryan Shaw (8)

Setup #2: Scott Atchison (5), Marc Rzepczynski (3)

 

Comment: It’s Allen and Shaw, with Atchison the most likely second setup guy. Rzepczynski shouldn’t be allowed to face a right-handed hitter with the game on the line. In his career, righties have hit .272/.366/.441 against him.

 

FanGraphs Depth Charts: Allen—38, Shaw—2, Atchison—2

 

New York Yankees

Closer: Dellin Betances (8)

Setup #1: Andrew Miller (8)

Setup #2: Adam Warren (5), David Carpenter (3)

 

Comment: Betances (3.2 WAR) and Miller (2.3 WAR) were two of the top six relievers by FanGraphs WAR last year. The consensus seems to be that Betances will be the closer with Miller the primary setup guy, but the FanGraphs Depth Charts show Betances with 30 saves to Miller’s 11, so he’s not being projected as the slam-dunk closer just yet. Both Warren and Carpenter are solid setup guys.

 

FanGraphs Depth Charts: Betances—30, Miller—11, Warren—2

 

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Closer: Huston Street (8)

Setup #1: Joe Smith (8)

Setup #2: Fernando Salas (4), Mike Morin (2) Cesar Ramos (1), Vinnie Pestano (1)

 

Comment: If/when Huston Street misses a couple weeks with an injury in the middle of the season, Joe Smith will be the guy. After Smith, Fernando Salas has the most experience picking up saves, as he had 24 saves with the Cardinals back in 2011.

 

FanGraphs Depth Charts: Street—37, Smith—4

 

San Diego Padres

Closer: Joaquin Benoit (8)

Setup #1: Kevin Quackenbush (7), Dale Thayer (1)

Setup #2: Dale Thayer (5), Shawn Kelley (1), Alex Torres (1), Nick Vincent (1)

 

Comment: Benoit and Quackenbush both picked up saves after Huston Street was traded last year, but Benoit is clearly the closer going into this season. Thayer had 7 saves for the Padres in 2012. The FanGraphs Depth Charts have Brandon Maurer getting 4 saves and Shawn Kelley with 2, but Quackenbush with zero, which doesn’t seem quite right to me.

 

FanGraphs Depth Charts: Benoit—37, Maurer—4, Kelley—2

 

Pittsburgh Pirates

Closer: Mark Melancon (8)

Setup #1: Tony Watson (6), Jared Hughes (1), John Holdzkom (1)

Setup #2: Jared Hughes (3), Tony Watson (2), Antonio Bastardo (2), John Holdzkom (1)

 

Comment: Watson is considered the top setup guy for Melancon, with Hughes and Holdzkom falling in place behind him. Holdzkom has the sky-high strikeout rate, while Hughes is a ground ball machine (64.6% GB%).

 

FanGraphs Depth Charts: Melancon—40, Bastardo—2

 

Seattle Mariners

Closer: Fernando Rodney (8)

Setup #1: Danny Farquhar (6), Yoervis Medina (2)

Setup #2: Yoervis Medina (4), Danny Farquhar (2), Charlie Furbush (1), Tom Wilhelmsen (1)

 

Comment: After Rodney, it’s either Farquhar or Medina, with Farquhar the more popular choice among the eight sources used here and also the better pitcher statistically. After Rodney, Wilhelmsen has the most experience at closer.

 

FanGraphs Depth Charts: Rodney—40, Wilhelmsen—4

 

Detroit Tigers

Closer: Joe Nathan (8)

Setup #1: Joakim Soria (6), Al Alburquerque (1), Ian Krol (1)

Setup #2: Joakim Soria (2), Al Alburquerque (2), Joba Chamberlain (2), Bruce Rondon (2)

 

Comment: Joe Nathan started to show his age in 2014. His strikeout rate dropped; his walk rate rose, and he had the third-worst ERA of his 16-year career (4.81). His FIP (3.94) and xFIP (4.14) weren’t as bad as his ERA, but they weren’t great either. He’ll be 40 this year. In the long history of baseball, relievers 40 and older have a total of 13 seasons with 20 or more saves and eight seasons with 30 or more. The odds are against Joe Nathan. Joakim Soria is ready to take over should Nathan falter. Al Alburquerque looks to be the #3 guy in this pen. The FanGraphs Depth Charts expect Soria to get plenty of save opportunities this year.

 

FanGraphs Depth Charts: Nathan—24, Soria—14, Alburquerque—1, Chamberlain—1

 

Texas Rangers

Closer: Neftali Feliz (8)

Setup #1: Tanner Scheppers (7), Shawn Tolleson (1)

Setup #2: Kyuji Fujikawa (3), Shawn Tolleson (2), Tenner Scheppers (1), Alex Claudio (1), Mendez (1)

 

Comment: Feliz is the #1 guy going into the season, but his peripheral statistics were ugly last year. He had a 1.99 ERA, with a 4.90 FIP and 4.60 xFIP, thanks to a below-average 6.0 K/9, mediocre 3.1 BB/9, and ugly 1.4 HR/9. He had a BABIP of .176 and LOB% of 100%, neither of which are likely to be repeated. Scheppers was injured for much of the year, as was Fujikawa, but either pitcher could get some save chances if Feliz falters.

 

FanGraphs Depth Charts: Feliz—33, Tolleson—4

 

Arizona Diamondbacks

Closer: Addison Reed (8)

Setup #1: Brad Ziegler (7), Evan Marshall (1)

Setup #2: Oliver Perez (5), Evan Marshall (2), Brad Ziegler (1)

 

Comment: Reed is currently having shoulder problems, but the Diamondbacks’ team site reported that the team is optimistic he’ll be ready for Opening Day. Ziegler is most often named as the top setup guy, with Oliver Perez and Evan Marshall among the possibilities for late inning work. The FanGraphs Depth Charts are all over the place with this bullpen, with nine pitchers projected for at least one save.

 

FanGraphs Depth Charts: Reed—7, Ziegler—7, Marshall—7, Perez—6, Delgado—5, D. Hudson—4, M. Reynolds—2, Ch. Anderson—1, M. Stites—1, R. Ray—1

 

Who’s the 8th Inning Guy?

 

Boston Red Sox

Closer: Koji Uehara (8)

Setup #1: Junichi Tazawa (5), Edward Mujica (3)

Setup #2: Edward Mujica (4), Junichi Tazawa (3), Craig Breslow (1)

 

Comment: Since becoming a reliever in 2010, Uehara has been terrific. Still, he’ll be 40 years old this year and there’s not much history of 40-year-old relievers racking up high save totals. Tazawa is the favored option after Uehara by the eight sources used here, but Mujica is the guy with a history of getting saves (37 in 2013, 8 in 2014).

 

FanGraphs Depth Charts: Uehara—36, Tazawa—2, Mujica—2

 

Oakland Athletics

Closer: Tyler Clippard (8)—injury replacement for Sean Doolittle (DL)

Setup #1: Ryan Cook (5), Eric O’Flaherty (3)

Setup #2: Ryan Cook (3), Eric O’Flaherty (2), Fernando Abad (2), Evan Scribner (1)

 

Comment: While Doolittle is out the Oakland pen should go Clippard-Cook-O’Flaherty, although three sources have O’Flaherty ahead of Cook. Once Doolittle returns, everyone else gets bumped back a spot.

 

FanGraphs Depth Charts: Doolittle—28, Clippard—12

 

Chicago Cubs

Closer: Hector Rondon (8)

Setup #1: Pedro Strop (5), Neil Ramirez (2), Jason Motte (1)

Setup #2: Neil Ramirez (4), Pedro Strop (3), Zac Rosscup (1)

 

Comment: CBS is the only source that has Motte listed as the first setup guy so, despite his experience as a closer in 2012, it’s much more likely that Strop and Ramirez will be the primary setup guys to Hector Rondon.

 

FanGraphs Depth Charts: Rondon—40, Strop—3

 

Washington Nationals

Closer: Drew Storen (8)

Setup #1: Casey Janssen (4), Aaron Barrett (2), Craig Stammen (1), Matt Thornton (1)

Setup #2: Craig Stammen (3), Matt Thornton (2), Aaron Barrett (1), Blevins (1), Tanner Roark (1)

 

Comment: Janssen has earned 81 saves over the last three years and he’s the favorite to be the primary setup guy here, but his strikeout numbers last season were ugly (5.5 K/9). Barrett looks most likely to jump ahead of Janssen in this pen.

 

FanGraphs Depth Charts: Storen—43, Janssen—4

 

Chicago White Sox

Closer: David Robertson (8)

Setup #1: Zach Putnam (4), Jake Petricka (3), Zach Duke (1)

Setup #2: Jake Petricka (4), Zach Duke (3), Nate Jones (1)

 

Comment: There’s a difference of opinion on who will be the primary setup guy to Robertson in the White Sox’ bullpen. Putnam had 6 saves last year and a 1.98 ERA but a 3.08 FIP and 3.64 xFIP. Petricka had 14 saves last year and a 2.96 ERA but 3.60 FIP and 3.76 xFIP. Duke is projected to get more saves than both Putnam and Petricka by the FanGraphs Depth Charts. They also have Robertson with just 25 projected saves, which seems much too low.

FanGraphs Depth Charts: Robertson—25, Duke—8, Putnam—6

 

Cincinnati Reds

Closer: Aroldis Chapman (8)

Setup #1: Jumbo Diaz (4), Sam LeCure (3), Sean Marshall (1)

Setup #2: Sam LeCure (4), Burke Badenhop (2), Jumbo Diaz (1), Oscar Villarreal (1)

 

Comment: The primary setup job is still a question mark here, based on the eight sources. Jumbo Diaz is listed as setup guy #1 by four sources, but LeCure is listed more often as either the primary setup guy or the #2 guy.

 

FanGraphs Depth Charts: Chapman—39, LeCure—3

 

Baltimore Orioles

Closer: Zach Britton (8)

Setup #1: Tommy Hunter (4), Darren O’Day (4)

Setup #2: Tommy Hunter (3), Brian Matusz (3), Darren O’Day (2)

 

Comment: Hunter and O’Day are listed as the primary setup guy by four sources each. Hunter has more experience picking up saves (15 over the last two years), but O’day is the better pitcher.

 

FanGraphs Depth Charts: Britton—36, O’Day—3, Hunter—1

 

Miami Marlins

Closer: Steve Cishek (8)

Setup #1: A.J. Ramos (3), Mike Dunn (3), Bryan Morris (2)

Setup #2: A.J. Ramos (5), Mike Dunn (3)

 

Comment: There isn’t a strong consensus on the setup guy in this pen, but it’s most likely Ramos, then Dunn. Ramos, the right-hander, is most likely to step in if something happens to Cishek.

 

FanGraphs Depth Charts: Cishek—39, Ramos—1, Dunn—1

 

Minnesota Twins

Closer: Glen Perkins (8)

Setup #1: Casey Fien (3), Brian Duensing (3), Michael Tonkin (1), Caleb Thielbar (1)

Setup #2: Casey Fien (2), Brian Duensing (2), Ryan Pressly (2), Michael Tonkin (1), Stauffer (1)

 

Comment: Fien saw his dropout rate drop from 10.6 K/9 in 2013 to 7.3 K/9 in 2014, but he’s the top right-handed setup guy, so he would most likely be the guy to get saves if Perkins is unable to do so for some reason. Duensing is listed as the primary setup guy by three sources. His career 6.1 K/9 and 4.12 ERA suggests he’s not a guy you want to have on your fantasy roster.

 

FanGraphs Depth Charts: Perkins—34, Fien—1, Thielbar—1

 

Colorado Rockies

Closer: LaTroy Hawkins (8)

Setup #1: Rex Brothers (4), Adam Ottavino (3), Boone Logan (1)

Setup #2: Rex Brothers (3), Adam Ottavino (2), Boone Logan (2), Tommy Kahnle (1)

 

Comment: All eight sources have the 42-year-old LaTroy Hawkins listed as the Colorado closer. In the history of baseball, 42-year-old relievers have had more than 15 saves in a season just three times—1965 Hoyt Wilhelm (20), 1997 Dennis Eckersley (36), and 2013 Mariano Rivera (44). Still, Hawkins has been able to keep runs off the board over the last three seasons despite a low strikeout rate. Rex Brothers is listed most often as next in line, with Adam Ottavino also in the mix. The FanGraphs Depth Charts have eight pitchers projected for at least one save.

 

FanGraphs Depth Charts: Hawkins—6, Brothers—6, Ottavino—5, Axford—5, D. Hale—5, B. Logan—3, Bettis—2, J. Diaz—1

 

San Francisco Giants

Closer: Santiago Casilla (8)

Setup #1: Sergio Romo (4), Jeremy Affeldt (4)

Setup #2: Sergio Romo (4), Jeremy Affeldt (4)

 

Comment: The sources agree that the top three guys in the Giants’ pen will be Casilla, Romo, and Affeldt. They are not in agreement on whether it’s Romo or Affeldt as the primary setup guy. Romo has the closer experience, though, so he should be your handcuff with Casilla in leagues where backup closers are rostered.

 

FanGraphs Depth Charts: Casilla—14, Romo—11, Affeldt—9, J. Lopez—7, Petit—5

 

Milwaukee Brewers

Closer: Francisco Rodriguez (5), Jon Broxton (2), Rob Wooten (1)

Setup #1: Jon Broxton (6), Jim Henderson (1), Will Smith (1)

Setup #2: Will Smith (6), Tyler Thornburg (1), Brandon Kintzler (1)

 

Comment: This isn’t as uncertain as it looks. K-Rod is the closer. The Brewers wouldn’t have signed him if he weren’t going to close. He’s still in the process of obtaining his work visa and the hope is that he gets to camp by the end of the week. For now, MLB.com has Rob Wooten listed as the closer, and ESPN.com and Fantasy Alarm both have Broxton listed as the closer. The reality is that the late inning pitchers for the Brewer will be K-Rod, Broxton, and Will Smith.

 

FanGraphs Depth Charts: Broxton—4

 

Toronto Blue Jays

Closer: Brett Cecil (6), Aaron Sanchez (1), Steve Delabar (1)

Setup #1: Aaron Loup (5), Aaron Sanchez (2), Brett Cecil (1)

Setup #2: Steve Delabar (4), Aaron Loup (2), Aaron Sanchez (1), Brett Cecil (1), Steve Delabar (1)

 

Comment: Cecil has been a very good reliever over the last two years and is expected by the majority of these eight sources to be the main man for saves in 2015. Aaron Sanchez is a terrific young pitcher who may get bumped to the bullpen if there’s no room for him in the rotation. Loup is a setup guy with a mediocre strikeout rate. Delabar was great in 2012 and 2013 but really bad last year. Fox has him listed as the Blue Jays’ closer at the moment, but I would say that’s not bloody likely.

 

FanGraphs Depth Charts: Cecil—37, Loup—4

 

Messy Closer Situations

 

Los Angeles Dodgers

Closer: Joel Peralta (6), Brandon League (2)—filling in for Kenley Jansen (DL)

Setup #1: Brandon League (3), Joel Peralta (2), Pedro Baez (2), J.P. Howell (1)

Setup #2: Pedro Baez (3), J.P. Howell (3), Brandon League (1), Paco Rodriguez (1)

 

Comment: With Jansen currently out with a foot injury, six of eight sources like Joel Peralta to close for the Dodgers, with Brandon League the choice by the other two. When Jansen comes back, Peralta and League should be the top setup guys. The FanGraphs Depth Charts have saves scattered among six guys with J.P. Howell projected for the most.

 

FanGraphs Depth Charts: J.P. Howell—8, Jansen—7, Peralta—7, League—6, Baez—3, Paco Rodriguez—2

 

New York Mets

Closer: Jenrry Mejia (6), Jenrry Mejia/Bobby Parnell (2)

Setup #1: Jeurys Familia (6), Bobby Parnell (2)

Setup #2: Jeurys Familia (2), Vic Black (2), Carlos Torres (2), Josh Edgin (1), Rafael Montero (1)

 

Comment: Mejia is listed by himself as the closer by six sources and he shares the job with Parnell on the lists of two other sources. Mejia had 28 saves last year. Parnell had 22 the year before and is coming back from an injury hoping to reclaim his job. Right now, the FanGraphs Depth Charts have Mejia projected for 21 saves and Parnell projected for 19, so it’s a difficult situation to judge at the moment. Familia would be the guy who is third in line.

 

FanGraphs Depth Charts: Mejia—21, Parnell—19, Familia—2

 

Houston Astros

Closer: Luke Gregerson (5), Chad Qualls (3)

Setup #1: Luke Gregerson (3), Pat Neshek (3), Chad Qualls (2)

Setup #2: Pat Neshek (5), Chad Qualls (2), Josh Fields (1)

 

Comment: Five of eight sources have Gregerson listed as the Astros’ closer, with the other three putting Qualls in that spot. Qualls was the team’s closer last year and he had 19 saves with a 3.33 ERA. You would think the spot would be his to lose, but Gregerson has been the better pitcher over the years so it’s not hard to understand why most people would expect Gregerson to become the closer. Neshek is most likely third in line and Fields is a longshot.

 

FanGraphs Depth Charts: Gregerson—26, Qualls—6, Neshek—6

 

Tampa Bay Rays

Closer: Brad Boxberger (4), Grant Balfour (2), Kevin Jepsen (2)—filling in for Jake McGee (DL)

Setup #1: Brad Boxberger (4), Grant Balfour (3), Kevin Jepsen (1)

Setup #2: Grant Balfour (2), Ernesto Frieri (2), Kevin Jepsen (2), Jeff Beliveau, Kirby Yates (1)

 

Comment: McGee is likely to miss most or all of April. It’s hard to know who will get saves in the meantime. The majority likes Boxberger, but Balfour and Jepsen both have their backers. Balfour had 12 saves last year and 38 the year before, so he has experience as a closer. Boxberger was very effective last year, striking out 14.5 batters per nine innings, but the Rays may want to keep him in a setup role.

 

FanGraphs Depth Charts: McGee—38, Boxberger—3, Balfour—1,



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Bobby Mueller has been a Pittsburgh Pirates fan as far back as the 1979 World Series Championship team ("We R Fam-A-Lee!"). He suffered through the 1980s, then got a reprieve in the early 1990s, only to be crushed by Francisco Cabrera in 1992. After a 20-year stretch of losing seasons, things are looking up for Bobby’s Pirates. His blog can be found at www.baseballonthebrain.com and he tweets at www.twitter.com/bballonthebrain.

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rustydude
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Wow! I was searching for something just like this to help in determining Holds during an upcoming Fantasy League draft. Thank you!

M
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M

Brett Marshall is no longer with the Reds and who is Oscar Villarreal?