Mound Musings: One More Call to the Pen

Mound Musings: One More Call to the Pen

This article is part of our Mound Musings series.

We're now into September, so only about three weeks to go in the 2022 regular season. Pitching  – fantasy and real time  – is getting thin. Winning and losing could hinge on which teams can cobble together an effective bullpen, and make it to the finish line intact.

For fantasy teams, there could be points to pursue in the saves category. But, in most leagues, the trading deadline is passed, so the waiver wire is the only option. Of course, keeping next spring in mind is also important. Closer roles are generally set for the best MLB teams, but there are a lot of teams that either didn't have a reliable closer, or traded their closers away at the deadline, leaving a void in their bullpens. Ideally, teams prefer to have fairly specific roles with regard to their daily bullpen assignments, but fantasy teams could perhaps still find a boost.

That's our goal. Let's see if we can sort out some of the most unsettled bullpens, and make mention regarding some thoughts on closers in waiting.

Here are some bullpen scenarios to take a look at:

  • Mariners – This continues to be the most intriguing bullpen in baseball. The modest favorite for saves today is Paul Sewald. He is an excellent set-up man who has done a respectable job as their closer, giving them no real reason to look elsewhere. That said, I remain fairly convinced the wicked Andres Munoz will eventually emerge with the gig. It's just a

We're now into September, so only about three weeks to go in the 2022 regular season. Pitching  – fantasy and real time  – is getting thin. Winning and losing could hinge on which teams can cobble together an effective bullpen, and make it to the finish line intact.

For fantasy teams, there could be points to pursue in the saves category. But, in most leagues, the trading deadline is passed, so the waiver wire is the only option. Of course, keeping next spring in mind is also important. Closer roles are generally set for the best MLB teams, but there are a lot of teams that either didn't have a reliable closer, or traded their closers away at the deadline, leaving a void in their bullpens. Ideally, teams prefer to have fairly specific roles with regard to their daily bullpen assignments, but fantasy teams could perhaps still find a boost.

That's our goal. Let's see if we can sort out some of the most unsettled bullpens, and make mention regarding some thoughts on closers in waiting.

Here are some bullpen scenarios to take a look at:

  • Mariners – This continues to be the most intriguing bullpen in baseball. The modest favorite for saves today is Paul Sewald. He is an excellent set-up man who has done a respectable job as their closer, giving them no real reason to look elsewhere. That said, I remain fairly convinced the wicked Andres Munoz will eventually emerge with the gig. It's just a matter of time. He, perhaps more than any pitcher not currently closing, profiles as an elite ninth-inning guy. And, don't forget Matt Brash. He has potential closer stuff, too.
  • Padres – The Padres went out and acquired the most dominant closer in the game in Josh Hader. That was a huge surprise. Even more surprising, Hader has been, for the most part, massively ineffective in San Diego. This may not be much comfort to his fantasy owners, but don't worry, he'll be back, probably very soon, and all will be right with the world. It appears to be all mechanical to me, and that is fixable. Nick Martinez is doing an adequate job filling in, but it's not a long-term thing. When Hader gets back in sync, the ninth inning is his.
  • Yankees – what a season. The Yankees were the powerhouse for months, building a huge lead in the AL East and winning at will despite Aroldis Chapman being on and off as their closer. Then Clay Holmes emerged and it looked like a runaway about to happen. Jump ahead to August/September. Chapman is hurt (again), and Holmes is trying to get back on track after a horrid stretch with an injury. They tried filling in with Lou Trivino (not the answer) and Jonathan Loaisiga with limited success. The hitting has also suffered, but Holmes looks like he's back and Loaisiga has been better lately. Guarded optimism.
  • Rangers – A new manager and a new GM are perhaps providing the Rangers with an opportunity to explore bullpen options. Jonathan Hernandez has been the primary guy. Good stuff, and he fairly easily converted his first few chances after he returned from the IL, but he has also been beat up occasionally. I really think they might take another look at Jose Leclerc. He has the best stuff, but he also has a history of losing it when asked to close. And, still, one name to consider as a dark horse is southpaw Matt Moore. He's a former member of my kid's list but injuries derailed his career for a long while, but he's quietly establishing himself as a quality reliever. Slight edge to Leclerc going forward.
  • Red Sox – The Red Sox have been disappointing, and their bullpen has certainly contributed to that fact. After saving 24 games in 2021, Matt Barnes has struggled through an injury-marred season. With him unavailable or ineffective the list of auditioners has been long and varied. Garrett Whitlock has been their best reliever, but they haven't often been able to save him for the ninth inning. Tanner Houck posted mixed results before a season-ending injury, and most recently they have been turning to John Schreiber, but he's not really the answer. Unless they can get Barnes back in form, there doesn't appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel meaning whoever has the hot hand could close.
  • Phillies – The Phillies in some ways mirror the Red Sox. For a few years their bullpen has been an ongoing problem. This year they brought in Corey Knebel seeking stability, but it didn't work out. He was ineffective, then suffered an injury ending his season. David Robertson was next in line, but he hasn't really been the answer either. They also have Brad Hand, but their best option, like Whitlock in Boston, is hard to hold exclusively for the ninth. Seranthony Dominguez is the best in their pen (when healthy), and he should eventually close full time.
  • Dodgers – The Dodgers are one of the best teams in baseball, but the ninth inning is not always a done deal. They typically turn to Craig Kimbrel, and why wouldn't they? One of the best closers in the history of the game (he has 394 career saves), Kimbrel can be absolutely filthy – sometimes. Unfortunately, on other nights he can have trouble locating his pitches leading to scary results. They also have a solid Evan Phillips, and Blake Treinen is finally healthy, and Brusdar Graterol might be a future closer, but they are likely to keep giving the ball to Kimbrel as long as he can avoid too many of those ugly outings.

Some Notable Rotation Ramblings:

  • After he struggled when pitching at Triple-A Reno this season, I had lost touch with Arizona's Ryne Nelson, but I watched a couple innings of his first MLB start against the Padres and he reminded me why I was paying attention when he was drafted out of Oregon. I'm anxious to see if he can build on that strong outing.
  • I have been following the Astros Hunter Brown who impressed in the minors this year and he didn't disappoint in his debut. He has lively stuff and misses bats, so my main concerns are whether he can continue to pound the strike zone and whether their will be room for him in the rotation when everyone is healthy.
  • Jack Flaherty returned to the Cardinals rotation earlier this week, and the results were generally positive. He touched 97 a couple times and most importantly, he looked comfortable on the mound after noticeably laboring earlier this year. There is some rust, but so far so good. I'm encouraged he can make it back.
  • Maybe the White Sox Lance Lynn just has trouble getting and staying healthy? He was awful early on this season, but since late July he has allowed two or fewer runs in seven of nine starts. I have trouble trusting him, but when he's on a roll (like he is now) he can certainly be dominating. Jump on for the ride.

Endgame Odyssey:

When Ryan Pressly is completely healthy, there isn't much drama in the Houston bullpen, but I have really been impressed with Rafael Montero as he fills in. I do think he could potentially thrive if a fulltime closer's gig ever materializes. Okay, so I still think Pete Fairbanks is the best option to close games for Tampa Bay, but let's face it, predicting ninth-inning duties there is paramount to picking this week's winning lottery numbers. The Diamondbacks removed Mark Melancon from the closers role, but it hasn't really resolved their issues there. Ian Kennedy has been equally erratic. The two veterans are probably past their primes, but there simply aren't any good options to take the ball right now. I expect them to share duties through the end of the season. Detroit's Gregory Soto has a habit of making things interesting, but he usually gets it done, and like so many other teams, there aren't many viable alternatives.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brad Johnson
For more than 30 years, pitching guru Brad "Bogfella" Johnson has provided insightful evaluation and analysis of pitchers to a wide variety of fantasy baseball websites, webcasts and radio broadcasts. He joined RotoWire in 2011 with his popular Bogfella's Notebook.
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