Friday, August 19, 2022

Fantasy Baseball Bullpen Report: Devin Williams, Felix Bautista could be closers following trade deadline

Spoiler alert: Josh Hader is the Padres closer. In all the ways the trade deadline shook up the closer landscape across the league, there’s no room for doubt with that one.

But for the Phillies, Twins, Orioles, Braves, Angels and Cubs, you may have some questions.

I’m here to provide answers, to the extent that I can — and not just with the trades but also the Rangers‘ and Red Sox’s usual tomfoolery. Here are the 10 closer scenarios generating the most interest right now.

Note: “Pecking order” refers to rosterability in Fantasy and not necessarily who’s first in line for saves (though it’s usually one and the same).

Williams has long been touted as an eventual replacement for Hader, sporting a career 14.7 K/9 rate and featuring the most unhittable changeup in baseball. The complicating factor is that Taylor Rogers, heretofore the Padres’ closer, came back in the deal. Because one throws righty and the other lefty, a platoon of sorts could develop, but Rogers may be at a disadvantage coming off a horrible July. For what it’s worth, Rogers worked the eighth inning in a tie game Wednesday. Williams began the ninth but served up a home run to take the loss.

According to MLB.com beat writer Todd Zolecki, manager Rob Thomson has said that Brad Hand and Seranthony Dominguez will continue to work the eighth and ninth inning even with the acquisition of Cubs closer David Robertson. Zolecki reiterated this even after Robertson recorded the save in his first game with his new club Wednesday, with Dominguez working the eighth. It kind of makes sense for the more experienced pitcher to handle the role, especially since Thomson never fully embraced Dominguez in it, but you should try to hold on to both until we have more clarity.

Rocco Baldelli never got behind rookie Jhoan Duran as his closer following the unofficial removal of Emilio Pagan from the unofficial role. Of course, Baldelli has never been fond of calling anyone his closer, and he continued the trend following the Twins’ acquisition of Orioles closer Jorge Lopez, saying only that he’d work the ninth inning a “fair amount.” Lopez has been a revelation in the role this year, even making the All-Star team, and fittingly, he got the save chance in his first game with his new team Wednesday. I suspect he’ll handle the vast majority going forward, regardless of what Baldelli calls him.

With All-Star closer Jorge Lopez now out of the picture, 27-year-old rookie Felix Bautista, who somehow has even better numbers, is poised to step into it. “I think he’s going to get a shot,” manager Brandon Hyde has said, while allowing for Cionel Perez to maybe steal chances against lefties. Indeed, though he didn’t get a save either time, Bautista was the last pitcher to take the mound for the Orioles both Tuesday and Wednesday.

More likely, the Braves acquired Raisel Iglesias to be their closer over the next three years, when Kenley Jansen is no longer under contract, than right now, though manager Brian Snitker has acknowledged that the former Angel could work the ninth whenever Jansen is unavailable. If Kirby Yates is back to form coming back from Tommy John surgery — and he certainly appeared to be on his minor-league rehab assignment — this is a formidable late-inning group.

The Angels have only said they’ll go closer-by-committee with Raisel Iglesias out of the mix, which is a more sophisticated way of saying “we’re not sure either.” Left-hander Jose Quijada converted the first save chance in Iglesias’ stead Tuesday, but Ryan Tepera, who throws right handed and had been the eighth-inning, might be the more logical choice most days. Newly acquired Jesse Chavez could factor, too, I guess, but is anyone good enough to take the job and run with it? Nah.

As ugly as that closer committee figures to be in Anaheim, it’ll be worse for the Cubs, who dealt away setup men Scott Effross and Mychal Givens in addition to closer David Robertson. Or maybe Rowan Wick will claim the job outright. He filled in for an injured Robertson earlier this year, after all. Of course, he also has a 1.73 WHIP, which doesn’t inspire much confidence.

Brett Martin’s inability to nail down the role has made the Rangers’ situation a spectacular mess again. Hard-throwing Jonathan Hernandez got the team’s most recent save over the weekend and seemed to be trending toward the role before having Tommy John surgery last year, but he’s also barely made it back and had an ugly ninth inning with the Rangers trailing by two runs Wednesday. Left-hander Matt Moore has also gotten a save since Martin’s last, but the best bet might be on Joe Barlow (blister) reclaiming the role when he’s activated from the IL in the coming days, regardless of how much stress it brings him.

The Athletics traded their not-so-closery closer Lou Trivino to the Yankees and activated their slightly-more-closery former closer Dany Jimenez just a day later. But two days went by without Jimenez appearing, and when a save chance came up Wednesday, Zach Jackson handled it. Maybe the Athletics are looking to ease in Jimenez, but it’s weird to activate a guy and not give him a look for two days. Jackson does miss bats like a closer should, but his walk and fly-ball rates are potentially disastrous. Jimenez remains a better bet, but it’s clearly still in question.

Tanner Houck went the entire month of July without recording a save. Meanwhile, Garrett Whitlock got two and John Schreiber and Ryan Brasier each got one, raising questions about whether the Red Sox were back to a closer committee. I think timing had a lot to do with it. July was a bad month for the Red Sox in general, and Houck was often unavailable on the rare occasion a save chance came up. Both of Whitlock’s were of a multi-inning variety, which may happen from time to time now that he’s back in the bullpen. Order appears to have been restored, though, with Houck having recorded a save on back-to-back days to begin August.

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