With Joakim Soria on the injured list with a calf issue, the closing job for the Diamondback is wide open, with no one stepping up to seize the role. Arizona hasn’t had a save chance since April 6th due to five losses and two blowout wins.
Yoan Lopez has one career save in the majors over 105 appearances. His issue/risk comes from walks allowed (13 over his last 24.2 innings in 2020 and 2021). Over his first five games this season, he allowed a run and baserunners over five innings with eight strikeouts.
Over four seasons in the minors, Kevin Ginkel posted a 2.60 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 239 strikeouts over 166.1 innings while picking up 22 saves. He flashed in 2019 with the Diamondbacks (1.48 ERA and 0.99 WHIP over 24.1 innings with 28 strikeouts and two saves), but he lost his way last year (6.75 ERA). Ginkel started 2021 with two runs and eight base runners allowed over five innings with seven strikeouts. He struggled in back-to-back games, but Arizona may give him a longer leash in the ninth.
Stefan Crichton stumbled over his first six games (5.79 ERA and 1.03 WHIP), pushing him down a notch or two in save chances until he strings some good innings together.
I would keep a close eye on J.B. Bukauskas if/when the Diamondbacks call him up. He turned in an impressive spring training (no runs, three hits, and no walks over 7.2 innings with 14 strikeouts).
Will Smith hasn’t been sharp over his first five games (three runs and six baserunners over five innings with six strikeouts), leading to a pair of losses while securing both save chances. Despite his struggles, his ninth-inning job looks secure.
Before his game on April 12th (two runs and three walks over one-third of an inning), A.J. Minter threw the ball very well (1.80 ERA with one walk and six strikeouts over five innings). He remains second in line for saves for the Braves.
Over the last week, Cesar Valdez gave up a run and three baserunners over two innings with one strikeout. He picked up his second win while blowing his first save in three chances. Overall, Valdez remains Baltimore's top choice to pitch in the ninth inning despite a sub 86 MPH fastball. This season he’s thrown over 80 percent change-ups.
Tanner Scott hasn’t allowed a run over 4.1 innings with seven strikeouts. His time for saves will come. To keep a closing job, Scott must throw more strikes.
Boston Red Sox
Matt Barnes has been elite over his first five appearances (no runs or hits over six innings with one walk and 12 strikeouts). He earned a win and a save over the last week. His growth in command has been a big win for his upside. Barnes looks poised to keep the closing job if he continues to pitch from ahead in the count.
In his four appearances, Adam Ottavino struggled in two games. He has an 8.10 ERA and 2.40 WHIP over 3.1 innings, pushing him a few weeks away from being considered a ninth-inning option.
Craig Kimbrel hasn’t allowed a run or hit over six innings with 10 strikeouts while converting all three of his save chances. More importantly, he’s allowed one walk. Kimbrel looks on a path for a successful season.
Chicago White Sox
There hasn’t been much excitement in Liam Hendriks' arm over the first two weeks of the season. He has one save in two tries while posting a 6.23 ERA over 4.1 innings with seven strikeouts. His only save came on April 2nd. Hendriks has strength in his WHIP (1.15), which points to a rebound once he cleans up his command mistakes (two home runs allowed).
Michael Kopech has been exceptional out of the White Sox bullpen (no runs over 6.1 innings with two walks and 11 strikeouts). Still, his future lies in the starting rotation.
Chicago also has Codi Heuer pitching well out of the gate. In his five appearances over 6.2 innings, he has 1.35 ERA with a win and eight strikeouts. He looks to be second in line for saves at this point in the season.
Heading into Wednesday, Amir Garrett hasn't pitched in a game since April 9th. After winning six straight games, the Reds lost three of their previous four matchups. Lucas Sims received the last save chance on April 12th, in a game when Garrett already had two days off. Sims has been the better pitcher over his five games (4.15 ERA and seven strikeouts over 4.1 innings).
Garrett converted his two saves over three appearances while getting lit up (four runs, four baserunners, and one home run over one inning) in a blow win. He’s already allowed four walks and two home runs over three innings, which is a hint of an underlying injury.
Tejay Antone has been exceptional over his three games of action (no runs over 6.2 innings with nine strikeouts) while working in relief. His growth is exciting, but I’m not sure he’ll hold up long-term if pushed into the starting rotation. Antone could emerge as the closer if Garrett falters or lands on the injured list.
Emmanuel Clase has yet to allow a run over 4.1 innings with six strikeouts and two saves. He struggled in a tie game in his last outing when Clase allowed an infield single and walk over one-third of an inning. He picked this loss after the first baseman made a bad throw to second base.
Despite the jury being out on the closing opportunity for James Karinchak, his season started with four shutout innings with one hit, two walks, and six strikeouts. He closed out their last win to even his tally in saves (1) and blown saves (1).
Cleveland's closing role will be in flux until one of their top two options dominate over a good portion of the season.
Daniel Bard hasn’t pitched in a game since April 8th, thanks to four straight losses by the Rockies. He is 2-for-2 in save conversions with no runs allowed over 3.2 innings with six strikeouts. His average fastball has been 98.1 mph, which features a plus swing-and-miss slider.
After saving the first game of the season while allowing two runs, three base runners, and one home run over one inning, Gregory Soto tossed 4.2 shutout innings with seven strikeouts. He remains the Tigers' top choice to pitch in the ninth inning.
Ryan Pressly is still looking for his first save chance. His year started with four shutout innings with four strikeouts and a win. The Astros have lost four games in a row while playing only one one-run game on the year.
Kansas City Royals
Greg Holland threw the ball better in his last two outings (no runs and five baserunners over 3.1 innings), leading to a win and his first save. He’s issued six walks already over 4.1 innings, which invites disaster risk.
The generally steady Scott Barlow went off-road in his last game (three runs and three hits over two-thirds of an inning with three strikeouts). Over his first four games, he pitched five shutout innings with seven strikeouts.
After failing in his rookie season (10.80 ERA) in 2019 over 18.1 innings, Kyle Zimmer has quietly started to figure it out in the majors. He has a 1.20 ERA and 34 strikeouts over 30 innings in 2020 and 2021, highlighted by his start to this year (seven shutout innings with eight strikeouts). Zimmer even earned a save on April 11th. He should be picked up in all formats.
Los Angeles Angels
In his only appearance over the previous week, Raisel Iglesias pitched a perfect inning with three strikeouts and a save. His ERA (7.20) still needs plenty of work while being 2-for-3 in save chances. Iglesias has 10 strikeouts over five innings of work.
Mike Mayers continues to build off his 2020 success (2.10 ERA). He allowed one run over seven innings with eight strikeouts.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers only gave Kenley Jansen one inning of work over the last week, which led to no runs, two strikeouts, and one save. He has a 1.93 ERA over 4.2 innings with two saves over three opportunities. Jansen has issued four walks, inviting some concern.
Corey Knebel moved to next in line for saves after an excellent start to the year. He improved his scoreless, no-hit streak to 4.1 innings with six strikeouts. Knebel converted his two save chances.
For those surfing the wire for saves after Anthony Bass slipped off the hook, Yimi Garcia could be a big win. He has a win and a save in his last two games while not allowing a run over his past 5.1 innings. The key for him is avoiding the longball, which was an issue in 2018 and 2019 (22 over 84.2 innings).
Bass tried to correct his slow start (13.50 ERA) after tossing 1.2 shutout innings over the last week with one strikeout. On the year, he allowed 10 baserunners and two home runs over four innings.
Dylan Floro started the year with no runs over 5.1 innings and seven strikeouts, leading to him moving to next in line for saves in Miami.
The question about Josh Hader looked to be answered over his first three games (no runs or hits over 2.2 innings with six strikeouts, two wins, and one save). Milwaukee played only two one-run games so far in 2021.
Devin Williams pitched one shutout inning over the last week. On the year, he’s allowed two runs and six baserunners over 2.2 innings with three strikeouts.
Taylor Rogers still doesn’t have a save chance over the first two weeks of the season. He’s yet to allow a run or walk over five innings with five strikeouts.
The trust in Alex Colome looks to be waning after two poor showings (four runs, six baserunners, and one home run over 1.1 innings) over the last week. He has two blown saves in four tries with an extremely high ERA (6.75) and WHIP (1.69).
New York Mets
The fun ride of Edwin Diaz hasn’t materialized in 2021. After earning a win in his first appearance, he pitched poorly in his next game (two runs and four baserunners over two-thirds of an inning). Diaz doesn’t have a save chance.
Trevor May improved his shutout string to three innings with five strikeouts and a win.
New York Yankees
Aroldis Chapman has been electric over his first four games (no runs over four innings with one walk and 11 strikeouts). He earned a save in his only chance over the last week while also picking up a win.
Over five games, Chad Green hasn’t allowed a run over 7.2 innings with six strikeouts.
The A’s gave Lou Trivino his first save opportunity on April 13th, which he converted. His season started with one run over 8.2 innings with two hits and nine strikeouts. The ninth inning should be his job to lose.
After allowing three runs and nine base runners over his first 5.1 innings with five strikeouts, Jake Diekman remains in a trailing position for saves.
Sergio Romo has the most closing experience, but he started the year with too many bad innings (7.71 ERA and 1.71 WHIP).
Hector Neris shined over his first five games (no runs over five innings with one hit, five strikeouts, and two saves). He ran into trouble in his last outing on April 13th (one run and four baserunners over one-third of an inning) to blow a Philly win.
With Archie Bradley landing on the injured list, Jose Alvarado is in the number two position for Philadelphia's saves. His season started with a 1.59 ERA over 5.2 innings with 10 strikeouts.
Richard Rodriguez doesn’t have a save or a save chance since Opening Day. He extended his shutout streak to 4.1 innings with five strikeouts, and one save.
After serving up a pair of home runs on April 7th, David Bednar threw 1.2 shutout innings with one strikeout. His arm has upside once he proves his worth in the majors.
San Diego Padres
Mark Melancon is second in the majors with five saves. He tossed six shutout innings with one hit, no walks, and five strikeouts. His rope should be long for saves based on his start to the year.
The Padres have to be happy with the start by Emilio Pagan as well. He earned two wins in his two games while improving his shutout run to five innings with five strikeouts.
Keone Kela looks closer worthy based on his first five appearances (no runs over 4.2 innings with no walks and seven strikeouts).
Not to be outdone, Drew Pomeranz hasn’t allowed a run over four innings with no walks and seven strikeouts.
Rafael Montero went from a safe closing option to a bench player over the last week. He already has three blown saves in five chances. Despite some questions with direction, Montero isn’t far off in his ERA (4.26) with strength in his WHIP (0.95) and strikeouts (8) over 6.1 innings. Seattle may give him a breather for saves until he strings some good innings together.
Kendall Graveman earned a win and a save in his previous two outings. His season started with five shutout innings with one hit and five strikeouts. Despite an underachieving major league resume due to some injuries, Graveman does have the talent to get batters out. His fastball (96.2) is better than most would expect.
San Francisco Giants
Jake McGee is off to a fast start in saves (6), giving him the edge over Mark Melancon for the major league lead. Over 7.1 innings, he's only allowed one hit and no runs with 10 strikeouts.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals only gave Alex Reyes only one inning of work over the last week, which led to his third save in as many tries. Over 4.1 innings, he hasn’t allowed a run with two walks and three strikeouts.
Jordan Hicks continues to be used in a non-setup role in late innings. He has a 1.69 ERA over 5.1 innings with five walks and four strikeouts.
The second option for saves in St. Louis looks to be Giovanny Gallegos. His season started with a 1.29 ERA and 10 strikeouts over seven innings.
Tampa Bay Rays
Diego Castillo is 3-for-4 in save conversions with a 1.59 ERA and eight strikeouts over 5.2 innings. He tossed 2.2 shutout innings with three strikeouts over the last week with one save.
Tampa added Hunter Strickland to the major league roster after Pete Fairbanks landed on the injured list with a rotator cuff issue. He allowed one run over two innings with three strikeouts.
Over his four innings, Ian Kennedy converted a pair of saves. Still, he did allow six baserunners and a home run. The Padres beat him for a run and three hits in his last inning of work on April 11th. Kennedy doesn’t have much competition for the closing role at this point of the season.
Toronto Blue Jays
With Julian Merryweather landing on the injury list with a hip issue, the closing job is available in Toronto. Jordan Romano became sexy late in the high-stakes draft season in March when the Blue Jays manager outfoxed fantasy owners. Over four games of action, Romano hasn’t been sharp (2.70 ERA and seven baserunners allowed over 3.1 innings).
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Rafael Dolis continues to allow too many walks (five over six innings), which would be a problem in the ninth inning. He pitched better over his previous 3.1 innings (no runs and one hit) while picking up a win. In 2020, Dolis converted five of his six save chances.
With the Nationals having their first series with Mets postponed and a stint on the Covid list, Brad Hand only has two appearances on the year. He earned his first save on April 12th. Hand tossed two shutout innings with three strikeouts this season.
Daniel Hudson has yet to allow run or hit over two innings with three strikeouts.