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What’s poppin, Razzpimples?

Fantasy baseball is already on the horizon! I say this every year: it really does sneak up on me each and every time. Nevertheless, I’m dead chuffed to have been handed the bullpen reins once again here at Razzball.

As you and I shift our brain cells into baseball season mode, my first 2024 bit of wisdom for you is just a quick lil recap of what’s gone on so far in the realm of bullpens this offseason. All I aim to do, just like last year, is to go through each team and toss names at you for saves and other names at you for holds. As per the usual over the winter months, there’s been plenty of turnover and shake up in various hierarchies across the league. Some big-time blockbuster stuff, as well as some quiet but nonetheless impactful moves.

Don’t forget to keep that Razzball Bullpen Chart bookmarked. It’s been updated with the latest, and I’m usually quick to get it touched up once any type of news drops.

Let’s do it to it.

PSYCH! – EDITOR’S NOTE: Go join a Razzball Commenter League HERE and play against the likes of JKJ, Keelin, MattTruss, and more of your favorite Razzball crew!  Also, we are closing RazzSlam entries this weekend, so sign up HERE for a chance to get in.


AL West

Los Angeles Angels

So what I’ve done is copy/paste last year’s version of this article and just type over it. I’m seeing (you don’t see it anymore, obviously) how I noted the acquisition of Carlos Estevez and deemed it hardly noteworthy. Then, because of course, he popped off and turned into one of the biggest surprises of the entire 2023 fantasy baseball season. That was fun. Made me look super smart. But anyway, he’s still an Angel and should be the primary saves source once again in 2024. The Halos have made other moves, though — bringing Matt Moore back and also adding Robert Stephenson. Let’s get Moore out of the way first. He’ll probably be a solid holds source with good ratios. 2022 was great, 2023 was good, so I expect 2024 to be just fine, barring injury. No velocity concerns or anything at the moment. Now to Stephenson. Estevez did not look good to close out 2023, while Stephenson had a stunning, career-saving 2023 season. Dude was so mid, and then he was so damn good for all of last year. Everything changed once he introduced a cutter into his repertoire and made it his most-used pitch. It had a 60% whiff rate and .121 xBA against it. I could very realistically see him taking over the 9th in 2024. Remains to be seen, though, and the organization has a lot of faith in Estevez, who kept the ninth even during the hard times last season. At the very least, make sure Stephenson is on your radar as a handcuff, but he might be worth grabbing late regardless. In SVHD leagues, he’s a must-own.

Houston Astros

Woo boy. The Astros went and got their man when they already had a good one. Josh Hader is better than Ryan Pressly and is making a ridiculous amount of money for a relief pitcher, so you can bet Hader is the new closer for Houston. No doubt about it. I mean, new manager Joe Espada named him closer, it just never was in doubt the moment they signed him. Pressly is downgraded to a high-end SVHD type, but you can forget about him in SV-only leagues. And honestly, now that Pressly isn’t closing, you want Bryan Abreu for SVHD, cuz he’s sexier than Pressly. He’s at least got way more upside. Some of the filthiest stuff around. Not to say Pressly won’t be good (or even great) in 2024, but if I’m ranking them, it’s Hader, then Abreu, then Pressly. I hope I don’t need to tell you how good Hader is. Won’t be surprised if he’s the first RP taken in every league there is.

Oakland Athletics

Barf. Messy situation here. Trevor May was not a bad fantasy baseball closer in 2023 (21 SV), but who will emerge? The organization seems to be looking at three guys heading into Spring Training: Mason Miller, who has that nice sex appeal you want in a closer; Dany Jimenez, who has experience as the A’s closer in the past; Trevor Gott, who has been a pretty reliable high-leverage RP over recent years. I mean, I gotta put my money on Miller

Seattle Mariners

Andres Munoz did everything we thought he could do as a closer last year, so he’ll do that again this year. Matt Brash stonks got an even bigger boost after Justin Topa was dealt to the Twins, paving the way for majority setup duties for Brash. The M’s also added former White Sox closer Gregory Santos, whom I figure sees some setup action. Gabe Speier should see some holds work here and there given his lefty-ness.

Texas Rangers

I shouted out Jose Leclerc here last season, then Will Smith and, later, Aroldis Chapman happened. But now those guys are once again out of the picture, leaving Leclerc room to become part of the 9th inning again for Texas. Leclerc was about as good as I thought he’d be, posting a 2.68 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 57 IP. But, don’t forget about Josh Sborz, who ultimately closed out the World Series clincher and looked like one of the best arms in baseball at times last year. Two new names with success as closers in the past, however: David Robertson and Kirby Yates. I’m interested to see how things play out here. Sborz pulls ahead? Leclerc and DRob share? Yates works his way into the mix? This is really messy now that Yates and Robertson are around to muddy the waters. Oh yeah, Jonathan Hernandez is there, too.

 

AL Central

Cleveland Guardians

Emmanuel Clase is the obvious fantasy stud here. He wasn’t what he was in 2022 or 2021, but still damn good enough to be your RP1. Only guy to get 40+ SV (44) last year. Figure he’ll get in that ballpark this time around. As for holds, things are a little less clear for now. You’ve still got Trevor Stephan and Sam Hentges in the mix, the latter being the lefty specialist, but now they’ve also added Scott Barlow. Tough to gauge who pulls ahead at this juncture.

Kansas City Royals

Kansas City added Will Smith to their pen, so he’s an immediate consideration for saves. It’s been reported by Ken Rosenthal that he’s seen as the favorite for the job, even. I thought Carlos Hernandez had the goods, but it turned out he couldn’t quite handle the ninth, so I consider him off the fantasy radar for now given the emergence of James McArthur at the tail end of 2023. He seems like he’s got the goods, but how Smith actually affects his chances is anyone’s guess. Smith has the experience but derailed to finish last season, while McArthur showed flashes despite 20 H allowed in 23.1 IP and an ERA closer to 5.00 than to 4.00. Nick Anderson is also now a Royal and could be a mainstay in high-leverage situations.

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers pen looks practically identical to 2023’s version at the top and has some newer additions to the middle. Alex Lange figures to be the closer. Incredible stuff but can’t always control it. Same ol’ same ol’. Jason Foley and Will Vest and maybe also Tyler Holton to set things up. Lower down the depth chart, there’s now Shelby Miller and ex-Tiger-now-once-again-a-Tiger Andrew Chafin, who really struggled last year but was excellent in 2022, the last time he was with Detroit. I’d guess he’s not high-leverage since Foley/Vest were just so great last year. Feels like it’d take an injury for Chafin to get the consistent looks that matter for fantasy purposes.

Minnesota Twins

Jhoan Duran might be the best closer in fantasy baseball…Rudy’s War Room seems to think so. Has him as the #1 RP and #40 overall player in standard formats. After that, the holds mix could be spearheaded by newly-acquired Justin TopaGriffin JaxCaleb Thielbar, or Brock Stewart, the latter of whom sported a 0.65 ERA and 12.7 K/9 in 2023. You’ll just have to keep a close eye on how things progress there, but Duran is obviously a sure bet for elite closer value.

Chicago White Sox

Welp, with the departure of Santos and the addition of John Brebbia, this pen situation has gotten rather messy. After Brebbia, we’re looking at the likes of Tim HillJimmy Lambert, and Prelander Berroa, who was shipped over in the Santos deal and who has gnarly stuff that he can’t control. I guess I’ll call Brebbia the current favorite. Garrett Crochet looked like the answer once upon a time, but them ding dang injuries, man. If he can even sniff his 2020/2021 form, though, I could see him in the 9th over the course of the season.

 

AL East

Toronto Blue Jays

This pen is the same as last year except no more Jordan Hicks. That means Erik Swanson is back to being an elite fantasy setup man, while Jordan Romano is an elite fantasy closer. Don’t discount Tim Mayza and Yimi Garcia for holds, however. Both were studs for the majority of 2023.

Baltimore Orioles

Here’s another “blockbuster” for us bullpen nerds. The O’s signed Craig Kimbrel to be their closer in 2024 since Felix Bautista will miss pretty much all of it to Tommy John. I would expect greatness from Kimbrel, who really seems to thrive when he’s handed all the keys to the ninth inning instead of sharing some of them. Still has hella good upside in terms of ratios and strikeouts. I know he’s frustrating sometimes, but despite being almost 36 years old, I think fantasy greatness is in store. Probably not peak Kimbrel, but should be pretty ding dang close. Okay, so that’s saves. For holds, you can’t go with Yennier Cano as the #1 option and then Danny Coulombe as the next best option. I tried really hard to dissuade people from holding Cano last year, and hopefully, you ignored me. He was pretty awful for a stretch but ultimately turned in a stellar 2023 campaign: 39 SVHD, 2.11 ERA, 1.00 WHIP.

Tampa Bay Rays

Pete Fairbanks, when healthy, was one of the best closers in baseball. Should hold true in 2024. The Rays’ days of the closer carousel are no more! It’s lovely. Jason Adam is the elite setup man you want, with Colin Poche bringing plenty of value to the table as well. They’ve also added Chris Devenski, who was really good for the Angels last year, but I can’t see him bringing more holds than Poche unless the injury bug bites.

Boston Red Sox

What we saw in 2023 is likely what we see in 2024. Kenley Jansen as closer, Chris Martin as holds option #1, and Josh Winckowski as holds option #2. Martin still feels so underrated; the man is very good at his job.

New York Yankees

Clay Holmes is your closer, but the setup waters for the Yanks are a little muddier after they acquired Caleb Ferguson, who shined last year for the Dodgers.  I gotta figure Jonathan Loaisiga and Tommy Kahnle take the lead, but just how much Ferguson complicates that remains to be seen. It’s been reported that Johnny Lasagna could potentially do what Michael King did for them last year.

 

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks

Arizona got Paul Sewald near the trade deadline and it damn near got them a ring. He was awesome until that one Corey Seager swing in the World Series. Got no reason to think he isn’t a fantasy star in 2024. For holds, I like Kevin Ginkel most and then probably Scott McGough second. I don’t believe in Miguel Castro.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Evan Phillips ran away with the closer job in 2023 and should be the mainstay saves source this season. Brusdar Graterol figures to be the 8th-inning stalwart now that Ferguson is gone. Wouldn’t count out Alex Vesia either, whom I used to have a massive love affair with and in whom I still believe. He was atrocious to start last year but then really ironed some things out at the end — from July on, Vesia tossed 30.2 IP to the tune of a 2.35 ERA, .165 OBA, and 34:5 K:BB. Maybe trading away fellow lefty Ferguson is a vote of confidence in Vesia…

San Francisco Giants

Camilo Doval will be one of fantasy’s best, and then you’ve got the Rogers brothers setting up. I want to like Taylor Rogers more because of his strikeout upside, but Tyler Rogers got 32 SVHD to Taylor’s 14, so…yeah. Guess we’ll see if Tay Tay can win the ’24 sibling rivalry. Jordan Hicks joined the Giants as a starter…if that goes south — and it did when he started for St. Louis — then he could shift to high-leverage pen duties in quick order.

San Diego Padres

Now this one’s a doozy. The Padres won’t have Hader this year, and they’ve gone and added two complete unknowns (in terms of MLB readiness) in Yuki Matsui and Woo Suk Go, who now owns the best name in Major League Baseball. They also still have Robert Suarez, who should definitely factor into the saves mix. I just don’t know what this mix will look like. Suarez majority? Equal timeshare with Matsui? Hot hand gets the edge? No clue. Good luck drafting! Matsui has been a dominant closer in Japan, with dazzling ratios and double-digit K/9 for his entire career over there. Oh yeah, they even added Wandy Peralta as well, so who really knows what the pecking order is or could be once we look past Suarez/Matsui. If we look at the money, the hierarchy goes Suarez, then Matsui, then Peralta, then Go. As to how Mike Shildt deploys these arms on regular basis is anyone’s guess, though Suarez’s paycheck certainly suggests he gets first looks.

Colorado Rockies

Daniel Bard recorded exactly 1 SV in 2023, adding just 6 HLD. After his amazing 2022 season, I thought he’d just surely be a steady force for Colorado. Alas, no dice. Justin Lawrence should be the saves guy to start, with Tyler Kinley being the main setup dude. Bard is at least third in this pen, so don’t bother drafting him in most formats. Jake Bird may see some extra early holds if Bard isn’t quite ready for the start of the season. Recovering from a relatively minor knee operation.

EDIT: News just broke that the job isn’t just Lawrence’s…Kinley will compete for saves. Keep a close eye this spring!

 

NL Central

Milwaukee Brewers

Pretty much the same as last year. Devin Williams is quite easily a Top 5 or Top 3 or Top 1 fantasy closer. After that, the holds could mostly go to Joel Payamps or they could get spread around between him, Trevor Megill, and/or Abner Uribe and/or Hoby Milner. Uribe has really grody stuff and could vault into the #2 arm in this pen, or he could struggle with control and hold himself back. Gave up more walks than hits last year, so that tells you a lot. We definitely know that Airbender will do Airbender things, at least. I’d bet Payamps is the #1 holds source.

St. Louis Cardinals

Ryan Helsley and Giovanny Gallegos are again the only two names to pay attention to in this pen for the time being. Andrew Kittredge was signed, but I don’t think he jumps the gun for big-time high-leverage usage right off the bat. JoJo Romero might be a decent holds guy in deeper formats. I’m still on the Helsley Hype Train if he can stay healthy. Cards gotta be better this year, right? Gotta.

Chicago Cubs

Adbert Alzolay morphed into one of the finer closing options last year and figures to pick up where he left off in 2023. This pen looks pretty much like it did last year. Julian Merryweather and Mark Leiter Jr. as setup men, but former heavy-lifter for the Astros, Hector Neris, enters the fold. Could be he bumps one of those two down the depth chart before long. Yency Almonte, former Dodger, is now a Cub but probably gets no higher than Plan D or E for holds, only getting looks when the other guys need rest or are hurt.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Don’t think David Bednar keeper/dynasty owners need to fret over the signing of Aroldis Chapman. I mean, maybe Chapman vultures some saves here and there, but Bednar is still the man, and I believe he’ll be every bit as good as he was last year for fantasy. Chapman’s arrival does most likely bump Colin Holderman down the pecking order for holds.

Cincinnati Reds

Alexis Diaz is gonna Alexis Diaz it up. Elite fantasy closer. Now for SVHD, it gets dicier (spell check tells me that’s not a word, but Imma roll with it). Lucas Sims is probably still Plan A for holds, but the Reds signed Emilio Pagan and Nick Martinez and are actually paying both a ton of money, relative to the rest of the team. I mean, those dudes are making millions more than anyone else in that pen. Does that mean they get favored over Sims? I dunno. I do think Pagan has potential to be a steady holds source, but something tells me Sims will be better. Martinez could be in the holds mix, or he could be a long-relief type or even see some starts.

 

NL East

Atlanta Braves

For saves, we all know about Raisel Iglesias. Next, we’ve got A.J. Minter and a new guy who’s also quite good, Reynaldo Lopez. I think both are great SVHD league assets. Maybe even, like, really great. The depth of this pen is pretty damn impressive, with these three leading the way. ReyLo is reportedly being stretched out for a potential starting gig, so if that ends up happening, I’d be looking at Joe Jimenez as the third horse in this race.

Miami Marlins

What a 2023 we got from Tanner Scott. Utterly dominant at times, and the blowups weren’t that frequent, so he was able to end the year with 36 SVHD, great ratios, and lots of strikeouts. Walks were a huge problem before last year, and then all of a sudden he’s able to slash his BB/9 to 2.8, cutting his BB% to half of what it was in 2022. Generated the highest SwStr% of his career in doing so. Everything is lined up for a huge return on investment if you draft this guy. For holds, Andrew Nardi and A.J. Puk figure to see the lion’s share, with Nardi being the safest pick and Puk having the most upside.

New York Mets

Edwin Diaz szn is back! Such a bummer he had to miss last year due to some flukey BS. It’s reasonable to expect some rust. It’s also reasonable to expect he just goes out and kicks ass from the get-go. For holds, Brooks Raley is likely to repeat as an elite source, with Drew Smith seeing a fair amount as well. The Mets also re-signed Adam Ottavino, who has plenty of high-leverage experience/success to his name. Still a worthwhile option in the right format, but it’d have to be a deep one.

Washington Nationals

Remember that time Kyle Finnegan got you 28 SV, yet you drafted him for almost nothing? Granted, that was best-case scenario. Tanner Rainey is gonna be back in the picture this year, after all. I imagine it’s Finnegan’s job to lose, it’s just the leash is that much shorter. Not only is Rainey back, but Hunter Harvey broke out (finally!) and was awesome all year. Dylan Floro is now a National, too, but meh. He’s definitely no better than fourth in this hierarchy. It goes Finnegan>Harvey>>>Rainey>>>>>Floro if you ask me.

Philadelphia Phillies

So with Kimbrel out of town, the obvious choice for closing duties in Philly falls to Jose Alvarado, who just dazzled in ’23. Why can’t we expect a Top 10 fantasy RP? Kimbrel got 23 SV for Philly last year and Alvarado got 10…let’s just have fun and dream and say Alvarado would have gotten 33 SV without Kimbrel (and if he hadn’t gotten hurt). Elite strikeout potential, elite ratios, and 30+ SV are well within the realm of possibility. Dude isn’t being drafted that high right now, either. As for setup duties in Philly, Gregory Soto probably leads the way, picking up 24 HLD (and 3 SV) last season. Then maybe Jeff Hoffman? He was quietly very damn good despite just 12 SVHD.

 

That’s all for this week! Thanks for reading. Leave me a comment below so I feel all warm and fuzzy.


I specialize in bullpens, and I also do some fantasy hockey as well here at Razzball. Find me on Elon’s Disaster: @jkj0787. DMs are always open for questions, comments, concerns, complaints, etc. Odds are good I’m drinking black coffee, dark beer, or some form of bourbon at any given time of day. 

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FMFU
FMFU
1 month ago

You have a rough top 10 JKJ ?

Old School Brother
Old School Brother
1 month ago

Awesome write up JKJ, looking forward to reading more throughout the year

Sport
Sport
1 month ago

Awesome stuff jKJ! Also want to add, I follow you on Twitter and have asked questions on that platform and always got a response. Soooo thankful for that!

Grey shocked me with the new draft philosophy this year! I’m relieved for it! I have really struggled the last couple of years as SAGNOF has become extremely difficult on the free agent market. I knew I had to do something different this year. So 1st closer in the 6th round or so, and another around 9th or 10th.

Is that your strategy this year in a 12 team and any particular targets for each spot in the draft?

Sport
Sport
Reply to  JKJ
1 month ago

You and Itch are the ‘sleepers’ of Razzball! Gotta be the hardest content to write up. Thank you!

OaktownSteve
OaktownSteve
1 month ago

Man I really hope it’s McArthur for the Royals. In Sept last year he faced 53 hitters and allowed 5 base runners (all hits) and a 19:0 K:BB. Got him for a buck. Could go any old way with Smith tho. Lefty righty share? Give the job to the old guy.

OaktownSteve
OaktownSteve
Reply to  OaktownSteve
1 month ago

oh yeah…0.00 ERA in Sept for McArthur

Old School Brother
Old School Brother
Reply to  OaktownSteve
1 month ago

I have McArthur in a SVHD league and I think he’ll give a ton of value either saving or holding games for the Royals

Constantin
Constantin
1 month ago

Big miss on Erceg as an Oakland closer option. I mean, he throws 100, already considered the co-closer there, and Miller can’t pitch back to back days.

Constantin
Constantin
Reply to  JKJ
1 month ago

hmmm, the one thing you can expect from Oakland is the unexpected …

Smitty
Reply to  Constantin
1 month ago

Speaking of misses, think Orion Kerkering stakes a claim as a high leverage dude and eventually takes over closer duties for the Phils. His plus FB/SL combo has closer written all over it – SL especially filthy. Good updates otherwise, thanks

Smitty
Reply to  Constantin
1 month ago

Speaking of misses, think Orion Kerkering stakes a claim on a high leverage role and eventually takes over closer duties for the Phils. His FB/SL combo has closer written all over it – SL is especially filthy. Otherwise appreciate the updates, thanks!