Don't have an account?
Join the Best Live Fantasy Chat Community!

Lost password? [X]

Receive free daily analysis:

NFL    NBA    MLB

Already have an account? Log in here.

[X]

Forgot Password


[X]

2018 Early Bullpen Outlooks - American League East


Baseball season is almost back, but before that comes fantasy baseball draft season. In this series of articles to be published over the next several weeks, we will look into the bullpens of all 30 teams, taking a look at closers, setup men, and other bullpen arms in the process. Some teams have roles already set in stone while others will be using Spring Training to discover the best way to split up their relievers.

The American League East gets us started, and while all five teams in the division have strong closers, the similarities more or less end there. The setup men and the overall bullpen depth varies wildly between these five teams.

Let's get started with a look at these five teams and where their bullpens stand today.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off, with exclusive access to our season-long articles, 15 in-season lineup tools and over 200 days of expert DFS research/tools. Sign Up Now!

 

Baltimore Orioles

Closer: Brad Brach

Volatility Rating: Questionable

Other Relevant RPs: Darren O'Day, Mychal Givens, Zach Britton

The Baltimore Orioles have a truly elite closer in Zach Britton, but he was only able to pitch in 38 games last season and won't be ready to start the 2018 season either. Britton ruptured his Achilles' tendon in the offseason and underwent surgery in December. Some players can take up to 12 months to recover from the procedure, but Britton and the Orioles are optimistically projecting he'll be back on the mound in the second half of the season.

In the meantime, Brad Brach is expected to continue filling in as closer, much like he did in 2017. Brach is not the elite closer that a healthy Zach Britton is, but he's no slouch either. Last season, he saved 18 games and posted a 3.18 ERA while striking out more than a batter per inning (9.26 K/9). He'll be worth owning in most formats and should be available late in drafts.

Other interesting relief arms in the Orioles bullpen (and guys who could end up with save chances if Brach struggles) are Darren O'Day and Mychal Givens. O'Day has seemingly been around forever, and he's coming off the best strikeout season in his career. He posted a passable 3.43 ERA with a strong 11.34 K/9. He's been mentioned by manager Buck Showalter as a potential closing option. Givens is also coming off a strong year, posting a 2.75 ERA and 10.07 K/9 in 78.2 innings pitched. He has less experience closing than O'Day and Brach, but he would be a solid option in the ninth if Showalter gave him a chance. Keep an eye on any developments in the Orioles bullpen leading up to Opening Day. For now, Brach is the one to own, but that could change rather quickly.

Fantasy Must Own: Brad Brach (AL only, deeper mixed leagues), Zach Britton (on teams with an available DL spot)

 

Boston Red Sox

Closer: Craig Kimbrel

Volatility Rating: Solid

Other Relevant RPs: Joe Kelly, Carson Smith, Matt Barnes

The Boston Red Sox have one of the best closers in baseball in Craig Kimbrel and yet their bullpen is still not even close to the level of that of their arch rival, the New York Yankees. Still, let's not sell the Red Sox bullpen short. As mentioned, Kimbrel is a monster. In 2017, he saved 35 games and posted a 1.43 ERA to go with a ridiculous 16.43 K/9. That 1.43 ERA was backed up by a 1.42 FIP and a 1.50 xFIP. He may have benefited a bit from an unsustainable 93.9% LOB% (93.9% of the batters who reached base against him were left on base and did not score.) Still, Kimbrel is elite and should be one of the first closers off the board in fantasy drafts.

The Red Sox have a couple of other interesting arms in their bullpen as well. While neither is likely to reach Kimbrel's level, Matt Barnes and the latest version of Joe Kelly are both solid relievers in their own rights. Barnes appeared in 70 games last season, posting a 3.88 ERA and 10.72 K/9. That's solid, but by no means spectacular. Joe Kelly found a home in the bullpen and had a strong 2017. He put up a 2.79 ERA in 58 innings while striking out 8.07 batters per nine innings pitched. Kelly did occasionally show a concerning lack of control, walking 4.19 batters per nine innings. Both are solid "real life" relievers to have in the back end of a bullpen, but neither Barnes nor Kelly are worth drafting in standard fantasy leagues. Both could have value in holds leagues though, with Barnes getting a slight edge over Kelly.

Fantasy Must Own: Craig Kimbrel (all formats- should be one of the first closers drafted)

 

New York Yankees

Closer: Aroldis Chapman

Volatility Rating: More Volatile Than You Probably Think

Other Relevant RPs: Dellin Betances, David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle

Many people hear the name "Aroldis Chapman" and think, "best closer in baseball." While that may have been true in the recent past, it was certainly not the case in 2017. Chapman was good. In fact, Chapman was very good. He saved 22 games and posted a 3.22 ERA in 50.1 innings pitched. He posted an eye-opening 12.34 K/9. Those are good numbers, but they're not "best closer" numbers. Arguments could even be made that there are better closers in the very same Yankees bullpen.

David Robertson, Dellin Betances, and Tommy Kahnle have all experienced success in closing out games at the major league level. Working together, they form a fearsome end of the bullpen for the Yankees that can easily be seen as one of if not the best bullpen in baseball today. All four posted double digit K/9 rates last season, led by Betances' 15.08. The best reliever in the Yankees bullpen in 2017 though? At least by fWAR, it was none other than Chad Green, who accumulated 2.3 fWAR in 67 innings pitched while posting a 13.43 K/9 and a 1.61 ERA.

Keep an eye on the Yankees bullpen through Spring Training, if Chapman struggles, the team knows they have an embarrassment of riches already around to take his place. For now, Chapman is the only "must own" in mixed leagues, but that could change quickly. All of the pitchers mentioned here have the upside to be elite fantasy closers.

Fantasy Must Own: Aroldis Chapman (all formats, but keep an eye on any Spring Training developments), Dellin Betances, David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle (any leagues that count holds will see all three of these pitchers return solid value)

 

Tampa Bay Rays

Closer: Alex Colome

Volatility Rating: Questionable (Solid if Colome doesn't get traded)

Other Relevant RPs: Dan JenningsRyne Stanek

The Tampa Bay Rays are probably not going to give their fans a ton to cheer about this coming season. They traded away the face of their franchise when Evan Longoria packed his bags for San Francisco. They've also been reportedly shopping their closer, Alex Colome. Colome is not an elite closer like some of the other guys in the AL East, but he's a solid ninth inning guy who can consistently shut the door when called upon. If he remains with the team, the Rays will at least have a solid closer to call on the few times they have a lead in the ninth inning. Colome's solid 2017 featured 47 saves and a 3.24 ERA in 66.2 innings. He's never been a huge strikeout guy, he recorded just 7.83 K/9 last season. Odds are, if Colome gets traded, he might not close for his new team. That makes him a risky draft choice in fantasy leagues that draft early.

As far as who would close in the event of a Colome trade, that role would seemingly go to lefty Dan Jennings. He's the only other pitcher in the Rays bullpen with any real semblance of major league late inning experience. Jennings isn't great, but he's been a solid lefty late inning reliever for long enough now. Last season, he posted a 3.45 ERA in 77 appearances. This will be a bullpen to avoid in most fantasy formats unless Colome sticks around. Ryne Stanek is an interesting potentially high-upside reliever, but he's yet to figure it out at the big league level. Keep the name in mind though, just in case.

Fantasy Must Own: Alex Colome (AL only, if he stays in Tampa Bay)

 

Toronto Blue Jays

Closer: Roberto Osuna

Volatility Rating: Solid

Other Relevant RPs: Aaron Loup, Ryan Tepera

The Toronto Blue Jays have their bullpen anchored by a 22-year-old. That might sound like something they should be concerned about, but Roberto Osuna has proven himself to be one of the better closers in baseball, even at such a young age. Last year, he saved 39 games and posted a 3.38 ERA. While the ERA may not sparkle, he was hurt by a 59.5% LOB% and his FIP was just 1.74, showing that perhaps some of the bloat in his ERA was due to bad luck. Osuna was able to strike out 11.67 batters per nine innings while walking just 1.27 in that span. He accumulated a 3.0 fWAR and did very well at not allowing home runs.

Elsewhere in the Blue Jays bullpen are Ryan Tepera and Aaron Loup. Both are solid relievers who strike out over a batter per inning (9.39 K/9 for Tepera, 9.99 for Loup). They serve important purposes in the Toronto bullpen, but neither would be a must own closer if Osuna went down. In holds leagues, however, both Tepera and Loup should return decent value and can almost certainly be had in the last rounds of a fantasy draft.

Fantasy Must Own: Roberto Osuna (all formats)

 

More 2018 Player Outlooks




More Recent Articles

 

Fantasy Football News and Injuries - Running Updates

Below is a quick-hit list of running notes on relevant injuries and player news, including pre-game reports and live in-game updates. Stay tuned for updates all throughout the week and on Sunday morning game day:   Week 15 David Njoku is a surprise inactive for Week 15. Chris Godwin has been ruled out with a hamstring... Read More


Fantasy Football Mailbag - Q&A for Week 15

This article's content may vary week-to-week, but generally, it will be answering questions fielded from either the @RotoBallerNFL twitter account or my personal one (@RotoSurgeon). This week, the focus is on start/sit questions, and there were plenty. Every week, many of us struggle with which quarterback to start, or who to flex, and I am... Read More


Week 15 Chat - Live Fantasy Football Game Day Q&A

It's Sunday Morning Week 15... Do You Know Who to Start? Each Sunday morning of the NFL season, RotoBaller's experts will be moderating the industry's leading live chat room and answering a bunch of your fantasy football questions, from around 10:30 AM to 1:00 PM ET. Come join in on the fun, and get your... Read More


Updated Week 15 PPR Rankings (Top 300)

Welcome to Week 15 RotoBallers. Below are our updated consensus Week 15 PPR rankings for fantasy football, including some running notes on relevant injuries, player news and rankings updates: David Njoku is a surprise inactive for Week 15. Bo Scarbrough has officially been ruled out. Josh Jacobs (shoulder) is expected to suit up and should be... Read More


Fantasy Football Starts and Sits: Matchups Analysis for Week 15

Welcome to our Week 15 matchup analysis and start/sit column for fantasy football. We'll be covering every single contest from the Sunday slate in one convenient location, helping you make the best decisions for your fantasy lineups. Be sure to check back regularly because this article will be updated as news comes in regarding injuries and other... Read More


Wide Receiver Matchups To Target In Week 15

In Week 14, DeAndre Hopkins and Michael Thomas were the high-end options that came through with solid performances, both finishing in the top-five even though they had fairly tough matchups. A.J. Brown finished as the No. 1 receiver on the week, scoring two touchdowns off of just seven targets, while Darius Slayton and Emmanuel Sanders... Read More


Week 15 Fantasy Football Staff Rankings

Below you will find all of RotoBaller's fantasy football weekly rankings, tiers, player news and stats for the 2019 NFL season. Our Ranking Wizard displays our staff's rankings for various league formats, all in one easy place. Here's what you'll find: Weekly PPR Rankings Weekly Half-PPR Rankings Weekly Standard Rankings Dynasty League Rankings     Fantasy... Read More


Fantasy Football Booms, Busts - Kenny Golladay, Kenyan Drake, James White

If there was ever a week to have more booms than busts in your fantasy football lineup, it’s this week. The playoffs are either underway or about to start in fantasy football leagues across the nation and around the world. If you are lucky enough to be the proud owner of a playoff team, then... Read More


Key Starters and Tough Calls - Lineup Spotlights for Week 15

Welcome to Week 15, RotoBallers! Below you will find some of my spotlight plays and tough lineup decisions for the upcoming week of the fantasy football playoffs. These player selections are based on my Premium Weekly Lineup Rankings, available as part of the RotoBaller's NFL Premium Pass. Enter promo code KING at checkout for a... Read More


NFL Survivor Pool Picks (Week 15) - Targets and Avoids

Week 13 was a pretty chalky one with just three underdogs winning outright. The biggest upset was the Broncos absolutely annihilating the Houston Texans who were still celebrating their "Super Bowl" win against the Patriots the week prior. Three weeks remain and I'd be a fool to think there are hundreds who are reading this... Read More


Woos and Boos - Starts and Sits for Week 15 Lineups

The trend of fresh faces being among the tops of the fantasy scoring leaderboard continued in Week 14. Across the skill positions, we saw players that took advantage of plus matchups and excelled for fantasy owners during the first week of the playoffs. Mitchell Trubisky and Drew Lock came out of nowhere to finish inside... Read More


Week 15-16 Playoff Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2019 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

Still doing things a little differently this week--for those of you who are still alive. I want to take a look at the playoffs as a whole (and in this case we are considering Weeks 14-16) and determine which DSTs you can ride all the way through and which ones you should stream this week.... Read More


Week 15 Stream Team - Free Agent and Bye-Week Streamers

Now that the playoffs are in full swing in most leagues and the final march for a championship has begun, streaming becomes a  necessary strategy. Knowing who to add and when to start them could be the ultimate difference-maker in a weekly matchup. Making the right streaming decisions could easily be the difference in winning... Read More


Week 15 Panic Room: Outlooks for Slumping and Injured Players

As you set your Week 15 fantasy football playoff lineups, there may be some players who make you feel very uncomfortable about starting them. Based on recent lackluster performances, injuries, or just an intangible bad vibe, it's a struggle to insert them into your lineup in a do-or-die week. But you may also nervous be... Read More


Drew Lock: Is He Ready For Fantasy Football Playoff Consideration?

There is much excitement in Denver after Drew Lock put on an air display at Houston last week. In just his second NFL start, the rookie threw for 309 yards and three TD passes, all in the first half, as the Broncos stunned the AFC South leaders, 38-24. The final score doesn’t indicate what type... Read More