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2019 Bullpen Outlooks - American League Central


Moving right along with our pre-season coverage of the bullpens around the league, let's give the American League Central a look. Most "baseball people" are predicting the AL Central to be one of the worst divisions in the league in 2019, but that doesn't mean there won't be plenty of fantasy value coming out of the bullpens.

While some of the AL Central teams have their closer already and no planned competition for the role in spring training, others have a wide open bullpen depth chart and may not even decide on a permanent closer until after the regular season begins.

Let's ride the bullpen cart through the bullpens of the American League Central. Be sure to also check out our full fantasy baseball closer depth charts for each team, including holds candidates and setup men.

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Chicago White Sox

Closer: Alex Colome
Volatility Rating: Solid
Other Relevant RP:  Kelvin Herrera, Nate Jones, Jace Fry

The Chicago White Sox want to be a lot better in 2019 than they were in 2018. Their offseason moves show that while they've improved in most if not all aspects, they've focused a lot on their bullpen. They traded for Alex Colome and signed free agent Kelvin Herrera. Colome will presumably be the closer, as he saved 47 games his last time in the role. Last season, he earned 12 saves and 30 holds, pitching to a 3.04 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 68 innings. Herrera will be his primary setup man. When healthy, he's been dominant, but he's spent some time on the disabled list over the past few seasons. In 48 games last season, he posted a 2.44 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 44 1/3 innings.

Returning to the White Sox bullpen will be Nate Jones and Jace Fry, both solid relievers themselves. Jones missed a lot of last season, ending up with only 30 innings pitched, but he's shown signs of greatness before. Fry was actually the closer in Chicago for parts of last season and despite a pedestrian 4.38 ERA, he was able to rack up strikeouts, posting 70 in 51 1/3 innings of work.

Fantasy Must-Own: Alex Colome (all formats), Kelvin Herrera (holds leagues, as Colome's handcuff)

 

Cleveland Indians

Closer: Brad Hand
Volatility Rating: Solid
Other Relevant RP: Adam Cimber, Oliver Perez

The Cleveland Indians lost one of baseball's best relief pitchers when Andrew Miller signed with the St. Louis Cardinals this offseason. Still, Cleveland has a good back end of the bullpen with Brad Hand at closer and Adam Cimber and Oliver Perez working the late innings as well. Hand was excellent last year while splitting his season between Cleveland and San Diego, posting a 2.75 ERA with 32 saves and 106 strikeouts in 72 innings. He has the strongest hold of the ninth inning out of any closer in the AL Central.

Adam Cimber worked well in Cleveland last year too, putting up a 3.42 ERA with 12 holds and 58 strikeouts in 68 1/3 innings. His unique delivery makes him a ground ball machine and usually limits big innings in late game situations. Oliver Perez, meanwhile, just keeps on pitching. Perez had a 1.39 ERA and 0.74 WHIP last season while recording 15 holds and striking out 43 batters (with only seven walks! Oliver Perez!) in 32 1/3 innings.

Fantasy Must-Own: Brad Hand (all formats), Oliver Perez (deeper holds leagues and leagues that count K%)

 

Detroit Tigers

Closer: Shane Greene
Volatility Rating: Questionable
Other Relevant RP: Joe Jimenez

The Tigers look like they're in for a long 2019 on the field, and on top of that, it doesn't seem like there will be too much fantasy value coming out of Detroit. The Tigers closer, Shane Greene, put up 32 saves last season and struck out 65 batters in 63 1/3 innings, but he held an unsightly 5.12 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. That might be "good enough" for a team not trying to compete, but it's certainly not someone you'd want on your fantasy team. Joe Jimenez is the likely top setup man behind Greene, and he'll of course have a chance to take over the role as early as spring training. For all we've heard about Jimenez's upside as the "closer of the future" for the Tigers, he had a pretty average 2018, posting 23 holds with a 4.31 ERA. He did strike out 78 in 62 2/3 innings, though.

Fantasy Must-Own: No one, although Joe Jimenez could have some strikeout upside if he ends up in the closer's role. Greene should only be owned in AL-only and deep mixed leagues.

 

Kansas City Royals

Closer: Wily Peralta
Volatility Rating: Questionable
Other Relevant RPs: Brad Boxberger

The Kansas City Royals finally figured out the best way to use Wily Peralta near the end of last season, placing him in the closer's role. He pitched well, but with some concerning signs at the same time. He ended up with 14 saves, a 3.67 ERA, and 35 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings. That's the good. The bad, though? He walked 23, leading to a 1.49 WHIP. Peralta certainly has the "stuff" to succeed as a closer, and since the only playoff plans the Royals are making in 2019 is whose house to go to to watch the games, Peralta could have a long leash in the ninth inning role.

The Royals did just sign Brad Boxberger though, so Peralta might have some spring training competition. Boxberger saved 32 games last season for Arizona, striking out 71 in 53 1/3 innings. His ERA was 4.39 and his WHIP was close to Peralta's: 1.43. The Royals won't have too many leads late in games in 2019, but they might have a hard time holding onto the ones they have. There's not much fantasy value here.

Fantasy Must-Own: None, although either Peralta or Boxberger should be owned in AL-only and deep mixed leagues.

 

Minnesota Twins

Closer: Trevor May
Volatility Rating: Questionable
Other Relevant RPs: Blake Parker, Addison Reed, Taylor Rogers

The Minnesota Twins have a chance to make some noise in the AL Central this season if a few things go their way. For instance, they have a bullpen full of guys with upside, but also with question marks. Their closer, at least presumably, will be Trevor May. May was brought up as a starter, but didn't fare well in that role and did a lot better last season as a short reliever. He ended up with three saves and five holds, posting a 3.20 ERA with a 1.03 WHIP while striking out 36 in 25 1/3 innings. If he's named the team's full-time closer, he has the upside to return some nice value in all fantasy formats.

The Twins signed Blake Parker this offseason to join the bullpen, and he's a solid reliever himself. Last season with the Angels, he saved 14 games and posted a 3.26 ERA while striking out 70 in 66 1/3 innings of work. He'll slide into a setup role, but could challenge May for save chances if May struggles. Addison Reed and Taylor Rogers will return to their late-inning setup roles as well, with Rogers the slightly better bet in holds leagues.

Fantasy Must-Own: Trevor May (if he gets the ninth inning), Blake Parker and Taylor Rogers (holds leagues only for now, Parker as May's potential handcuff)

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