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2019 Bullpen Outlooks - National League East


Last year's Bullpen Outlook got started with the American League, so let's take the National League on first this time around. Some signings and trades have made a splash in the bullpens of the NL East, and there may still be more to come.

With some top free agent closers and setup men still looking for a new team, everything that follows will be under the assumption that the depth charts remain the same as they are now (spoiler alert: they won't.)

Let's take a look at who will be on the mound in the ninth inning for the National League East this season. 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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Atlanta Braves

Closer: Arodys Vizcaino
Volatility Rating: Questionable
Other Relevant RP:  A.J. Minter, Darren O'Day, Jonny Venters, Dan Winkler

The Atlanta Braves were very good last season and have already added a potentially huge bat to their offense in Josh Donaldson. With their young starting rotation now having more experience to draw from, 2019 should be a good year for the Braves, although competition in the NL East is getting stronger.

The Braves ended the season with Arodys Vizcaino closing games, and he ended up with 16 saves and a solid 2.11 ERA. Lefty A.J. Minter worked as the closer for parts of the season as well, ending up with 15 saves and a 3.23 ERA. Both pitchers struck out over a batter per inning and both make for solid fantasy options in holds leagues, with Vizcaino the preferred option in standard leagues for now. Newcomer Darren O'Day could also figure into the saves conversation at times, although he's likely better suited as a strong setup man. O'Day is also a good holds league option.

The reason this bullpen is listed as "Questionable" is because the Braves have reportedly had interest in reuniting with free agent closer Craig Kimbrel. If the Braves were to sign Kimbrel, he would immediately slot in as closer and push Vizcaino and Minter into strict setup roles. If Kimbrel signs elsewhere, Vizcaino's stock shoots up immediately.

Fantasy Must Own: Arodys Vizcaino (all formats, but keep an eye on free agency), A.J. Minter (all holds leagues, good handcuff for Vizcaino in standard), Darren O'Day (holds leagues only)

 

Miami Marlins

Closer: Drew Steckenrider
Volatility Rating: Questionable
Other Relevant RP: Adam Conley, Tayron Guerrero, Nick Wittgren

The 2019 Miami Marlins will be wearing new uniforms, but they're almost guaranteed the same old results. The 2018 Marlins were bad. The 2019 Marlins will also be bad. But that's the point, as the Fish are rebuilding, not trying to compete immediately. Still, there will be leads that the team would likely want to hang onto, and that means there will be someone in the closer's role. That someone, at least for now, seems like it will be Drew Steckenrider.

Steckenrider spent most of last season as the setup man for Kyle Barraclough, but after Barraclough struggled and was ultimately traded, "Steck" took over. He posted five saves and a 3.90 ERA to go with 74 strikeouts in 64 2/3 innings. He showed some flashes of brilliance but also struggled mightily to get guys out at times. He has the upside to be a solid closer though, both in fantasy and in real life. Assuming he has a strong Grapefruit League performance, Steckenrider should enter the season as the team's closer.

He'll be set up by Adam Conley and Tayron Guerrero, both candidates for the ninth inning if Steckenrider falters. Conley is a former starter who looked much better coming out of the bullpen last season. While he had some struggles, he had several periods of dominance and the Marlins are hoping he's looking at a career path similar to that of former Marlin lefty Andrew Miller. Tayron Guerrero throws in the triple digits with ease and can make batters look foolish, but he needs to work on his control before he can be trusted with significant innings. If Guerrero can throw more strikes, however, he has the potential to be one the elite relief pitchers in the game.

Fantasy Must Own: None. Drew Steckenrider should be owned in deeper leagues and NL-only.

 

New York Mets

Closer: Edwin Diaz
Volatility Rating: Solid
Other Relevant RP: Jeurys Familia, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Luis Avilan

The New York Mets are going to have a slightly different bullpen when the 2019 season starts. That slight change is going to make an enormous difference though. Over the winter, the Mets acquired closer Edwin Diaz from the Mariners and they signed Jeurys Familia, who the Mets had traded to the A's, to a free agent contract. Familia will work in a setup role as he did in Oakland, and Diaz will work as the closer, as he did in Seattle. Diaz was one of the most impressive closers in baseball in 2018, saving 57 games with a 1.96 ERA and 124 strikeouts in just 73 1/3 innings. There's no reason to think he won't repeat those kinds of numbers in 2019, making him one of the first closers taken off any fantasy board.

Familia should be one of the best options in holds leagues this coming season as well. He posted a 3.13 ERA last season split between Oakland and Queens, saving 18 games and striking out 83 in 72 innings. He'll work as the primary setup man and should have plenty of chances to earn holds. If he remains healthy, Familia has a decent chance to lead the National League in holds in 2019. Guys like Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, and Luis Avilan offer some hold upside as well, but they would only become fantasy relevant if Diaz or Familia were to get hurt and miss time.

Fantasy Must Own: Edwin Diaz (arguably the best closer in baseball and should be the first relief pitcher off fantasy boards regardless of format), Jeurys Familia (all holds leagues, solid handcuff for Diaz in standard)

 

Philadelphia Phillies

Closer: None
Volatility Rating: Committee
Other Relevant RPs: David Robertson, Seranthony Dominguez, Tommy Hunter, Hector Neris

The Philadelphia Phillies experimented with a lot of things last season, one of which was not having a set closer for most of the year. Manager Gabe Kapler seemed to like that aspect of his bullpen and will continue to employ a committee approach for the ninth inning. The Phillies recently signed David Robertson, a guy who has been an elite closer in the past. Kapler stated that Robertson, "will be used as another late-inning, high-leverage arm and not as a traditional closer." He figures to be matched up with Seranthony Dominguez, who ended last season with 16 saves and a 2.95 ERA to go with a 0.93 WHIP.

Fantasy players in leagues with deep rosters could try to snag Robertson and Dominguez to form a strong closer stack, but standard league players are better off avoiding this bullpen and drafting someone who will more consistently provide saves. Players in leagues that count holds should get great value out of either Phillies reliever. Since they are indeed going to be pitching in high leverage situations, they are more likely than not to at least draw a hold out of a successful appearance. Guys like Tommy Hunter and Hector Neris will pitch in some high leverage situations as well, but Robertson and Dominguez are the names to keep track of for fantasy purposes.

Fantasy Must Own: David Robertson and Seranthony Dominguez (must owns in holds leagues, deeper league players should consider carrying both, standard league players should look elsewhere)

 

Washington Nationals

Closer: Sean Doolittle
Volatility Rating: Solid
Other Relevant RPs: Kyle Barraclaugh, Trevor Rosenthal, Koda Glover

The Washington Nationals are the only National League East team that will certainly (barring injury of course) head into Opening Day 2019 with the same closer as they had on Opening Day 2018. Eternally underrated, Sean Doolittle will have control of the ninth inning for as long as he can stay healthy. He saved 25 games last season with a 1.60 ERA and a 0.60 WHIP in 43 games. Doolittle always has the upside to be one of baseball's best and should remain one of the most effective closers whenever he's on the mound.

Doolittle's supporting cast will be quite different this season, with hard throwers Kyle Barraclough and Trevor Rosenthal setting him up. Barraclough slumped with the Marlins in 2018, got demoted, got hurt, and then finally got traded. He has the stuff to be a strong reliever, and the Nationals are hoping he can get back to his earlier form. Rosenthal is coming off of Tommy John Surgery but is expected to be ready early in the season if not for Opening Day. He's a bit more of a question mark given the injury, but he has the upside to make a definite impact in the Washington bullpen. Barraclough and Rosenthal are solid relievers to own in holds leagues, and given Doolittle's injury history, they both could make for solid handcuffs as well.

Fantasy Must Own: Sean Doolittle (all formats), Kyle Barraclough and Trevor Rosenthal (holds leagues, Doolittle's handcuffs)

More 2019 Fantasy Baseball Advice