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2020 Early Bullpen Outlooks - A.L. West


Update 2/14/2020: All quiet on the AL West -ern front, no changes so far in the bullpens.

Welcome to 2020, fantasy friends. There are two football teams left and basketball and hockey are doing their things, so it's past time now to start thinking about the 2020 baseball season.

Free agency has been a little more front-loaded this season, leaving fewer questions about rosters heading into Spring Training. Still, there will be changes between now and Opening Day, so keep an eye on our Fantasy Baseball Bullpen Depth Charts throughout the year.

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Let's get into it again, this time with the American League West, where not much has changed in terms of bullpens and only one team is entering Spring Training with a question mark at closer.

 

Texas Rangers

The Texas Rangers are expecting a better season in 2020. They finished 78-84 last season, but they added a few pieces and made a big splash by getting ace starting pitcher Corey Kluber in a trade with the Cleveland Indians. They may still struggle to compete in a top-heavy division, but they are indeed likely to improve. As far as the bullpen goes, Jose Leclerc should enter the season as the closer once again. He struggled mightily at times last season, but ended up with 14 saves in 18 chances, posting a 4.33 ERA/4.21 xFIP. He was tough to hit, with a solid 33.4 K%, but that came with a concerning 13.0 BB%. That was Leclerc's main issue: control. When he was on, he looked like one of the best relievers in the division. If he can find more consistency this season, he could be one of the best values in fantasy drafts coming up.

Bridging the gap to Leclerc and potentially taking over if the closer struggles again will be former Mets top prospect Rafael Montero. Montero did well in 29 innings with the Rangers last season, posting a 2.48 ERA/3.45 xFIP with an impressive 30.1 K% and 4.4 BB%. Thr 29-year-old showed signs of a mid-career breakout and could have plenty of value in holds leagues this year. The Rangers bullpen will also include guys like Jesse Chavez, Brett Martin, and Nick Goody, but there would need to be injuries ahead of them for those three to make much noise in standard fantasy leagues.

 

Los Angeles Angels

The Los Angeles Angels have the best player in baseball in the outfield and one of the most exciting players in baseball in the lineup and occasionally on the mound. Yet those same Los Angeles Angels have been no better than mediocre for several years now. They are hoping for something different in 2020, and the addition of Anthony Rendon may help push them in that direction (that starting rotation still looks rough though.) The bullpen should be solid once again, anchored by Hansel Robles in the ninth inning. Robles was good in 2019, saving 23 games in 27 tries while putting up a 2.48 ERA/3.89 xFIP. That difference is a little concerning, but his 26.5 K% and 5.7 BB% show that he has the talent to potentially outperform his predictors.

Also in the Angels bullpen will be Ty Buttrey, who at times looked like the best reliever in the AL West last season. Combining his dominant peaks with some valleys led to his overall 2019 numbers: 3.98 ERA/3.90 xFIP with 26 holds and 27.2 K% with 7.4 BB%. The tantalizing upside he showed at the beginning of the season may lead to Buttrey being a bit overdrafted in holds leagues this season, but there is always the chance that he reaches and maintains that upside. Cam Bedrosian will work in a setup role alongside Buttrey but is more of one of those "good in real life" guys than a strong fantasy consideration.

 

Oakland Athletics

The Oakland A's will start 2020 without the guy they had closing for them on Opening Day 2019. But despite that, they've actually improved. Blake Treinen's rough 2019 led to the emergence of All-Star closer Liam Hendriks, who took the ninth inning over and never looked back. Hendriks saved 25 games and put up a strong 1.80 ERA. His 3.21 xFIP shows that there may be some regression at hand, but other predictors seem to think he'll be more than solid once again in 2020. His 2019 rate stats were excellent, as he came up with a 37.4 K% to go with a 6.3 BB%. He should be one of the top closers in fantasy, but because of a relative lack of name recognition, he could be quite a value pick in the middle rounds.

The rest of the Oakland bullpen is a bit cloudy right now in terms of roles. Jake Diekman should have a late-inning role and offers possible holds and strikeouts (29.8 K% in 2019) but can get a little wild and give up too many base runners (13.8 BB%). Joakim Soria is a safer bet in holds leagues (28.4 K%, 7.2 BB%), but neither makes for a particularly exciting option. A.J. Puk put up some exciting innings at the end of 2019, but his role in 2020 is still up in the air.

 

Houston Astros

The Houston Astros have been all the talk of the baseball world lately for all the wrong reasons, but their relievers (probably) had nothing to do with all that, so let's see what the buzz is about in the bullpen. Roberto Osuna returns for another year in the ninth inning. He was very good last season, saving 38 games in 44 tries. He pitched to a 2.63 ERA/3.60 xFIP with 28.9 K% and 4.7 BB%. He doesn't offer the elite strikeout rate of some other closers, but his pinpoint control helps him avoid the big innings and ERA/WHIP blowups that some other relievers can suffer from now and then. On a team that should still be good and will provide him with plenty of save chances, Osuna is one of the safer fantasy options.

Ryan Pressly will resume his role as Osuna's primary setup man. He was outstanding in 2019, putting up 31 holds and a pristine 2.32 ERA/2.21 xFIP. His rate stats were great too, as his 34.1 K% and 5.7 BB% are both excellent numbers. Pressly is one of the top relievers in holds leagues and should be drafted ahead of many closers in that format. Chris Devenski, Brad Peacock, and Joe Smith could all offer some fantasy value in deeper leagues as well, and their roles should be monitored throughout Grapefruit League play.

 

Seattle Mariners

The Seattle Mariners are the only AL West team entering 2020 without a bona fide closer in their bullpen. For now, it seems like Matt Magill is the leading candidate for the closer's role, but this is a ninth inning that will either be determined in Spring Training or left to a committee approach to start the season. Magill spent a little time in the ninth inning last season, saving five games while putting up a 4.09 ERA/3.95 xFIP. His 28.0 K% and 8.7 BB% were both fine but nothing to get excited about. If he wins the closer's role, he'll be one of those solid enough closers to be owned in most fantasy formats, but not to be much of a difference maker.

Sam Tuivailala will be in the mix as well. He put up a 2.35 ERA/5.07 xFIP with 28.7 K% and 11.7 BB%. Predictors aren't kind to Tuivailala, and a lot of that is based on his trouble with control. He has swing-and-miss upside, but he needs to throw strikes. Brandon Brennan, Dan Altavilla, and Carl Edwards Jr. will all be in the late-inning mix as well and any of them could end up as the closer. "Mariners Closer" is unlikely to be a particularly fantasy-relevant role in 2020, but it's always worth rostering a full-time closer, so this is a ninth inning competition to keep an eye on.

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