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Closers and Saves Report for Fantasy Baseball - Spring Training 2023

It's 2023, folks. Two thousand twenty-three. I'm aware that it's basically mid-March, but I'm still a little shocked every time I look at the date. With MLB Spring training in full swing and the World Baseball Classic underway, it's time to take our first look at the bullpens around the league to see what's changed and what's stayed the same.

With seemingly more and more leagues taking on an SVHD (saves and holds) format, top setup men are becoming more and more fantasy-relevant as well. But the standard is still saves, and closers are still the most important relievers in fantasy baseball, so let's take a closer look at what's gone on since we last spoke!

Be sure to also keep an eye on our RotoBaller Fantasy Baseball Closers and Saves Bullpen Depth Charts. They will be updated daily, or sometimes even more often throughout the 2023 baseball season. 

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AL East

It's early, but the American League East might have one of the more exciting sets of bullpens in the league this season. The New York Yankees should have a healthy Clay Holmes back in their ninth inning, with Jonathan Loaisiga and Lou Trivino setting him up. Wandy Peralta and Tommy Kahnle, once he's healthy, should get some meaningful late-game innings as well.

The Boston Red Sox brought in three new arms to bolster their bullpen, including closer Kenley Jansen. They also picked up Chris Martin and Joely Rodriguez, who will both work in setup roles along with John Schreiber.

The Toronto Blue Jays return most of their bullpen arms from last season, with Jordan Romano set as closer while Yimi Garcia and Adam Cimber will work in setup roles. New Blue Jay Erik Swanson should work in a key role as well.

The Baltimore Orioles bullpen might look a little different at the beginning of the season, as closer Felix Bautista is a little behind after rehabbing a knee injury. He's the closer for the Orioles but may need a little time before seeing a ninth inning in the regular season. If so, expected setup men Cionel Perez and Bryan Baker could see some temporary ninth-inning work.

Finally, the Tampa Bay Rays, everyone's favorite bullpen to try to figure out, will almost certainly continue using a committee approach. They have plenty of guys who can do it, but Pete Fairbanks and Jason Adam figure to be on the mound most often in save situations.


AL Central

The American League Central has a lot of ifs and maybes in its bullpens. The AL Central has one of the best closers in baseball and then a whole lot of question marks. The Detroit Tigers traded closer Gregory Soto this offseason, so their ninth inning is an open competition. Alex Lange seems to be the early favorite, but Jose Cisnero, Jason Foley, and Will Vest figure to get some chances, too. The Tigers may opt to go with a committee, using all of those guys if no one emerges as a standalone option. They also signed Trevor Rosenthal as a reclamation project, so a solid showing from him could vault him into the ninth before long.

The Chicago White Sox bullpen will miss closer Liam Hendriks as he receives treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Kendall Graveman figures to take the ninth inning, but Aaron Bummer, Joe Kelly, and Reynaldo Lopez could mix in as well.

The Cleveland Guardians have one of the best closers in baseball in Emmanuel Clase, and he'll be set up by James Karinchak, who has continuously proven extremely difficult to hit. Trevor Stephan should get some key earlier inning work as well.

The Kansas City Royals signed veteran closer Aroldis Chapman this offseason, but after a solid 2022, Scott Barlow seems to be entering this year as the KC closer. Dylan Coleman should see some setup work alongside lefties Chapman and Amir Garrett. There's a chance Chapman sees some save chances to boost his trade value before the deadline, but Barlow is the safer bet.

Wrapping up the Central is the Minnesota Twins. Jhoan Duran is one of the best relievers in baseball, but he's likely to continue sharing save chances with Jorge Lopez at the back of the Twins' bullpen. Griffin Jax and Emilio Pagan should see hold chances along the way as well.


AL West

The American League West has some undeniable superstars across the starting lineups and starting rotations. In the bullpens, though? Not so much. Only one AL West bullpen has a certain "for sure" closer at this point in Spring training. That's the Houston Astros, whose bullpen returns mostly intact. Ryan Pressly will close, with Rafael Montero slated for the main setup role after signing a three-year extension. Bryan Abreu should see some significant innings as well, along with Hector Neris.

The Texas Rangers bullpen has upside and uncertainty, with Jose Leclerc leading the way. The oft-injured reliever is the early favorite for the Texas ninth inning, but he's already dealing with neck tightness, which could open the door for Joe Barlow, Jonathan Hernandez, or the newly signed William Smith.

The Los Angeles Angels signed former Rockies closer Carlos Estevez to help their bullpen, and while his career numbers aren't great, his 3.51 ERA away from Coors Field is a little more encouraging. He's the early favorite to close in Anaheim, but Jimmy Herget, Matt Moore, and Ryan Tepera could factor into the competition and will at least land as setup men.

Next up, the Oakland A's bullpen is one of the most wide-open in baseball. They traded A.J. Puk in the offseason and signed Trevor May. May seems like the favorite to close due to his experience, but Domingo Acevedo, Dany Jimenez, and Zach Jackson should see important late-inning work, too.

Finally, the Seattle Mariners have a ton of high-power, late-inning arms in their bullpen. Paul Sewald, Diego Castillo, Andres Munoz, and Matt Brash all have "closer stuff" and Sewald and Castillo have been effective in the role in the past. The most likely scenario here is another committee, although Munoz certainly has the best stuff and could run away with the ninth inning if the other guys slip up.


NL East

Over in the National League East, we see some very strong bullpens and a lot fewer question marks than in most other divisions. The Atlanta Braves had Raisel Iglesias in a setup role last season, but he'll get promoted to the closer's role this year. He'll be set up by A.J. Minter, Joe Jimenez, and Kirby Yates in what should be one of the best bullpens in the league.

The Miami Marlins also strengthened their bullpen this offseason, adding A.J. Puk in a trade with the A's and Matt Barnes in a deal with the Red Sox. Dylan Floro, Tanner Scott, and Steven Okert all return from last season and pitched important late innings. New manager Skip Schumaker has already stated that he doesn't see himself using a specified closer, so this will almost certainly be a committee.

The New York Mets should have one of the best bullpens in baseball along with the Braves. They'll have Edwin Diaz back to close, with Adam Ottavino back as a primary setup man. Newly acquired David Robertson and Brooks Raley figure to see significant high-leverage innings as well.

The Philadelphia Phillies have a recent history of struggling bullpens, but solid returners from last season and new additions could change that narrative this season. Seranthony Dominguez was excellent last season and will compete for the closers role alongside veterans Craig Kimbrel and Gregory Soto. Jose Alvarado, Matt Strahm, and Andrew Bellatti figure to see hold chances as well in what could be a sneaky-good bullpen.

Last up, the Washington Nationals aren't likely to have a good season in 2023 as they continue to rebuild, but their bullpen could be decent and should produce some fantasy value. Kyle Finnegan returns as a closer with Hunter Harvey, Carl Edwards Jr., and Alex Colome working ahead of him.


NL Central

The National League Central, outside of one team, is all solid bullpens with pretty well-established closers, at least at this point of Spring training. That's nice after seeing how wild some other divisions are getting. Let's get the one uncertain bullpen out of the way first. The Chicago Cubs have a few closer-capable arms but no one with any significant ninth-inning experience. Brad Boxberger is the most experienced, with 82 career saves but only six since 2018. Michael Fulmer also has the late-inning experience, along with Brandon Hughes. Manuel Rodriguez and Keegan Thompson will see late-inning work as well in what could end up being a season-long committee.

The Cincinnati Reds have Alexis Diaz as their closer, with Lucas Sims and Buck Farmer looking like the primary setup men. Tejay Antone should join the late innings once he's healthy as well.

The Milwaukee Brewers likely have the best bullpen in this division, with Devin Williams entrenched in the ninth inning. Matt Bush, Peter Strzelecki, and Javy Guerra will bridge the game from the starters to Williams.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are in another rebuilding year, but their bullpen shouldn't be the reason they lose games. Starting at the top with closer David Bednar, the Pittsburgh bullpen is solid throughout. Wil Crowe, Robert Stephenson, and Chase De Jong all figure to have prominent roles in holding the leads the Pirates are able to take this season.

Finally, the St. Louis Cardinals will (hopefully) get a full season of flamethrowing closer Ryan Helsley. Giovanny Gallegos will serve as the main setup guy and step into the closer role if necessary, and Jordan Hicks will work meaningful innings as well.


NL West

The National League West has an interesting mix of stable, ready-to-go bullpens, and chaotic, who-knows-what-will-happen bullpens. Let's start with the easy ones. The San Diego Padres will bring back most of their late-inning relievers, with Josh Hader set to close and Robert Suarez and Luis Garcia in setup roles. Tim Hill, and Drew Pomeranz are all talented as well and could see some late-inning work, but the Garcia-Suarez-Hader three-headed monster should be seen in most games that the Padres lead. Nick Martinez, who was excellent out of the bullpen last season, is being stretched out into a starter this spring.

The Colorado Rockies have a set-in-stone bullpen as well, with Daniel Bard at the top in the closer's role. Brad Hand, Dinelson Lamet, and Pierce Johnson will work in setup roles ahead of the veteran Bard.

Next up, the San Francisco Giants look to be entering 2023 with an actually solidified set of roles in the bullpen. Camilo Doval will close most games, with Taylor Rogers, John Brebbia, and Tyler Rogers working ahead of him. We know a "solid" closer isn't quite as solid on a Gabe Kapler-led team as on others, but Doval is still a strong fantasy option.

Now looking at a pair of less solidified bullpens, starting with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers have already said that they don't plan to name an official closer before Opening Day, but Evan Phillips seems to be the early favorite for at least most of their save chances. Daniel Hudson will play that role as well once he's healthy, with Alex Vesia and Brusdar Graterol also pitching in important late-inning situations.

Last up are the Arizona Diamondbacks, who came into Spring training with an all-out bullpen battle. Mark Melancon, Kevin Ginkel, Joe Mantiply, Miguel Castro, Cole Sulser, Andrew Chafin, and Scott McGough all have the chance to either close or setup in this bullpen. Things will settle themselves to some extent as Opening Day approaches, but for now, this DBacks bullpen seems to be a pretty strong "avoid" in most fantasy leagues.

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