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Baseball is back! With Opening Day just over a week in our rear view mirrors, it's time to take a look at bullpens around the league and see what's going on.

For those of you who followed along with us last season, welcome back! For those of you just dropping by for the first time, welcome! Rotoballer's MLB Closers and Saves Report is a weekly article that will discuss the week's bullpen news, top performers, and suggested fantasy transactions. It is tailored toward standard scoring leagues (either head-to-head or rotisserie) but will make mention of holds leagues when relevant.

So let's get started! It's been just over a week, but there's already plenty to talk about, so let's jump in:

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Bullpen News for Week 1

St. Louis Cardinals

The biggest bullpen news of the week came right on Opening Day, when the St. Louis Cardinals agreed to terms with free agent closer Greg Holland on a one-year, $14 million deal. Before Spring Training, Luke Gregerson was expected to be the closer in St. Louis, but injuries to his oblique and to his hamstring limited him to very little work in the Grapefruit League. This gave guys like Dominic Leone, Tyler Lyons, and even rookie Jordan Hicks some hope that they may end up as the ninth inning shutdown options for the Cardinals. Leone seemed to have the edge nearing the end of spring, although manager Mike Matheny said he would not name a specific closer. Then: Opening Day. Greg Holland. The newest Cardinal pushed everyone in the bullpen down a rung, taking the closer role for himself and leaving all four of Leone, Gregerson, Lyons, and Hicks to fight for the earlier innings. Holland wasn't ready to jump into major league action right away, but there was never any doubt that the ninth inning would be his as soon as he put on the St. Louis Cardinals uniform.

Houston Astros

Astros reliever Ken Giles has been dripping with upside for years. That's why the Astros gave up so much to acquire him from the Philadelphia Phillies a few seasons ago. Still, despite all the upside and the velocity and the occasionally nasty breaking balls, Giles has gone through periods where he's struggled mightily to get anyone out. He's going through another one of sorts to start the season, leading fantasy owners to feel a bit concerned in their investment. It didn't help that Astros manager A.J. Hinch turned to Brad Peacock on Wednesday night, letting Peacock toss a third inning of relief with a one-run lead rather than bringing in Giles for the save. Still, Giles got the trite vote of confidence after the game, with Hinch saying leaving Peacock in had to do with, "the way [he] was spinning the ball" and adding that Giles was his go-to guy at the first sign of trouble in the ninth.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Many people assumed the Diamondbacks would turn to Archie Bradley as their closer this season after last year's closer, Fernando Rodney, signed with the Minnesota Twins. Bradley has elite-reliever upside and was thriving in late-inning, high-pressure situations already. Once Spring Training was in full swing, it became apparent that Arizona might prefer a closer-by-committee situation where Bradley could still be used in potential higher-leverage situations that took place before the ninth. Before Opening Day, however, manager Torey Lovullo named new Diamondback Brad Boxberger his full-time closer, with Bradley and another new Diamondback, Yoshihisa Hirano, vying for the seventh and eighth innings. Boxberger doesn't have the ratio upside that Bradley has, but he has experience in the ninth inning and is a solid enough reliever in his own right. If he can stay healthy, he's had injury issues for the past couple of seasons, he should be a solid fantasy closer on a team that should win a good number of games.

Milwaukee Brewers

Plenty of fantasy players and Brewers fans were excited to see what closer Corey Knebel would do in 2018. He had an excellent 2017 and showed the upside of a top-tier fantasy closer. Knebel's season is off to a rough start though. In Thursday's game, Knebel collapsed on the mound after throwing a pitch, immediately grabbing his left hamstring. He was unable to put any weight on the leg as he was helped off the field and manager Craig Counsell has already announced that his closer will be placed on the disabled list. It's a tough blow for the Brewers and for fantasy owners, as Knebel may end up being out for a while. In his place, candidates to earn saves for Milwaukee are Matt Albers, Jacob Barnes, and Josh Hader. Albers would seem to have a slight edge, but the Brewers seem likely to employ more of a committee situation, at least until someone proves himself the most worthy candidate to fill in for Knebel.


Roster Moves of the Week


Greg Holland, St. Louis Cardinals - It's unlikely, but it's not impossible to imagine that Greg Holland went undrafted in some leagues. Maybe he was auto-drafted onto someone's team, and they dropped him before Opening Day when they saw he was a man without a team. The chance is small, sure, but there is a chance that Holland is sitting on the waiver wire in some leagues. He is worth a number one waiver claim, a majority of your claim budget, or however else your league works with transactions: if Greg Holland is available, he needs to be on your team at any cost. He'll be at or near the top tier of fantasy closers throughout the season.

Keone Kela, Texas Rangers - Keone Kela has been the Rangers closer-in-waiting for seemingly 10 seasons now. Injuries have played the biggest part in keeping him out of the ninth inning, but he's healthy this year and was named the team's closer before the season began. Thought to be another committee situation for most of the spring, many fantasy owners went into their drafts planning on completely avoiding the Rangers bullpen. Check your waiver wire: if the Texas bullpen was left alone, Kela may be available. He remains a high risk due to injury and character concerns, and his lack of experience could be concerning for some, but he has nice upside and a stable role (for now). He should be owned in all formats where saves count.

Matt Albers, Milwaukee Brewers- While no official announcement has been made and even though the Brewers will likely mix and match for a while, Matt Albers seems like the most likely candidate to pick up saves in Milwaukee while closer Corey Knebel recovers from what seemed like a fairly severe hamstring injury. Albers is just a speculative add at this point in standard leagues, but could pay off nicely if he ends up taking the ninth inning for himself.


A.J. Ramos, New York Mets - For a while, it seemed like the Mets might go with a committee made up of Ramos and Jeurys Familia. They ultimately decided to stick with Familia in the ninth and to give Ramos the main setup role. Ramos is still a decent asset in holds leagues, but is just Familia's handcuff in standard leagues at this point.


Best of the Week

Because of the unusual Thursday start to the season, this week's Best of the Week will actually be Best of the Season So Far, so Best of the Week plus a few extra days. Going forward, this section will specifically be for the best relief pitchers of that specific week.

Edwin Diaz, Seattle Mariners - 3.0 IP, 3 SV, 8 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP

Mariners closer Edwin Diaz is on pace for a perfect season. Small sample size be damned! Diaz has appeared in three games so far this season, saving all three while striking out eight of the nine batters he's faced. He hasn't allowed a walk or a hit yet. Diaz will give up a hit eventually, maybe even a run, but has the upside to be one of the best fantasy closers if he can stay consistent.

Jeurys Familia, New York Mets - 4.1 IP, 3 SV, 5 K, 0.00 ERA, 1.15 WHIP

Any concerns that a slow start to the season could force Familia and A.J. Ramos to switch roles has been mostly put to rest thanks to a hot start by Familia. He's pitched in four games, saving three and striking out five while allowing two hits and three walks.

Wade Davis, Colorado Rockies - 2.1 IP, 3 SV, 2 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.43 WHIP

Rockies closer Wade Davis rounds out the three closers who are leading the league with three saves. He only needed 2 1/3 innings to save his three games, striking out two while giving up just one walk. Despite the whole pitching-his-home-games-in-Denver thing, Davis is still a top option in fantasy leagues.


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