Bullpen report: Stash Yennier Cano, keep tabs on Alex Lange, plus updated saves and holds rankings

With the first month-plus in the rear-view mirror, the high-leverage landscape continues taking shape. There have been some bumps and bruises along the way, but hope lies in some situations becoming more settled, especially with injured relievers working their way back atop their respective bullpen hierarchies.

For instance, Jhoan Durán showed no signs of rust while returning from his preseason oblique injury, securing his first save in his season debut. His return transitions a shared save pathway into a mostly linear one — a fantasy manager’s preference.

Recognizing how a manager prefers handling the high-leverage innings can create a competitive advantage. With this in mind, here’s my high-leverage pathway identifiers — each team will receive one of the following labels, though these can change quickly.

  • Mostly Linear: A more traditional approach, with a manager preferring one reliever in the seventh inning, another in the eighth, and a closer (when rested) in the ninth. There are shades of gray. For instance, if the Cardinals face a team with their best pocket of hitters lining up for the eighth inning, Ryan Helsley may be called upon, since it represents the highest-leveraged moment in the contest.
  • Primary Save Share: The team prefers one reliever as the primary option for saves, but he may also be used in match-up-based situations, whether dictated by batter handedness or batting order pockets in the late innings, which provides more than one reliever save chances each series or week throughout the season.
  • Shared Saves: Usually two relievers split save opportunities, sometimes based on handedness or rest or recent usage patterns. While these situations usually rely on a primary and ancillary option, others can get into the mix. One reliever may eventually emerge, so this can be fluid.



AL Notes of Interest

  • Baltimore Orioles: After suffering his third blown save on April 28, Craig Kimbrel departed with the team’s trainer with upper back tightness. He’s received treatment throughout the week but has not appeared in a game since. Fantasy managers must monitor his health and performance over the next month, which may determine his long-term role with his new team.
  • Chicago White Sox: Not only has this team struggled early on, but manager Pedro Grifol has not used a set bullpen structure, causing some late-inning struggles and frustrating fantasy managers. Until some clarity emerges in this leverage ladder, it’s a situation worth avoiding altogether.
  • Detroit Tigers: It’s an outlier so far this year, but Jason Foley appeared in the eighth inning during Game 1 of a doubleheader against St. Louis, facing the heart of the lineup. As a beat writer noted on X, he’s the de facto closer, but A.J. Hinch prefers matchups by hitter pockets. There’s a pathway toward more saves for Alex Lange, so keep tabs on how high-leverage events take place moving forward.
  • Houston Astros: Making his first multiple-inning appearance in the regular season since 2020, Josh Hader collected his first win against Cleveland. With his five-year contract in hand, he’s open to more multi-inning outings with his new team.
  • New York Yankees: Speaking of which, Clay Holmes recorded his first five-out save of the season in Baltimore, and the third of his career. However, he’s his team’s best reliever by far and could fatigue if they rely on him too much in save situations. Monitor his workload closely.
  • Oakland Athletics: Sparing everyone another Mason Miller appearance in the “Relievers on the Rise” segment — though it’s warranted — he finished April with 10 straight appearances without allowing a run, and extended it to 11 during his first appearance in May. He’s racked up 28 strikeouts versus three walks over his past 13.2 innings while converting all eight save chances. He’s one of four relievers without a blown save this year and at least eight saves  — Evan Phillips, Robert Suarez, Jason Foley. Miller also leads all MLB pitchers with pitches thrown at or above 100 mph (97).



NL Notes of Interest

  • Arizona Diamondbacks: After making his first Triple-A rehab outing, Paul Sewald suffered some lingering soreness and has slowed his return to play protocol. He has no timeline for a return, though it should not be prolonged, but soft tissue injuries like his oblique can be tricky.
  • Chicago Cubs: With saves in each of his past five appearances, the Cubs leverage ladder has returned to a mostly linear designation featuring Héctor Neris as the closer. How long he remains in this role will depend on his command and effectiveness during high-leverage events.
  • Colorado Rockies: Like Lucy holding the football, Justin Lawrence recorded two saves last week, so fantasy managers took a chance by adding him, only for his first outing this week to result in a blown save, as he allowed two hits and two earned runs while recording one out. Similar to the White Sox, let someone else play saves roulette with this bullpen until Jaden Hill arrives in the second half.

Relievers on the Rise

1. Yennier Cano (BAL): Even though Brandon Hyde maintains the team will use a matchup-based approach in save situations when Kimbrel’s unavailable, there’s a chance Cano can emerge with a save share as the season progresses. He owns an 8:2 K:BB (19.4 K-BB percentage) over his past seven games with an 18.8 swinging strike percentage and a 62.7 percent contact rate allowed.

2. Lucas Erceg (OAK): Making a formidable 1-2 punch with Miller during high-leverage events, Erceg recorded his first career save against the Orioles. He’s also riding a nine-game scoreless streak with 13 strikeouts against three walks (32.3 K-BB percentage), a 0.41 WHIP, and a 1.75 SIERA over his past 9.2 innings.

3. Gabe Speier (SEA): There are ancillary save chances in the Mariners bullpen, and with Ryne Stanek’s recent struggles, Speier could be a sneaky play in deeper formats. He hasn’t been scored upon in 11 of 12 games this season, posting 15 strikeouts versus two walks (32.5 K-BB percentage) with a 0.66 WHIP and a 16.3 swinging strike percentage through his first 10.2 innings.

4. Anthony Maldonado (MIA): Not only did his arsenal put him on the radar, but he recorded his first MLB save against the Rockies on Wednesday with a clean ninth, striking out one. He features a plus slider which has produced a 22.5 swinging strike percentage during his very limited sample of five innings this season, but he could be an intriguing stash candidate for future saves after the Marlins’ fire sale commences.

Closer Concerns

1. Carlos Estévez (LAA): After a strong start this year, he’s only converted two of his past four save opportunities. In those games, he’s allowed eight hits, six earned runs, and two home runs over 3.2 innings. Overall, hope lies in his 2.71 SIERA compared with his current 6.23 ERA, along with his 29.4 K-BB percentage, but he must reduce his propensity for home runs, especially given his 86.8 Z-Contact (in the strike zone) percentage. He’s already given up four barrels through his first 24 batted ball events and owns a 50 percent sweet spot allowed.

2. David Bednar (PIT): He’s allowed at least a run in three straight appearances, including two home runs — he allowed just three home runs through 105 batted ball events last season. Converting five of eight saves keeps hope alive, as does his 2.72 SIERA, though his 4.35 expected ERA paints a different picture. Perhaps it’s the injury aftereffects, but he’s throwing more four-seam fastballs this season and batters have produced a .333 batting average against it. Better days lie ahead, but he must tighten up his release points and work ahead of hitters. Relying on his fastball will not provide the strikeouts fantasy managers have become accustomed to.

Saves Stash List

  • Yennier Cano (BAL)
  • Alex Lange (DET)
  • Anthony Maldonado (MIA — dynasty or deep league)
  • Jaden Hill (COL — dynasty or deep league)

Ancillary Saves Relievers of Interest




High Leverage Ladders

Tiered Rankings for Saves and SOLDS (Will be updated soon)

Statistical credits: Fangraphs.com; Baseball-Reference.com; BaseballSavant.com; BrooksBaseball.net

For daily coverage of bullpens, check out my work at Reliever Recon and Closer Monkey

(Top photo of Yennier Cano: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top