Welcome to another installment of The Bullpen Report. As a reminder, closers are rated in five tiers from best to worst. The tiers are a combination of my opinion of a pitcher’s ability, the likelihood that he will pick up saves, and his security in the job. For example, a pitcher in the third tier might have better skills than a pitcher in the second tier, but if the third-tier pitcher is new to the job or has blown a couple of saves in the last week this factors into the ranking as well.

Tier 1 – Money in the Bank

Moving a recent closer convert like Farquhar to the top tier is risky business, but I like what I have seen so far. Farquhar blew a save against the Rays on August 14; otherwise, he has been dynamite since the Mariners put him into ninth inning duty. Ignore Farquhar’s first half numbers; he put up a BABIP well over .400 with men on base and was often used in long relief situations, when the team “sacrificed” him to save the rest of the bullpen. He’s a top-tier option when he is on.

Cishek is another reliever I never thought I’d put in the top tier. However, Cishek has allowed runs in two outings out of 31 since June 8. The fear of Cishek not accumulating saves has proven to be unfounded; since June 8, Cishek has 22 saves. The home park helps, but that’s a plus for Cishek in fantasy, not something that needs to be adjusted for.

Tier 2 – Solid and Reliable

I rhapsodized last week about how Benoit belongs in the top tier, but three outings in a row with no strikeouts make me rethink this and Benoit moves down a notch. Remember, being in Tier 2 isn’t a condemnation, and Benoit should still start in all formats. I’m simply taking him out of the elite tier… for now.

Romo went through a somewhat shaky run in late July but has now converted six saves in a row in the month of August. Like Benoit, I don’t see Romo as an elite option of late because of the lack of high strikeout totals, but Romo should be in with this “next-best” group.

Tier 3 – Yeah…You’re…Good

Janssen’s four-run blow up on August 12 is primarily what pushes him down a rung this week. He should be okay going forward, which is why I wouldn’t push him down an additional tier.

Soriano on the other hand slips again just one week after I offered him a vote of confidence. There is an argument for pushing Soriano down even one tier further, but the contract and the unlikelihood of the Nationals pushing back into the pennant race keep Soriano in this tier. He’ll hang onto the job barring a catastrophe.

Hawkins moves up, somewhat on the news that Bobby Parnell is looking less and less likely to return in 2013. If you snatched Hawkins up cheap on your waiver wire or via FAAB couple of weeks ago, good for you. In a shallow mixed league, Hawkins is a guy who still doesn’t rate that well, but in every other format, he must be owned.

Tier 4 Uninspiring Choices

Uninspiring choice is the wrong way to describe Betancourt, but he slots in here after missing a few weeks with appendicitis. Betancourt will probably be fine in the ninth inning (although he did blow the save last night), but the Rockies might give him more rest than your typical closer down the stretch. At a minimum, this situation bears watching.

Tier 5 – On the Bubble

Multiple readers questioned my inclusion of Johnson in the third tier two weeks ago, but my ranking may not have gone far enough. Tommy Hunter picked up the save last night, and while this might simply be a breather for Johnson, I’m wary of him going forward. He’ll move up again if this doesn’t devolve into a committee. See below for more on the rest of the Orioles pen.

Ever since the Angels swapped De La Rosa and Frieri’s roles, the club has managed all of one save opportunity. De La Rosa has pitched well this year overall, but this seems to be a case where the club is waiting for an opportunity to give Frieri the job back once he establishes a certain level of performance. Neither reliever is particularly appealing right now for mixed leaguers.

Lo and Fields are in a messy committee. It sounds like Lo is the primarily closer but won’t pitch three days in a row and isn’t necessarily an exclusive ninth inning guy, as evidenced by his appearance in the eighth inning last night. This means that Fields could get some opportunities and may even get the majority of the save chances. This assumes, of course, that the Astros generate a significant number of save opportunities down the stretch. With 36 games left to play, the Astros are on pace to win 12 more games. With 52 perecnt of all wins generating a save, six saves from the Astros bullpen the rest of the way is a reasonable baseline. There are better ways to use your remaining FAAB/waiver priority than chasing a piece of what will likely be a meager pie.


American League
Jim Johnson’s recent struggles make the rest of the Orioles bullpen worth watching. Francisco Rodriguez is the favorite choice for many fantasy pundits, but Buck Showalter continues to rely on Tommy Hunter in eighth inning situations behind Johnson, and picked up the save last night. If Johnson is pulled from the role then Hunter, and not Rodriguez, will get the first crack at the job. O’Day continues to put in solid work, but despite a couple off odd saves is rarely mentioned as a closer in waiting. A best-case scenario for O’Day would be as part of a larger committee if the Orioles went in that direction.

Bruce Rondon was a fantasy baseball punchline in March and early April, but now is looking like a viable fantasy asset going forward. The triple-digit radar gun readings are what have most fans buzzing, but what makes Rondon worth monitoring is his improved control. A walk rate under three per nine innings makes him an alternative as a closer in camp in 2014. With Joaquin Benoit due to walk at the end of 2013, Rondon is a sneaky play in mixed keeper leagues.

National League
He won’t usurp the job from Kenley Jansen, but Steven Rodriguez (you might know him as Paco) is on fire of late, with a 0.93 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 9 2/3 IP in the month of August. If the Dodgers keep their sizable NL West lead, Rodriguez is just as likely to pick up some stray saves in late September as new addition Brian Wilson is.

If there’s anything keeping the Nationals from removing Soriano from the closer’s role it’s the fact that Tyler Clippard has had his own struggles. Clippard has allowed four home runs in his last 8 2/3 innings. This has had little impact on Clippard’s value in holds leagues (he has seven), but it probably makes Davey Johnson a little less likely to swap roles for now.

Like Rodriguez, J.J. Hoover is extremely unlikely to inherit ninth inning duties from ensconced closer Aroldis Chapman but he could be picking up saves in late September if the Reds clinch a playoff spot early. Hoover has three saves this year and with Sean Marshall out has become Dusty Baker’s backup in case Chapman can’t go. Hoover has been an asset for fantasy owners since his call-up in mid-2012.

When he was called up, Kevin Siegrist appeared to be nothing more than a LOOGY, but 25-plus innings later, attention must be paid. Siegrist has faced as many lefties as he has righties and while his K% against lefties is sick (41.7), he is no slouch against righties either (29.2). Siegrist primarily relies on a 95-mph fastball, but his deceptive, across-the-body delivery makes it hard to pick him up. A sub-.200 BABIP indicates some course correction is coming, but Siegrist appears to be here to stay.

On the $ Values
Dollar values in the charts below represent my 2012 dollar valuations for 5×5 “only” Rotisserie-style formats using 2013 player statistics. These values use a Standings Gain Points (or SGP) model that is similar to the SGP model used in Baseball Prospectus’ Player Forecast Manager.

Earnings Through Games of Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Closer Earnings to Date

Overall Rank




Craig Kimbrel



Joe Nathan



Greg Holland



Kenley Jansen



Edward Mujica



Koji Uehara



Addison Reed



Aroldis Chapman



Mariano Rivera



Glen Perkins



Sergio Romo



Grant Balfour



Mark Melancon



Steve Cishek



Jim Johnson



Joaquin Benoit



Jim Henderson



Jonathan Papelbon



Casey Janssen



Fernando Rodney



Rafael Soriano



Brad Ziegler



Chris Perez



Huston Street



Kevin Gregg



Rafael Betancourt



LaTroy Hawkins



Dane de la Rosa



Danny Farquhar



Chia-Jen Lo


Top Reliever Earnings, Non-Closers

Overall Rank




Jason Grilli



Bobby Parnell



Tyler Clippard



Drew Smyly



Justin Wilson



Steve Rodriguez



David Robertson



Jose Veras



Rex Brothers



Alex Torres



Luis Avilan



Ryan Cook



Tommy Hunter



Neal Cotts



Ernesto Frieri



Luke Hochevar



Heath Bell



Darren O’Day



Tanner Scheppers



Brett Cecil



Alfredo Simon



Tony Watson



Cody Allen



David Carpenter



Junichi Tazawa



Francisco Rodriguez



J.J. Hoover



Aaron Loup



Vin Mazzaro



Josh Collmenter


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