The season is heading towards the home stretch and with this less closer movement than weeks past. With playoff spots up for grabs in the final month, reliever usage also could shift depending on whether a team is pushing hard to make the playoffs or throttling back in preparation for an intense postseason. Here are some relievers to pick up for the next week.
Alex Vesia (2% rostered)
Alex Vesia is not a threat to steal saves from Kenley Jansen. With Corey Knebel back in the fold and Blake Treinen having a great season, the Dodgers’ bullpen is deep enough to keep Vesia in a middle reliever role. The bright side is the Dodgers win often enough to necessitate using Vesia in high leverage and hold situations enough for him to be an interesting pick-up in leagues that reward holds. Vesia’s 25.4% ground ball rate would normally be cause for concern, but he’s yielded a sub-12% line drive rate (per FanGraphs) while posting a 17.6% swstr% on the back of a dominant fastball. Vesia is much more interesting in leagues that reward holds, but the 25-year-old left-handed reliever is flashing elite skills and could be an asset in ratios.
David Bednar (11% rostered)
Bednar was the popular pick for Pirates saves after the trade of Richard Rodriguez. Pittsburgh has unsurprisingly struggled to provide its relievers with many save opportunities, so projecting a closer through their usage has been nearly impossible. In recent weeks the Pirates have started to collect some wins, and Bednar has emerged as Derek Shelton’s preferred ninth-inning option. Bednar has pitched the ninth inning in each of his last three appearances, two of which resulted in saves and the third game was a four-run lead. Chris Stratton has picked up one save in this time span, but Bednar was not used in that game and was likely unavailable. Saves for Pirates relievers are few and far between, but Bednar is likely going to absorb most of the rest of them while posting great ratios (2.39 ERA, 0.99 WHIP).
Garrett Whitlock (12% rostered)
Whitlock’s usage on Thursday puts a dent into the theory he may step into the closer role with Matt Barnes struggling. Even without saves, Whitlock could provide some utility with how dominant he has been this season. His 1.60 ERA paired with a 21.6% K-BB% and 50.3% ground ball rate has Whitlock in the rookie of the year conversation. His current multi-inning role makes him a more useful player than a low-end starter, and the uncertainty surrounding Barnes could lead to a couple of saves for Whitlock in the final month.
Noe Ramirez came in to pick up a one-out save on Thursday. Arizona entered the ninth inning with a six-run lead over the Phillies, but two errors, multiple hits, and multiple walks brought Brad Miller to the plate in an 8-7 game representing the winning run. Clippard had worked the ninth on Wednesday and presumably could have been available for this game, but Torey Luvullo went with Ramirez instead. Clippard should still be Arizona’s top choice for saves going forward
Craig Kimbrel received his first save opportunity with the White Sox and converted it. Tony LaRussa had hinted at the possibility of Liam Hendriks being unavailable on Thursday after carrying a heavy workload on Tuesday, and that held true with Kimbrel closing out the game. The White Sox have been quite deliberate in using Kimbrel as the setup man to Hendriks so Kimbrel will likely only see save chances in a backup role for the rest of the season. I would still hold in most leagues, although a shallow points league where holds don’t count would be the one format Kimbrel could be dropped.
Daniel Bard blew his second consecutive save on Wednesday, giving up a three-run home run to Ian Happ that just landed in the basket of Wrigley Field. Bard has maintained his role as the Rockies’ closer for all of 2021, but his ERA has ballooned over 5.00 and he has been completely ineffective against left-handed relievers (.458 wOBA allowed). No one else in the Rockies’ bullpen is worth picking up given their lack of talented relievers, but Bard could be dropped for one of the lesser rostered closers who are not struggling as badly.
Shane Greene earned the save at the end of the Dodgers sixteen-inning marathon in San Diego on Wednesday. He was the last man out of the bullpen so there is nothing to be learned from this save.
Andrew Kittredge earned the save on Tuesday after pitching the final two innings of a 3-1 victory over the Phillies. This was Kittredge’s third save. Though he is unlikely to be a consistent source of saves, particularly with the Rays’ injured relievers getting healthy, his excellent work and multi-inning usage make him an attractive pick-up like Garrett Whitlock.
Wandy Peralta came in for a one-out save on Tuesday after Aroldis Chapman was unable to close the door on Atlanta. Chapman was able to convert the save on Thursday in Oakland. Similar to last week, Chapman will need some time to round into form after his stint on the injured list, but his job is as secure as ever.
The Royals placed Jake Brentz and Josh Staumont on the injured list during the week, taking away two possible closer options from Mike Matheny along with the already injured Greg Holland. With these arms unavailable, Matheny went to Scott Barlow for the save. Kansas City has cycled through all their options to close out games over the course of 2021, but with so many key arms out, Barlow may find himself getting the bulk of save chances.
After blowing consecutive saves in his last two appearances, Lou Trivino's struggles continued Thursday. He let up a run on a hit and a walk in a tie game to give the Yankees the lead. Trivino's ERA has risen from 1.72 to 2.55 in the span of three games, and his hold on the Athletics' closer job may come into question soon.