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Grading closer situations and who is next in line for saves for each MLB team [UPDATE]

We take a look at each team’s bullpen and hand out grades for how safe each closer is in 2021.

The Nationals and Brewers are best bets to go over their Team Win Total

The 2021 MLB season is in full swing and we here at DraftKings Nation are doing our best to keep you in the know to help you triumph in your fantasy baseball leagues. In this article, we go over every team’s closer situation and hand out grades based on how safe each closer is to keep his ninth-inning role. Plus, we list the setup men who could be in line for saves should the closer falter.

AL East

Baltimore Orioles

Closer: Cesar Valdez
Setup men: Paul Fry, Tanner Scott, Cole Sulser
Notable injuries: Hunter Harvey (oblique)

Security grade: B

Valdez has pitched just twice in the past nine days as the O’s have dropped seven of their past eight games. He has had a couple of slip-ups this month, but he continues to create a ton of soft contact and has a very respectable 2.65 ERA with eight saves in 11 chances. Harvey is on schedule to return from the IL next month, but Valdez seems to have a good grip on this job.

Boston Red Sox

Closer: Matt Barnes
Setup men: Adam Ottavino, Matt Andriese, Garrett Whitlock
Notable injuries: Ryan Brasier (calf)

Security grade: A

The Red Sox’s bullpen has a 4.85 ERA this month, but you can’t blame Barnes. He posted eight consecutive scoreless appearances prior to serving up a game-losing two-run homer to Shohei Ohtani last Sunday. Barnes has 10 saves in 11 chances with 38 strikeouts and four walks through 21.1 innings.

New York Yankees

Closer: Aroldis Chapman
Setup men: Chad Green, Jonathan Loaisiga
Notable injuries: Zach Britton (elbow), Darren O’Day (shoulder)

Security grade: A

Chapman has not allowed an earned run in 17 innings pitched this year. He has struck out 36 of the 62 batters he has faced, and his 58.1 K rate is the highest among all pitchers who have thrown at least 10 innings.

Tampa Bay Rays

Closer: Diego Castillo
Setup men: Pete Fairbanks, Jeffrey Springs, Ryan Thompson, J.P. Feyereisen
Notable injuries: Nick Anderson (elbow), Chaz Roe (shoulder)

Security grade: C

Castillo came off the IL last week, and his first appearance came in the sixth inning. A few days later, he set up Fairbanks in the eighth; Fairbanks allowed a run in the ninth but earned the save. Maybe the Rays are just working Castillo back into shape, but you know better than to think that bullpen roles are ever truly set in stone with this franchise. Fairbanks has pitched well enough to be worth a speculative add in deep leagues. Feyereisen was acquired Friday and was a huge part of Milwaukee’s stellar bullpen for the first five weeks of the season.

Toronto Blue Jays

Closer: Rafael Dolis
Setup men: Jordan Romano, Tyler Chatwood
Notable injuries: Ryan Borucki (forearm), David Phelps (lat), Anthony Castro (forearm), Julian Merryweather (oblique), Kirby Yates (elbow)

Security grade: C

The Jays, unlike the Rays, put their closer right back into the ninth immediately upon activation from the injured list. In his second outing since dealing with a calf strain didn’t go so well — he allowed three runs on four hits — including a game-losing HR — to blow a save versus the Red Sox. Dolis is still in the lead, but Romano may get the next opportunity here. Despite all of those injuries, Toronto’s bullpen ranks fifth in the MLB in ERA (3.17).

AL Central

Chicago White Sox

Closer: Liam Hendriks
Setup men: Aaron Bummer, Garrett Crochet, Codi Heuer
Notable injuries: none

Security grade: A

Hendriks has strung together nine consecutive outings, spanning 8.2 innings, without allowing an earned run. He’s been victimized by the “ghost runner,” but that’s not a big deal. He most recently picked up a save, his third in less than a week, with a perfect ninth against the Twins. Over the past three weeks, he has looked like the top-shelf closer fantasy owners thought they were getting during drafts.

Cleveland Indians

Closer: James Karinchak
Setup men: Emmanuel Clase, Bryan Shaw, Nick Wittgren
Notable injuries: none

Security grade: D

Karinchak has earned the past two saves for Cleveland. He and Clase both have sub-1.00 ERAs, but the former has been much cleaner than the latter. Karinchak has permitted just three hits this season and has struck out 36 batters in 19 innings. Clase is striking out one batter per inning, but he has allowed multiple baserunners in six of his past seven appearances. Cleveland has a good problem on its hands with these two, but it’s a bit of a headache for fantasy owners. Karinchak may be ahead of Clase, but I don’t think that’s a given; the Indians may just be giving Clase a break after a string of rocky outings. This is a developing situation.

Detroit Tigers

Closer: Michael Fulmer
Setup men: Gregory Soto, Jose Cisnero, Bryan Garcia, Buck Farmer
Notable injuries: none

Security grade: C

I didn’t have Fulmer listed among this group in my most recent update. That’s my fault as he has really come on over the past few weeks and looks to have taken command of the gig. Fulmer has not allowed an earned run in nine innings and is 3-for-3 in save chances through his past six appearances. The Tigers need some good news in their bullpen, which has an MLB-worst 5.96 ERA.

Kansas City Royals

Closer: Josh Staumont
Setup men: Scott Barlow, Greg Holland
Notable injuries: Jesse Hahn (shoulder)

Security grade: C

Staumont picked up saves on Tuesday and Wednesday; those were KC’s first saves since April 28! That’s what happens when you lose 11 games in a row. On the bright side, this ‘pen has been solid of late. Royals relievers have allowed just two earned runs over their past 25 innings pitched. Batters are hitting .120 against Barlow in his past eight outings.

Minnesota Twins

Closer: Hansel Robles
Setup men: Taylor Rogers, Alex Colome, Tyler Duffey
Notable injuries: none

Security grade: F

What a disaster this has been. The Twins’ bullpen has an MLB-high 13 losses and a 5.07 ERA this year. And yet, this group has been pretty decent recently. The trio of Robles, Rogers and Colome have allowed zero earned runs across their previous 15.1 innings. Robles has locked down a couple of saves over the past week and has struck out 11 of the past 18 men he has faced, so I’ll put him at the top of the hierarchy here. But this remains very, very fluid.

AL West

Houston Astros

Closer: Ryan Pressly
Setup men: Ryne Stanek, Andre Scrubb, Enoli Paredes
Notable injuries: Pedro Baez (shoulder), Blake Taylor (ankle)

Security grade: A

Pressly has been one of the more boring elite relievers in the game. None of his numbers really pop out, but he is 7-for-7 as a closer with a 1.47 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP

Los Angeles Angels

Closer: Raisel Iglesias
Setup men: Mike Mayers, Tony Watson, Aaron Slegers
Notable injuries: none

Security grade: A

Iglesias is 3-for-3 in saves with no runs allowed in his past five appearances. He still makes you sweat with the traffic he puts on base, but he has been getting the job done for the most part.

Oakland Athletics

Closer: Jake Diekman
Setup men: Lou Trivino, Yusmeiro Petit
Notable injuries: J.B. Wendelken (oblique), Trevor Rosenthal (thoracic outlet)

Security grade: F

Diekman has had an interesting 10 days. He locked up saves on May 11 and May 12. At that point, he had allowed just one earned run in his previous 14.1 innings. Then he blew saves on back-to-back days in Minnesota thanks to a couple of homers. This is going to be a mix-and-match situation all year long with Trivino anyway, but given Diekman’s last two appearances, I assume Trivino will get the next save chance. I would bet, however, on Diekman getting more chances from here on out.

Seattle Mariners

Closer: Kendall Graveman
Setup men: Eric Swanson, Rafael Montero, Anthony Miskiewicz
Notable injuries: Kenyan Middleton (biceps), Andres Munoz (elbow)

Security grade: B

It looks like the Mariners have finally anointed Graveman as their closer, and it’s about time. He has been one of the best relievers in baseball; he has the longest active scoreless-innings streak in MLB (22 innings). How is he still available in more than half of ESPN fantasy leagues??

Texas Rangers

Closer: Ian Kennedy
Setup men: Joely Rodriguez, John King, Josh Sborz
Notable injuries: Jose Leclerc (elbow), Jonathan Hernandez (elbow), Matt Bush (elbow)

Security grade: A

Kennedy has just one save since May 9 as the Rangers have lost nine of their past 10 games. But he has given up just one run and three hits in his last nine innings pitched. The Padres’ Mark Melancon is getting a lot of the pub for his turn-back-the-clock year, but the 36-year-old Kennedy should be recognized for his 11 saves and 2.12 ERA.

NL East

Atlanta Braves

Closer: Will Smith
Setup men: Chris Martin, A.J. Minter, Tyler Matzek
Notable injuries: none

Security grade: B

Atlanta’s bullpen is 1-5 with a 6.27 ERA through its past 33 innings. Smith’s four-run blow-up on May 13 played a part in that, but otherwise, he’s been solid over the past month. Martin came off the IL earlier this month and has strung together four scoreless appearances since. He could challenge Smith for the closer’s role if Smith has a run of poor outings.

Miami Marlins

Closer: Yimi Garcia
Setup men: Dylan Floro, Anthony Bass
Notable injuries: none

Security grade: B

Garcia picked up his eighth save in nine chances this season on Wednesday. He has posted a 1.10 ERA over his last 32.2 innings pitched. He, like Graveman, is someone who should be more universally owned in fantasy leagues.

New York Mets

Closer: Edwin Diaz
Setup men: Trevor May, Jeurys Familia, Miguel Castro
Notable injuries: Seth Lugo (elbow), Dellin Betances (shoulder)

Security grade: A

Diaz allowed two runs in a non-save situation on Sunday. But he came back in each of the next two nights and notched a pair of saves on just 21 pitches total.

Philadelphia Phillies

Closer: Hector Neris
Setup men: Jose Alvarado, Sam Coonrod, Archie Bradley
Notable injuries: none

Security grade: A

Neris hasn’t had much to do as the Phillies have dropped five of their past seven games. He’s had a couple of rough outings this month, but the leash is very long here after the numbers Neris put up in April.

Washington Nationals

Closer: Brad Hand
Setup men: Daniel Hudson, Will Harris, Wander Suero
Notable injuries: none

Security grade: B

Hand has given up five runs in his past 4.1 innings pitched, spanning five appearances. That includes his weekend to forget in the Bronx two weeks ago. Meanwhile, Hudson has allowed two baserunners and struck out eight over his past seven innings. Hand needs a couple of clean outings quickly.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs

Closer: Craig Kimbrel
Setup men: Andrew Chafin, Ryan Tepera
Notable injuries: Rowan Wick (oblique)

Security grade: A

Fifteen of Kimbrel’s 18 appearances have been scoreless. Opponents are 8-for-62 (.129) versus him this season with 30 strikeouts. The Cubs’ bullpen has thrown 17.1 consecutive scoreless innings over the past five games.

Cincinnati Reds

Closer: Tejay Antone
Setup men: Sean Doolittle, Lucas Sims, Amir Garrett
Notable injuries: none

Security grade: F

Five pitchers have accounted for Cincy’s seven saves thus far. Antone got the most recent one on Sunday. WIll he get the next one? I have no earthly idea. I think Antone is better utilized as a multi-inning reliever, but this ‘pen has been such a tire fire, the Reds may see how he handles being the closer. This is the bullpen I most want no part of for fantasy purposes. At least Detroit has something interesting going on with Fulmer.

Milwaukee Brewers

Closer: Josh Hader
Setup men: Devin Williams, Brent Suter
Notable injuries: none

Security grade: A

Hader was scored upon in his most recent appearance, when he got a save on May 16. He has allowed only two runs in 15.1 innings this year. He’s 9-for-9 in save chances.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Closer: Richard Rodriguez
Set-up men: David Bednar, Chris Stratton
Notable injuries: Kyle Crick (triceps)

Security grade: A

Rodriguez has retired 57 of the 64 batters he has faced this season. He’s allowed one run in 19 innings. He’s going to be one of the most sought-after players at the trade deadline. Hopefully he goes to a team that needs a closer.

St. Louis Cardinals

Closer: Alex Reyes
Setup men: Giovanny Gallegos, Ryan Helsley
Notable injuries: Jordan Hicks (elbow), Andrew Miller (toe)

Security grade: A

Reyes is 13-for-13 in save chances. He owns a 0.39 ERA and has allowed just one extra-base hit in 23 innings. His 20 percent walk rate is definitely going to come back to bite him at some point, but he’s getting results, so the Cardinals and fantasy owners will continue to ride with him.

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks

Closer: Stefan Crichton
Setup men: Joakim Soria, Taylor Clarke, Caleb Smith
Notable injuries: Chris Devenski (elbow), Tyler Clippard (shoulder)

Security grade: D

The D-Backs are 4-15 this month, so good luck trying to get saves here recently. Crichton has done little to show that he can be dependable in this role. A key example was his three-run outing after entering in the eighth inning against the Nationals on May 16. Soria hasn’t been very good either since returning from his calf injury earlier this month. Clarke permitted an earned run in each of his last three outings. Bad situation + bad team = No, thanks.

Colorado Rockies

Closer: Daniel Bard
Setup men: Robert Stephenson, Mychal Givens, Tyler Kinley
Notable injuries: Scott Oberg (blood clots)

Security grade: C

Bard continues to be not dependable — he has a 5.63 ERA and a 1.88 WHIP — but the Rockies don’t appear to want to take him out of the closer’s role. Givens has arguably been worse, and Stephenson took a big step back with a four-run outing on May 13. This bullpen has a collective 5.60 ERA, the second-worst in the MLB. I repeat: Bad situation + bad team = No, thanks.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Closer: Kenley Jansen
Setup men: Blake Treinen, Victor Gonzalez
Notable injuries: Corey Knebel (lat), Brusdar Graterol (forearm)

Security grade: A

Jansen has been on quite a run recently — five saves in 10 days. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in nearly a month, and he has struck out 10 batters with just four baserunners in his past 6.1 frames. His 19.6 percent walk rate is alarming, but otherwise, he has looked very much like the Kenley Jansen from years gone by.

San Diego Padres

Closer: Mark Melancon
Setup men: Emilio Pagan, Austin Adams
Notable injuries: Drew Pomeranz (lat)

Security grade: A

Entering 2021, the 36-year-old Melancon hadn’t recorded more than 12 saves in a season since 2016. Well, he locked up his MLB-best 15th save in as many chances on Wednesday. And we’re only seven weeks into this season. He has given up two runs, one extra-base hit and one walk in 20.2 innings thus far. Just splendid stuff.

San Francisco Giants

Closer: Jake McGee
Setup men: Tyler Rogers, Caleb Baragar
Notable injuries: Reyes Moronta (elbow)

Security grade: C

A save has been recorded in seven of the Giants’ previous 10 victories. But who has been getting those saves is a little complicated. McGee got the first three, but the next three went to Rogers, who has been one of the most effective relievers in baseball this season. He has a 0.70 ERA, a 0.82 WHIP and has done a fantastic job of creating soft contact. Rogers has been significantly better than McGee for the past four weeks — McGee has a 7:30 ERA since April 17. But McGee had a couple of perfect showings recently, including a three-up, three-down save on Tuesday. However, Rogers has done more than enough to stake his claim to at least a share of the closing gig. The Giants have the best record in baseball, so this situation bears watching closely. Rogers should be picked up in most leagues.