Every year brings plenty of bullpen chaos, but — whether it’s the new rules or something else — the 2023 MLB season feels like it’s been a particularly unpredictable one for fantasy baseball owners looking for reliable sources of saves. Luckily, our relief pitcher rankings and full bullpen depth charts are here to help you sort through it all and find names to target. First, here are some notes from the past week.
Relief pitcher notes for Week 3
- Jose Alvarado has been the most impressive of the Philadelphia Phillies’ planned four-headed bullpen monster, but — especially given that Alvarado is Philly’s best lefty — signs point to Craig Kimbrel having the inside track on saves at the moment. It was Kimbrel who was warming up for the ninth on Saturday against the Cincinnati Reds before Philly tacked on three runs to erase the save situation.
- Does anyone want to close games on the South Side of Chicago right now? Reynaldo Lopez’s struggles continued as the righty blew a save against the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night, although manager Pedro Grifol did call on him to preserve a tie in the ninth inning the next day. If there’s a silver lining for Lopez owners here, it’s that no one else — from Kendall Graveman to Aaron Bummer — has avoided imploding yet either. This looks like it’s still safely Liam Hendriks’ job whenever he returns, with the aforementioned trio still holding value in holds leagues.
- Man, what is it with Chicago teams and confusing bullpens. After Michael Fulmer blew his second save of the year against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday night, manager David Ross gave the righty a vote of confidence by calling on him again Sunday for two innings — or at least that’s how it seemed, until L.A. announced David Peralta as a pinch-hitter to start the ninth and Ross swapped out Fulmer with Brad Boxberger. Boxberger slammed the door, and he may have a small leg up on this competition for now. Be warned, though: Brandon Hughes, Chicago’s closer in the second half last season, just returned from the injured list and could rocket up this depth chart.
- Jose Quijada picked up a clean save for the Los Angeles Angels in the middle of the week and appeared to be headed for ninth-inning work again on Saturday against the Boston Red Sox until Ryan Tepera imploded and coughed up the save situation. He’s L.A.’s best lefty, so his usage may vary, but he seems to be the preferred choice over Carlos Estevez right now and is a recommended add in all leagues.
- Just when it seemed like Carl Edwards Jr. had taken Kyle Finnegan’s closing job with the Washington Nationals, Finnegan nailed down his second straight save with a clean ninth against the Cleveland Guardians on Sunday. It’s his job for now, although be warned — another implosion feels like a matter of time.
- Scott Barlow took the loss for the Kansas City Royals on Sunday, which now makes it two losses and a blown save over his last three appearances. Aroldis Chapman, meanwhile, continues to be lights-out, and given the Royals’ desire to flip the reliever at the trade deadline they should give him the closer’s chair sooner rather than later.
- Joe Mantiply is almost back for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and he figures to bring some much-needed clarity to this closing situation. Andrew Chafin has been the most effective, but he’s also a lefty, and Arizona seems hesitant to deploy him in the ninth on a regular basis. Scott McGough, meanwhile, has been given plenty of chances but melted down in the seventh inning on Saturday against the Miami Marlins. Chafin is the recommended play for now, but Mantiply looks to be the choice once he’s back in a week or so.
- Daniel Bard has begun a rehab assignment as he works his way back from the anxiety issues that derailed his spring. Pierce Johnson hasn’t covered himself in glory in Bard’s absence, and it feels like a matter of time before Bard regains his job as long as his command returns.
- Another day, another bullpen disaster for the Oakland Athletics, this time a Dany Jimenez blown save Sunday against the New York Mets. There’s nothing worth chasing here right now as Jimenez and May pass the closer’s role back and forth.
- After years in the injury wilderness, former Tampa Bay Rays star Nick Anderson is back with a vengeance for the Atlanta Braves. This is still A.J. Minter’s job by and large, but Anderson — who picked up a win Saturday against the Royals — appears to be the first choice for eighth-inning work (and the occasional save when Minter can’t go). He’s a must-add in holds leagues and still worth a look everywhere else, especially as a daily stream.
- Elsewhere in set-up man movement: Amid Luis Garcia’s struggles and Robert Suarez’s injury, keep an eye on Steven Wilson as the most trusted name behind Josh Hader for the San Diego Padres. (Also keep an eye on the Milwaukee Brewers’ Peter Strzelecki and the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Colin Holderman if you need holds or a streaming save chance, as they appear to have leapfrogged Matt Bush and Wil Crowe, respectively, for eighth-inning work.)
Closer depth chart for Week 4
Bullpen depth chart for week of 4/17