Bradley subsequently took over the ninth-inning job and converted 16 of 17 save chances down the stretch with a 2.53 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, putting him on track to begin 2020 as the closer. The right-hander's full-season numbers don't look quite as rosy (3.52 ERA and 1.44 WHIP), though he did post the best strikeout rate (27.4%) of his career. Bradley's 11.4% walk rate could use improvement, but the major concern are his splits after surrendering a .792 OPS to LHH, compared to a .657 OPS to RHH. However, he still managed a 32.8% strikeout rate against LHH, so the swings are still there if he can find more consistency, though that's been an issue throughout his career.
Rondon spent the last two seasons in Houston and amassed a 3.46 ERA and 1.29 WHIP with 28 holds in 125 appearances, leading to a one-year deal with Arizona in January. The right-hander's production is nothing to sneeze at, but it was concerning to see his strikeout rate drop 9.1 percentage points to 18.7% in 2019. Rondon's fastball velocity (96.7 mph) remained consistent with previous seasons, though he did nearly triple the usage of his sinker to 14.2% at the expense of his fastball. He has 92 career saves -- and recorded 15 in 2018 -- but at this point Rondon profiles as more of a setup man.
Ginkel didn't make his major-league debut until August but quickly settled in, posting a 1.48 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 28:9 K:BB with nine holds and two saves in 24.1 innings. The young right-hander posted some ridiculous numbers at Triple-A (53.7% strikeout rate), and he show zero issues transitioning to the big leagues. Ginkel should enter 2020 in a high-leverage role and have an outside chance for saves, though he shouldn't be expected to replicate the elite numbers from last season.
Lopez had one save last season and mostly worked in a setup role with 21 holds and a 3.41 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. A 5.02 FIP provides a less optimistic outlook, and a drop in strikeout rate from 31.4% in 2018 to 17.1% in 2019 is fairly alarming. Lopez figures to enter 2020 in a similar role, but any fantasy appeal will take a hit without a rebound in his strikeout numbers.
Guerra was shifted to the bullpen by the Brewers in 2019 and had a solid season with a 3.55 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 21 holds and three saves in 60 appearances, so it was somewhat surprising to see him non-tendered in December. A 22.4% strikeout rate was similar to his rate as a starter but he did have a career-best .191 BAA, and he'll provide some multi-inning versatility for the mid-to-late innings in Arizona.
Melancon finished the season in the closer's role and is expected to remain there at the start of 2020, but the plethora of proven options -- Greene and Smith combined for 57 saves last season -- will keep him on a short leash. Melancon was acquired from the Giants and was 11-for-11 in save chances after the trade, while posting a 3.86 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. He finished the season with his best strikeout rate since 2016 (23.9%) and the best groundball rate (62.1%) of his career.
Smith was tied-fifth in MLB with 34 saves for the Giants last season, resulting in a three-year, $39 million deal with the Braves. The veteran left-hander likely will begin the year in a setup role to Melancon, but he figures to be the next man up if there are any struggles. Smith had a 2.76 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and career-high 37.4% strikeout rate, and he was especially dominant against LHH with a 42:1 K:BB and .157 BAA. Atlanta's numerous high-leverage options may lead to more favorable matchups for Smith in 2020, though that may come at the expense of save chances.
Green was acquired from the Tigers in July carrying a pristine 1.18 ERA with 22 saves, but he allowed seven runs and blew two save chances in his first six appearances with the Braves to lose out on the closer's role. The righty pulled it together and had a 1.77 ERA the rest of the season, recording nine holds and converting his lone save opportunity. Overall he had a 25.8% strikeout rate and 6.8% walk rate for the season, but it's probable he's no higher than third on the list for save opportunities in 2020.
Jackson stepped up amidst the Braves' ninth-inning issues last season and recorded 18 saves, but he largely struggled in the second half with a 5.65 ERA and .297 BAA in 30 appearances. Overall it was still a solid season for the right-hander, who increased his strikeout rate nearly nine percentage points to 33.7% while also inducing groundballs at a 60.5% clip. Jackson seems unlikely to see any consistent save chances with more proven options available, but he could still work in a high-leverage role if he can rediscover his pre-All-Star break form from 2019.
Martin was also acquired by Atlanta at the trade deadline and had a 4.08 ERA with six holds in 20 outings, and he re-signed with the team after going down with an oblique injury in the NLDS. He significantly increased his strikeout rate (30.1%) in 2020 while also posting a 2.3% walk rate, which tied for best in the majors among qualified relievers. The walk rate isn't surprising -- it was 2.8% in 2018 -- but Martin seems unlikely to replicate the strikeout rate this year. Regardless, he'll start the season buried on the bullpen chart for save chances but nonetheless provides quality high-leverage depth.
Minter finished the season on the injured list with left shoulder inflammation after battling similar problems early in the year, which put the finish touches on a rough season. The left-hander appeared in only 36 major-league games between the shoulder issues and ineffectiveness after being a reliable option over the previous two seasons. Minter will look to regain his form in 2020 but will be hard pressed to see save chances given the additions to the Braves' bullpen.
Givens had the best strikeout rate (33.1%) of his career last season, but a spike in his HR/9 (1.86) helped lead to a 4.57 ERA and inconsistent save chances. He should be the favorite for the closer's role with the Orioles largely returning the same bullpen corps in 2020, but he's hardly a safe option given the team's low expected win total and his inconsistencies.
Harvey began 2019 as a starter at Double-A, but the organization finally decided to push him to the bullpen in June, and he responded by not allowing a run in 12 of 15 relief appearances. He made his way to the majors in August and showcased his potential before being shut down with a biceps issue, allowing only one run on three hits over six innings while recording 11 strikeouts. He appeared in only 24 games over the previous three seasons, so there are some injury concerns behind his otherwise strong profile. Harvey has plenty of life on his fastball (98 mph) and it showed at Triple-A with a 31.4% strikeout rate, and he figures to be a high-leverage option for the O's as long as he can stay healthy,
Armstrong began the season in Seattle but was designated for assignment in April and subsequently claimed off waivers by Baltimore. The veteran right-hander finished the season tied-second on the team with four saves in nine chances, but his poor walk rate (10.7%) and career-high hard-contact rate (37.1%) resulted in a 5.74 ERA and 1.64 WHIP.
Castro added nearly two ticks to his fastball velocity from the previous two seasons (97.4 mph) in 2019, but his effectiveness remained limited due to his lack of control (12.9% walk rate). The command struggles result in relatively lackluster strikeout rate (22.3%), though that is the highest mark of his career. Castro would unlikely to be in the mix for high-leverage work outside Baltimore, though he continues to possess the raw tools for the job.
Bleier began last on the injured list but had a sub-2.00 ERA over the previous three seasons, though he was unable to continue that success in 2019. The lefty profiles as a middle reliever but did record four saves in five chances along with five holds last season. Even if he rediscovers that success, Bleier's reliance on inducing groundballs (59.9%) and low strikeout rate (12.8%) limits any fantasy potential. The new three-batter minimum could negatively impact Bleier after having a .355 BAA to RHH in 2019.
Fry saw his first full season of big-league action in 2019 and was solid through the first four months with a 3.83 ERA and .209 BAA, but he struggled down the stretch and surrendered 16 earned runs over his final 15 innings. He may see occasional high-leverage chances after recording three saves and 11 holds last season, but his 21.6% strikeout rate and 11.4% walk rate don't provide much value.
Barnes features an enticing combination of strikeouts (38.6% in 2019) and groundballs (47.0%), but his issues with walks (13.3%) remains troublesome. Still, he recovered from a rough start to the season and finished the year with a 3.78 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, four saves and 26 holds in 70 outings, which is more or less in line with his totals from the previous two seasons. A similar season in 2020 could be on tap as Barnes appears poised to work in a setup role.
Walden made his first Opening Day roster last year after a strong late-season and postseason run in 2018, and he took advantage of the opportunity with a 3.81 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 70 appearances. He had unremarkable strikeout (23.2%) and walk (9.8%) rates, but a 53.5% groundball rate resulted in allowing only six home runs. Walden went 2-for-4 in save chances and totaled only six holds and likely would have received more high-leverage chances in the second half, but he began to show fatigue while leading the team in appearances. Whether he works in high-leverage or middle relief may depend on the team's new manager.
Hernandez was promoted from Triple-A in mid-July and quickly established himself with a 2.35 ERA and 42.5% strikeout rate in his first 13 outings. The young lefty struggled down the stretch with 11 runs allowed over his final 15 innings before being shut down for workload reasons for the final week of the season. Hernandez's electric stuff and early strikeout numbers put him on track for a high-leverage role, but he has yet to prove he can consistently perform at that level against major-league hitters.
The Cubs signed Kimbrel after the 2019 first-year player draft in June once it was clear Morrow's return was in doubt, but the veteran closer failed to provide much stability to the bullpen after inking the three-year, $43 million deal. Kimbrel posted a 6.53 ERA and 1.60 WHIP while converting 13 of 16 save opportunities, and he also gave up a career-high nine homers despite throwing only 20.2 frames. His fastball velocity was down almost a full tick from 2018 (96.2 mph), which helped lead to a career-low 31.3% strikeout rate and unattractive 12.5% walk rate. Sitting out nearly the entire first half of the season certainly did Kimbrel no favors, but his heavy mileage could be catching up to him as he's beginning his 11th season and will turn 32 in May. The offseason departures of Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek and Brandon Kintzler leave the Cubs with much less depth than 2019, which in turn provides Kimbrel with some additional job security beyond his contract despite his struggles last season.
Wick wasn't a full-time member of the bullpen until after the All-Star break, but he put together a quality season with a 2.43 ERA, two saves and five holds in 31 outings. He had a 25.0% strikeout rate and somewhat troublesome 11.4% walk rate in 2019. Wick is primed to work in a high-leverage role in 2020 given the numerous offseason departures from the bullpen, but save chances figure to be hard to come by with Kimbrel in the fold.
Chatwood made five spot starts for Chicago but primarily worked out of the bullpen last season, and overall it was a solid campaign with a 3.76 ERA and 1.33 WHIP over 76.2 innings. The veteran right-hander saw his fastball velocity increase almost three ticks to 95.9 mph with the move to the bullpen, but his strikeout rate only increased to 22.5%, which is a career high. According to Jordan Bastian of MLB.com, manager David Ross said March 8 that Chatwood was in the lead for the fifth spot in the rotation, so working in a relief role would likely only come later in the season.
Ryan spent 2018 in the minors with the Cubs after losing out on his major-league chance with the Tigers the year prior, but he returned to the majors with the Cubs and ended up posting a 3.54 ERA 1.38 WHIP with 14 holds in 73 appearances during 2019. He should be involved in high-leverage spots for the Cubs and figures to be a prime candidate for saves if Kimbrel is unavailable or injured.
Wieck struggled with a 6.57 ERA and 1.42 WHIP through the first half with the Padres, but he put up improved numbers after being shipped to the Cubs at the trade deadline. The lefty had quality strikeout (33.1%) and walk (8.8%) walk rates in 2019, but he also had a 2.08 HR/9 and 47.0% hard-hit rate. Interestingly, Wieck had troubles against LHH with an .880 OPS allowed, but found significant success versus RHH with a .592 OPS allowed, which works in his favor with the new three-batter minimum. He underwent a heart procedure in late February and may not be ready for the start of the season while he continues to build up his arm strength.
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- Will Smith (ATL)
- Daniel Hudson (WAS)
- Corey Knebel (MIL)
- Ryan Pressly (HOU)
- Diego Castillo (TB)
- Scott Oberg (COL)
- Matt Barnes (BOS)
- James Karinchak (CLE)
- Rafael Montero (TEX)
- Michael Lorenzen (CIN)
- Ryan Helsley (STL)
- Rowan Wick (CHC)
- Blake Treinen (LAD)
- Emilio Pagan (SD)
- Drew Pomeranz (SD)
- Seth Lugo (NYM)
- Trevor Rosenthal (KC)
- Yimi Garcia (MIA)
- Ryne Stanek (MIA)
- Trevor May (MIN)