Fantasy Baseball 2021: Six key bullpen updates ahead of Opening Day

Andy Behrens
·3-min read

We just sorted out the major league bullpens in detail two weeks ago, but, naturally, a batch of things have since changed. Get used to this nonsense. It’s gonna be like this all year.

Closers are, in fact, the worst.

Today, we’re installing an update to our previously posted ninth inning review, because recent events demand it. In a few days, we’re gonna have closers losing their gigs for actual in-season performance reasons, but right now things are kinda wild. Let’s review …

Nick Anderson hit the 60-day IL

It’s a partially torn elbow ligament, which seems bad. But it’s being treated with rest, not immediate surgery, so the expectation is he may be available in the season’s second half. Diego Castillo was earning saves late in Tampa Bay’s postseason run, you might recall. He’s the preferred fantasy add (and his SP-eligibility is a nice bonus), but Pete Fairbanks deserves attention as well. Fairbanks struck out 56 batters in 39.0 innings last year, postseason included. The Rays’ bullpen remains well-stocked, though also a spin-the-wheel situation on occasion.

Kirby Yates underwent Tommy John surgery

Yates is just a season removed from an utterly dominant 41-save, 101-K, 0.89-WHIP campaign for San Diego. Here’s hoping for a full, clean and quick recovery. Jordan Romano is the next man up for the Jays and he definitely fits the closer profile, down to the 15.5 percent swinging-strike rate. He’s not vintage Yates, certainly, but he has a shot to finish among our game’s most valuable relievers.

Jose Leclerc is headed for TJ surgery, too

Brutal news for Leclerc, obviously. Texas isn’t headed for a competitive season in all likelihood, but even the bad teams generate saves, so we care about every bullpen. Blasts from the past Ian Kennedy and Matt Bush appear to be the main names in the ninth inning mix for now. Act on this information only if you have the most urgent need for saves.

Joakim Soria hasn’t exactly seized control of the ninth

Arizona manager Torey Lovullo has stubbornly declined to clarify late-inning roles. “We don’t have somebody who’s a slam-dunk closer,” he recently said. Soria had been the presumptive favorite, but he’s allowed five hits and five earned runs over 4.2 spring innings. Stefan Crichton pitched well last year in the mini-season, earning five saves, but he’s had an even messier spring than Soria: 4.0 IP, 8 H, 7 ER, 4 BB, 6 Ks.

So, um … yeah. No slam-dunks there.

Matt Barnes tested positive for COVID but was quickly cleared

It seems as if Barnes was a false positive, though details remain a little murky as of this writing. In any case, he and the eight people who were removed from the team for contact tracing are all back in the mix. It’s still not clear if Barnes or Adam Ottavino will have the ninth for Boston, but it’s great to hear all are healthy.

Let’s end this thing on a positive note …

Nobody can hit Amir Garrett this spring

Four innings, no hits, no runs, no walks, 10 Ks. He has literally been un-hittable this spring. Garrett sounds plenty motivated …

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... so keep him in your relief plans. Cincinnati’s bullpen has a chance to be phenomenal, with Garrett and buzzy righty Tejay Antone in key roles. Draft 'em all if you like great arms.