2021 Positional Power Rankings: Bullpen (No. 16-30)

Yesterday, we analyzed the league’s rotations from bottom to top with the help of Paul Sporer and Ben Clemens. Today, we turn our attention to the bullpens, starting with those toward the back of the rankings.

There are some positions for which a cleaner, wider gap exists between the top teams and the bottom, where we can more definitively say that some teams are better than others. For instance, it’s clear the best center field situation belongs to the Angels because of Mike Trout, and that the Mets belong at or near the top of the shortstop hierarchy because of Francisco Lindor. Relief pitching is not one of these positions. Sure, we have the bullpens ranked, and you can see their statistical projections above and below, but be sure also to notice the margins here and recall that projections are even messier this year because we’re coming off of a shortened season. Plus, relievers are generally volatile.

2021 Positional Power Rankings – RP 16-30
16. Cubs
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Craig Kimbrel 65 12.9 4.3 1.2 .300 76.9% 3.56 3.71 1.0
Andrew Chafin 62 10.2 3.8 1.0 .315 73.7% 3.87 3.79 0.9
Brandon Workman 61 10.7 4.6 1.1 .308 74.4% 3.97 4.06 0.4
Jason Adam 58 10.6 4.8 1.5 .304 74.0% 4.60 4.80 -0.1
Ryan Tepera 56 9.5 4.2 1.2 .304 72.8% 4.28 4.47 0.1
Rowan Wick 50 9.7 4.4 1.0 .312 72.9% 4.10 4.13 0.2
Dan Winkler 44 9.2 5.0 1.3 .305 71.9% 4.74 4.94 -0.0
Rex Brothers 40 12.0 6.7 1.2 .310 74.0% 4.55 4.68 -0.0
Brad Wieck 38 10.7 3.9 1.4 .302 71.4% 4.37 4.30 0.0
Pedro Strop 34 8.4 4.4 1.2 .300 71.7% 4.56 4.77 0.0
Dillon Maples 32 12.6 6.9 0.8 .312 74.9% 3.96 4.12 0.0
Alec Mills 25 7.7 3.1 1.5 .308 70.0% 4.90 4.92 -0.0
Kyle Ryan 18 8.0 4.4 1.2 .310 71.4% 4.68 4.76 -0.0
Jonathan Holder 14 8.5 3.3 1.3 .308 71.6% 4.40 4.38 0.0
Shelby Miller 8 7.9 4.6 1.5 .313 69.9% 5.31 5.23 -0.0
Adbert Alzolay 4 9.7 4.4 1.5 .308 71.7% 4.83 4.85 -0.0
James Norwood 4 10.2 5.3 1.2 .314 72.1% 4.67 4.65 0.0
Trevor Megill 3 9.8 3.8 1.1 .312 73.3% 4.04 4.07 0.0
Other RP 2 9.8 4.3 1.3 .312 69.8% 4.54 4.51 0.0
Total 618 10.3 4.6 1.2 .307 73.3% 4.26 4.36 2.5

Last year, I wrote that even though the Cubs were competitive, they didn’t have a sufficiently good bullpen to compete in the playoffs. I still think that’s true and might get amplified over the course of a longer season, even though the Cubs have a good lineup. Our NL Central projections have Chicago in the division title mix, with the top four teams all projected within three or four games of one another, but I don’t think the Cubs will get there. Craig Kimbrel will still have dominant stretches, but, increasingly, others where he just can’t find the plate and implodes.

Aside from Kimbrel, this group has a lot of viable, middle-inning big league relievers but lacks guys with premium stuff. Maybe James Norwood (in the upper-90s this spring) or Brailyn Marquez (who I think ends up a reliever) will emerge later in the summer if the team is indeed in the NL Central race. Marquez was brought along so slowly this spring that he never even got in a game despite early reporting that he was in the mix for a rotation spot; the COVID protocols and the birth of his child delayed his arrival.

If I’m right about the Cubs being third or fourth in their division, they’ll likely have the opportunity to deal a bunch of these guys mid-season since pitching depth is always in demand. Andrew Chafin has a 2022 mutual option. He looks like an Irish cop from the Northeast and sends lefty hitters home like they’re teenagers loitering outside of a Wawa. Brandon Workman has high-leverage experience and was traded for a good prospect last year even though he was pretty wild. His 2019 strike-throwing looks like an anomaly. He hits free agency after the season.

Ryan Tepera had a 2020 breakout at age 32, which coincided with increased use of his cutter. Rowan Wick also threw more cutters last year. Adbert Alzolay may end up working out of the bullpen for parts of this year, too. He looks to be in the best shape I’ve ever seen him in and got great results with a re-worked slider in a limited 2020 sample. His delivery is still really violent and indicates he might be a long-term reliever even if he spends this year split between the rotation and the bullpen.

17. Rangers
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Joely Rodríguez 58 9.4 3.7 1.0 .313 72.1% 4.02 3.99 0.9
Taylor Hearn 64 10.2 4.8 1.6 .309 71.8% 4.94 4.95 0.2
Matt Bush 61 9.0 3.6 1.4 .307 73.0% 4.53 4.67 0.3
Josh Sborz 58 9.9 3.8 1.3 .309 73.0% 4.27 4.32 0.4
Wes Benjamin 50 7.3 3.5 1.8 .312 69.7% 5.42 5.44 -0.1
Brett Martin 48 8.4 3.5 1.1 .312 73.3% 4.05 4.17 0.4
Brett de Geus 44 7.4 4.9 1.2 .310 70.6% 4.95 5.08 -0.0
Ian Kennedy 40 9.9 3.1 1.6 .308 73.9% 4.35 4.41 0.1
John King 38 7.7 3.1 1.3 .313 72.0% 4.50 4.59 0.0
Hunter Wood 36 9.1 3.6 1.4 .311 72.9% 4.42 4.46 0.1
Hyun-jong Yang 32 9.8 4.3 1.3 .312 69.8% 4.54 4.51 0.0
Jordan Lyles 23 7.8 3.4 1.8 .311 69.1% 5.40 5.26 -0.0
Demarcus Evans 20 10.8 6.0 1.2 .306 73.5% 4.55 4.68 0.0
Kolby Allard 18 7.9 3.6 1.5 .309 70.7% 4.90 4.91 0.0
Jonathan Hernández 18 8.9 4.1 1.2 .311 71.6% 4.49 4.52 0.0
Spencer Patton 15 9.8 4.3 1.3 .312 69.8% 4.54 4.51 0.0
Kohei Arihara 12 9.8 4.3 1.3 .312 69.8% 4.54 4.51 0.0
Joe Palumbo 12 9.9 4.2 1.3 .311 73.1% 4.42 4.46 0.0
Kyle Cody 11 7.9 4.4 1.3 .314 71.1% 4.96 5.02 0.0
Nick Vincent 6 7.8 2.7 1.6 .306 70.2% 4.81 4.79 0.0
Tyler Phillips 5 6.8 2.4 1.5 .309 70.4% 4.71 4.79 0.0
Other RP 8 9.8 4.3 1.3 .312 69.8% 4.54 4.51 0.0
Total 677 9.0 3.9 1.4 .310 71.8% 4.59 4.64 2.5

There’s lots of young and/or exciting talent to watch develop in Texas, even with José LeClerc and Jonathan Hernández currently injured. Joely Rodríguez was very good in a small sample last year after he returned from pitching in Japan.

The newly-acquired Josh Sborz was sitting in the mid-90s when I saw him this spring and looks like a long-term middle relief fit if he can throw enough strikes. Wes Benjamin has pretty good command of four pitches, too, and looks like a potential long-term piece even though he doesn’t throw very hard. Demarcus Evans has elite fastball carry and could be the next James Karinchak if he can locate that heater and find a more consistent curveball. Brett de Geus (the vowel sound is like in “geist,” even if I’ve been making intellectually dishonest Rob Schneider jokes on Twitter for the last two years) and John King both have middle relief stuff and up/down control.

Matt Bush, now several years removed from incidents related to substance abuse, two surgeries, and a pandemic aims to pitch for the first time in a while.

18. Nationals
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Brad Hand 64 11.6 3.1 1.3 .308 76.4% 3.59 3.79 1.1
Tanner Rainey 62 12.8 6.1 1.2 .314 74.8% 4.21 4.28 0.4
Daniel Hudson 61 9.8 4.2 1.5 .305 72.2% 4.61 4.72 0.2
Wander Suero 60 9.2 3.4 1.2 .315 72.0% 4.32 4.25 0.4
Kyle Finnegan 58 9.7 4.3 1.2 .315 73.0% 4.34 4.37 0.2
Luis Avilán 50 9.2 4.2 1.1 .319 74.0% 4.18 4.30 0.2
Javy Guerra 42 7.8 3.4 1.6 .307 71.0% 4.91 4.98 -0.0
Austin Voth 34 8.6 3.0 1.7 .314 70.7% 4.90 4.84 -0.0
Kyle McGowin 30 9.3 3.1 1.4 .317 70.9% 4.57 4.41 0.0
Will Harris 28 9.2 2.8 1.0 .314 73.8% 3.73 3.68 0.1
Erick Fedde 21 6.9 3.5 1.4 .316 70.2% 5.04 5.02 -0.0
Ryne Harper 16 8.6 2.7 1.4 .313 71.9% 4.41 4.37 0.0
Seth Romero 12 9.5 4.5 1.3 .316 68.6% 4.89 4.69 -0.0
Ben Braymer 10 7.4 4.2 1.7 .313 70.2% 5.44 5.51 -0.0
Dakota Bacus 8 7.9 4.6 1.4 .313 70.7% 5.06 5.11 -0.0
Matt Cronin 6 9.8 4.3 1.3 .312 69.8% 4.54 4.51 0.0
Sam Clay 4 8.2 5.6 0.8 .316 72.0% 4.48 4.65 0.0
Tim Cate 4 7.3 3.6 1.4 .312 71.0% 4.80 4.90 -0.0
Total 570 9.7 3.9 1.3 .313 72.7% 4.39 4.42 2.5

The Nationals always seem to find a way to stitch together enough veterans to compete somehow. This offseason, they were gifted a shot at Brad Hand, whose velocity has declined the last two years but whose effectiveness has not, at least as of yet. Daniel Hudson, who is now 34 and has seemingly had eight Tommy Johns (or something like that), is still pumping 96.

It’s 28-year-old Tanner Rainey who has the best stuff of this group. He sits 96-98 and his slider has no business having as much movement as it does at 87-89 mph. He had been distressingly wild early in his big league career but suddenly located a league-average rate of his pitches in the strike zone last year. If he can continue that over the course of a 162-game season, Rainey will be one of the better relief pitchers in baseball.

Wander Suero bullies hitters with lots of cutters and has tough angle on his stuff. Luis Avilán is a suitable situational lefty. Javy Guerra is a veteran low-leverage option, while Kyle Finnegan has plus velocity. Unlike a lot of the other bullpens in this range, there is less opportunity for some of the recent draftees and prospects to make a leap and have an immediate impact on the club, unless the Nationals really accelerate the timeline of some of their more prominent prospects.

19. Giants
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Tyler Rogers 63 7.4 3.4 0.7 .312 72.0% 3.87 3.97 0.5
Matt Wisler 62 9.3 2.8 1.2 .314 72.4% 4.08 3.94 0.7
Jake McGee 63 10.2 2.8 1.3 .309 75.8% 3.73 3.85 0.5
Reyes Moronta 58 11.2 5.0 1.0 .304 75.0% 3.78 3.95 0.3
Jarlin García 55 7.6 3.4 1.3 .298 70.9% 4.52 4.71 -0.1
Sam Selman 50 11.0 4.7 1.0 .302 73.5% 3.90 3.98 0.2
José Álvarez 44 8.1 3.2 0.9 .315 73.2% 3.84 3.83 0.1
Nick Tropeano 36 8.8 3.5 1.5 .311 72.5% 4.53 4.66 -0.0
Wandy Peralta 28 7.9 3.8 0.9 .310 71.7% 4.09 4.10 0.0
John Brebbia 24 10.3 3.1 1.3 .307 74.4% 3.92 3.98 0.0
Caleb Baragar 22 8.2 3.8 1.4 .301 70.6% 4.81 4.89 -0.0
Alex Wood 18 8.4 2.7 1.2 .310 73.0% 3.97 4.06 0.0
Aaron Sanchez 16 7.8 4.5 1.0 .316 71.1% 4.63 4.63 -0.0
Dominic Leone 16 10.1 4.1 1.2 .310 72.8% 4.24 4.17 0.0
Zack Littell 14 8.8 3.5 1.1 .310 73.4% 4.00 4.10 0.0
Shun Yamaguchi 12 10.1 3.9 1.2 .310 73.1% 4.19 4.23 0.0
Conner Menez 12 10.1 4.4 1.3 .307 73.5% 4.27 4.40 0.0
Camilo Doval 10 8.8 6.9 1.1 .306 71.2% 5.12 5.32 -0.0
Trevor Gott 10 9.2 3.8 1.2 .307 73.4% 4.15 4.28 0.0
Silvino Bracho 6 9.6 3.4 1.3 .308 73.0% 4.21 4.25 0.0
Jay Jackson 6 10.6 3.8 1.1 .309 74.5% 3.82 3.91 0.0
Sam Long 3 7.0 4.9 1.2 .305 69.5% 5.13 5.24 -0.0
Ashton Goudeau 3 7.6 3.0 1.4 .309 70.8% 4.60 4.66 -0.0
Total 627 9.1 3.7 1.1 .308 73.0% 4.09 4.16 2.3

The Giants have been just outside the playoff picture each of the last two seasons and it’s impeded their ability to lean more resolutely into their rebuild. With the Dodgers and Padres so clearly atop the division, it may be time for them to turn over this part of their team closer to the deadline.

Submariner Tyler Rogers might be here for a while, though. He throws a ton of strikes and has a track record of statistical success, and while he’s already 31, there’s a half-decade sitting between him and free agency, and submariners tend to pitch forever.

Matt Wisler has started to perform the more he throws his plus slider, which he did more than 80% of the time with the Twins last year. Jake McGee went from steady decline with Colorado to doubling his strikeout rate and halving his walks with the Dodgers in 2020. If he stays that good but the Giants aren’t, he’s an obvious trade candidate. Wisler, McGee, and Jarlin García are the three pitchers without options who are expected to make the Giants’ Opening Day bullpen. I once thought García would become a changeup-heavy strikeout reliever but now he’s a three-pitch groundball guy.

Reyes Moronta hasn’t had his typical velocity this spring. He missed 2020 coming off of shoulder surgery.

20. Athletics
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Trevor Rosenthal 62 12.0 6.1 1.0 .307 75.0% 3.97 4.18 0.4
Jake Diekman 67 11.8 5.3 0.8 .305 76.6% 3.42 3.78 0.8
Sergio Romo 63 8.7 3.0 1.6 .300 72.7% 4.44 4.66 0.1
Yusmeiro Petit 70 7.8 2.1 1.5 .293 72.8% 4.24 4.43 0.2
Lou Trivino 62 8.8 4.2 1.1 .297 73.3% 4.12 4.39 0.2
J.B. Wendelken 59 9.5 3.7 1.2 .303 73.8% 4.04 4.22 0.3
Adam Kolarek 53 6.8 2.9 0.7 .304 72.9% 3.66 3.90 0.1
A.J. Puk 46 9.9 4.3 1.1 .306 73.8% 4.06 4.18 0.1
Cole Irvin 36 6.7 2.5 1.4 .300 70.5% 4.61 4.77 -0.0
Daulton Jefferies 30 8.4 2.4 1.4 .304 72.8% 4.22 4.36 0.0
Burch Smith 24 9.5 4.5 1.4 .304 73.0% 4.63 4.85 -0.0
Miguel Romero 22 8.4 4.2 1.4 .302 71.6% 4.65 4.86 -0.0
Jordan Weems 15 9.1 5.6 1.4 .303 71.3% 5.05 5.18 -0.0
James Kaprielian 10 8.5 3.2 1.7 .303 71.9% 4.79 4.96 -0.0
Wandisson Charles 6 10.5 8.2 1.2 .304 72.4% 5.30 5.55 -0.0
Reymin Guduan 4 9.8 5.1 1.0 .306 74.0% 4.10 4.36 0.0
Grant Holmes 3 7.6 3.6 1.4 .303 71.6% 4.64 4.83 -0.0
Deolis Guerra 3 9.7 3.0 1.2 .306 74.9% 3.79 3.95 0.0
Total 633 9.2 3.9 1.2 .302 73.5% 4.14 4.36 2.3

There’s no way to replace Liam Hendriks but a healthy, resurgent Trevor Rosenthal is a fine short-term stopgap. He’s been in the 94-97 range the couple of times I’ve seen him in person this spring and looks like a suitable late-inning option.

Most of the rest of this bullpen is occupied by veterans who’ve had remarkably consistent and long careers. Yusmiero Petit and Sergio Romo both have excellent command and have been getting by with below-average velocity for nearly a quarter century combined. I see no reason to think those two won’t be good middle-inning options. Adding Romo and Adam Kolarek gives the A’s two low-slot, mid-inning looks.

Lou Trivino had a velocity dip in 2020 but was still averaging 95 mph and has been nails this spring, so he’s probably fine. Remember that Jake Diekman altered his slider grip after watching online clips of Chaz Roe’s slide piece; 2021 will be his first chance to work with that over the course of a whole season. He has continued to throw remarkably hard for a guy in his mid-30s, let alone one who also has to manage ulcerative colitis. He has some of the best lefty stuff in the game.

Of the rookie arms who might help the bullpen, A.J. Puk obviously has the highest ceiling. He is coming off 2020 shoulder surgery and spent the offseason totally remaking his body and arm action. He was 92-93 in his first spring outing, which is down, but it’s early and his slider looked really good. He might end up in the bullpen for workload reasons but projects as a starter long-term. Miguel Romero and Reymin Guduan are mid-90s relievers with good sliders and below-average command. Jordan Weems, who spent five years in the minors as an outfielder, has developed a much better breaking ball than when he first converted and though he was optioned during camp, looks like a viable long-term middle inning piece who’ll contribute to the club this year.

21. Reds
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Amir Garrett 63 11.8 4.5 1.4 .310 75.9% 3.99 4.17 0.8
Lucas Sims 63 11.8 4.1 1.6 .309 74.2% 4.40 4.45 0.5
Sean Doolittle 58 9.8 2.6 1.8 .304 74.3% 4.49 4.58 0.4
José De León 60 11.0 5.3 1.5 .314 72.8% 4.88 4.95 0.0
Jeff Hoffman 54 9.6 3.8 1.5 .314 71.1% 4.82 4.72 0.1
Tejay Antone 50 8.8 3.8 1.3 .311 71.7% 4.49 4.50 0.1
Michael Lorenzen 44 8.9 3.9 1.3 .309 72.1% 4.43 4.49 0.0
Cionel Pérez 42 9.7 4.4 1.3 .313 73.2% 4.40 4.50 0.1
Sal Romano 38 8.7 3.4 1.4 .315 71.2% 4.65 4.60 0.1
Cam Bedrosian 32 9.3 3.7 1.4 .309 73.1% 4.35 4.45 0.1
Brandon Finnegan 28 8.8 5.1 1.6 .312 71.3% 5.39 5.46 -0.1
Carson Fulmer 27 8.9 5.4 1.5 .308 71.0% 5.25 5.35 -0.0
Ryan Hendrix 23 10.8 5.3 1.2 .316 73.0% 4.44 4.51 0.0
Art Warren 20 9.6 5.1 1.2 .313 72.2% 4.61 4.72 0.0
Heath Hembree 16 10.4 3.7 1.6 .313 72.7% 4.68 4.65 0.0
Vladimir Gutierrez 12 8.6 3.2 1.8 .311 70.0% 5.13 5.09 -0.0
Edgar García 7 9.8 5.1 1.8 .304 71.7% 5.31 5.38 -0.0
Josh Osich 4 9.1 3.4 1.5 .311 71.7% 4.63 4.60 0.0
Total 641 10.0 4.2 1.5 .311 72.8% 4.59 4.64 2.2

Amir Garrett had one of the more dominant, if brief, spring training runs a relief pitcher can have. He struck out the side in each of his three outings, all of which came in the last week before publication. He’s coming off a 2020 season in which he walked fewer hitters but also located his stuff in the zone less than in ’19. Small sample caveats apply to both of those data points. Obviously from a stuff standpoint, Garrett has a chance to become an elite closer if he keeps getting chases like he did in 2020.

The Reds announced Lucas Sims will be their “co-closer,” because everyone gets a trophy now (tongue planted firmly in cheek). The Reds likely want to deploy Garrett in whatever the game’s highest-leverage situation is, whether that’s the ninth inning or not, and this moniker is just a way to help normalize that. Sims is coming off two consecutive years of nearly 12 K/9 and 4 BB/9. His career seems to have been saved by coherent player development in Cincinnati; he’s a nasty late-inning option now.

Let’s hope something similar can occur for José De León and Jeff Hoffman, both of whom are former top prospects. Hoffman will now get a long look with the Reds after coming over via trade during the offseason. He’ll open the year in the rotation while Michael Lorenzen and Sonny Gray recover from injury. Healthy Lorenzen in the rotation means we get to watch him hit more often in what may be the last year pitchers get to do that. De León was throwing hard in Puerto Rico over the winter and looks like a solid middle relief option.

Hoffman’s initial placement in the rotation means Tejay Antone will begin the year in the bullpen even though his repertoire is deep enough to start. He’ll likely continue his work as a good multi-inning option. Recall that among 2020 rookie graduates, he is the only one whose spin rates took a leap from the ’19 data I sourced from the minor leagues, which is on The Board.

22. Orioles
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Tanner Scott 65 10.8 4.8 0.9 .310 75.6% 3.64 3.87 1.2
Dillon Tate 62 7.0 3.3 1.3 .303 69.7% 4.68 4.78 0.2
Cesar Valdez 60 6.3 2.6 1.4 .305 70.1% 4.78 4.89 0.1
Paul Fry 58 9.5 4.2 1.0 .310 73.7% 3.96 4.16 0.6
Travis Lakins Sr. 56 7.9 4.3 1.4 .306 71.6% 4.86 5.11 0.0
Shawn Armstrong 52 9.2 4.0 1.5 .298 72.5% 4.65 4.89 0.0
Cole Sulser 48 9.4 4.2 1.4 .303 73.3% 4.48 4.64 0.1
Adam Plutko 42 6.9 2.7 2.0 .298 69.2% 5.51 5.65 -0.1
Hunter Harvey 38 8.6 3.5 1.5 .304 71.8% 4.74 4.86 0.0
Isaac Mattson 34 8.2 4.3 1.4 .301 71.0% 4.82 4.97 0.0
Tyler Wells 32 8.1 3.7 1.8 .300 70.2% 5.27 5.45 -0.0
Jorge López 25 7.3 3.4 1.5 .306 69.7% 5.06 5.11 0.0
Fernando Abad 24 8.0 2.6 1.5 .304 71.7% 4.48 4.58 0.0
Wade LeBlanc 18 6.4 2.8 1.9 .301 68.7% 5.50 5.55 -0.0
Mac Sceroler 16 7.0 4.3 1.7 .301 69.5% 5.53 5.71 -0.0
Thomas Eshelman 14 6.1 2.6 1.9 .303 69.5% 5.35 5.51 -0.0
Matt Harvey 8 6.8 3.2 2.0 .304 68.3% 5.73 5.76 -0.0
Alexander Wells 6 6.2 3.1 2.0 .302 69.4% 5.63 5.88 -0.0
Conner Greene 4 6.8 5.9 1.5 .299 69.6% 5.78 6.09 -0.0
Mickey Jannis 4 6.0 3.3 1.7 .302 69.2% 5.41 5.61 -0.0
Other RP 11 9.8 4.3 1.3 .312 69.8% 4.54 4.51 0.0
Total 677 8.2 3.7 1.4 .304 71.5% 4.71 4.87 2.1

Gregory Soto was the lone qualified reliever from 2020 with a harder fastball than Tanner Scott’s, which averaged 96.5 mph. There will be instances this year when hitters take a mid-inning at-bat off of Cesar Valdez, who throws his hypnotizing 77 mph changeup 83% of the time (that’s not a typo), and then have to face Scott their next time up.

Keep an eye on Dillon Tate. The former top five pick had a velo uptick last year, changed his delivery/release point, and was altering his spot on the rubber depending on hitters’ handedness. 28-year-old lefty Paul Fry also had a significant velocity spike last year, sitting closer to 93 than 91, and Fry was already pretty effective at the lower velocity. Both of these guys have a chance to break out in a more meaningful and obvious way over the course of a longer season.

Cole Sulser might also make some later-career improvements. He was using his changeup much more last year than he was while in the minors with Tampa Bay and Cleveland. I still have him in an up/down role because of how rough his control was last year.

Shawn Armstrong, who has been around for a while now, is a cutter-heavy, single-inning reliever who goes right at hitters and barely walks anyone. Travis Lakins Sr. also throws a lot of cutters and has better all-around stuff than Armstrong, but is a little more wild.

The rest of the bullpen will be a revolving door of young guys, several from other orgs, who Orioles fans should hope can be tweaked like Tate seems to have been. Rule 5 picks Mac Sceroler (from the Reds) and Tyler Wells (from the Twins) have had pretty good springs aside from one nuclear Sceroler outing in early March. Hunter Harvey is somehow still rookie eligible and hurt again (oblique); he won’t be back until the summer. Soft-tossing sniper Alex Wells (no relation to Tyler, formerly of the Twins, but brother of Lachlan, now of the Twins) is more likely to play a long-term rotation role.

23. Astros
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Ryan Pressly 63 10.9 2.8 1.0 .310 76.7% 3.26 3.30 1.4
Pedro Báez 60 9.1 3.8 1.5 .293 73.5% 4.40 4.73 0.2
Blake Taylor 64 8.6 5.4 1.0 .304 72.1% 4.52 4.80 -0.1
Enoli Paredes 61 10.3 5.0 1.3 .301 73.2% 4.48 4.71 0.0
Joe Smith 57 8.5 2.6 1.3 .303 72.9% 4.06 4.14 0.3
Brooks Raley 56 8.1 3.6 1.3 .303 72.2% 4.48 4.74 0.1
Ryne Stanek 48 11.0 4.3 1.4 .301 75.2% 4.19 4.36 0.0
Josh James 45 11.8 4.7 1.2 .305 75.3% 3.91 4.02 0.2
Andre Scrubb 35 9.1 6.1 1.2 .305 72.7% 4.86 5.11 -0.1
Bryan Abreu 30 10.4 5.8 1.2 .304 73.7% 4.49 4.80 -0.0
Austin Pruitt 26 7.4 2.5 1.4 .311 71.5% 4.47 4.50 0.0
Kent Emanuel 25 7.5 2.8 1.4 .308 71.3% 4.46 4.59 0.0
Brandon Bielak 20 8.0 4.0 1.6 .305 71.5% 5.02 5.23 -0.0
Nivaldo Rodriguez 8 7.9 4.0 1.4 .302 71.6% 4.79 5.03 -0.0
Ralph Garza Jr. 5 8.6 4.4 1.3 .305 71.2% 4.76 4.88 -0.0
Francis Martes 5 10.5 5.5 1.2 .311 71.7% 4.61 4.73 -0.0
Other RP 4 9.8 4.3 1.3 .312 69.8% 4.54 4.51 0.0
Total 612 9.4 4.1 1.3 .303 73.3% 4.29 4.48 2.0

Bryan Abreu is this bullpen’s wild card, its X-factor, its… however you want to describe a high-variance piece. He only walked one hitter in seven spring innings but has had scattershot command if you watch his outings. Because Abreu sits in the mid-90s and has a 70-grade slider (he’ll flash some 80s; go watch his 2-2 slider to Albert Almora Jr. on March 22 to see what I mean), he can have 40-grade control and still be a high-leverage reliever. If it’s worse than that, he’s merely a middle-inning option.

Abreu and Enoli Paredes are the really exciting, young relievers who might finish the season having had the most impact on Houston’s club. Ryan Pressly has been remarkably consistent over the course of entire seasons of his career and his strikeout and walk rates have been elite since Houston acquired him from Minnesota, but he’s also been kind of an adventure in big moments during the last couple of years. He had a little downtick in velocity last year but was 93-95 in his first couple of spring outings, so he seems fine.

While Joe Smith (who opted out due to a family matter last year), Brooks Raley (who added a second breaking pitch after he was acquired from the Reds), and Pedro Báez are likely to be middle-inning rocks, the rest of the bullpen has had health/consistency issues. Andre Scrubb’s curveball is one of the best in all of baseball, but he’s also an erratic strike-thrower. Blake Taylor is a less volatile lefty version of this. Flame-throwing Josh James has had myriad health and command issues. Sinkerballer Kent Emanuel and former top prospect Francis Martes have each had PED suspensions. Nivaldo Rodriguez and Brandon Bielak have looked hittable. If we anticipate Pressly will hold serve and Paredes and Abreu take a step forward, then this will be an average bullpen. It will take one or more of the big questions marks to come through for it to be more.

24. Diamondbacks
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Joakim Soria 62 9.7 3.2 1.1 .311 72.0% 3.98 3.85 0.9
Stefan Crichton 63 8.4 3.4 1.1 .314 72.3% 4.18 4.22 0.4
Kevin Ginkel 60 11.6 4.3 1.3 .314 74.1% 4.07 4.04 0.6
Taylor Clarke 56 8.2 3.4 1.5 .308 70.5% 4.82 4.82 -0.1
Chris Devenski 52 9.4 3.1 1.5 .308 71.4% 4.56 4.48 0.2
Yoan López 50 8.4 3.7 1.3 .308 71.6% 4.56 4.57 0.0
J.B. Bukauskas 46 9.1 5.6 1.2 .309 71.6% 4.78 4.86 -0.0
Taylor Widener 38 9.5 4.2 1.5 .308 70.7% 4.82 4.76 -0.0
Tyler Clippard 34 9.6 3.1 1.6 .299 72.1% 4.55 4.65 0.0
Alex Young 30 8.4 3.3 1.4 .312 71.1% 4.62 4.60 -0.0
Riley Smith 22 7.8 3.0 1.3 .315 71.1% 4.56 4.52 0.0
Jon Duplantier 22 9.4 4.6 1.1 .314 72.3% 4.40 4.47 0.0
Joe Mantiply 14 7.7 3.4 1.3 .308 71.5% 4.59 4.61 -0.0
Anthony Swarzak 12 9.1 4.1 1.4 .308 72.0% 4.54 4.58 0.0
Ryan Buchter 10 9.8 4.3 1.5 .302 73.5% 4.55 4.67 -0.0
Ben Heller 8 9.9 4.0 1.2 .310 73.2% 4.14 4.21 0.0
Humberto Mejía 5 7.9 3.7 1.6 .303 69.7% 5.12 5.17 -0.0
Keury Mella 3 7.4 3.6 1.4 .313 70.2% 4.89 4.88 -0.0
Other RP 10 9.8 4.3 1.3 .312 69.8% 4.54 4.51 0.0
Total 597 9.2 3.7 1.3 .310 71.8% 4.47 4.46 2.0

Changes toward the back of Arizona’s bullpen abound as for the first time in a while, Archie Bradley and Andrew Chafin aren’t somewhere in the late-inning mix. Instead, Arizona added the ageless Joakim Soria, who showed no signs of slowing down in 2020. He’s on the precipice of his 15th big league season.

With T.J. McFarland and Chafin elsewhere, Arizona projects to rely on platoon-neutralizing righties like Tyler Clippard (who’ll start the year on the IL) and Chris Devenski, to deal with lefty hitters in later innings. J.B. Bukauskas also has an impact changeup and could be deployed with this in mind later in the year. He’s been throwing harder this spring than he was last summer at the alt site.

Homegrown righties Kevin Ginkel and Stefan Crichton are potential middle-innings guys for the long haul. Crichton’s fastball has plus horizontal action and his breaking ball has viable back foot action against lefties even though he’s a low-slot righty. Ginkel’s breaking ball is plus, he’s just a stiffer guy with well-below average control.

Now 28 and coming off of two consecutive years of slightly declining velocity, it’s perhaps past time to hope for Yoan López to turn into an impact high-leverage piece.

Taylors Widener and Clarke both have starter pedigrees and should provide length out of the bullpen. Widener’s fastball shape (which sometimes has different amounts of cut to it) has been variable over the last couple of years. He’ll begin the year in the rotation but might kick to the bullpen if Corbin Martin or Humberto Mejía ends up getting a mid-year look.

25. Marlins
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Anthony Bass 63 8.0 3.3 1.1 .305 72.1% 4.04 4.15 0.5
Yimi García 63 9.3 2.9 1.4 .301 73.3% 4.13 4.28 0.5
Dylan Floro 64 7.5 3.0 0.9 .311 72.1% 3.87 3.92 0.6
Richard Bleier 59 5.9 2.2 0.8 .309 72.4% 3.68 3.90 0.4
John Curtiss 56 9.4 4.5 1.2 .308 72.7% 4.34 4.44 0.0
Adam Cimber 53 6.5 2.9 1.0 .306 70.3% 4.29 4.41 0.1
Ross Detwiler 48 6.8 3.1 1.3 .308 70.6% 4.65 4.78 -0.0
Zach Pop 42 8.3 4.0 1.2 .307 71.7% 4.43 4.62 -0.0
Paul Campbell 36 6.8 3.1 1.4 .306 70.0% 4.80 4.87 -0.0
Anthony Bender 28 6.7 4.1 1.3 .304 70.2% 4.94 5.15 -0.1
Edward Cabrera 25 9.0 4.5 1.2 .306 72.4% 4.41 4.60 -0.0
Daniel Castano 20 6.5 3.1 1.2 .306 71.8% 4.41 4.67 -0.0
Jorge Guzman 18 8.4 6.1 1.5 .299 70.4% 5.43 5.66 -0.1
Jordan Holloway 14 8.6 6.1 1.0 .307 71.6% 4.71 4.92 -0.0
Nick Neidert 10 7.4 3.7 1.4 .304 69.9% 4.92 5.01 -0.0
Jeff Brigham 8 9.3 3.8 1.2 .302 73.9% 4.11 4.29 0.0
Tommy Eveld 4 9.2 3.9 1.1 .306 72.1% 4.20 4.25 0.0
Total 609 7.7 3.4 1.1 .306 71.7% 4.31 4.45 1.8

A common approach rebuilding teams take to bullpen construction is to acquire relievers falling off the bottoms of more competitive clubs’ rosters as they get squeezed out due to a combination of quality and the desire for greater roster flexibility. That describes many of the pitchers in a Miami bullpen that was subject to significant turnover during the offseason. Because of how the Marlins had to put together their post-COVID outbreak bullpen, turnover was likely to occur. On some level it feels silly to attempt to compete with the Dodgers while acquiring their fourth- and seventh-best relievers to be your late-inning pillars, but adding the postseason experience dynamic en masse is potentially meaningful. They’ve collected veterans Yimi García and Dylan Floro (LAD), Adam Cimber and James Hoyt (CLE), John Curtiss (TB), and Ross Detweiler (CHW) since last year’s deadline.

Surprisingly, most of their veteran additions still have option years left. All but García, Detweiler, and Anthony Bass still have at least one option remaining, which means the club is more likely to avoid exposing guys to waivers if they end up needing to shuttle in fresh arms from Triple-A during the season.

An abnormally high rate of Miami’s recent pitching prospects look like they’re going to stick as starters. Top 100 prospect Edward Cabrera has been hurt a couple times lately, perhaps sliding him toward eventual relief. It might be a short-term solution for limiting his innings but also giving him an opportunity to impact the big club if the team finds itself in the Wild Card mix later in the year. Aside from Cabrera, Rule 5 selection Zach Pop is the young arm who has a chance to eventually work in high leverage. He has a heavy, mid-90s sinker à la Brandon League.

26. Mariners
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Rafael Montero 63 10.2 3.1 1.3 .304 76.0% 3.79 3.98 1.0
Kendall Graveman 63 7.2 3.0 1.4 .308 70.9% 4.63 4.72 0.1
Anthony Misiewicz 62 8.6 2.9 1.5 .306 72.4% 4.45 4.56 0.3
Casey Sadler 58 8.0 3.2 1.4 .299 72.7% 4.45 4.79 -0.1
Keynan Middleton 56 10.1 4.3 1.3 .305 74.0% 4.24 4.32 0.2
Will Vest 42 7.9 4.0 1.4 .305 71.9% 4.67 4.89 -0.0
Drew Steckenrider 38 10.9 4.1 1.5 .303 74.8% 4.25 4.47 0.0
Erik Swanson 36 9.4 2.9 1.7 .301 71.5% 4.59 4.59 0.0
Joey Gerber 34 8.7 4.4 1.3 .302 72.5% 4.54 4.81 -0.0
Andres Muñoz 30 11.7 4.9 1.0 .303 75.3% 3.63 3.76 0.1
Domingo Tapia 28 7.7 4.3 1.3 .302 72.4% 4.69 5.01 -0.0
Brandon Brennan 20 8.5 4.4 1.2 .302 72.3% 4.47 4.69 0.0
Chris Flexen 14 9.4 3.3 1.4 .307 73.1% 4.31 4.38 0.0
Yohan Ramirez 10 10.4 6.6 1.2 .300 72.8% 4.70 4.99 -0.0
Aaron Fletcher 10 8.9 4.2 1.2 .306 73.7% 4.20 4.50 0.0
Nick Margevicius 10 7.4 2.6 1.6 .307 71.0% 4.73 4.83 0.0
Sam Delaplane 8 10.6 4.2 1.2 .304 74.6% 3.97 4.15 0.0
Ljay Newsome 8 7.4 1.9 1.9 .302 71.3% 4.94 5.13 -0.0
Wyatt Mills 5 8.8 3.6 1.1 .308 72.4% 4.11 4.22 0.0
Other RP 6 9.8 4.3 1.3 .312 69.8% 4.54 4.51 0.0
Total 601 9.0 3.7 1.4 .304 73.0% 4.37 4.54 1.7

You can kind of see some of the pieces of the next competitive Mariners bullpen coming together here. We don’t yet know the Player to be Named Later Seattle will send to Texas for Rafael Montero, who is easily the best reliever in this group right now according to the projections. He is an injury risk who missed significant time in 2015, ’18 (Tommy John), ’19 (TJ rehab) and ’20 (elbow tendinitis), but he has been electric when healthy. Under contract for the next couple of years, Montero could be an integral part of the bullpen as this team starts to threaten the West standings.

Last year the Mariners took a post-surgery flier on Kendall Graveman that seemed to work out, as he had a velo spike coming out of TJ rehab and worked in the mid-90s with fantastic sink and tail. There’s no real bat-missing secondary to pair with the sinker, so Graveman is of the Scott Alexander, 65% fastball-usage ilk, except right-handed. His ability to generate grounders makes him well-suited to come in when a double play means escaping a big middle-inning jam. This year’s post-surgery flier is Keynan Middleton, who once looked like a potential closer in Anaheim but instead was non-tendered after he looked rusty coming out of TJ rehab in late 2019 and ’20.

Speaking of Tommy Johns, recall that fireballing 22-year-old Andres Muñoz had one in March of last year and so will likely be on track to pitch later this season. He was sitting 97-101 before blowing out. Muñoz, low-slotted Wyatt Mills, and Sam Delaplane are the prospects who might come up at some point in 2020 and flash high-leverage ability. Mills’ funk and command might get him there, while Delaplane’s ticket to it is his slider.

Then we have the Rule 5 picks: Brandon Brennan, Yohan Ramirez, and Will Vest. Vest had a velo spike last fall but it hasn’t held into this spring, as he was more 93-94 in my look at him last week rather than consistently up to 97 like he was last fall. The other guys will be up and down while Vest, if he makes the club, will have to stay on it all year. The pro scouting contributions to the bullpen extend beyond the Rule 5 guys to Aaron Fletcher and Erik Swanson. They’ll need length from Anthony Misiewicz and KBO kickback guy Chris Flexen, who both have starting pedigrees; indeed, Flexen figures to feature in the six-man rotation.

27. Royals
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Scott Barlow 65 10.6 4.2 1.1 .311 73.5% 4.05 4.01 0.7
Josh Staumont 63 10.8 6.1 1.1 .311 73.2% 4.44 4.53 0.4
Greg Holland 58 9.4 4.8 1.2 .308 72.8% 4.44 4.55 0.1
Jesse Hahn 56 8.5 4.2 1.0 .310 71.5% 4.32 4.27 0.3
Kyle Zimmer 55 8.7 5.4 1.0 .308 71.3% 4.66 4.71 0.0
Wade Davis 53 9.0 5.0 1.3 .306 70.2% 4.99 4.86 0.0
Richard Lovelady 48 7.8 3.6 1.0 .311 71.3% 4.27 4.29 0.1
Jake Newberry 40 8.1 4.5 1.3 .306 71.7% 4.79 4.92 -0.0
Tyler Zuber 36 9.1 4.5 1.2 .306 71.5% 4.60 4.64 -0.0
Jakob Junis 25 8.0 2.6 1.5 .315 70.2% 4.70 4.62 0.0
Ronald Bolaños 20 7.9 4.6 1.2 .313 70.0% 5.00 4.95 -0.0
Carlos Sanabria 16 8.7 6.3 1.4 .307 70.3% 5.57 5.64 -0.1
Jake Brentz 10 8.3 5.7 1.2 .306 72.4% 4.80 5.09 -0.0
Scott Blewett 6 6.3 3.9 1.6 .309 68.9% 5.57 5.61 -0.0
Brad Brach 5 8.1 4.8 1.2 .309 70.7% 4.80 4.79 -0.0
Gabe Speier 4 7.6 4.4 1.3 .311 70.8% 4.90 4.94 -0.0
Carlos Hernández 4 7.4 4.5 1.3 .309 69.3% 5.15 5.14 -0.0
Eric Skoglund 3 6.1 3.0 1.5 .306 69.9% 5.04 5.17 -0.0
Total 562 9.0 4.7 1.2 .309 71.7% 4.57 4.59 1.5

Few people on the planet can throw as hard as Josh Staumont but he also implodes pretty frequently, too often to really be called a present or future closer. Instead that job seems likely to continue to belong to the immortal Greg Holland, who has remained effective despite his advanced age as he throws his stupefying slider more and more frequently. He actually had a velocity rebound in 2020, up two ticks from ’19 and averaging 93 mph. In part because of deception, Holland will continue to be effective if he can keep his fastball there, though who knows how the longer season will impact his ability to do that.

The projection systems are most bullish on Scott Barlow here, in part because of his anticipated innings count. Like Holland, Barlow has also increased his breaking ball usage and had a little bit of a velocity bump last year. He’s one of several middle relief stalwarts on the KC 40-man. Keep an eye on Jake Newberry, as he also has a consistent middle-inning look. He has fantastic command of a plus slider, he’s just forced to nibble with his fastball because it isn’t very hard.

Ultimately, if the Royals are going to contend in the AL Central (their offseason behavior and other teams’ sense of Dayton Moore indicate they want to), a couple of the young hurlers here will need to take a step forward. Tyler Zuber had a meteoric 2019 rise in the minors then struggled during his big league debut. He’s likely a middle relief piece eventually. Hard-throwing Carlos Hernández and Ronald Bolaños may be stretched out as starters in the minors but both could really pop as relievers. Then there’s 21-year-old lefty Angel Zerpa, a pitchability lefty who was a surprise add to the Royals 40-man during the offseason. He’s gotten shockingly few reps in Arizona for someone on the 40-man and has evaded my eyeballs all spring.

There’s a lack of lefty depth here. Richard Lovelady has an 80-grade name and above-average stuff but he’s struggled to find mechanical consistency in the big leagues. Zerpa might emerge, but also keep an eye on 26-year-old Jake Brentz, who after sitting 91-94 in 2019 has been sitting 95-99 (but getting hit hard) so far this spring.

28. Rockies
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Daniel Bard 63 10.3 4.7 1.2 .323 70.3% 4.65 4.44 0.6
Mychal Givens 65 10.8 3.7 1.5 .319 71.0% 4.68 4.36 0.8
Robert Stephenson 62 10.8 4.5 1.6 .318 71.4% 5.01 4.77 0.1
Yency Almonte 58 8.3 4.5 1.5 .326 69.6% 5.36 5.13 -0.1
Tyler Kinley 56 9.9 5.9 1.5 .322 70.2% 5.51 5.27 -0.2
Carlos Estévez 55 10.0 3.5 1.5 .330 71.7% 4.78 4.44 0.3
Ben Bowden 48 11.1 5.2 1.6 .325 72.3% 5.02 4.86 0.0
Jairo Díaz 42 8.8 4.3 1.2 .330 70.2% 4.92 4.59 0.1
Jordan Sheffield 37 9.4 7.1 1.7 .330 68.6% 6.54 6.20 -0.1
Tommy Doyle 28 8.5 4.2 1.3 .325 69.7% 5.02 4.79 0.0
Justin Lawrence 26 7.9 6.8 1.2 .327 68.0% 6.00 5.65 -0.1
Phillip Diehl 18 9.0 3.8 1.6 .326 69.9% 5.21 4.90 -0.0
Lucas Gilbreath 14 7.2 5.2 1.6 .324 68.7% 6.07 5.89 -0.0
Scott Oberg 12 9.0 3.5 1.1 .324 71.3% 4.30 4.06 0.0
Jesus Tinoco 7 7.6 4.9 1.6 .326 68.5% 5.91 5.62 -0.0
Chi Chi González 5 7.1 4.4 1.7 .324 66.6% 6.13 5.71 -0.0
José Mujica 4 6.0 3.7 1.8 .325 67.0% 6.22 5.89 -0.0
Dereck Rodríguez 3 7.0 3.3 1.9 .331 66.3% 6.22 5.68 -0.0
Other RP 6 9.8 4.3 1.3 .312 69.8% 4.54 4.51 0.0
Total 609 9.6 4.7 1.5 .324 70.2% 5.17 4.90 1.3

Last week, Scott Oberg had another in a line of several surgeries related to clearing or preventing blood clots in his elbow. He has been an ultra-consistent middle reliever when healthy and of course had one of the more prominent projections here until the surgery. A scout told me they thought Oberg had the best spring of any Rockies reliever (though of course, that does not influence the projections) even though his velo wasn’t yet in what would typically be mid-season form. Yency Almonte now becomes the most reliable strike-thrower in this bullpen.

Lucas Gilbreath could end up performing better than the projections expect him to. He had a velocity bump during quarantine and ended up sitting 95-97 during 2020 instructs, and his fastball has big carry. He’s been more 93-95 and really wild this spring.

Almost this entire bullpen can absolutely light up a radar gun, and many of them go through periods of extreme wildness. It’s ironic that Daniel Bard, who once epitomized this, has been deemed this bullpen’s bedrock by the projections. His career narrative and arc is immensely satisfying, but not really something the systems are built to understand. Here they’re forced to reckon with 24 very good, very recent innings versus several years of wildness that began nearly a decade ago.

As was the case with the younger Bard, Carlos Estévez, Jairo Díaz, Jordan Sheffield, Justin Lawrence, and Tyler Kinley all fit the “talented-but-inconsistent” mold, and Gilbreath might be headed for that, too, unless he locates a little better as the year goes on.

The best 2021 version of this bullpen, in a universe where everything aligns for the Rockies, would have meant Oberg and offseason acquisition Robert Stephenson (mid-back strain) having healthy seasons. Stephenson was wild during the spring but was also throwing really hard (95-97), so it’s safe to assume that he’s healthy. It would also have meant at least one young reliever taking a step forward. Gilbreath, Rule 5 pick Sheffield, Tommy Doyle and, to a lesser extent, Ben Bowden have the best chance to do that.

2020 deadline acquisition Mychal Givens will be a free agent after the season. It’s imperative for Colorado that he remains effective to either help a surprisingly competitive club or be traded mid-season for something approaching the quality of the prospects given up for him.

29. Pirates
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Richard Rodríguez 65 10.0 3.0 1.4 .308 74.5% 3.97 4.08 0.6
Chris Stratton 64 8.6 3.4 1.3 .315 71.6% 4.55 4.45 0.1
Michael Feliz 60 10.1 4.3 1.4 .311 72.2% 4.54 4.49 0.3
Kyle Crick 59 8.9 5.0 1.3 .306 71.0% 4.82 4.94 -0.0
David Bednar 58 9.7 4.1 1.1 .312 73.0% 4.16 4.18 0.3
Chasen Shreve 51 10.4 4.5 1.3 .309 73.3% 4.34 4.38 0.1
Duane Underwood Jr. 44 9.0 3.7 1.3 .314 71.3% 4.50 4.43 0.0
Sam Howard 42 9.5 4.0 1.3 .312 73.1% 4.30 4.43 0.1
Geoff Hartlieb 33 8.6 4.7 0.9 .315 72.3% 4.25 4.30 0.0
Luis Oviedo 28 6.4 5.9 1.5 .307 68.8% 5.95 6.06 -0.1
Edgar Santana 25 7.6 3.1 1.2 .311 70.8% 4.51 4.53 0.0
JT Brubaker 21 8.1 3.3 1.1 .314 71.1% 4.31 4.25 0.0
José Soriano 18 7.7 7.9 1.3 .306 69.9% 6.00 6.22 -0.1
Nick Mears 17 9.9 4.4 1.3 .311 73.3% 4.40 4.51 0.0
Trevor Cahill 12 8.2 3.9 1.2 .307 70.2% 4.63 4.60 0.0
Tyler Bashlor 12 8.4 4.7 1.4 .303 69.9% 5.07 5.10 -0.0
Miguel Yajure 11 7.4 3.2 1.3 .310 70.5% 4.61 4.66 -0.0
Cody Ponce 10 7.7 3.6 1.4 .311 70.7% 4.86 4.91 -0.0
Wil Crowe 10 6.9 4.0 1.5 .313 69.2% 5.39 5.35 -0.0
Sean Poppen 8 8.4 3.8 1.0 .316 71.8% 4.28 4.27 0.0
Clay Holmes 8 8.5 5.1 0.9 .316 71.3% 4.43 4.47 0.0
Steven Wright 5 6.8 3.9 1.5 .309 69.2% 5.37 5.43 -0.0
Blake Weiman 4 8.6 3.7 1.2 .309 71.8% 4.34 4.38 0.0
Shea Spitzbarth 4 9.9 4.0 1.2 .311 73.9% 4.08 4.17 0.0
Other RP 2 9.8 4.3 1.3 .312 69.8% 4.54 4.51 0.0
Total 671 9.0 4.2 1.3 .311 71.8% 4.54 4.58 1.3

Richard Rodríguez has been really good for the last couple of years and it wouldn’t surprise me if he fetched the biggest trade return of any single reliever this summer. That’s driven by Rodríguez’s talent as well as his three remaining years of team control. His fastball has big tailing action, and he commands it and his plus-plus slider more precisely than is typical of a reliever.

Chris Stratton has a four-pitch mix and was developed as a starter in the minors. He had a velocity spike (one tick on his fastball, at least two on all of his secondaries) pitching entirely as a reliever for the first time last year, with most of his outings being the single-inning variety.

Michael Feliz and Kyle Crick both barely pitched last year due to injuries. Feliz has been 93-94 this spring and throws a ton of sliders. He’s out of options. Crick’s fastball averaged 95 mph the few years preceding his 2020 injuries and has been more 92-94 so far this spring.

Roansy Contreras and Miguel Yajure (both from the Yankees as part of the Taillon deal) may end up seeing big league time this year. Yajure is ready from a pitchability standpoint and made his debut last season. Contreras came to camp throwing way harder than anyone expected, including the Pirates, and might force his way to the majors by carving upper-minors hitters. Rule 5 picks Luis Oviedo and José Soriano are good long-term power relief prospects who will likely struggle in limited 2021 action because of how raw they are. Soriano is still rehabbing from Tommy John.

David Bednar, acquired as part of the Joe Musgrove deal, has had a strong spring, too, and officially made the Opening Day roster yesterday.

30. Tigers
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Bryan Garcia 62 8.0 4.3 1.4 .305 71.1% 4.90 5.02 0.1
Gregory Soto 65 9.2 5.5 1.2 .307 72.5% 4.65 4.82 0.1
Buck Farmer 62 8.1 3.7 1.3 .309 72.3% 4.46 4.57 0.4
Daniel Norris 60 8.5 2.9 1.4 .314 71.4% 4.49 4.38 0.3
José Cisnero 56 9.6 4.3 1.3 .309 73.2% 4.47 4.62 0.2
Derek Holland 50 9.0 4.0 1.7 .305 71.2% 5.04 5.08 -0.0
Joe Jiménez 48 9.5 3.4 1.4 .307 72.7% 4.41 4.50 0.1
Michael Fulmer 45 6.9 2.8 1.4 .307 69.7% 4.74 4.73 0.1
Tyler Alexander 36 7.6 1.9 1.6 .314 70.9% 4.66 4.64 0.0
José Ureña 32 6.9 3.4 1.4 .299 70.4% 4.86 5.05 -0.0
Ian Krol 28 8.6 4.3 1.3 .307 71.6% 4.63 4.74 0.0
Beau Burrows 25 7.3 4.1 1.7 .306 70.1% 5.48 5.65 -0.0
Erasmo Ramírez 20 6.2 2.8 1.7 .302 68.7% 5.27 5.35 -0.0
Kyle Funkhouser 16 7.9 5.0 1.5 .311 70.5% 5.35 5.43 -0.0
Jason Foley 14 6.2 5.0 1.4 .308 69.4% 5.61 5.67 -0.0
Wily Peralta 10 7.5 4.5 1.4 .311 70.9% 5.14 5.26 -0.0
Alex Lange 5 7.0 4.7 1.4 .309 69.9% 5.31 5.41 -0.0
Nolan Blackwood 4 6.9 4.1 1.0 .310 70.9% 4.59 4.66 0.0
Other RP 2 9.8 4.3 1.3 .312 69.8% 4.54 4.51 0.0
Total 640 8.2 3.8 1.4 .308 71.4% 4.76 4.84 1.1

Detroit’s bullpen is full of pitchers in their mid-20s who, despite huge arm strength, have generated mixed results throughout their time in the minors and early big league service. This group’s best chance of finishing well above this projection is for a few of these young-ish flamethrowers to become more consistent. This isn’t unheard of — 31-year-old José Cisnero developed that type of late-blooming feel to pitch over the last couple of seasons. Gregory Soto, 26, has the most electric stuff of that group and his fastball has been parked in the 98-100 range during 2021 Grapefruit League outings. He’s also run a BB/9 over 5.00 during his 80 career big league innings, with control too shaky for a late-inning role even though Soto’s stuff fits like a glove there.

The other names capable of having a real breakout here are Alex Lange and Jason Foley. Lange came over from the Cubs in the Nick Castellanos trade and has improved since arriving. His velo has climbed year-over-year since his acquisition and he’s been sitting in the mid-to-upper-90s this spring. He has an unusually deep repertoire for a reliever and goes right at hitters with that late-inning confidence and aggression. If I had to bet on who ends the season as Detroit’s closer, it’s him.

Foley also has elite arm strength. He’s one of a couple pitchers here whose fastball plays below its raw velocity — Garcia, who sits 95, also lacks impact movement, and Buck Farmer and José Ureña also fit this description — but he’ll at least be able to mix in both of his secondary pitches pretty liberally to offset some of that.

If this bullpen has a present strength, though, it’s the long relievers. Several projected Tigers bullpen arms have a ton of starting or long relief experience and the nature of the 2021 season, with pitchers workloads slated to skyrocket compared to last year, is going to place more emphasis on them. Tyler Alexander has been good in this role for two years, and Michael Fulmer and Derek Holland could be.





Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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scotth855
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scotth855

For the Cubs blurb, i don’t think Brailyn Marquez was ever in the mix for the rotation. I don’t think I even heard a whisper about that, not sure where that info is coming from. If Kimbrel stink, its most likely going to be Jason Adams, his stuff is great if you ever watched him pitch last year.

Meg Rowley
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Jordan Bastian over at MLB dot com reported it earlier this winter, but clearly not in the mix now.