2022 Positional Power Rankings: Bullpen (No. 1-15)

© Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier today, Eric Longenhagen kicked off our reliever rankings. Now we’ll take a look at the bullpens projected to be baseball’s best.

If you were hoping to see the rise in bullpen innings start to really reverse itself in 2021, you were no doubt disappointed. The percentage of all innings thrown by relievers did tick below 2020’s 44.5%, dropping to 42.7% last year, but it remained higher than in previous seasons. The differences from the past are even larger when you take into account that the zombie runner rule of 2020 and ’21 (and ’22, grrrrr) lopped off some reliever innings, artificially holding down the percentages. Don’t expect the trend to meaningfully reverse itself any time soon. Teams have extensive relief corps, and short of a dramatic rule/roster change, there’s little incentive for them to revert back to an older style of bullpen usage.

That doesn’t mean that things will always stay the same, however. Just as the Ace Reliever era eventually translated into the Modern Closer era, the idea of the closer as a superhuman entity at the front of the bullpen has and will continue to erode. That’s not to say there won’t still be elite relievers who get tons of save opportunities, just that the meaning of the word “closer” will continue to shift away from describing veterans like Todd Jones or Joe Borowski, among a multitude of others, who got high-leverage opportunities their performances didn’t warrant. Baseball’s top 20 closers combined for just 570 saves in 2021, the lowest number in a full season since 1987. The elite closer peaked around 20 years ago, with the top 20 closers combining for 788 saves in 2002. Save totals aren’t dramatically down (1,191 total last season vs. 1,224 in 2002), we’ve just seen the sanctity of the role of those collecting them fade.

This is one of the reasons we don’t present a positional ranking exclusively for closers, but rather for bullpens as a whole. Bullpens are a unit, not a superhero and his sidekicks. With that said, let’s get down to business.

2022 Positional Power Rankings – RP 1-15
1. Yankees
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Aroldis Chapman 64 14.6 4.8 1.0 .283 80.5% 2.93 3.11 1.6
Jonathan Loáisiga 70 10.0 2.8 0.9 .295 74.7% 3.33 3.36 1.4
Chad Green 77 11.3 2.5 1.5 .279 76.9% 3.62 3.69 1.1
Clay Holmes 63 9.9 4.7 0.9 .297 73.5% 3.95 4.05 0.3
Miguel Castro 62 10.4 4.9 1.0 .288 74.1% 3.90 4.04 0.3
Wandy Peralta 56 8.5 3.6 1.1 .297 73.3% 4.04 4.19 0.2
Lucas Luetge 49 9.0 2.8 1.4 .294 73.6% 4.13 4.22 0.1
Michael King 44 9.0 2.9 1.3 .293 73.0% 4.12 4.18 0.1
Luis Gil 42 10.6 4.7 1.4 .288 73.2% 4.47 4.54 0.0
Manny Bañuelos 38 8.4 4.1 1.5 .293 73.0% 4.77 5.00 -0.0
Domingo Germán 31 9.6 2.6 1.6 .288 72.6% 4.34 4.32 0.0
Nestor Cortes 24 9.5 2.9 1.7 .287 74.1% 4.48 4.61 0.0
Stephen Ridings 20 10.0 4.6 1.3 .294 71.5% 4.59 4.55 -0.0
Luis Severino 14 9.4 2.6 1.2 .294 73.8% 3.83 3.83 0.0
Ron Marinaccio 12 10.1 4.5 1.4 .290 73.4% 4.44 4.58 0.0
Clarke Schmidt 8 8.0 3.8 1.3 .298 71.8% 4.66 4.76 -0.0
Deivi García 6 8.4 5.0 1.7 .290 70.6% 5.47 5.62 -0.0
JP Sears 4 9.3 3.2 1.4 .293 73.2% 4.27 4.37 0.0
Total 555 10.5 3.5 1.2 .288 76.8% 3.59 3.80 5.3

If you’ve been following the fortunes of the Yankees bullpen for a while, this group might strike you as not being as deep as others in the past have been. If that’s your impression, well, it’s mine, too. In a few of those seasons, the Bombers could turn to eight or nine relievers in big spots and still have a few spare options hanging around in case of emergency. Now, once you get past the fifth or sixth hurler listed here, the talent starts to drop off reasonably quickly. There are worse options than Michael King or Lucas Luetge, but they’re fairly ordinary pitchers who aren’t likely to come crashing onto the scene in August and dominate in high-leverage situations.

Yet, here the Yankees are in the top spot. Part of that is that where the bullpen is good, it’s very good: if you paired Aroldis Chapman and Chad Green with a replacement-level staff (or the Rockies), you’d get a relief corps that still ranked in the top 15. Is Chapman the pitcher he was in his heyday with the Reds? No, but he remains an elite option. The projection systems are optimistic about him despite a relatively unimpressive 2021: his first-strike percentage was around his career numbers, so his bump in walks might have been a bit fluky, and the short-term spike in homers isn’t yet a worry. Chapman brought back his splitter last season after having previously traded it in for a changeup when he joined Cincinnati. If he can continue to develop that pitch, which is nastier than his 90 mph changeup, maybe he’ll have a second peak.

The Yankees have seen a lot of solid relievers move on to other clubs in recent years, but the one possible departure I hope they forestall with an extension is that of Chad Green. Chapman’s even better, but I think I’d argue that Green is the more consistent elite performer. He’s simplified his arsenal somewhat in recent year and mainly relies on high heat and a relatively fast curveball. If he’s not a Yankee in 2023, he’ll be making a lot of money as a closer elsewhere.

The hopes for Jonathan Loáisiga, Starting Pitcher, may have evaporated, but Jonathan Loáisiga, Elite Reliever, is looking pretty good right now. After some false starts in the majors, I think 2021 was a legitimate breakout season. Johnny Lasagna throws nearly as hard as Chapman does, and all the projections think his 8.79 K/9 in 2021 was well on the low side of expectations.

2. Brewers
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Josh Hader 67 14.9 3.6 1.1 .266 82.0% 2.68 2.77 2.0
Devin Williams 65 13.3 4.3 0.9 .294 79.1% 3.02 3.12 1.5
Brent Suter 72 7.8 2.7 1.4 .294 73.5% 4.22 4.38 0.1
Brad Boxberger 65 10.8 4.5 1.5 .287 73.4% 4.47 4.57 0.0
Jake Cousins 58 11.4 3.9 1.1 .291 75.5% 3.63 3.73 0.4
Aaron Ashby 54 10.7 4.2 0.9 .299 75.3% 3.58 3.67 0.3
Trevor Gott 48 9.4 3.8 1.5 .292 71.1% 4.68 4.66 -0.0
Jandel Gustave 42 8.1 3.5 1.3 .294 70.9% 4.59 4.60 -0.0
José Ureña 38 6.9 3.2 1.4 .298 70.3% 4.85 4.90 -0.0
Luis Perdomo 32 7.6 3.5 1.2 .305 71.6% 4.48 4.50 0.0
Hoby Milner 30 10.0 2.7 1.5 .296 75.1% 3.95 4.10 0.0
J.C. Mejía 24 8.1 4.1 1.6 .296 70.7% 5.20 5.26 -0.1
Miguel Sánchez 21 8.4 3.9 1.5 .295 71.7% 4.79 4.90 -0.0
Angel Perdomo 18 12.1 5.7 1.2 .292 74.7% 4.12 4.29 0.0
Rex Brothers 12 12.0 6.1 1.4 .288 72.5% 4.79 4.82 -0.0
Justin Topa 10 7.7 3.2 1.3 .302 69.9% 4.71 4.53 0.0
Alec Bettinger 8 7.5 2.8 1.6 .296 70.2% 4.91 4.90 -0.0
Dylan File 6 7.0 2.6 1.7 .295 69.4% 5.09 5.11 -0.0
Eric Lauer 4 8.8 3.4 1.5 .292 72.2% 4.60 4.64 -0.0
Total 559 10.5 3.6 1.2 .290 76.1% 3.76 3.94 4.5

Josh Hader and Devin Williams are the best one-two punch in the majors, even better than Aaron Bummer and Liam Hendriks. Still two years away from free agency, Hader’s already in the top 50 in WAR for 21st-century relievers. If he meets his projection above — which would be his worst full season in the majors! — he’ll already be knocking on the door of the top 25. Sure, it would be fun to see Hader used in a role like a 1970s reliever and throw 130 innings over 40 games or something, but there’s a better chance of those 20-foot-long wood-paneled station wagons making a comeback.

After suffering a broken hand in a failed bout with boxing’s most feared foe, the wall, Williams missed the team’s abbreviated postseason. It probably wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the Brewers’ four-game series loss to the Braves, but you could really feel how Milwaukee’s ‘pen was made thinner by his absence. There’s something fascinating about Williams’ profile. A hard-thrower with imperfect command isn’t atypical, nor is a changeup specialist an unusual sighting. Now, mash them together and you’ve got Williams. The effects of the broken hand aren’t likely to linger, but he does have a significant injury history beyond his October mishap.

I’m still hoping to see Aaron Ashby get a chance at a starting job, but he’s incredibly useful helping to fill out a top-heavy bullpen. Based on the plate discipline data, ZiPS is quite comfortable that Ashby is better than his minor league walk rate. For the same reason, the system is less excited about Brad Boxberger, and remains suspicious of his progress in that department. Still, how can one root against the right-hander and his 80-grade Players Weekend emoji name?

Among relievers with 30 innings thrown in 2021, the top three in contact rate were all Brewers. Hader and Williams were first and third; Jake Cousins was second. He had an impressive debut for a guy who hadn’t pitched above A-ball before 2021, and his major league walk rate is out of sync with his much lower rate in the minors.

Once you get past the fun, soft-tossing Brent Suter, the quality takes a massive dip. None of José Ureña, Trevor Gott, or Jandel Gustave excite me any more than the projections do. As long as injuries don’t tear through the top of the ‘pen, though, they probably don’t need to.

3. White Sox
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Liam Hendriks 68 13.2 2.2 1.2 .286 80.7% 2.86 2.76 2.2
Aaron Bummer 65 10.6 3.9 0.7 .298 76.6% 3.07 3.22 1.4
Kendall Graveman 64 9.5 3.5 1.0 .293 74.4% 3.79 3.97 0.5
Reynaldo López 62 8.9 3.1 1.5 .285 72.2% 4.49 4.59 0.0
José Ruiz 56 9.2 4.0 1.4 .290 73.0% 4.47 4.59 0.1
Joe Kelly 53 9.9 4.2 0.8 .295 74.1% 3.64 3.73 0.4
Kyle Crick 47 9.2 5.1 1.5 .287 72.7% 4.88 5.23 -0.1
Ryan Burr 42 8.3 4.7 1.3 .293 71.6% 4.74 4.87 -0.1
Matt Foster 42 9.2 3.4 1.6 .287 73.6% 4.50 4.67 0.0
Bennett Sousa 33 9.0 3.5 1.4 .292 72.7% 4.36 4.47 0.0
Vince Velasquez 24 9.7 3.8 1.8 .290 72.3% 4.95 5.03 -0.0
Michael Kopech 20 11.6 3.7 1.3 .292 75.4% 3.82 3.80 0.1
Jimmy Lambert 18 8.9 4.1 1.7 .292 71.9% 4.98 5.10 -0.0
Anderson Severino 16 8.5 6.4 1.5 .294 72.0% 5.37 5.74 -0.1
Yoan Aybar 12 8.0 6.7 1.6 .291 70.8% 5.91 6.17 -0.1
Tyler Johnson 10 8.8 4.9 1.3 .295 72.0% 4.67 4.86 -0.0
Wes Benjamin 8 7.2 4.0 2.0 .292 70.6% 5.77 5.99 -0.0
Jonathan Stiever 6 7.9 2.9 2.0 .291 70.0% 5.34 5.38 -0.0
Total 565 9.9 3.8 1.3 .289 75.1% 3.97 4.17 4.4

Last July, I was in the minority in thinking that sending Nick Madrigal across town for Craig Kimbrel was a worthwhile, if expensive, trade for the Sox. Through the trade deadline, the Pale Hose bullpen ranked 10th in the majors in FIP and sixth in WAR, so while they weren’t plugging a major hole, four teams ranked ahead of them at the time, all of which were realistic postseason matchups. Flags fly forever, and Madrigal was out for the season.

But with Kendall Graveman inked to a three-year deal this winter, Kimbrel was probably the third or fourth-best option in the bullpen in 2022, which made him rather expensive as depth goes; White Sox relievers performed even better down the stretch, but that was primarily due to the other guys already in the ‘pen rather than their newest acquisition. Fortunately, the Sox were able to find an even better use for the right-hander, trading him to the Dodgers for A.J. Pollock, a player who provides the club with a much-needed outfielder.

At the top of the bullpen, it’s Liam Hendriks and Aaron Bummer who made Kimbrel just about redundant. Hendriks was his usual post-2018 self, mixing his slider in with a heater that seems to get better every year. Bummer’s been largely an unsung hero over the course of his career, but he throws almost hard as Hendriks, and though his control isn’t as pristine, his whiffability is high. He’s become an extreme groundball pitcher in recent years, in large part due to a very lively slider. Bummer’s average launch angle of -10.9 degrees was four degrees lower than the next most extreme wormburner. You can’t hit a barrel straight into the dirt!

Going back to Graveman, it was nice to see the White Sox spend this offseason, but I’m not sure that he was the best target for their resources given their needs elsewhere. He’s projected to be a large step behind Hendriks and Bummer, and you can make the argument that at the time of his signing, he was no better than the fourth or fifth-best reliever in the ‘pen, behind Garrett Crochet and Kimbrel.

Speaking of Crochet, the team’s depth has unfortunately thinned out due to more than just the Kimbrel trade. On Friday, it was announced that Crochet suffered a partial UCL tear while pitching in a Cactus League game; he’ll undergo Tommy John surgery this week. Before he went down, the projections saw the left-hander as being better than Kimbrel. That means a lot is riding on Joe Kelly’s health. The top of the bullpen is very good, but the loss of some depth leaves the team in a rather precarious position if a top arm joins Crochet on the IL. Despite the high ranking here even after losing Kimbrel and Crochet, the White Sox would still be smart to add a cheap arm or two for safety.

Reynaldo López should get a lot of innings in some capacity, whether it’s in the middle innings or filling in for Dallas Keuchel, Michael Kopech, or some other starter having an emergency. He had a solid 2021 season, but his history suggests a dose of skepticism is warranted.

4. Braves
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Will Smith 68 11.2 3.4 1.4 .286 75.5% 3.90 3.99 0.6
Kenley Jansen 70 11.4 3.5 1.3 .283 74.6% 3.79 3.80 0.9
Tyler Matzek 68 11.6 4.7 0.8 .294 75.8% 3.43 3.45 0.9
Collin McHugh 64 10.0 2.8 1.3 .291 73.1% 3.96 3.92 0.4
A.J. Minter 62 10.6 3.5 1.0 .302 74.8% 3.65 3.51 0.5
Darren O’Day 58 9.6 3.0 1.1 .298 71.4% 4.18 3.98 0.3
Tyler Thornburg 46 8.4 4.3 1.6 .295 70.8% 5.20 5.19 -0.1
Sean Newcomb 44 9.9 4.2 1.2 .294 73.1% 4.23 4.26 0.1
Kirby Yates 40 11.6 3.1 1.2 .297 74.7% 3.66 3.53 0.1
Spencer Strider 36 9.9 3.8 1.3 .294 73.0% 4.28 4.27 0.1
Jacob Webb 26 9.1 3.8 1.4 .296 72.3% 4.49 4.49 -0.0
Tucker Davidson 22 8.8 4.3 1.1 .300 72.0% 4.44 4.42 -0.0
Kyle Muller 18 9.3 4.8 1.3 .293 72.1% 4.61 4.66 -0.0
Luke Jackson 12 9.9 3.9 1.1 .306 74.1% 3.98 3.98 0.0
Kyle Wright 10 8.0 3.5 1.3 .301 70.2% 4.65 4.54 -0.0
Touki Toussaint 6 9.1 4.7 1.4 .299 70.6% 4.94 4.96 -0.0
Dylan Lee 4 8.8 3.2 1.3 .293 71.7% 4.26 4.26 0.0
Total 570 10.5 3.6 1.2 .293 74.8% 3.85 3.87 3.9

The Atlanta Braves probably have as good a bullpen as a team can without an elite arm as the headliner. How often does it not really matter who a club’s closer is? Atlanta has about six or seven guys at the top who are all in roughly the same tier, and I’d be hard-pressed to guess which of them is actually the best reliever on the depth chart. Maybe a healthy Kirby Yates, but it’s been a while since we’ve seen that (and who knows if we ever will).

Kenley Jansen appears to be the favorite to get saves, as teams don’t generally give $16 million to a closer just to make him the seventh-inning guy. But I do hope the Braves take advantage of their depth here, rather than having money or seniority dictate the role; if I see Bryce Harper coming up in the ninth in a tight game, I’d much rather see Will Smith or Tyler Matzek on the mound.

When Jansen’s cutter is working, he has periods where he looks like Mariano Rivera. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work, leading to too many games where he looks like Geraldo Rivera. The cutter is what makes him go. Now, he’s reduced its considerably from the early days when he threw it 80-90% of the time, but I remain unconvinced that his sinker and slider can stand on their own without his signature pitch.

Smith, meanwhile, doesn’t have a changeup that he consistently trusts, leading him to using his slider and curve aggressively in a similar way against righties. They’re both good enough pitches that he’s rarely punished for it and it’s a large part of why he has tame platoon splits for a left-handed pitcher. Matzek has had a long road, going from a hard-throwing Rockies prospect, to pitching in the independent American Association, to starring in the 2021 playoffs. He’s dialed his velocity back to what it was when Colorado drafted him. To be honest, if I had to choose one Brave to be my closer it would be him.

A lot of GMs ought to hang their heads in shame at letting Collin McHugh go to the Braves for just $10 million over two years. I’d rather have him than Jansen, Graveman, Kelly or any number of the other higher-paid relievers who signed this winter. No, he doesn’t throw hard, but McHugh has improved every year with his slider and cutter, and can paint the corners with either pitch with the best of them.

Atlanta’s deep roster allows them to leverage submariner Darren O’Day in that rarest of relief roles: the ROOGY. Tyler Thornburg’s probably the worst reliever on the team, but he’s had an excellent spring and seems likely to be at the end of the bench here. I don’t think Thornburg is as good an option as Spencer Strider, but I’d rather Strider be starting in the majors or minors than throwing occasional low-leverage innings.

5. Dodgers
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Craig Kimbrel 66 13.3 4.3 1.4 .279 77.6% 3.75 3.85 0.7
Blake Treinen 70 10.0 3.4 0.9 .292 74.1% 3.46 3.47 1.2
Brusdar Graterol 63 8.7 3.0 0.9 .297 74.0% 3.56 3.75 0.8
Alex Vesia 62 11.7 4.5 1.5 .281 75.5% 4.12 4.34 0.2
Daniel Hudson 60 10.8 3.4 1.4 .284 74.1% 4.06 4.10 0.3
Phil Bickford 52 10.0 3.5 1.4 .285 73.2% 4.16 4.29 0.1
David Price 48 8.8 2.8 1.4 .294 74.3% 4.10 4.32 0.0
Evan Phillips 42 10.1 4.2 1.4 .298 73.8% 4.34 4.50 0.0
Tommy Kahnle 40 11.8 3.4 1.3 .291 76.2% 3.65 3.69 0.1
Danny Duffy 38 10.3 2.9 1.5 .287 75.1% 3.98 4.09 0.1
Justin Bruihl 36 8.4 3.2 1.2 .293 74.0% 4.03 4.23 0.0
Victor González 28 8.8 3.7 1.1 .300 74.0% 3.95 4.18 0.0
Tony Gonsolin 20 9.4 3.9 1.7 .283 73.0% 4.71 4.89 -0.0
Caleb Ferguson 17 11.8 3.8 1.2 .294 76.4% 3.62 3.75 0.0
Garrett Cleavinger 12 10.9 5.3 1.2 .288 74.4% 4.29 4.46 0.0
Dustin May 11 9.7 2.6 1.1 .295 74.4% 3.60 3.59 0.0
Tyler Anderson 10 7.5 2.4 1.9 .287 71.5% 5.00 5.12 -0.0
Yency Almonte 8 8.7 4.5 1.5 .295 71.9% 4.93 5.07 -0.0
Mitch White 6 9.1 3.1 1.4 .292 72.8% 4.26 4.30 0.0
Shane Greene 5 8.5 3.3 1.6 .289 72.4% 4.67 4.84 -0.0
Andrew Heaney 4 9.9 2.5 1.7 .292 73.9% 4.38 4.43 0.0
Total 553 10.7 3.3 1.2 .286 77.4% 3.57 3.83 3.8

I find the Dodgers’ approach here to be a bit confusing. If you’re going to trade a legitimate starting outfielder for an expensive reliever, why not just extend Joe Kelly or sign another relief arm in the first place? I think Kimbrel is still a good pitcher, but his down stretches last too long at this point to call him a special arm anymore. Maybe he’s a direct replacement for Kenley Jansen in a philosophical sense, as that’s about how I feel about LA’s ex-closer.

Blake Trienen is back, thanks to a 2021 season that saw his cutter finally truly shine. If you watch Treinen pitch, his sinker and slider follow the same path for a relatively long time before violently diverging. The cutter he’s increasingly used gives batters a third dire choice. How often does a reliever throws 98 mph, and that velocity is the least interesting aspect of his repertoire?

In one of my little neural network goofings-around last year, Brusdar Graterol got the nickname of “Cannonball.” That seems fitting to me; the big 23-year-old’s fastball could probably destroy castles as effectively as medieval siege equipment. I think he’ll be a closer someday, but he still needs to figure out his cutter and how to finish off at-bats, because his strikeout rate doesn’t match his stuff yet.

ZiPS is especially grumpy about Alex Vesia’s walk rate, but I’m more optimistic. Daniel Hudson is dependable, if unexciting, and I suspect all the projections may be low on Phil Bickford. Add in a starter who doesn’t make the rotation and some interesting back-of-the-‘pen names and the Dodgers looks solid here, even without someone on the level of a Hader or a Hendriks.

6. Angels
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Raisel Iglesias 70 12.2 2.4 1.2 .290 79.3% 3.07 3.06 1.8
Mike Mayers 68 10.4 3.3 1.3 .294 74.5% 3.98 3.96 0.7
Ryan Tepera 65 10.2 3.6 1.3 .284 72.8% 4.07 4.11 0.6
Aaron Loup 62 9.0 2.9 1.0 .296 73.7% 3.68 3.78 0.5
Archie Bradley 60 7.9 3.7 1.3 .297 72.3% 4.52 4.70 0.0
Austin Warren 56 8.9 4.3 1.2 .297 72.6% 4.45 4.55 0.1
José Quijada 52 10.9 4.7 1.3 .290 75.1% 4.13 4.34 0.1
Jimmy Herget 42 8.9 4.2 1.5 .291 71.9% 4.88 5.00 -0.1
Andrew Wantz 35 9.5 3.8 1.6 .291 72.2% 4.68 4.78 0.0
Oliver Ortega 30 8.5 4.5 1.3 .296 71.7% 4.67 4.79 -0.0
Kyle Barraclough 27 10.5 5.0 1.5 .294 72.0% 4.83 4.85 -0.0
Michael Lorenzen 22 8.0 3.8 1.2 .294 71.4% 4.47 4.53 0.0
Wander Suero 18 9.0 3.3 1.5 .293 72.5% 4.50 4.59 0.0
Ty Buttrey 16 9.4 3.0 1.2 .297 73.7% 3.96 4.01 0.0
Jaime Barría 14 6.6 2.6 1.9 .294 69.3% 5.40 5.42 -0.0
Daniel Ponce de Leon 12 9.4 4.9 1.6 .284 72.2% 5.00 5.22 -0.0
Jhonathan Diaz 10 7.8 3.6 1.2 .298 70.9% 4.57 4.63 -0.0
Griffin Canning 9 9.4 3.4 1.5 .290 72.8% 4.48 4.55 0.0
Jose Marte 8 8.9 5.6 1.3 .296 71.0% 5.03 5.10 -0.0
Elvis Peguero 6 7.6 3.9 1.3 .300 70.9% 4.82 4.87 -0.0
Janson Junk 4 6.9 3.7 1.7 .298 69.3% 5.51 5.51 -0.0
Total 563 9.7 3.5 1.3 .291 75.1% 3.97 4.16 3.8

There’s a lot not to like about how the Angels are run. The Halos play in a gigantic market, in a division with a leader that’s only projected to win 90 games, and the club has two of the best players the team will ever roster — Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani — under contract in their primes. Yet this winter, there seemed to almost be an almost defiant unwillingness to address some of the largest holes on the roster.

The bullpen, however, is not one of those holes. Raisel Iglesias, the team’s closer, was re-signed to a four-year contract. For a time, he had slipped out of that first tier of closers, but it turned out he had another gear, as he simultaneously improved his control while being harder to make contact against.

Ryan Tepera has been one of my favorite sleepers for a long time — hey, he got an MVP vote! — and he had a dynamite season in 2021, posting a career-best 2.73 FIP in 65 appearances. In the end, it wasn’t the Kimbrel trade that provided the biggest short-term boost to the White Sox bullpen, but the less headline-grabbing swap of Tepera for Bailey Horn.

Aaron Loup will be the team’s southpaw-slaying paladin, and is useful enough against righties that he doesn’t have to be limited to that role. Mike Mayers returns to fill out the front of the ‘pen. After looking like a fringe major leaguer just a couple of years ago, Mayers learned a cutter from a picture of Mariano Rivera’s grip on Instagram. Its effectiveness dropped off from 2020 to ’21, but his struggles there were largely due to a .418 BABIP.

Whether the Angels can become an elite bullpen may depend on two question marks: Austin Warren and Archie Bradley. Warren was effective with the Angels in his short rookie campaign, but there are some concerns that his minor league record wasn’t quite as impressive as a cursory glance might suggest. Among the projection systems, there’s a significant divide between THEBAT on the positive side, and ZiPS and Steamer on the negative. I can’t say for sure why Steamer is sour, but ZiPS sees his minor league walk history and Warren’s tendency to fall behind early in the count with the Angels as a reason to worry that his low walk rate was a mirage.

Bradley’s an interesting gamble. His velocity has ticked down and he’s not really a pure power pitcher, instead inducing a lot of very weak grounders with his sinker. But you don’t really whiff batters with sinkers, and when his curve isn’t on, as it mostly wasn’t in 2021, he struggles to finish off batters. I think Bradley’s viability depends on that knuckle-curve, which has occasionally caused broken fingernails. His location isn’t really sharp enough to go full-on control pitcher, so he really needs some pitch for batters to whiff on. Like a contestant on a competitive cooking show, Bradley has a lot of interesting ingredients, but not a lot of time to figure out how to make them a cohesive meal.

7. Mets
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Edwin Díaz 67 13.4 3.4 1.0 .289 79.5% 2.98 3.08 1.6
Adam Ottavino 67 11.1 4.9 1.0 .287 74.3% 3.77 3.89 0.6
Seth Lugo 70 9.9 2.7 1.3 .287 74.5% 3.82 3.94 0.4
Trevor May 66 11.6 3.4 1.3 .289 76.0% 3.66 3.66 0.5
Joely Rodríguez 60 9.8 3.4 0.9 .299 75.9% 3.39 3.47 0.5
Drew Smith 56 9.1 3.5 1.5 .285 73.6% 4.44 4.64 -0.0
Trevor Williams 47 8.1 2.6 1.4 .293 72.5% 4.35 4.45 -0.0
Chasen Shreve 40 9.1 4.2 1.6 .283 73.2% 4.69 4.98 -0.1
Sean Reid-Foley 33 10.3 5.1 1.3 .290 73.4% 4.47 4.59 -0.0
Jake Reed 28 8.7 3.7 1.4 .294 72.4% 4.50 4.62 -0.0
Alex Claudio 22 7.0 3.3 1.1 .297 71.8% 4.22 4.42 -0.0
Yoan López 20 8.4 3.6 1.3 .295 73.0% 4.26 4.39 0.0
Félix Peña 14 8.0 3.3 1.4 .289 70.6% 4.62 4.65 -0.0
Tylor Megill 12 9.6 3.1 1.4 .295 73.6% 4.23 4.28 0.0
Yennsy Díaz 11 7.6 4.2 1.7 .286 71.1% 5.20 5.43 -0.0
Jordan Yamamoto 10 7.8 3.8 1.7 .284 70.0% 5.20 5.31 -0.0
Mike Montgomery 8 7.1 3.2 1.2 .299 72.3% 4.38 4.57 -0.0
Colin Holderman 4 7.5 4.6 1.3 .297 69.9% 4.96 5.01 -0.0
Total 551 10.1 3.5 1.2 .288 75.8% 3.77 3.97 3.5

At what point can we stop worrying about Edwin Díaz? For someone with the reputation of being an erratic pitcher, he’s had few truly awful stretches in his major league career, and the worst of those, 2019, came with some pretty significant mitigating circumstances: home runs spikes as severe as his tend to be flukes, as do BABIPs hovering around .400. Díaz throws very hard, but it’s his slider that closes out at-bats, with hitters doing the sad-Michael-Cera-in-Arrested Development walk back to the dugout. As long as that slider can hit its spots, Díaz will be effective, even if it is in the DNA of Mets fans to assume that every happy moment is just one wrong turn (or misplaced pitch) away from disaster.

Adam Ottavino walks more batters than is ideal, but his slider-of-many-colors makes him maddening difficult to punish for those free passes. A disciplined lefty, however, can effectively counter his stuff. That last point for Ottavino is a significant one because the Mets, while having a solid bullpen on an overall basis, are susceptible to lefties. As a whole, they ranked in the middle of the pack against lefties, but by far the most effective performers were Díaz and Aaron Loup. Díaz isn’t available for situational duty and Loup is in Anaheim this year. If the club is able to squeeze a solid season out of either Chasen Shreve or Alex Claudio, both non-roster invitees, it would take a lot of late-inning hassles off manager Buck Showalter’s shoulders.

Trevor May and Seth Lugo, on the other hand, are as solid as they come. Just as you’d naturally drop an inferior weapon in Fortnite, May culled the curveball from his repertoire a few years ago, leaving his mix a tight fastball-slider-change triad. His uptick in velocity in recent years has continued, too. I wouldn’t worry about Lugo’s small uptick in walk rate; his first-strike rate also jumped and that tends to be a leading indicator of future walk rate.

If you’re going to believe the advanced data with Lugo, then you might as well continue to with recent acquisition Joely Rodríguez. His drop-off in K/9 from 2020 to ’21 is scary, but less so when you consider that his swinging strike rate went up and his contact rate went down. The Mets are clearly banking on a better season from him given the challenge trade just made, and I am too. ZiPS is even more positive than I am.

8. Twins
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Taylor Rogers 67 11.3 2.4 0.8 .304 77.9% 2.86 2.81 1.9
Tyler Duffey 66 9.3 3.4 1.2 .293 72.4% 4.11 4.09 0.4
Jorge Alcala 62 9.5 3.3 1.3 .297 71.9% 4.24 4.10 0.3
Caleb Thielbar 62 9.6 3.0 1.4 .294 73.3% 4.14 4.13 0.4
Joe Smith 58 7.2 2.3 1.3 .299 71.5% 4.39 4.42 0.1
Jharel Cotton 54 9.1 4.1 1.4 .295 72.3% 4.64 4.65 0.1
Jhoan Duran 46 9.1 4.2 1.1 .301 72.2% 4.22 4.26 0.1
Cody Stashak 45 10.1 3.0 1.4 .298 73.2% 4.31 4.16 0.2
Jhon Romero 40 7.8 3.2 1.3 .298 70.1% 4.66 4.50 -0.0
Griffin Jax 34 7.0 3.1 1.8 .297 68.4% 5.44 5.33 -0.1
Jovani Moran 32 10.8 5.2 1.0 .298 74.0% 4.12 4.16 0.0
Josh Winder 28 7.6 2.9 1.5 .295 70.3% 4.76 4.70 -0.0
Devin Smeltzer 20 7.4 2.7 1.4 .294 70.5% 4.63 4.65 0.0
Danny Coulombe 18 8.8 3.0 1.2 .299 72.9% 4.07 4.08 0.0
Juan Minaya 16 9.1 4.3 1.3 .295 72.2% 4.58 4.65 -0.0
Lewis Thorpe 14 7.5 3.3 1.5 .302 70.6% 4.92 4.86 -0.0
Yennier Cano 12 8.6 4.7 1.1 .301 71.5% 4.60 4.59 0.0
Ryan Mason 10 8.0 4.1 1.3 .301 70.7% 4.84 4.80 -0.0
Jake Faria 10 8.8 4.0 1.5 .300 71.1% 4.86 4.78 -0.0
Randy Dobnak 8 5.9 2.7 1.1 .308 70.0% 4.53 4.45 0.0
Argenis Angulo 6 8.7 5.3 1.4 .296 70.6% 5.18 5.14 -0.0
Chi Chi González 4 6.2 3.3 1.6 .295 68.5% 5.33 5.33 -0.0
Total 609 9.0 3.1 1.2 .297 73.5% 4.10 4.12 3.4

Congrats to the eighth-best bullpen in baseball: Taylor Rogers! OK, that’s a bit of hyperbole on my part, but it isn’t as far off as you might think, so it’s not just me being a jerk. Rogers is the only Twins reliever projected for a FIP under four; of the bottom 15 bullpens in our rankings, six have multiple relievers who manage that. And Target Field isn’t exactly Coors Field, either.

With Minnesota making additions to be more competitive in the short-term, a lot is riding on Rogers, who missed a large chunk of 2021 with a middle finger sprain; one could say that the Twins are more reliant on a left middle finger than angry drivers across the country. Rogers was having his most dominant season to date before the injury, striking out 13 batters a game, with his control at its usual impeccable level. What’s always amazed me is how effective he is against righties without having some kind of changeup; he’s absolutely fearless in throwing his slider against them, almost using it as a pseudo-offspeed pitch.

Of the rest of the ‘pen, Cody Stashak may be the most interesting. Because in his slider, he actually has a pitch that batters will flail away at, and he’ll throw to anyone in any count. He’s unlikely to repeat last season’s .389 BABIP or 5.7 BB/9 in 2022, but one can kind of understand the Twins being conservative with his usage given his back injury and that offensive ERA.

Hard-throwing Jorge Alcala has upside, but he also has to figure out how to mitigate his large platoon splits, which were present when he was in the minors, too. Oddly enough, it’s not his slider that’s the culprit against lefties but his 97 mph fastball. Against his heater, lefties slugged .857 in 2020 and .793 in ’21. On the plus side, you can probably teach someone how to use a 97 mph fastball more easily than how to throw one.

Joe Smith was never a flamethrower, but his fastball is approaching Jered Weaver territory, giving his slider an ever-larger challenge to surmount. He may be effective for another season, but I think he’s right on the edge of a full collapse. Speaking of collapses, Tyler Duffey’s massive drop-off in strikeout rate last season was certainly unwelcome, driven by batters no longer chasing his ordinary fastball or his knuckle-curve. There’s a bit of chicken-or-the-egg here: did he walk more batters because he had to nibble more or did a loss of command cause batters to be more patient early in the count?

9. Red Sox
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Matt Barnes 67 12.2 4.3 1.1 .297 74.7% 3.68 3.55 1.3
Jake Diekman 70 11.7 5.1 1.0 .298 74.2% 3.93 4.02 0.5
Garrett Whitlock 68 9.1 2.9 1.0 .303 72.5% 3.86 3.71 0.7
Ryan Brasier 68 8.5 3.2 1.2 .297 72.8% 4.27 4.27 0.1
Hirokazu Sawamura 61 10.1 4.7 1.1 .299 73.4% 4.14 4.20 0.2
Matt Strahm 56 8.5 2.3 1.3 .302 71.1% 4.27 4.10 0.1
Hansel Robles 56 9.6 3.8 1.3 .296 72.4% 4.44 4.36 0.0
Austin Davis 48 9.2 4.2 1.2 .300 71.0% 4.50 4.36 0.1
Josh Taylor 47 10.7 3.9 1.0 .302 73.4% 3.83 3.73 0.1
Darwinzon Hernandez 36 12.1 5.7 1.0 .296 75.0% 3.95 4.03 0.0
Kutter Crawford 26 9.2 3.5 1.3 .305 70.6% 4.60 4.33 0.0
Michael Wacha 20 8.1 2.7 1.5 .310 69.4% 4.92 4.57 0.0
Rich Hill 18 7.9 3.2 1.5 .292 69.0% 4.94 4.89 -0.0
Phillips Valdez 14 7.8 4.4 1.3 .307 69.3% 5.15 5.03 -0.0
John Schreiber 13 8.2 3.4 1.2 .306 71.4% 4.52 4.37 0.0
Eduard Bazardo 12 8.1 3.6 1.5 .298 70.7% 4.83 4.83 -0.0
Derek Holland 12 9.3 3.5 1.3 .297 73.2% 4.30 4.34 0.0
Tanner Houck 10 9.6 3.4 1.2 .301 70.1% 4.37 4.11 0.0
Ralph Garza Jr. 8 8.3 4.1 1.5 .299 69.3% 5.13 4.99 -0.0
Michael Feliz 6 9.2 3.7 1.4 .299 70.0% 4.80 4.53 0.0
Total 595 10.0 3.7 1.1 .300 74.0% 3.96 3.94 3.4

Boston’s bullpen seems to be in a much better place than it was this time last year. A lot of that has to do with the emergence of Garrett Whitlock, who stayed healthy and had a terrific rookie season that extended well into October. He may eventually end up back in the rotation — I think the Red Sox would be crazy to completely rule out a starting role until they’re sure they don’t want him there — but while he’s in the ‘pen, he’s a big plus. He found success using his slider in a bit of an atypical fashion: rather than simply lure same-hand batters to flail at low-and-outside witchery, he also used it a lot like a cutter, dangling it on the edge at lots of different heights. He was actually just as likely throw the slider when behind in the count than with two strikes, breaking the usual pattern.

Matt Barnes opened 2021 as the team’s closer and for four months, he made the club very happy about its decision. Making his first All-Star team, Barnes was sterling, posting a 2.09 FIP and whiffing 15 batters a game. It took an erratic six weeks for him to basically lose the job, at least in 2021, and he missed some time in September due to COVID. The Red Sox had so little faith in him that he only made the ALDS roster due to a Garrett Richards injury and was left off the ALCS roster entirely. The Red Sox are far from giving up on him, but he’s going to have to earn his job back.

Boston added Jake Diekman for a relatively small sum at just $7 million over two years, which is cheap considering what decent middle relievers are going for. Sure, Diekman’s control isn’t very good, but then, it’s never been very good. I’m also not worried about the home run spike; Fenway hasn’t been a good home run park for two generations now. Now, I wouldn’t bring him in if there are multiple runners on, but I’d be perfectly content to have him start innings when he can spare a free pass. You don’t get perfect pitchers for $3 million a year.

I don’t see much star potential in either Ryan Brasier or Hirokazu Sawamura, but they’re basically only expected to eat up innings in the middle of games.

10. Rays
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Andrew Kittredge 70 9.9 2.2 1.0 .296 75.2% 3.22 3.21 1.3
JT Chargois 64 9.8 4.0 1.0 .290 74.6% 3.78 3.99 0.3
Matt Wisler 63 10.4 2.9 1.4 .290 74.7% 3.88 3.88 0.5
J.P. Feyereisen 60 9.7 4.7 1.3 .280 73.1% 4.35 4.53 -0.0
Ryan Thompson 58 8.8 2.7 1.1 .292 73.7% 3.71 3.80 0.3
Brooks Raley 55 9.6 3.6 0.9 .294 74.3% 3.55 3.68 0.3
Luis Patiño 52 9.5 3.7 1.4 .286 72.5% 4.37 4.44 0.0
Jason Adam 44 10.8 4.6 1.5 .283 73.7% 4.48 4.70 -0.1
Jeffrey Springs 40 11.7 3.6 1.2 .293 77.0% 3.52 3.52 0.1
Jalen Beeks 38 8.5 3.4 1.2 .300 73.5% 4.11 4.28 0.0
Pete Fairbanks 34 11.5 3.7 1.0 .295 77.0% 3.42 3.48 0.1
Colin Poche 32 11.2 3.4 1.3 .276 74.9% 3.82 3.92 0.0
Josh Fleming 20 6.2 2.5 1.2 .298 71.3% 4.33 4.47 -0.0
Nick Anderson 17 9.9 2.8 1.4 .281 74.9% 3.87 3.99 0.0
Yonny Chirinos 14 7.6 2.5 1.3 .286 71.2% 4.22 4.28 0.0
Drew Rasmussen 12 9.7 3.6 1.1 .290 73.5% 3.94 3.95 0.0
Brendan McKay 11 9.9 3.2 1.3 .288 74.9% 3.88 3.99 0.0
Phoenix Sanders 10 9.3 3.3 1.1 .290 73.9% 3.84 3.98 0.0
Calvin Faucher 6 8.7 4.9 1.2 .296 72.8% 4.49 4.66 -0.0
Total 558 10.1 3.2 1.1 .287 76.8% 3.47 3.69 3.2

Andrew Kittredge becomes the leader in the battle for saves among Rays relievers. That spot won’t be ill-earned, either. After having the shortened 2020 season further shortened by an elbow injury, Kittredge picked up where he left off last year, finishing with a 3.04 FIP in 57 appearances. He’s capable of going longer than an inning when the need arises, too. One could make the argument he’s a bit safer than the currently injured Pete Fairbanks, who goes through stretches where his relationship with the strike zone is strained.

Midseason pickup JT Chargois returns towards the top of the depth chart. His strikeout rate dropped quite a bit in 2021, but I wouldn’t panic just yet; there was no worrisome velocity falloff, and the projection systems expect him to have a solid bounce-back. Matt Wisler’s status as a major leaguer may finally be on firm ground after his best season in the bigs. After years of playing the fringy nomad spot starter, that has to be a welcome change. Wisler and White Castle have similar business models: lots and lots of sliders.

The rest of the Rays ‘pen is quite well-staffed as usual. Breakout minor league veteran Ryan Thompson returns, and all the projection systems agree on him being a B+ or so middle reliever. Luis Patiño will likely snag some starts in addition to his relief duties. Soft-tossing Brooks Raley leads Tampa’s southpaws, and will receive aid from 2022 breakout Jeffrey Springs, and likely Jalen Beeks and perhaps Josh Fleming at points. The Rays will probably end up with four or five guys at Triple-A who would make half the ‘pens in baseball.

11. Padres
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Pierce Johnson 64 10.9 3.9 1.2 .289 74.4% 3.90 3.90 0.7
Craig Stammen 64 8.1 2.1 1.0 .298 72.1% 3.79 3.70 0.7
Emilio Pagán 62 10.1 3.0 1.7 .280 73.8% 4.44 4.55 0.1
Tim Hill 61 8.6 3.2 1.0 .294 73.7% 3.72 3.99 0.3
Robert Suarez 60 9.4 3.1 1.1 .293 74.6% 3.79 3.84 0.4
Dinelson Lamet 58 11.3 3.5 1.2 .292 75.4% 3.64 3.68 0.4
Austin Adams 56 11.5 5.0 1.1 .296 75.7% 3.87 4.14 0.1
Luis García 54 9.5 4.0 1.2 .293 71.7% 4.29 4.30 0.1
Drew Pomeranz 38 11.0 4.4 1.0 .295 74.6% 3.85 3.79 0.1
Nick Martínez 34 8.6 3.2 1.2 .293 71.8% 4.20 4.12 0.0
Chris Paddack 25 8.9 2.1 1.5 .290 72.9% 4.08 4.10 0.0
Nabil Crismatt 22 8.2 2.9 1.4 .295 72.7% 4.40 4.53 -0.0
Javy Guerra 16 8.8 3.6 1.2 .292 71.9% 4.20 4.17 0.0
Steven Wilson 14 11.0 4.0 1.2 .289 75.8% 3.83 3.95 0.0
Mike Clevinger 10 9.9 3.0 1.2 .283 75.1% 3.65 3.77 0.0
Ryan Weathers 10 7.0 3.2 1.5 .294 70.7% 4.82 4.90 -0.0
Adrian Morejon 9 10.8 3.6 1.0 .299 75.5% 3.65 3.50 0.0
Ray Kerr 6 8.3 4.9 1.2 .298 71.7% 4.75 4.89 -0.0
José Castillo 4 11.6 3.8 1.1 .289 76.5% 3.47 3.60 0.0
Total 549 10.0 3.2 1.2 .290 75.8% 3.65 3.81 3.1

In an effort to conserve the health of the starting pitchers after an abbreviated 2020, San Diego rode the bullpen very hard in the first half of last season: Padres relievers led the league in innings thrown before the All-Star Game at 394 1/3. With a 2.85 ERA and a 3.91 FIP, things were working according to plan. Over the second half, however, the Padres were the 23rd-ranked bullpen, and to add insult to injury, it didn’t even prevent their starters from landing on the IL. With new manager Bob Melvin responsible for cleaning up the mess left behind by last year’s late-season disaster, it’s likely the club’s pitcher usage will be more traditional. Last season, Oakland starters threw more innings than any other team.

Last year’s closer, Mark Melancon, is gone, and the team has not yet officially named a new one. And there are a number of fascinating candidates. Curveball machine Pierce Johnson was one of the few Padres who didn’t implode late last summer; his occasional lapses in control are the least damaging starting off innings. Emilio Pagán looks like a closer in some respects, as he throws hard and has occupied that role before, but his tendency to sometimes get hit very hard usually inflates his numbers, and I can’t imagine the Padres using the worst-projected reliever here.

Robert Suarez is my favorite reliever on the team and will absolutely be on my breakouts list, which will run after Opening Day. Unlike some veterans signed from Japan, he was never part of MLB’s development system. He didn’t play professional ball until well into his 20s when he signed with the Mexican League. He made it over to the NPB in 2016 and absolutely dominated closing for Hanshin the last two years. He can hit triple digits and throws an alternative two-seamer that swaps a few ticks for movement. Suarez also relies on a changeup, though he still has his older splitter available. Unlike a lot of players of this type, there are no associated control issues; he only walked eight batters in 62 1/3 innings in 2021.

Dinelson Lamet is another closer option, provided he’s healthy. I loved Lamet as a starter, but I think we’ve reached the point where we have to accept his arm just can’t handle throwing that much. Tim Hill and Craig Stammen also return from last year’s team, as does a long-time ZiPS favorite, the occasionally wild Austin Adams. “Occasionally” may be kind, as last season, he was one of the rare pitchers to hit so many batters that he actually has a meaningful HBP zone profile: he plunks right-handed batters high and left-handed ones at the equator and south.

Rounding out the bullpen will likely be a starter or two who is not initially needed in the rotation, someone like Chris Paddack or Ryan Weathers, who was optioned to Triple-A on Sunday.

12. Astros
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Ryan Pressly 66 11.1 2.5 1.0 .295 78.3% 2.95 2.99 1.6
Ryne Stanek 70 11.3 4.4 1.4 .279 75.0% 4.16 4.31 0.3
Héctor Neris 74 11.2 3.7 1.3 .286 75.7% 3.81 3.99 0.5
Phil Maton 64 9.9 3.8 1.2 .291 73.9% 4.01 4.14 0.2
Blake Taylor 58 8.5 4.9 1.2 .288 72.5% 4.57 4.79 -0.0
Rafael Montero 54 8.6 2.9 1.2 .297 73.6% 4.07 4.18 0.1
Bryan Abreu 46 10.3 5.5 1.0 .294 73.9% 4.23 4.41 0.0
Cristian Javier 44 11.3 4.3 1.4 .275 73.4% 4.27 4.36 0.1
Pedro Báez 34 8.0 3.7 1.4 .280 72.1% 4.61 4.81 -0.0
Jake Odorizzi 32 8.8 2.8 1.5 .285 73.2% 4.30 4.44 0.0
Ronel Blanco 24 9.3 4.2 1.4 .290 72.3% 4.49 4.61 -0.0
Seth Martinez 22 9.0 3.6 1.4 .291 72.7% 4.36 4.46 0.0
Josh James 14 11.1 4.8 1.4 .290 74.3% 4.27 4.43 0.0
Brandon Bielak 11 8.7 3.7 1.4 .294 72.3% 4.47 4.58 -0.0
Adam Morgan 10 9.5 3.6 1.3 .292 73.2% 4.18 4.24 0.0
Peter Solomon 8 8.8 3.8 1.4 .288 72.5% 4.46 4.60 0.0
Enoli Paredes 4 10.2 5.7 1.3 .290 72.9% 4.66 4.82 -0.0
Total 523 10.2 3.7 1.2 .285 76.2% 3.79 4.04 3.1

Houston’s relief corps actually fares a good bit better than it did in last year’s version of this exercise, which saw the group rank 23rd. The problem? The bullpen at the time looked a lot like Ryan Pressly and The Other Dudes. They didn’t collectively shock the world and dominate the league, but they performed a good bit better than they were expected to, finishing comfortably in the middle of the pack.

Pressly, of course, had a lot to do with that ranking, and this one. If i was 1983 and you were headed to David Bowie or Elvis Costello concert, your impression of the evening would be based on what they did, not on whether one of The Attractions had a killer night. Even with bullpen ranked more highly this time around, half of the value projects to come from Pressly.

Héctor Neris, who signed a two-year, $17 million contract this winter, is a safe bet to pick up some of the higher-leverage innings that Pressly doesn’t. Neris is normally fairly hard to make good contact against, but he’s sometimes mistake-prone and allows the occasional gopher ball. Ryne Stanek is still an incredibly frustrating pitcher, so I’d be careful bringing him in for moments that are high leverage because of the base state rather than a close score, at least until he figures out how to exorcise his control demons. Still, he was a clever pickup, signed after being non-tended by the Marlins.

Phil Maton gets his usual solid projection, but at some point, you’d hope that his solid FIP results would translate into allowing fewer actual, rather than theoretical, runs. Adam Morgan won’t make my sleeper list, but I still think he’s a decent addition and only required a minor-league contract. A few years ago, it looked like his top-notch slider had him on the verge of becoming one of the better setup men in the league. That hasn’t happened yet, but for pitchers, where there’s an intact rotator cuff, there’s hope.

13. Blue Jays
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Jordan Romano 66 11.8 3.5 1.2 .283 77.6% 3.36 3.50 1.1
Adam Cimber 72 6.4 2.6 1.0 .292 71.0% 4.13 4.31 0.3
Tim Mayza 62 9.6 3.4 1.0 .292 74.7% 3.60 3.69 0.7
Yimi García 60 9.5 2.9 1.5 .282 72.4% 4.28 4.35 0.1
Trevor Richards 56 10.2 3.3 1.4 .284 74.6% 3.97 4.04 0.3
Ross Stripling 54 8.5 2.5 1.6 .293 71.9% 4.49 4.47 0.1
Julian Merryweather 46 9.1 3.2 1.2 .300 71.9% 4.15 4.07 0.1
David Phelps 42 10.1 3.3 1.3 .293 73.0% 4.03 4.05 0.1
Nate Pearson 40 10.2 4.1 1.4 .288 73.8% 4.34 4.45 0.0
Ryan Borucki 30 8.7 4.0 1.1 .293 72.1% 4.23 4.25 0.0
Trent Thornton 25 8.7 3.2 1.5 .296 72.3% 4.58 4.60 0.0
Graham Spraker 24 7.7 3.9 1.5 .292 70.0% 5.07 5.14 -0.0
Thomas Hatch 22 8.2 3.3 1.5 .292 71.0% 4.74 4.80 -0.0
Andrew Vasquez 18 10.5 4.9 1.0 .298 73.0% 4.10 4.15 0.0
Anthony Castro 14 9.5 4.8 1.3 .295 71.9% 4.67 4.75 0.0
Anthony Kay 12 8.9 4.2 1.4 .294 71.8% 4.76 4.88 -0.0
Tayler Saucedo 12 7.7 3.7 1.3 .295 71.4% 4.53 4.68 -0.0
Bowden Francis 8 8.1 3.6 1.7 .287 70.7% 5.07 5.17 -0.0
Shaun Anderson 0 0.0 0.0 0.0 .000 100.0% 0.00 3.17 0.0
Total 548 9.3 3.1 1.3 .289 74.7% 3.88 4.05 3.0

The Toronto Blue Jays found themselves in a pickle last summer when most of their bullpen went on the shelf with various injuries. As a group, they ranked 25th in the league in WAR, a disappointing result given significantly higher preseason expectations. If the projections are to be believed, there’s reason for optimism in 2022. The Jays aren’t overloaded with dominant arms, but to quote Stalin for some odd reason, quantity has a quality of its own, and Toronto is likely to start the season with a nine-man bullpen that’s made up of relievers who are generally all known quantities.

Toronto may not have many elite arms, but Jordan Romano is one of them. The questions about his command that occasionally dogged him as a starting pitcher prospect are long gone, and unlike some hard throwers, his fastball is a real swing-and-miss weapon in its own right. A sprained ankle sustained while walking his dog isn’t expected to cause him any problems beyond the next several days.

Tim Mayza is likely the second-best arm in the bullpen. A breakout last season, Mayza has some nasty bite on his hard sinker, which ought to continue in 2022. Yimi García, a free agent signing from Houston, had his best season in terms of contact rate but remains occasionally homer-prone.

Two midseason pickups from last summer, Adam Cimber and Trevor Richards, will get their first full seasons in Toronto. Cimber doesn’t throw very hard, but he squeezes a lot of value from his submarine windup. He’s a situational player, given his career platoon splits. Richards thrived as a full-time reliever last year, but I still think he has some value as an emergency starter.

14. Royals
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Scott Barlow 74 11.0 3.8 1.0 .301 74.7% 3.69 3.57 1.3
Amir Garrett 68 10.5 4.6 1.1 .298 73.5% 4.09 4.12 0.5
Josh Staumont 62 10.4 4.8 1.1 .290 72.9% 4.17 4.14 0.5
Jake Brentz 63 10.6 4.9 1.0 .298 73.1% 4.12 4.15 0.2
Domingo Tapia 60 7.4 4.5 1.2 .298 70.5% 4.83 4.82 -0.2
Dylan Coleman 54 10.0 3.9 1.0 .299 73.7% 3.83 3.84 0.4
Taylor Clarke 52 7.6 3.3 1.4 .299 70.2% 4.83 4.72 -0.0
Gabe Speier 44 8.2 3.3 1.2 .303 71.6% 4.37 4.32 0.0
Collin Snider 35 6.2 3.4 1.3 .304 68.2% 5.10 4.97 -0.0
Joel Payamps 33 7.5 2.9 1.3 .299 70.1% 4.53 4.43 0.0
Jace Vines 26 6.7 4.1 1.1 .305 69.3% 4.87 4.77 -0.0
Jackson Kowar 22 8.7 3.8 1.2 .305 70.9% 4.61 4.45 0.0
Jon Heasley 18 7.0 3.3 1.3 .300 69.6% 4.87 4.80 -0.0
Tyler Zuber 14 9.3 4.9 1.3 .295 71.5% 4.77 4.77 -0.0
Arodys Vizcaíno 8 9.3 4.2 1.4 .292 72.8% 4.50 4.69 -0.0
Ronald Bolaños 6 7.9 4.7 1.2 .302 70.1% 4.88 4.83 -0.0
Brad Peacock 4 8.2 3.5 1.5 .298 69.8% 4.96 4.82 -0.0
Total 576 9.1 4.0 1.1 .299 72.6% 4.24 4.23 2.8

I’m not sure how many wins they’ll actually be asked to preserve, but the Kansas City Royals have assembled a solidly average bullpen group when the need does arise. Scott Barlow’s rarely been the subject of much hype, but when the Royals were rotating closers last summer, he was the one who did the best and got the nod the rest of the season. He throws hard (though nothing that impressive by 2022 standards), but his slider allows him to punch out batters.

Amir Garrett, acquired from the Reds for Mike Minor, will be lying in wait in case Barlow falters. There’s a large delta between Steamer and ZiPS on Garrett’s K/9 (9.5 vs. 11.4), so I’m very interested to see who’s right here. I’m not worried about the walk spike so much as the fact that he was hit really hard at times last year. Minor’s probably more valuable, but Garrett has more interesting upside, and if he has a good start to the year, he may finish the season in a contender’s bullpen.

Josh Staumont is probably the most stereotypical closer on the team, with his hard fastball mixed with a high-spin curve and occasional problems with walks. While he had a solid 3.35 FIP in 2021, the projections are widely skeptical about Domingo Tapia. He’s yet to figure out how to close out a strikeout, which really shouldn’t be a problem with his stuff. Sometimes players overcome this, though (see: Eovaldi, Nathan).

Jake Brentz’s 2021 walk rate could hardly be considered a highlight, but it was light years ahead of some of the seasons he had in the minors, which were nearly Steve Dalkowski-like. Barlow will have the closer job early on, but if his progress in a very small sample from this spring continues, Brentz’s chances will come. A lefty who can throw in the upper-90s will not be hurting for those.

15. Phillies
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Corey Knebel 62 11.5 3.8 1.2 .290 74.9% 3.79 3.74 0.9
José Alvarado 66 11.8 6.0 0.9 .296 75.6% 3.76 4.00 0.6
Jeurys Familia 67 9.3 4.1 1.2 .298 73.2% 4.19 4.29 0.3
Brad Hand 62 9.9 3.5 1.4 .290 74.3% 4.18 4.43 0.1
Connor Brogdon 58 9.5 3.4 1.4 .286 72.5% 4.32 4.34 0.3
Seranthony Domínguez 55 9.0 4.0 1.1 .293 72.6% 4.12 4.19 0.2
Ryan Sherriff 50 8.2 4.2 1.1 .295 72.5% 4.31 4.52 0.0
Sam Coonrod 46 9.7 3.8 1.1 .295 74.0% 3.90 4.00 0.2
Nick Nelson 38 9.8 5.1 1.3 .298 72.6% 4.61 4.70 -0.0
James Norwood 36 10.9 4.8 1.2 .295 74.8% 4.12 4.24 0.1
Bailey Falter 28 8.8 2.5 1.5 .292 73.2% 4.27 4.35 0.0
Damon Jones 24 9.4 5.8 1.1 .294 72.3% 4.59 4.76 -0.0
Cristopher Sánchez 16 8.8 4.7 1.1 .300 72.6% 4.37 4.45 0.0
Cam Bedrosian 12 8.4 3.9 1.4 .294 71.1% 4.73 4.73 0.0
Dillon Maples 9 11.2 6.8 1.0 .292 72.8% 4.51 4.78 -0.0
Kent Emanuel 6 7.2 2.8 1.5 .294 71.9% 4.65 4.83 -0.0
JoJo Romero 4 8.0 3.8 1.5 .297 70.8% 4.93 5.01 -0.0
Total 508 10.1 4.2 1.1 .292 75.7% 3.83 4.08 2.7

The Phillies finished last season with one of the worst bullpens in the game, ranking towards the bottom of baseball with a 4.60 ERA, a 4.61 FIP, and just 1.1 total WAR. And while we don’t project them to have any of the league’s top relievers, our various computers do gauge the Phils as having broadly improved such that they’re now around an average bullpen.

The team made a number of additions this winter, headed by Corey Knebel, formerly of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Knebel missed a large chunk of 2021 with a lat injury. His repertoire remains simple and effective: a mid-90s fastball and a heavy knuckle-curve. It’s that knuckle-curve that gives him his reverse platoon splits. Only four lefties have ever gotten an extra-base hit against it in the majors.

Jeurys Familia was nabbed from the Mets on a one-year deal. He projects to be acceptable rather than exciting; he’s not the pitcher he was back in 2015-16, but he is coming off his best K/BB in years. Brad Hand’s best days are also likely behind him — he’s lost more than a third of his strikeout rate from its peak — but he can still handle work at the back of a ‘pen. His role is likely to be that of a situational lefty more than it has been in the past.

Seranthony Domínguez isn’t really an acquisition, but his return from Tommy John surgery is as good as a signing. The hopefully-competitive Phillies probably won’t push him into high-leverage situations right away, but he may have the highest ceiling of any reliever on the team with the exception of Knebel.

José Alvarado currently has a neck issue, but he’s likely to be back fairly soon. Given Philadelphia’s acquisitions, I think he’ll be used in lower-leverage situations than in the past. His fastball is chef’s kiss but his control is often troubling.





Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

39 Comments
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Scoreboardmember
7 months ago

you’ve got Miguel Diaz listed in NYY’s bullpen instead of Miguel Castro 🙂

rydrury
7 months ago
Reply to  Scoreboard

yeah they did, and according to their model without joely (plus m. diaz) we dropped from 91 wins to 90 wins. Bet castro gets us to 91

rydrury
7 months ago
Reply to  rydrury

Also think it is funny, the yankees are projected to have the most WAR by Depth Charts, but finish 4th best record. Yankees projected to have 6 more WAR than the jays, but finish 2 games worse? That makes zero sense. Not saying the yankees arent worse than the jays, but there seems to be a huge disconnect between projected standings and the depth charts that it is based off of.

Maybe their projection system accounts for Boone being a horrendous manager and deducts wins lol

tc2001
7 months ago
Reply to  rydrury

You can’t just add up depth chart WAR to get expected win totals. The median total WAR of a team won’t be the same as its median win expectancy cuz of injuries and depth

Sæder
7 months ago
Reply to  tc2001

I think a large factor is strength of schedule

Meg Rowleymember
7 months ago
Reply to  Scoreboard

Thanks for spotting that – it’s been updated here and on the Depth Charts.