2024 Positional Power Rankings: Bullpen (No. 16-30)

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

After wrapping up our position player rankings with the league’s designated hitters, we turn our attention to the pitchers, starting with the bullpens in the bottom half of the reliever rankings.

One of my favorite jokes, which I’ve probably beaten into the ground at this point, is that there are three teams a year whose fans think they have a great bullpen, while those who root for the 27 other clubs are convinced that their team’s bullpen is the worst in baseball history and the primary reason they aren’t going to win the World Series.

Bullpens do tend to be a luxury item, with contenders exhibiting the most pressing need to roster those six, seven, or eight arms who can square off with the game’s best lineups come October. For teams without those high-end aspirations, though, the ‘pen is often rightly a lower priority. There’s no franchise I can think of that has maintained long-term success by focusing a rebuilding job on their bullpen rather than their rotation or lineup. For lousy teams, the best use of the game’s later innings isn’t necessarily to maximize wins, but to serve as a casting director, a comfortable place to try and get the most out of high-end, high-risk arms. And when we examine the bullpens in this part of the power rankings, that’s what we’re typically dealing with, especially once we get into the 20s. There are definitely some contenders in the mix here, including both teams that competed in last year’s World Series, and the projected WAR differences can be pretty narrow, but several of these teams are a good ways away from their next playoff appearance. So let’s get cracking and get to know the causes of late-inning depression the bullpens ranked 16th-30th.

One thing to note: As rosters, playing time, and injuries crystallized over the last few days, a couple of teams saw their ranking change such that their position flipped from one side of no. 15 to the other. We’ve noted the instances where a capsule was written by my colleague Eric Longenhagen, who is responsible for the companion piece on the league’s best bullpens that will run later today.

2024 Positional Power Rankings – RP 16-30
16. Nationals
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Kyle Finnegan 66 8.8 3.5 1.1 .297 72.9% 4.08 4.16 0.7
Hunter Harvey 64 9.9 2.7 1.1 .293 72.4% 3.74 3.67 1.1
Tanner Rainey 60 10.0 4.6 1.3 .288 71.0% 4.66 4.59 0.3
Jordan Weems 62 9.2 4.2 1.3 .292 70.7% 4.57 4.61 0.2
Robert Garcia 61 9.2 4.5 1.2 .296 71.8% 4.43 4.56 0.2
Dylan Floro 58 7.8 3.1 1.2 .304 70.4% 4.53 4.39 0.1
Derek Law 52 8.0 3.9 1.2 .301 71.6% 4.58 4.66 0.0
Matt Barnes 46 8.9 4.3 1.2 .297 67.8% 4.94 4.67 0.0
Jacob Barnes 44 7.2 3.7 1.2 .299 68.5% 4.94 4.78 0.0
Richard Bleier 40 5.6 2.1 1.3 .304 68.4% 4.69 4.68 0.0
Jose A. Ferrer 38 7.3 3.4 1.1 .296 70.6% 4.39 4.52 0.0
Joe La Sorsa 36 6.6 2.7 1.3 .294 69.1% 4.62 4.73 0.0
Robert Gsellman 33 6.2 3.3 1.4 .301 69.5% 4.99 5.07 -0.0
Amos Willingham 24 6.8 3.4 1.5 .296 68.2% 5.14 5.15 -0.0
Joan Adon 22 7.5 3.8 1.2 .299 68.7% 4.84 4.71 0.0
Trevor Williams 21 7.0 3.1 1.6 .302 69.7% 5.17 5.18 -0.0
Thaddeus Ward 19 7.6 4.4 1.3 .294 67.5% 5.15 5.17 -0.0
DJ Herz 17 9.4 5.5 1.1 .288 70.8% 4.72 4.89 -0.0
Zach Brzykcy 15 9.7 4.4 1.2 .292 71.1% 4.48 4.55 0.0
Cade Cavalli 14 8.8 4.1 1.0 .295 70.3% 4.40 4.37 0.0
Tim Cate 13 6.7 3.9 1.2 .298 70.3% 4.78 4.89 -0.0
Mitchell Parker 10 8.0 4.6 1.3 .293 70.8% 4.85 4.98 -0.0
Jackson Rutledge 8 6.4 3.7 1.4 .293 67.2% 5.30 5.30 -0.0
Spenser Watkins 6 6.3 3.1 1.3 .301 68.6% 4.99 4.94 -0.0
Total 593 8.2 3.7 1.2 .297 70.3% 4.58 4.59 2.6

The rebuilding Nationals should keep their fingers on the pulse of the trade market and move some of these veterans throughout the summer. Tanner Rainey, who has seemingly lost his arm strength coming off of TJ, is a great example of why. Aside from Jose A. Ferrer, who is currently dealing with a right teres major strain and will start the year on the 60-day, none of the projected Opening Day group is young enough to realistically be a part of the next contending Nats team.

Hunter Harvey, who I thought deserved to be Washington’s All-Star Game representative last year, is nasty enough to be a good team’s closer or set-up man. He’s had (scroll unfurls) a multitude of injuries and should probably be moved while he’s still healthy. He has two years of control remaining and the prospect return for impact relievers tends to be pretty good. Hard-throwing Kyle Finnegan, who was plucked from Oakland’s roster nearly five years ago, has now sustained two straight seasons of 97 mph velocity. He has two years of team control remaining and could be a solid middle relief deadline acquisition if he keeps it up. Another former Athletic, Jordan Weems, is maybe a little too close to replacement level to fetch something in trade. If Matt Barnes, Derek Law, Jacob Barnes, or any other veteran has a resurgence, they should probably be moved to a deadline buyer.

Some young arms to watch here include the aforementioned Ferrer, who is a hard-ish throwing 24-year-old sinkerballer who debuted last year. Robert Garcia, who is 27 but is young in the sense that he has three option years remaining, has a whippy arm action, sits 93-96, and has a pretty nasty slider. Zach Brzykcy is a prospect coming off of TJ who will hopefully be back in the middle of the year and race to the big leagues with his riding fastball. – Eric Longenhagen

17. Diamondbacks
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Paul Sewald 66 10.5 3.3 1.3 .292 74.8% 3.78 3.95 0.7
Kevin Ginkel 64 9.8 3.6 1.0 .296 74.2% 3.67 3.80 0.7
Miguel Castro 63 9.3 4.0 1.1 .297 72.4% 4.10 4.23 0.2
Scott McGough 62 9.6 3.6 1.1 .302 73.4% 3.99 3.98 0.4
Ryan Thompson 60 7.6 3.0 1.1 .301 71.6% 4.12 4.28 0.2
Kyle Nelson 58 9.4 3.7 1.2 .296 73.6% 4.07 4.30 0.2
Joe Mantiply 54 7.7 2.6 1.0 .306 72.8% 3.92 4.03 0.1
Andrew Saalfrank 48 9.2 4.4 0.9 .301 73.6% 3.87 4.02 0.1
Bryce Jarvis 44 7.7 3.9 1.1 .299 71.1% 4.52 4.60 -0.0
Luis Frías 38 9.1 4.1 1.0 .300 72.4% 4.16 4.19 0.0
Peter Strzelecki 35 9.0 3.6 1.1 .297 70.5% 4.30 4.29 0.0
Justin Martinez 33 10.9 6.0 1.0 .298 73.2% 4.31 4.49 -0.0
Corbin Martin 28 8.2 4.0 1.2 .300 72.1% 4.52 4.63 -0.0
Slade Cecconi 24 7.5 2.3 1.2 .294 70.7% 4.20 4.28 0.0
Brandon Hughes 21 9.4 4.0 1.2 .291 72.0% 4.20 4.41 -0.0
Tommy Henry 19 7.0 3.6 1.2 .294 70.5% 4.57 4.69 -0.0
Austin Pope 17 8.0 3.6 1.1 .301 71.0% 4.42 4.49 -0.0
Kyle Backhus 14 7.7 4.2 1.1 .300 71.9% 4.43 4.60 -0.0
Logan Allen 13 7.0 3.8 1.1 .299 70.7% 4.58 4.77 -0.0
Ryne Nelson 12 6.9 3.0 1.3 .293 70.1% 4.65 4.76 -0.0
Cristian Mena 10 7.9 3.8 1.2 .297 71.8% 4.44 4.58 -0.0
José Castillo 8 9.3 4.5 1.1 .300 72.2% 4.31 4.46 -0.0
Dakota Chalmers 6 8.1 5.3 1.3 .297 70.6% 5.08 5.19 -0.0
Total 534 8.9 3.7 1.1 .298 72.5% 4.12 4.24 2.6

Of the contenders I wrote up, Arizona’s bullpen is perhaps the one in need of the most in-season help, and might look radically different by the end of the season. Paul Sewald provided stability to an otherwise very inexperienced group after he was acquired at last year’s trade deadline. He dominoed the rest of the Snakes’ bullpen into roles that they were better suited for, especially Miguel Castro. Sewald is fine but he doesn’t have the kind of stuff you associate with a dominant closer and Arizona should still look to upgrade if they can.

Perhaps their best option is an internal one in unlisted young starter, Yilber Diaz. Diaz reached Double-A last year, sits 95-97, and has two plus breaking balls. He can be developed as a starter this season and put in the bullpen late in the summer for the stretch run, and is talented enough to be the closer.

Kevin Ginkel and his nasty slider emerged as a viable set-up option last year. Castro is hard-throwing low-slot righty who’s fine in a middle-inning role. Ryan Thompson was a key waiver pickup from Tampa Bay last year who can come in with traffic on the bases to get a groundball. The D-backs need one of their lefties to emerge as a more reliable option. Joe Mantiply was an All-Star a couple of years ago but hasn’t been great since then, Kyle Nelson has below-average stuff, and Andrew Saalfrank is not a reliable strike-thrower. Scott McGough is the de facto lefty here because of his splitter, which would be fine if he weren’t also the four-out fireman. – Eric Longenhagen

18. Reds
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Alexis Díaz 68 10.7 4.4 1.2 .280 72.1% 4.11 4.32 0.8
Emilio Pagán 66 9.4 3.2 1.6 .287 71.9% 4.58 4.65 0.5
Lucas Sims 64 10.5 4.9 1.4 .287 70.1% 4.84 4.93 0.2
Brent Suter 70 7.5 3.5 1.4 .301 71.3% 4.64 4.81 0.2
Fernando Cruz 62 11.5 4.0 1.4 .300 76.0% 4.06 4.24 0.4
Buck Farmer 61 9.4 4.2 1.5 .292 70.3% 4.87 4.88 0.1
Sam Moll 60 9.4 4.2 1.3 .294 71.4% 4.46 4.63 0.1
Ian Gibaut 54 9.1 3.8 1.3 .300 70.8% 4.60 4.55 0.1
Justin Wilson 52 8.6 3.4 1.4 .302 72.6% 4.44 4.58 0.1
Tejay Antone 48 8.7 3.8 1.4 .296 70.4% 4.74 4.77 0.0
Alex Young 38 8.7 3.4 1.5 .301 71.0% 4.70 4.73 0.0
Tony Santillan 33 9.1 5.1 1.4 .296 69.7% 5.13 5.22 -0.0
Casey Legumina 28 8.1 3.7 1.5 .299 69.3% 5.03 4.94 -0.0
Nick Martinez 27 8.8 3.4 1.3 .304 72.2% 4.37 4.38 0.0
Carson Spiers 22 7.6 3.7 1.5 .297 68.0% 5.25 5.22 -0.0
Connor Phillips 16 10.1 4.6 1.4 .295 71.1% 4.72 4.73 0.0
Brandon Williamson 15 7.9 3.9 1.6 .295 69.9% 5.10 5.18 -0.0
Christian Roa 14 9.5 5.3 1.5 .293 71.0% 5.09 5.23 -0.0
Nick Lodolo 13 10.7 3.1 1.3 .300 71.2% 4.21 4.15 0.0
Lyon Richardson 10 9.1 4.5 1.4 .297 69.8% 5.00 4.96 0.0
Justin Bruihl 8 7.2 3.7 1.4 .296 69.7% 4.94 5.07 -0.0
Alan Busenitz 6 7.4 3.8 1.6 .301 68.7% 5.30 5.28 -0.0
Total 580 9.3 4.0 1.4 .295 71.3% 4.62 4.71 2.5

Cincy’s bullpen combined for 5.9 WAR in 2023, the most combined WAR for any Reds bullpen going back to 2002 when our split data starts. Yes, the early 2010s bullpen was better, but the improvement in the quality of the relievers from the last few years is notable and was a big boost to the team’s surprisingly good season.

Alexis Díaz will get most of the saves, and while Steamer and ZiPS disagree about how often he’ll surrender home runs, resulting in about a half-run spread between the two systems, they agree that he won’t maintain his current microscopic rate. Next, I don’t want to rag on Emilio Pagán any more than I already have — I’ve expressed my skepticism about his signing — but I will note that the projections share my trepidation given his history and the new park he’s playing in.

Lucas Sims returned from Tommy John surgery with his fastball and slider intact, but he walked too many batters and the projections are generally worried about this. There’s some uncertainty about the extent to which his command issues are simply rust that he’ll shake off. Tejay Antone is coming back from his own Tommy John surgery, his second, and another flexor injury during his return. Right now, he’s dialing back his velocity somewhat, to 95 mph and under, to try and stay healthy. On the plus side, he had a 21% swinging strike rate in his nine spring training appearances, so there’s a possibility that his slider and curve are good enough for him to beat the rather pessimistic strikeout projections. After missing 2023, Justin Wilson’s coming back from his own UCL switcheroo and looked good in his brief spring appearances, returning to the Reds after opting-out from his Dodgers deal.

I may not have liked the Pagán signing, but I was a fan of the Brent Suter addition. Suter’s one of the softest tossers in the game, with a high-80s fastball and a slider and change in the 70s, but he has a long history of successfully inducing lots of weak contact, one of the hardest things for a pitcher to establish consistently. That he survived a year at Coors Field with an ERA and FIP below 3.50 is a good argument in favor of him being just fine at Great American Ballpark.

It would be a mistake to count Fernando Cruz out after his bloated ERA (4.91) last season. He actually shaved off a third of his walk rate while striking out more than 13 batters a game, so it’s likely that better results will follow.

Towards the back of the bullpen, you have Sam Moll, who had quietly had arguably his best season in 2023, but he’ll likely regress after allowing just two home runs the entire season. He’s currently out with a shoulder injury. Ian Gibaut is out with an injury of his own, this one the ominous forearm malady. The projection systems are bearish in Buck Farmer getting back to where he was in 2022, his first season in Cincinnati.

19. Yankees
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Clay Holmes 66 9.6 3.4 0.9 .291 73.0% 3.54 3.73 0.8
Jonathan Loáisiga 64 8.0 2.6 1.0 .288 72.2% 3.73 3.97 0.6
Ian Hamilton 63 10.5 4.2 1.0 .289 73.9% 3.82 3.96 0.5
Caleb Ferguson 62 10.1 3.4 1.0 .288 73.4% 3.66 3.84 0.6
Victor González 60 8.8 3.9 1.1 .290 72.3% 4.10 4.37 0.0
Nick Burdi 58 11.5 5.0 1.5 .294 71.8% 4.73 4.83 -0.2
Luke Weaver 52 8.4 2.9 1.5 .294 70.3% 4.71 4.65 -0.0
Dennis Santana 50 9.0 4.2 1.3 .288 71.4% 4.50 4.64 -0.1
Tommy Kahnle 48 10.3 3.7 1.3 .285 73.2% 3.99 4.20 0.1
Ron Marinaccio 44 9.6 4.8 1.2 .280 70.4% 4.56 4.82 -0.0
Cody Poteet 40 8.8 3.5 1.4 .284 71.6% 4.43 4.62 -0.0
Nick Ramirez 33 7.4 2.9 1.3 .293 72.2% 4.34 4.53 0.0
Cody Morris 28 10.0 4.1 1.2 .289 73.4% 4.17 4.31 0.0
Scott Effross 24 8.4 2.5 1.2 .289 71.3% 4.03 4.13 0.0
Lou Trivino 20 9.1 3.9 1.3 .292 71.8% 4.43 4.55 -0.0
Clayton Beeter 19 9.0 4.3 1.4 .283 70.7% 4.68 4.86 -0.0
Luis Gil 17 10.7 4.6 1.3 .282 73.2% 4.24 4.39 0.0
Clayton Andrews 16 9.9 4.4 1.3 .290 73.0% 4.29 4.45 -0.0
Yoendrys Gómez 15 8.8 4.2 1.3 .283 71.5% 4.57 4.78 -0.0
Will Warren 14 7.7 3.4 1.2 .290 70.5% 4.40 4.52 0.0
Anthony Misiewicz 12 8.6 3.2 1.4 .289 72.6% 4.35 4.52 0.0
McKinley Moore 10 10.1 5.5 1.2 .288 72.1% 4.51 4.75 -0.0
Tanner Tully 8 6.2 2.3 1.3 .290 70.3% 4.45 4.64 -0.0
Nestor Cortes 6 9.0 2.6 1.4 .280 72.8% 4.02 4.19 0.0
Total 571 9.4 3.7 1.2 .289 72.2% 4.18 4.34 2.3

The Yankees’ bullpen isn’t at the bottom of the projections, but it’s a far cry from five or six years ago when the team’s relievers were fixtures at the top of these rankings. It’s also a far thinner group than in the past; the front four of Clay Holmes, Jonathan Loáisiga, Ian Hamilton, and Caleb Ferguson is solid, but there are a multitude of questions behind them.

Holmes’ game plan is pretty straightforward. He’ll pound you with a frisbee-esque sinker early, then mix in a slider late, low, and inside if you’re a lefty, and if you’re a righty, out comes the sweeper too, which you’re not going to do anything with whether or not you make contact. Mariano Rivera was also predictable, a thought many hitters can console themselves with as they walk back to the dugout.

Loáisiga, also known by his 80-grade nickname, Jonny Lasagna, never found his way back into the rotation, but he’s turned out to be a dynamite reliever, though his 2023 was ruined by elbow problems. Ian Hamilton’s solid 2023 was a relief for me, given that ZiPS projected him with a better-than-average ERA+ every year from 2019 to 2022, and yet three American League Central teams declined to take an extended look at him. Their loss is the Yankees’ gain.

Caleb Ferguson is one of the hardest-throwing lefties in the league and brought back his slider/cutter after abandoning it for a while coming off Tommy John surgery. He doesn’t have a true offspeed pitch, but he was utterly fearless at throwing breaking pitches in against righties.

Victor González was acquired from the Dodgers back in December and while he has better-than-average contact rates, he hasn’t really figured out how to turn his hard sinker and average slider into strikeouts even with good plate discipline numbers. Luckily, the Yankees have an adequate infield defense, though not a spectacular one.

The projection systems disagree about Nick Burdi and it’s not hard to see why, given that he’s missed so much time due to injury over the last decade or so. In nine and a half professional seasons, Burdi has thrown just over 150 innings. But throwing 98 mph is a nice way to keep getting chances!

Luis Gil came north with the fifth starter job, so Luke Weaver will be here, at least until the Yankees release him. He’s signed for peanuts and the Yankees hold an option, but I think he’s a better project for a rebuilding team than a contending one. Weaver is hittable and gets hit hard, and none of his pitches are standouts. Now in his 30s, he’s well past the point of being able to hang on to prospect status as a mitigating factor.

Tommy Kahnle is always interesting to watch since he’s almost a bizarro world pitcher. His primary pitch is his high-80s changeup with a mid-90s fastball as the change of pace pitch. It’s possible the projections are underrating him, as him overperforming his FIP and his improvements in exit velocity coincide with him going all-in on the changeup a few years ago.

Ron Marinaccio still walks too many batters for a guy without eye-popping velocity whose best pitch is a changeup. His slider isn’t as strong a weapon, partially explaining why he’s actually been slightly better with the platoon disadvantage in the majors.

20. Red Sox
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Kenley Jansen 64 10.5 3.5 1.3 .297 72.5% 4.15 4.14 0.7
Chris Martin 66 8.5 1.9 1.1 .316 72.9% 3.85 3.72 0.8
Isaiah Campbell 63 8.6 3.6 1.1 .305 71.7% 4.29 4.30 0.3
Brennan Bernardino 61 9.0 3.6 1.1 .311 71.4% 4.26 4.27 0.2
Joely Rodríguez 62 8.9 3.9 1.0 .319 71.8% 4.44 4.12 0.2
Josh Winckowski 58 8.0 3.1 1.1 .308 70.7% 4.33 4.18 0.2
Justin Slaten 53 9.2 4.4 1.3 .306 71.6% 4.80 4.66 -0.0
Greg Weissert 51 9.5 4.3 1.2 .306 71.0% 4.52 4.46 0.0
Luis Guerrero 44 8.7 5.2 1.3 .302 69.8% 5.13 5.08 -0.1
Zack Kelly 38 8.8 4.7 1.2 .305 69.9% 4.88 4.86 -0.0
Chase Anderson 35 7.1 3.9 1.5 .297 67.9% 5.40 5.32 -0.1
Bryan Mata 31 8.2 5.2 1.2 .305 69.2% 5.16 5.11 -0.1
Garrett Whitlock 28 8.9 2.1 1.2 .306 71.7% 4.00 3.81 0.1
Justin Hagenman 24 7.9 2.9 1.3 .304 69.7% 4.60 4.38 0.0
Lucas Luetge 21 7.8 3.1 1.3 .314 70.2% 4.74 4.57 -0.0
Jorge Benitez 19 8.2 5.7 1.3 .305 69.4% 5.37 5.47 -0.1
Joe Jacques 17 7.0 3.5 1.1 .310 67.9% 4.86 4.79 -0.0
Cooper Criswell 14 6.5 2.4 1.3 .312 67.6% 4.92 4.68 -0.0
Liam Hendriks 12 11.3 2.7 1.3 .303 74.1% 3.77 3.61 0.0
Kutter Crawford 11 8.6 2.8 1.4 .299 69.7% 4.59 4.39 0.0
Tanner Houck 8 8.8 3.3 1.1 .308 69.6% 4.47 4.26 0.0
Nick Pivetta 6 9.6 3.4 1.4 .296 70.8% 4.51 4.39 0.0
Total 567 8.7 3.7 1.2 .307 70.9% 4.52 4.42 2.2

Boston has one of the most top-heavy bullpens in baseball. Kenley Jansen and Chris Martin serve as the one-two punch, but we barely have the supporting cast above replacement level. That could be a problem for the Red Sox, in that they’re not implausible contenders, and a thin bullpen could come back to haunt them if they hit one of their more unlikely upside scenarios.

Now entering his late 30s, Jansen is what he is at this point: a big dude who rides his cutter as much as he can. His mid-2010s peak is extremely far back in the rearview window, but he’s a solid second-tier closer. If he implodes, the dominoes could fall very quickly here.

Chris Martin had a superlative 1.05 ERA in 2023, but if you’re on this website, you probably already have a healthy dose of skepticism about that continuing. Like Jansen, he’s way up there in age, such that decline becomes as significant a risk as injury does. Remember, Jansen and Martin’s projections already reflect the age risk, so if they keep it together for another season, the difference between them and the rest of the ‘pen could be even larger.

The projections may be a little too low on Isiah Campbell, who was extremely effective for the Mariners last year. A lot of that is because he has a very short professional career — between the COVID year and continual elbow problems, he just hasn’t pitched all that much. If he remains healthy and continues to pitch well, his projections will likely improve fairly rapidly.

Soft-tossing sinker pitcher Brennan Bernardino had a nice little comeback a few years ago and gets one of the best projections of anyone left in the ‘pen. However, great care needs to be taken when using him; his strikeouts come more from called strikes than batters flailing at the air, which can be risky as hitters become more familiar with him.

Joely Rodríguez has seemed like he was on the edge of a breakout before, but he regularly underperforms his xERA and zFIP in ZiPS by about a run a year, and given his consistent history of doing so, I’m certainly not calling for that breakout now after a lost season due to multiple injuries (oblique, shoulder, hip).

Josh Winckowski was surprisingly effective as a reliever, adding a few ticks of velocity, but his most valuable asset is probably his versatility, and with the Red Sox already down Lucas Giolito, it’s likely he’ll see some starts this year to go with his mid-leverage bullpen outings.

It’s still unknown whether Greg Weissert’s solid spring will get him one of the last jobs in the bullpen at the start of the season, but he’ll be up at some point. He may have finally shed that extra walk or so necessary to get consistent shots in the majors, and it’s hard not to admire his extremely sharp sweeper, which is more tsunami than broom.

Garrett Whitlock also gets a solid projection (1.8 WAR overall), but depending on how things shake out for him in the rotation, he may not end up here at all. If starting doesn’t go well, it’s very likely he returns to the ‘pen and is an effective reliever again. His raw 2023 numbers might not have impressed, but a lot of his issues stemmed from a spike in the number of home runs he gave up. That’s an extremely volatile number for a pitcher, one you shouldn’t get too upset about until it’s ugly for several seasons in a row. Whitlock might be the team’s no. 2 starter in two years, but he also might end up being Jansen’s successor.

21. Giants
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Camilo Doval 66 11.0 3.9 0.9 .297 74.3% 3.48 3.55 0.9
Tyler Rogers 64 6.7 2.4 1.1 .302 71.1% 4.13 4.24 0.1
Taylor Rogers 63 10.9 3.4 1.1 .305 73.5% 3.75 3.72 0.6
Luke Jackson 62 9.4 3.9 1.2 .304 73.6% 4.10 4.31 0.0
Ryan Walker 60 10.2 3.5 1.0 .301 73.5% 3.82 3.77 0.3
Daulton Jefferies 58 6.9 2.1 1.2 .300 69.6% 4.42 4.31 0.0
Juan Sanchez 54 8.2 4.3 1.1 .294 71.8% 4.43 4.65 -0.1
Spencer Howard 48 9.4 3.4 1.2 .299 71.8% 4.29 4.21 0.1
Erik Miller 44 10.0 5.6 1.1 .294 72.3% 4.46 4.55 -0.0
Landen Roupp 38 8.7 3.2 1.0 .294 71.8% 4.00 4.03 0.0
Kai-Wei Teng 35 9.4 4.5 1.0 .297 70.4% 4.40 4.48 -0.0
Nick Avila 32 7.0 3.7 1.2 .301 70.9% 4.65 4.74 -0.0
Jordan Hicks 30 10.3 4.7 0.9 .301 73.1% 3.93 4.01 0.0
Ethan Small 24 9.0 4.5 1.1 .296 73.0% 4.30 4.52 0.0
Keaton Winn 21 8.0 2.9 1.1 .300 70.6% 4.16 4.17 0.0
Mason Black 19 8.7 3.4 1.1 .296 71.4% 4.22 4.28 0.0
Cody Stashak 17 8.2 3.0 1.4 .288 71.6% 4.47 4.56 -0.0
Randy Rodríguez 15 8.8 5.5 1.2 .292 70.8% 4.84 5.03 -0.0
Tristan Beck 14 7.7 3.0 1.2 .300 70.7% 4.43 4.41 -0.0
Sean Hjelle 12 6.9 3.1 1.0 .306 69.7% 4.41 4.40 -0.0
Austin Warren 10 8.0 3.8 1.2 .301 70.6% 4.57 4.63 -0.0
Spencer Bivens 8 7.0 3.9 1.2 .301 69.8% 4.79 4.91 -0.0
Robbie Ray 6 9.9 3.2 1.4 .295 74.9% 4.06 4.27 -0.0
Total 577 9.0 3.6 1.1 .299 72.1% 4.16 4.22 2.0

Camilo Doval throws one of the nastier cutters around, with velocities up around the century mark. That’s been the key to making him one of the best relievers in baseball, though he might be even more valuable in a hitter’s park, given his ability to keep the ball down. That Doval can bend the ball the other way in the form of his sinker, and with similar velocity, is almost video game-esque. After those two helpings of hard cheese, his upper-80s slider provides almost as much of a contrast as a Trevor Hoffman changeup did 20 years ago. And now I’m thinking about how Hoffman is nearly 60 and silently weeping about how old I’ve gotten.

The Rogers brothers, Tyler and Taylor, effectively fill the role of twin henchmen, something any good supervillain needs. As pitchers, they look quite different. Tyler (I think) is one of the softest tossers around, such that Jered Weaver might have a harder fastball right now. Despite the typical slider you see from a submariner — and this one scrapes his knuckles right near the ocean’s floor — he doesn’t use it in a typical way, basically throwing it everywhere in the zone. Unlike most pitchers with effective sliders, he’ll regularly throw it high, which, combined with his extremely low delivery, gives it a creepy, rising vibe. Taylor is the lefty of the duo, with a more typical delivery and fastball. He’s very slider-heavy as well, but his more orthodox usage has left him with some of the larger platoon splits in baseball.

Ryan Walker slings pitches with his low three-quarters/sidearm delivery and has an impressive big league debut in 2023 after being a completely unheralded relief prospect for years, drafted out of the 31st round. The projection systems cottoned on to him very quickly. Luke Jackson came back quite strong from Tommy John surgery and, along with Walker, makes up the ‘pen’s middle class.

After the front five, this group gets very thin very quickly. It might be a little deeper if Jordan Hicks doesn’t work out in the rotation, but for now, he’s not projected to get a ton of innings in relief. If the options aren’t impressive, at least the Giants are going with guys with a whiff of upside. Both Daulton Jefferies and Spencer Howard were real prospects who fell on hard times and remain in their 20s, and I’d rather go with guys like that in the back of the ‘pen than retreads.

22. Tigers
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Alex Lange 65 11.0 4.9 0.9 .298 72.4% 4.05 4.00 0.4
Jason Foley 63 7.1 2.5 0.9 .304 71.2% 4.00 3.95 0.4
Andrew Chafin 62 9.6 3.9 1.1 .296 72.8% 4.07 4.16 0.3
Shelby Miller 61 9.0 4.1 1.2 .288 70.3% 4.46 4.47 0.1
Beau Brieske 60 7.7 2.8 1.2 .291 70.1% 4.31 4.32 0.1
Tyler Holton 58 8.1 2.7 1.1 .292 71.6% 3.89 3.99 0.2
Will Vest 57 9.4 3.3 1.0 .299 73.0% 3.83 3.81 0.1
Joey Wentz 56 8.7 3.7 1.3 .295 70.9% 4.54 4.47 0.0
Alex Faedo 48 8.6 2.8 1.3 .293 70.7% 4.32 4.22 0.1
Trey Wingenter 44 9.5 4.0 1.2 .296 67.6% 4.67 4.42 -0.0
Sawyer Gipson-Long 34 8.3 2.6 1.2 .297 70.9% 4.17 4.11 0.0
Drew Anderson 32 7.8 3.5 1.3 .294 70.8% 4.68 4.72 -0.0
Miguel Díaz 28 8.4 3.7 1.0 .294 71.7% 4.12 4.24 0.0
Mason Englert 22 7.4 2.9 1.2 .296 68.7% 4.63 4.53 -0.0
Brendan White 21 8.5 2.9 1.0 .298 69.5% 4.12 4.03 0.0
Andrew Vasquez 19 8.3 3.7 1.0 .294 67.6% 4.47 4.48 0.0
Keider Montero 17 7.9 3.1 1.2 .291 69.8% 4.36 4.38 0.0
Wilmer Flores 14 7.7 3.0 1.0 .295 69.5% 4.25 4.25 0.0
Ty Madden 12 8.0 3.4 1.2 .291 70.8% 4.43 4.49 -0.0
Kenta Maeda 10 8.8 2.7 1.3 .293 70.4% 4.31 4.19 0.0
Garrett Hill 8 8.4 4.2 1.2 .294 69.3% 4.75 4.74 -0.0
Devin Sweet 6 7.9 3.2 1.2 .292 69.8% 4.44 4.41 0.0
Total 602 8.7 3.4 1.1 .295 70.9% 4.25 4.23 1.9

Alex Lange is one of those relievers who’s a lot more fun to watch if you’re neutral observer than if you’re a fan of the team he plays for, similar to late-stage Fernando Rodney. A former first rounder who didn’t work out as a starter, Lange has remade himself as a dominating reliever, albeit one with a walk problem. What fuels Lange is his Bugs Bunny-esque curveball, which he can top off at 89 mph most games. It looks a bit like a cutter if you rotate your TV 45 degrees, and hitters have absolutely no idea what to do with it. The downside is that you can’t leave a curveball, even one near 90 mph, in too meaty a chunk of the zone against a big league hitter, so Lange has to throw a lot of pitches out of the zone and hope batters chase. They frequently do, but Lange throws a lot of curves, far more than other players with similarly hard curveballs like Jhoan Duran and Joe Kelly do, which means a lot of walks. But when he’s rocking, he’ll crank out those GIF-worthy moments.

Jason Foley doesn’t have the same exciting whiffability as Lange, as he lacks a real punch-out pitch. Foley has survived the lack of strikeouts by being one of the best in the game at throwing hard sinkers that hitters can’t get any loft against. That does make him especially sensitive to infield defense, which might not be ideal as the Tigers figure out where Jace Jung and Colt Keith can stick defensively. Javier Báez may be a disaster with the bat now, but there’s probably no one who should be more thankful to have his glove around than Foley.

Andrew Chafin returns for his second stint in Detroit, but this time on a pillow contract after a rough year, especially after a trade to the Brewers. He was still the same fastball/slider guy he always was in 2023, but his launch angle has steadily crept up in recent years, and as a result, so have his barrels. His role will probably come down to how much of a bounce back he has in 2024.

Detroit’s other primary lefty, Tyler Holton, doesn’t have the highly edited repertoire of many other relievers, opting instead to throw a wide array of moderately soft stuff. His strikeout rate in the majors has paled in comparison to his minor league performance, but he has reasonably solid contact-against numbers, so I suspect there is some upside here as he hones his “tinker of all” approach.

When all is said and done, can Shelby Miller actually outlast Jason Heyward, the outfielder he was traded for in one of the two dubious trades he featured in? Heyward had a solid 2023, but he’s already well into the role player stage of his career, while Miller’s coming off his biggest season in a decade. The splitter he learned last year after jettisoning his mediocre curve finally gave him the tool he needed to stop lefties from taking his lunch money.

If Beau Brieske beats his projections, it may be because of the new slider grip he’s been working on this spring to get more spin. The slider’s been his weak point as a pitcher and one of the reasons he’s actually had more trouble with righties than lefties, a pattern that was also present in the minors.

23. Angels
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Carlos Estévez 66 10.0 3.8 1.3 .291 72.2% 4.29 4.30 0.7
Robert Stephenson 56 12.0 3.0 1.4 .291 75.6% 3.61 3.61 1.0
Matt Moore 63 9.3 3.9 1.3 .296 73.1% 4.37 4.51 0.1
Luis García 62 8.6 3.4 1.1 .307 72.7% 4.21 4.34 0.2
Adam Cimber 62 6.1 2.6 1.4 .298 67.4% 5.03 5.07 -0.2
José Cisnero 60 9.4 4.3 1.4 .298 72.0% 4.59 4.75 0.0
Ben Joyce 55 10.3 4.5 1.2 .293 71.2% 4.31 4.44 0.1
José Soriano 51 10.5 4.7 1.1 .297 71.9% 4.16 4.33 0.1
José Suarez 44 8.7 3.3 1.3 .295 71.9% 4.36 4.46 0.1
Hunter Strickland 40 7.9 4.6 1.6 .293 69.2% 5.40 5.53 -0.1
Guillermo Zuñiga 37 9.4 4.6 1.3 .294 71.2% 4.69 4.77 -0.0
Andrew Wantz 34 8.6 3.8 1.5 .289 71.4% 4.72 4.91 -0.0
Jimmy Herget 33 8.3 3.2 1.4 .294 71.3% 4.59 4.67 0.0
Sam Bachman 25 7.8 5.0 1.2 .299 69.1% 5.02 5.11 -0.0
Zach Plesac 21 6.4 2.8 1.6 .295 68.8% 5.12 5.18 -0.0
Kelvin Caceres 19 9.7 6.2 1.2 .297 70.2% 5.09 5.25 -0.0
Davis Daniel 17 7.2 3.4 1.5 .291 70.0% 4.87 5.05 -0.0
José Quijada 15 10.4 4.2 1.3 .291 71.8% 4.33 4.39 0.0
Victor Mederos 14 7.6 4.0 1.3 .295 69.8% 4.87 5.02 -0.0
Adam Kolarek 12 7.0 3.6 1.2 .307 71.6% 4.58 4.81 -0.0
Chase Silseth 10 8.8 3.7 1.2 .296 71.8% 4.35 4.47 0.0
Kenny Rosenberg 8 8.2 3.7 1.3 .298 71.5% 4.57 4.71 -0.0
Carson Fulmer 6 7.4 5.1 1.4 .299 68.6% 5.37 5.44 -0.0
Total 566 9.0 3.9 1.3 .296 71.3% 4.52 4.63 1.9

Carlos Estévez’s contact and (as a result) strikeout numbers bounced back after a couple of middling seasons when he left Coors in 2023. But he’s still not as elite overall as his velocity would suggest. His slider isn’t a particularly good punch-out pitch, in large part because he leaves it comfortably inside the strike zone. He’s an acceptable closer, with just a few more homers and few more walks than you’d like, but in a better bullpen, he’d be a secondary henchman rather than the final boss.

Matt Moore’s career was on the very edge of oblivion after he was extremely crushable upon his return from a 2014 Tommy John surgery, the equivalent of a light summer shandy for opposing power hitters. Trimming some of his repertoire, he’s gotten a new lease on life the last couple seasons as a reliever, netting him a $9 million payday on a one-year contract this winter. It would be a mistake to assume that Moore’s a lefty specialist, as his changeup makes him highly effective against righties.

Robert Stephenson may be the highest upside reliever on the Angels right now, in on a three-year contract with a club option that kicks in if he has elbow problems. He was absolutely lights out after changing the grip on his slider last year — he still calls the pitch a slider even though it’s widely classified as a cutter, and I’m not inclined to Dansplain to big league pitchers about what to call their pitches. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him snag the majority of the saves by the end of the season.

Luis García’s bread-and-butter, his nasty high-90s sinker, remains intact even as he enters his late 30s. And unlike Estévez, batters do swing through his slider. García does have a fairly limited ceiling, as he struggles to knock out lefties; without a real weapon to finish them off, he ends up in a lot of deep counts.

I’m not sure what a rhomboid is — I think it’s a geometry thing — but a rhomboid injury marred Adam Cimber’s 2023 season. I don’t necessarily want to trumpet a major comeback from him, as he’s an extreme soft-tosser, even for a submarine pitcher. He’ll also likely continue to have pretty wide platoon splits. José Cisnero will take some bulk innings at the back end of the bullpen.

24. Athletics
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Mason Miller 68 11.9 3.5 0.9 .285 75.6% 3.18 3.25 1.5
Lucas Erceg 66 10.2 4.9 0.8 .295 72.6% 3.89 4.02 0.4
Dany Jiménez 64 10.1 5.0 1.2 .289 74.5% 4.22 4.47 0.2
Kyle Muller 62 7.7 3.7 1.1 .296 70.9% 4.36 4.42 0.1
Austin Adams 60 11.9 5.1 1.6 .287 66.2% 5.22 5.21 -0.4
Zach Jackson 56 10.6 5.0 1.2 .292 74.2% 4.25 4.37 0.1
Michael Kelly 52 9.2 4.0 1.1 .297 72.6% 4.17 4.24 0.0
Sean Newcomb 48 9.3 4.9 1.1 .295 71.9% 4.44 4.61 0.0
Scott Alexander 45 6.6 2.6 0.9 .299 71.9% 3.87 3.99 0.1
Mitch Spence 40 6.9 2.8 1.0 .297 71.2% 4.16 4.31 0.0
Adrián Martínez 38 7.3 3.2 1.2 .296 71.0% 4.37 4.54 -0.0
Hogan Harris 35 8.4 4.2 1.1 .291 71.1% 4.42 4.58 0.0
Joey Estes 33 6.9 2.9 1.3 .284 69.5% 4.63 4.89 -0.0
Tyler Ferguson 25 8.1 5.1 1.1 .295 70.2% 4.77 4.95 -0.0
Gerardo Reyes 21 9.3 4.8 1.2 .292 71.0% 4.63 4.73 -0.0
Freddy Tarnok 19 8.5 3.9 1.2 .288 72.5% 4.30 4.55 0.0
Vinny Nittoli 17 8.2 3.3 1.2 .294 71.2% 4.35 4.53 0.0
Osvaldo Bido 15 8.1 3.9 1.1 .289 70.4% 4.45 4.63 -0.0
Ken Waldichuk 14 8.8 4.0 1.1 .292 71.5% 4.30 4.45 -0.0
Ross Stripling 13 7.5 2.4 1.3 .297 71.5% 4.29 4.35 0.0
Luis Medina 12 8.5 4.8 1.0 .295 71.3% 4.51 4.66 -0.0
Joe Boyle 10 10.1 6.2 1.1 .292 72.6% 4.54 4.80 -0.0
Stevie Emanuels 8 8.6 4.5 1.2 .294 72.5% 4.48 4.76 -0.0
Alex Wood 6 7.7 3.0 1.1 .297 69.8% 4.34 4.39 -0.0
Total 583 9.2 4.1 1.1 .293 71.8% 4.26 4.39 1.9

Sure, ranking 24th in something doesn’t sound terribly exciting, but it’s hardly the Oakland A’s worst showing this year, so… hooray? All (mean) jokes aside, there are actually some notables here with real upside.

I’ll start with the most intriguing name of the bunch: Mason Miller. Miller’s got electric stuff and enough variety in terms of weapons to not pigeonhole him as a reliever. When he’s been healthy, he has dominated minor league hitters, and he performed quite well in his first stint in the majors considering his lack of professional experience. “When he’s been healthy” has been the primary problem, however. In the two-plus years since being drafted, Miller has only thrown a total of 72 2/3 innings. The questions revolve more around whether he’s durable enough to be a starter and, more troublingly, whether he’s durable enough to be a pitcher at all. But if the A’s get a nice dice roll for a change, the projections dig Miller.

At some point, the A’s may find themselves in the curious situation of having scored more runs than their opponents for most of the game. If that should come to pass, Lucas Erceg is the co-favorite to finish things off, along with Miller. Like Miller, he has a live arm. It’s also an arm without a lot of miles on the odometer since he spent much of the past decade as a third base prospect in Milwaukee. There’s a downside to that, as he’s not as refined a pitcher as most hurlers his age are, and he’s still working out the finer points of attacking batters — the more skilled ones can really work the count against him. Still, since the A’s are going to be lousy barring a miracle, they might as well look at the upside guys rather than the middling known quantities.

Dany Jiménez missed a lot of time the last couple of years with shoulder problems and, when healthy, had one of the odder 2023 seasons. His first-strike percentage dropped way off, so the bump in walk rate is no surprise, and his .143 BABIP is shockingly low for a pitcher with more than three innings. Suffice it to say that’s not going to happen going forward.

Zach Jackson and Michael Kelly are two more entrants into the “interesting arm, troubling command” category. Jackson’s a fairly typical fastball/slider guy, with the latter being a bit of a slurve in terms of its shape — unlike many, I don’t mean this in a negative way — that he throws all over the place, including way out in the middle of the plate far too often. Kelly doesn’t have a lot of big league experience yet, but any reliever who strikes out nearly 14 batters a game in Triple-A ought to get an extended look.

Kyle Muller ought to start the season as the only lefty available in late innings. He’s also different from most of the rest of the ‘pen in another important way: He has middling, hittable stuff. He does not make up for that with pinpoint control.

25. Padres
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Robert Suarez 65 9.5 3.7 1.2 .283 71.7% 4.03 4.26 0.2
Yuki Matsui 64 11.3 3.8 1.1 .286 76.9% 3.38 3.63 1.1
Enyel De Los Santos 66 9.2 3.3 1.1 .281 72.6% 3.92 4.11 0.3
Wandy Peralta 62 8.8 4.1 1.1 .287 74.4% 3.88 4.40 0.1
Jeremiah Estrada 61 10.4 5.0 1.3 .285 73.4% 4.31 4.58 -0.0
Tom Cosgrove 56 9.0 4.0 1.2 .284 73.0% 4.09 4.47 0.1
Stephen Kolek 52 7.6 3.9 1.2 .291 70.1% 4.59 4.81 -0.1
Adrian Morejon 48 8.9 3.4 1.3 .286 72.9% 4.12 4.40 0.0
Woo-Suk Go 44 10.4 4.2 1.1 .291 74.5% 3.84 4.04 0.1
Pedro Avila 40 8.2 4.0 1.1 .290 71.1% 4.36 4.58 -0.0
Alek Jacob 38 8.4 3.2 1.2 .288 71.1% 4.23 4.49 -0.0
Jhony Brito 36 7.2 2.8 1.2 .288 71.2% 4.23 4.46 0.0
Randy Vásquez 33 8.0 3.6 1.2 .288 71.6% 4.29 4.57 0.0
Luis Patiño 25 7.5 4.1 1.3 .283 70.8% 4.75 5.03 -0.0
Glenn Otto 21 8.9 3.7 1.2 .285 70.3% 4.41 4.50 0.0
Sean Reynolds 19 7.9 5.6 1.3 .285 69.8% 5.18 5.46 -0.1
Michael King 17 10.6 3.4 1.2 .289 75.4% 3.68 3.93 0.0
Tommy Nance 15 9.2 3.8 1.2 .295 72.5% 4.21 4.33 0.0
Logan Gillaspie 14 7.5 3.2 1.3 .291 71.2% 4.46 4.61 -0.0
Matt Waldron 12 7.1 2.8 1.4 .288 69.6% 4.64 4.76 -0.0
Kevin Kopps 10 7.8 4.5 1.1 .292 70.5% 4.60 4.85 -0.0
Jayvien Sandridge 8 8.8 6.1 1.2 .289 73.1% 4.78 5.25 -0.0
Jay Groome 6 7.6 4.7 1.2 .286 70.0% 4.86 5.08 -0.0
Total 539 9.0 3.9 1.2 .287 72.5% 4.15 4.42 1.8

Losing Josh Hader was a massive hit for this bullpen, and while I’m a fan of Robert Suarez, he did miss significant time last year with elbow problems. While his strikeout rate was disappointing, there was an element of flukiness to it as his contact rate wasn’t actually worse than his more impressive rookie campaign. He certainly looked like a quality reliever in his outing against the Dodgers in Seoul.

The Padres have been aggressive about bringing in relievers from overseas in recent years, and Yuki Matsui was one of the team’s biggest additions in the offseason. Splitters seem to be out of fashion for relievers, so I’m always happy to see another one pop up, and the projections are generally optimistic about his outlook in the US. Woo-Suk Go, also signed this offseason, is starting the season with Triple-A El Paso after a few rough appearances this spring, but he ought to be up relatively soon and the projections like him as well.

Enyel De Los Santos was picked up from the Guardians for Scott Barlow this winter. He’s found his niche as a reliever after being an up-and-down starting prospect for a number of years. He shed a good chunk of his strikeout rate last season, but the computers all see him performing better in that department this year.

Wandy Peralta had superficially good numbers in 2023, but a .218 BABIP is pretty much impossible to maintain, even when a pitcher has a fairly good history of inducing weak contact, as Peralta does. For a pitcher with solid contact data, Peralta has a lot of trouble getting from strike two to strike three, and it’s always felt like he’d do well with a sojourn with the Rays or Dodgers.

Jeremiah Estrada was a fascinating waiver wire pickup this winter, with an above-average fastball and a couple decent secondary pitches, but some brutal results in 2023. Of interest here is that despite all the walks in his limited time in the majors, he had an above-average first-strike percentage in both the majors and the minors last year. That’s an important leading indicator of future walk rates. Six strong spring appearances got him a trip to Seoul, but there’s still a lot of risk here.

26. Rangers
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
José Leclerc 66 10.4 4.4 1.3 .284 72.9% 4.30 4.49 0.4
David Robertson 63 10.2 4.1 1.4 .296 73.5% 4.32 4.48 0.3
Josh Sborz 64 10.5 3.6 1.2 .295 74.5% 3.89 3.91 0.7
Kirby Yates 61 10.5 4.6 1.3 .292 72.8% 4.41 4.61 -0.0
Brock Burke 60 8.8 2.7 1.2 .288 74.2% 3.84 4.08 0.3
Marc Church 58 9.4 4.2 1.3 .291 72.1% 4.50 4.58 0.0
Jonathan Hernández 57 9.2 4.5 1.1 .299 72.6% 4.36 4.50 0.0
Grant Anderson 52 9.0 3.6 1.3 .294 71.3% 4.44 4.55 0.1
Cody Bradford 42 7.7 2.3 1.5 .290 71.7% 4.44 4.57 0.0
Michael Lorenzen 40 7.5 3.1 1.3 .294 69.4% 4.66 4.65 -0.0
Jacob Latz 36 9.5 4.1 1.3 .292 73.1% 4.31 4.49 0.0
Yerry Rodríguez 35 9.3 4.0 1.2 .296 71.6% 4.39 4.43 0.0
Antoine Kelly 32 9.3 5.0 1.3 .292 71.5% 4.67 4.93 -0.0
Owen White 28 6.8 3.8 1.4 .292 69.1% 5.02 5.14 -0.1
Diego Castillo 21 8.1 4.5 1.3 .292 70.2% 4.87 5.02 -0.0
Danny Duffy 19 8.9 4.8 1.4 .291 71.4% 4.89 5.01 -0.0
Carson Coleman 17 9.6 4.5 1.3 .293 69.4% 4.79 4.90 -0.0
Tyler Mahle 15 9.2 3.0 1.3 .290 72.4% 4.20 4.29 0.0
Andrew Heaney 14 9.3 3.2 1.5 .294 71.7% 4.50 4.59 0.0
Daniel Robert 13 9.0 4.5 1.4 .292 70.7% 4.85 4.93 -0.0
Jack Leiter 11 8.9 4.7 1.4 .290 70.6% 4.94 5.09 -0.0
José Ureña 10 6.8 3.6 1.4 .299 69.6% 5.10 5.14 -0.0
Cole Winn 8 7.8 5.1 1.4 .290 70.0% 5.14 5.31 -0.0
Zak Kent 6 8.1 3.1 1.3 .296 71.7% 4.40 4.51 0.0
Total 559 9.2 3.9 1.3 .292 72.1% 4.41 4.54 1.8

By WAR last season, only a single contender had a worse bullpen than the Texas Rangers: their World Series rivals, the Arizona Diamondbacks. Texas made three significant additions this winter, though the fact that you’ve read a couple thousand words before getting here is a good indication that the computer projections are not buying the ‘pen this year, either.

If the Rangers surprise with their relief corps, one probable reason would be José Leclerc getting back to where he was in 2018-2019, when he was one of the top relievers in baseball on the back of his changeup/splitter thingamajig. Leclerc was effective since coming back from Tommy John surgery and his velocity came with him. Problem is, the walks also came back while he lost about a quarter of his strikeouts. Even if Leclerc is sharp, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Rangers to get David Robertson some saves just to keep the former from making 83 appearances again (when taking into account his postseason work).

Robertson had his usual David Robertson season in 2023, but the soon-to-be-39-year-old probably doesn’t have that many of those left in him now. Leclerc will be the closer, but as long as Robertson is effective, he’s a threat to come in and grab some ninth-inning appearances. His cutter is as effective as you’d expect from someone who was a teammate of Mariano Rivera’s, and the combo of that, his knuckle-curve, and his slider has yet to be solved. To be honest, given his command, I’d actually be more comfortable with him getting the tougher saves than Leclerc.

Kirby Yates had a solid ERA in his comeback with the Braves last year, but trouble brewed beneath the surface. He gave up a lot of free passes and was hit quite hard at times, and that’s risky given that he’s moving to a hitter-friendly home run park. He may get bumped down the pecking order pretty quickly by Josh Sborz or Brock Burke if the projections prove accurate.

Speaking of Sborz, he was one of the last cuts when I put together my 2024 ZiPS breakout piece. It wasn’t reflected in his ERA last year, but he’s trimmed some of the walks, and his secondary numbers look a lot like his solid 2021 rather than the decidedly mixed results of 2022 and 2023. He’s been one of the hardest pitchers to make contact against in the last two years, and that kind of thing is really hard to fake.

The bad news on Brock Burke is that he lost a quarter of his 2022 strikeout rate in 2023. The good news is that the drop-off in his peripheral numbers didn’t suggest that large a decline was warranted and the projections generally see him clawing back some of those missing strikeouts.

27. Royals
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
James McArthur 66 8.3 3.3 1.1 .302 70.2% 4.35 4.33 0.2
Will Smith 64 8.7 3.3 1.3 .294 71.0% 4.40 4.40 0.3
John Schreiber 63 8.9 3.6 1.0 .298 71.8% 4.11 4.13 0.4
Chris Stratton 62 8.2 3.4 1.1 .301 71.2% 4.33 4.28 0.2
Nick Anderson 60 8.1 2.7 1.3 .302 72.1% 4.31 4.28 0.3
John McMillon 58 11.1 5.9 1.1 .295 72.0% 4.45 4.45 0.1
Angel Zerpa 54 7.2 3.1 1.1 .298 70.7% 4.32 4.38 0.0
Carlos Hernández 50 8.8 3.8 1.2 .294 70.4% 4.44 4.34 0.0
Matt Sauer 46 7.8 3.9 1.2 .297 69.1% 4.82 4.85 -0.0
Jordan Lyles 42 6.6 2.7 1.6 .299 67.0% 5.33 5.11 -0.1
Josh Taylor 36 9.1 3.5 1.2 .302 71.8% 4.38 4.28 0.1
Steven Cruz 33 9.0 5.4 1.1 .299 70.9% 4.85 4.91 -0.0
Sam Long 28 7.1 3.7 1.2 .295 69.0% 4.74 4.70 -0.0
Will Klein 24 8.8 5.4 1.0 .302 69.8% 4.84 4.75 -0.0
Jonathan Bowlan 21 7.1 3.1 1.2 .301 69.7% 4.66 4.61 -0.0
Anthony Veneziano 19 7.2 3.7 1.2 .299 69.4% 4.77 4.80 -0.0
Walter Pennington 17 7.0 4.2 1.0 .303 69.4% 4.65 4.64 -0.0
Alec Marsh 14 8.4 4.1 1.3 .302 69.2% 4.92 4.77 -0.0
Jake Brentz 11 9.9 5.7 1.1 .298 69.0% 4.98 4.82 -0.0
Daniel Lynch IV 8 7.5 3.3 1.3 .304 69.5% 4.77 4.63 0.0
Luis Cessa 6 6.5 3.2 1.2 .300 69.8% 4.65 4.65 -0.0
Total 561 8.4 3.8 1.2 .299 70.5% 4.52 4.49 1.4

Kansas City’s bullpen is very chain restaurant-y: nobody’s really awful, but if you actually remember any of them the minute the game is over, something bad happened. We have eight pitchers projected to throw at least 50 innings, and they all occupy a very tight range of projected FIP, with just a quarter-run of spread.

In a situation like this, without a standout contributor, I’m of the mind that you should give priority to pitchers who may actually have upside remaining. Should he grab the most high-leverage innings, James McArthur is a good choice. After struggling early, the team had him start throw a lot more sliders in the minors, and he dominated down the stretch for the Royals.

Will Smith remains good for two things: getting lefties out and messing up your database queries if you’re looking up a player by name instead of ID and are hoping for the Dodgers catcher. Pure LOOGYs are dead, but Smith has a lot of utility. He and Angel Zerpa are likely to be the only two lefties to get much playing time in the ‘pen. Zerpa is more of a swingman/mop-up type and among Royals pitchers last year, only career infielder Matt Duffy finished with a worse Stuff+.

John Schreiber will pitch in a setup role where he’ll be blandly adequate. One worry is that his strikeout rate plummeted as the season went on; he lost a third of his strikeout percentage in the second half.

Chris Stratton had a moment a few years ago with the Pirates, but he’s become more hittable in the last few years, and he doesn’t have one killer pitch to fall back on. Sent to Texas in the Jordan Montgomery trade, he made the postseason roster but was limited to only a few mop-up appearances before signing with Kansas City in December.

Nick Anderson was a hot commodity several years ago with the Rays, but a partial tear of his UCL and shoulder problems have made him more of a reclamation project than anything else. Given just how good he was with his fastball/curve combination, he’s a good fit on a rebuilding team, even one that’s not quite aware it’s rebuilding.

28. Orioles
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Craig Kimbrel 66 11.0 4.0 1.2 .286 72.2% 4.09 4.11 0.4
Yennier Cano 64 8.4 3.0 1.0 .298 74.0% 3.67 3.91 0.4
Danny Coulombe 63 9.2 3.2 1.3 .297 74.1% 4.00 4.19 0.3
Dillon Tate 70 7.0 3.1 1.1 .295 68.2% 4.48 4.52 -0.1
Cionel Pérez 60 8.5 4.1 1.0 .295 72.5% 4.06 4.24 0.1
Jacob Webb 58 9.3 3.7 1.2 .292 71.5% 4.32 4.33 0.1
Mike Baumann 54 8.6 3.9 1.1 .293 71.4% 4.28 4.34 0.0
Keegan Akin 48 9.4 2.7 1.2 .295 73.4% 3.85 3.82 0.2
Bryan Baker 44 9.1 4.0 1.2 .286 72.3% 4.19 4.33 0.0
Nick Vespi 38 8.2 3.1 1.2 .293 71.7% 4.18 4.26 0.0
Tyler Wells 35 8.3 2.7 1.5 .276 71.1% 4.35 4.55 0.0
Cole Irvin 33 6.8 2.0 1.4 .293 70.5% 4.46 4.61 -0.0
Tucker Davidson 28 8.1 3.5 1.2 .295 70.7% 4.46 4.46 -0.0
Bruce Zimmermann 24 7.6 2.5 1.3 .299 71.9% 4.33 4.40 -0.0
Jonathan Heasley 21 7.3 3.1 1.5 .289 69.4% 4.82 4.92 -0.0
Albert Suárez 19 8.4 4.4 1.4 .279 66.8% 5.49 5.13 -0.0
Kaleb Ort 17 8.9 4.1 1.3 .288 69.3% 4.81 4.76 -0.0
Matt Krook 14 9.2 5.1 1.0 .295 71.8% 4.36 4.53 -0.0
Chayce McDermott 13 9.4 4.6 1.2 .287 71.4% 4.53 4.62 -0.0
Cade Povich 12 9.3 3.6 1.2 .290 72.5% 4.06 4.19 0.0
Justin Armbruester 10 7.3 3.2 1.4 .287 70.3% 4.67 4.83 -0.0
John Means 8 6.9 2.2 1.5 .280 71.2% 4.37 4.70 -0.0
Andrew Suárez 6 7.2 3.3 1.3 .296 71.0% 4.63 4.76 -0.0
Total 557 8.6 3.4 1.2 .292 71.6% 4.24 4.33 1.4

Fans might be upset to see the Orioles here, but losing Félix Bautista is a Very Big Deal. Add in just half of Bautista’s 2023 WAR, and the Orioles jump something in the neighborhood of 15 places in these rankings. Craig Kimbrel is the short-term replacement for the Mountain, but at this point in his career, he’s more of a molehill. That’s probably a bit too mean, as he’s still pretty good, but he has a tendency to fall into a funk for a month or two, and he just doesn’t have the command he did at his peak with the Braves. If my only big signing of the offseason was spending $13 million on a reliever, I’d be a little uneasy about that reliever having basically gotten demoted during the playoffs.

If Kimbrel is inconsistent, I hope the O’s will turn to Yennier Cano, who played Amory Lorch to Bautista’s Gregor Clegane. (Please, dear reader, replace that with Robin to Bautista’s Batman if the reference is too esoteric.) Cano’s rise was meteoric, but his elite first-strike percentage suggests that the sudden decline in his walk rate wasn’t a fluke.

Danny Coulombe is the third prong of the O’s bullpen, and the projections are a tad suspicious that he’ll repeat his 2023. Just as Cano’s peripherals suggest the walks are likely actually gone, Coulombe gets off to a lot of 1-0 counts, which is highly predictive of an unimpressive future walk rate. If he returns to issuing three or four free passes a game, he becomes fairly ordinary overall.

Things thin out after Coulombe. Cionel Pérez has never been a dominating pitcher despite heat that can touch the high 90s and two breaking pitches, and he’s survived mediocre peripherals by not allowing homers. That’s a very risky line to walk, which is one reason the projections aren’t in on him. Like Pérez, Dillon Tate requires a lot of good fortune with balls hit in play.

Jacob Webb returns for a full year with the O’s after being claimed off waivers from the Angels last season. I’m kind of curious to see which version of Webb shows up: the one in Los Angeles who was well below average when it came to first-pitch strikes and who walked nearly six batters a game, or the much improved version we saw in Baltimore.

The O’s Mike Baumann is way worse at writing headlines than our Mike Baumann, but he also has a way better fastball. The problem is that he was still hit pretty hard last year, resulting in a huge difference between his ERA and xERA. In other words, like Pérez and Tate, there’s risk involved.

Keegan Akin is an interesting case. In an injury-marred 2023, he had a nearly comical separation between his ERA and FIP of nearly four runs per game thanks to a .434 BABIP. Given that hitters used as pitchers generally do about a hundred points better, it’d be ludicrous to expect that to repeat this year. Luckily, the O’s are probably looking past the raw ERA too; if they thought Akin truly had an ERA around seven, he probably would have been non-tendered.

29. Rockies
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Justin Lawrence 66 9.4 4.2 1.1 .308 69.6% 4.54 4.34 0.6
Tyler Kinley 64 8.8 3.6 1.5 .305 68.5% 4.99 4.72 0.4
Daniel Bard 55 8.8 5.5 1.4 .307 69.1% 5.43 5.40 -0.2
Jake Bird 63 7.8 3.4 1.1 .312 69.1% 4.69 4.50 0.3
Nick Mears 62 9.5 5.3 1.4 .306 70.4% 5.11 5.03 0.0
Jalen Beeks 60 8.3 3.5 1.3 .313 71.1% 4.70 4.61 0.1
Anthony Molina 54 5.8 2.7 1.4 .309 68.1% 5.19 4.99 -0.0
Matt Carasiti 48 7.3 4.1 1.4 .316 67.5% 5.52 5.14 -0.1
Lucas Gilbreath 44 8.8 5.0 1.3 .308 70.2% 5.04 4.98 -0.0
Victor Vodnik 40 8.7 4.8 1.3 .310 70.3% 4.99 4.87 -0.0
Riley Pint 35 9.5 6.3 1.3 .310 68.6% 5.44 5.40 -0.1
Evan Justice 33 9.8 5.6 1.4 .307 69.4% 5.37 5.32 -0.0
Gavin Hollowell 28 8.6 3.8 1.5 .303 68.5% 5.18 4.98 -0.0
Peter Lambert 24 7.2 3.5 1.5 .308 67.1% 5.51 5.23 -0.0
Matt Koch 21 7.0 3.2 1.6 .311 66.7% 5.61 5.26 -0.0
Jaden Hill 19 6.9 5.3 1.4 .316 68.3% 5.89 5.72 -0.0
John Curtiss 17 7.7 3.5 1.6 .306 68.7% 5.35 5.18 -0.0
Stephen Jones 14 7.6 4.1 1.4 .307 68.4% 5.32 5.19 -0.0
Ty Blach 12 5.8 2.5 1.5 .316 66.9% 5.47 5.06 -0.0
Geoff Hartlieb 10 7.1 4.1 1.4 .309 68.1% 5.44 5.28 -0.0
Noah Davis 8 6.6 4.3 1.6 .305 65.5% 5.98 5.80 -0.0
Dakota Hudson 6 5.3 3.6 1.3 .313 67.0% 5.45 5.27 -0.0
Total 577 8.2 4.2 1.3 .309 69.0% 5.13 4.97 1.0

Justin Lawrence generally keeps the ball on the ground and doesn’t get hit very hard, which makes him a good fit for Coors, if any pitcher can make that claim. He also has a violent sidearm delivery, which makes him a good fit for my endless affections, and he throws harder than the usual member of that morally superior group of pitchers. One thing I wouldn’t count on, though, is Lawrence maintaining his strong splits against lefties in 2024, since wide platoon splits tend to be the norm among sidewinders.

Tyler Kinley’s return from elbow problems last year didn’t look great on the surface, but his peripherals were better than his bloated ERA, and a reliever who can throw hard, strike out batters, and not allow a bajillion walks will tend to have a very long leash. Jake Bird has a wider variety of stuff than most relievers, which gives the Rockies greater confidence in his ability to make frequent multiple-inning appearances (the sixth-most in baseball for a reliever in 2023). He doesn’t miss a lot of bats, though, which always makes him a concern in Denver.

Nick Mears does miss bats but no matter how good his fastball/curve combo is, he’s not going to get the highest-leverage outings on the team unless he can consistently avoid the free passes. Jalen Beeks was an interesting short-term pickup, as he has experience being used in a wide variety of roles and underperformed his peripherals in 2023. Daniel Bard’s comeback was one of the best stories in baseball a few years ago, but he’s struggled recently, and while he’s assured a role if he’s able, he’s no longer high in the pecking order for saves.

30. White Sox
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Michael Kopech 70 9.7 4.5 1.4 .283 71.6% 4.58 4.76 0.1
John Brebbia 66 9.3 3.1 1.4 .290 72.1% 4.35 4.39 0.4
Steven Wilson 63 9.7 4.2 1.4 .276 72.9% 4.35 4.71 0.2
Jordan Leasure 62 9.5 4.2 1.4 .285 72.5% 4.41 4.59 0.1
Deivi García 61 8.2 4.9 1.5 .285 70.0% 5.15 5.39 -0.3
Tim Hill 60 5.8 3.1 1.3 .301 69.1% 4.92 5.14 -0.2
Tanner Banks 55 8.3 2.7 1.3 .295 72.7% 4.17 4.34 0.1
Jake Cousins 51 10.1 4.3 1.3 .291 71.4% 4.39 4.57 0.0
Alex Speas 45 10.2 5.2 1.1 .288 70.6% 4.50 4.63 0.0
Corey Knebel 42 9.2 4.1 1.3 .288 73.3% 4.36 4.63 0.0
Dominic Leone 38 9.1 3.9 1.4 .291 72.2% 4.54 4.67 -0.0
Prelander Berroa 34 10.5 5.4 1.3 .289 73.5% 4.46 4.68 -0.0
Garrett Crochet 30 10.3 4.4 1.2 .291 74.3% 4.02 4.25 0.0
Jonathan Cannon 28 6.3 3.1 1.3 .293 69.9% 4.65 4.79 -0.0
Jimmy Lambert 23 8.5 4.3 1.5 .289 71.9% 4.88 5.08 -0.0
Sammy Peralta 21 7.6 3.1 1.2 .292 70.5% 4.45 4.56 0.0
Brad Keller 19 7.0 4.9 1.1 .301 69.8% 5.04 5.09 -0.0
Bailey Horn 17 8.7 4.8 1.4 .291 72.1% 4.79 5.04 -0.0
Chad Kuhl 15 8.1 4.7 1.6 .290 68.7% 5.40 5.48 -0.0
Bryan Shaw 14 7.8 4.4 1.3 .292 69.2% 4.92 5.02 -0.0
Matt Foster 13 8.5 3.2 1.5 .289 71.4% 4.56 4.70 0.0
Chris Flexen 11 6.8 3.3 1.5 .297 69.8% 5.01 5.04 -0.0
Jake Woodford 10 6.8 3.4 1.3 .294 69.8% 4.71 4.89 -0.0
Touki Toussaint 8 9.0 4.8 1.2 .288 69.8% 4.64 4.85 -0.0
Joe Barlow 6 7.3 3.7 1.5 .287 71.1% 4.87 5.14 -0.0
Total 575 8.8 4.1 1.3 .290 71.5% 4.57 4.75 0.3

The question of which member of the White Sox bullpen is the closer is a bit of an academic one, like me wondering where in my house I should display my future Tony Awards. Blend the team’s conservatism and his repertoire fulfilling the stereotypical power closer role, and the tea leaves point to Michael Kopech as first in line for saves and the highest-leverage innings. The White Sox need to answer a very important question when it comes to the right-hander: Are Kopech’s struggles a result of starting or just Kopech, period? He still throws pretty hard, but his command remains inconsistent.

Jordan Leasure might be the most interesting reliever on the team and comes from a similar mold as Kopech, with his hard, lively fastball and spotty control. The projections are generally unsure of whether he’ll contribute in 2024 given the latter issue, but just having upside makes him one of the most intriguing relievers of this group.

Steven Wilson throws out more sliders than the SyFy daytime lineup in 2007, but he’s not really a huge whiff guy and slots in as a bullpen innings-eater; he came over from the Padres as part of the Dylan Cease trade. Don’t get too excited about John Brebbia’s start count last year, as he was a frequent opener with the Giants; his fastball/slider inventory is too light to get him a role as a spot starter. I don’t expect Deivi García to be good, and he’ll well in his post-hype phase, but he’s still pretty young and there are way worse ideas than seeing if he pans out. Tim Hill’s around because he’s left-handed, which is especially useful as the righties in the ‘pen are mostly without the offspeed pitches that help fight against the typical platoon splits.





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.

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masterankerichmember
2 months ago

I for one didn’t expect to read a reference to Amory Lorch today (or any day for that matter).

Baller McCheese (burner account)member
2 months ago
Reply to  masterankerich

I for one didn’t expect to read a reference to Sliders today (or any day for that matter).