After pitching one game (no runs over two-thirds of an inning with two strikeouts), Joakim Soria landed on the injured list with a calf issue. His timetable to return is unknown.
Chris Devenski earned the save that night despite allowing a solo home run. In his next appearance, Devenski served up another long ball, leading to a blown save.
Kevin Ginkel missed Tuesday night’s game with an illness. Over his first three appearances, he didn’t allow a run over 2.1 innings with three strikeouts. Ginkel has some closing experience in the minors, and he may very well get the next chance in the ninth for the Diamondbacks.
Last season, Stefan Crichton picked five saves late in the year. He started 2021 with one run allowed over three innings with two walks and two strikeouts.
The player to keep an eye on in this bullpen is J.B. Bukauskas. He turned in an impressive spring training (no runs, three hits, and no walks over 7.2 innings with 14 strikeouts). Bukauskas didn’t make the opening day roster, and he will be easy to lose track of with no minor league games played in April. If he gets called up, it is essential to follow his progress in Arizona.
Will Smith looked sharp in his first outing (perfect inning with three strikeouts). In his next appearance in a tie game, he gave up a leadoff single and then hit Trea Turner. After falling behind 3-0 to Juan Soto, Smith gave up a game-losing single. He remains the favorite to close for the Braves, even with another battle to earn a save against Washington on Wednesday.
Over his first three trips to the mound, A.J. Minter allowed one run over three innings with three strikeouts. His arm has closing upside if Minter can throw more strikes.
Chris Martin struggled out of the gate (one run and five baserunners over 1.2 innings) while battling a finger issue (numbness). He expected to avoid the injured list.
The surprise closer for Baltimore over the opening weekend was 36-year-old Cesar Valdez. Coming into 2021, he had a 6.04 ERA, 1.537 WHIP, and 48 strikeouts over 67 career major league innings. After kicking around in various leagues on the foreign market, Valdez went 19-3 in 2019 over 188.1 innings while posting a 2.01 ERA and 162 strikeouts between Mexico and the Dominican. His fastball sits only in the mid-80s while relying on a plus-changeup (about 78 mph) to get outs. Over his 16.1 innings with the Orioles in 2020 and 2021, Valdez has a 1.10 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, and 14 strikeouts.
Tanner Scott was the reliever of choice in the last draft season in the high-stakes market for Baltimore. In his only appearance through April 6th, he tossed a shutout inning with two walks and two strikeouts.
Boston Red Sox
The coin toss for saves in Boston remains in the air after five games.
Matt Barnes has been impressive in his two appearances (no runs or hits over three innings with one walk and six strikeouts. He pitched in the eighth inning of a blowout game in his 2021 debut. The Red Sox used him in the 9th and 10th innings in a game they were down a run.
Over two games, Adam Ottavino gave up one run and four baserunners over 1.1 innings with three strikeouts. He mopped up the game in the ninth on April 4th (poor showing) while recording one-out in a 7-2 game in the eighth inning the next day.
For now, these two relievers will be in a split role for saves.
After a shaky start to spring training, Craig Kimbrel looked electric in his first two outings (no runs, hits, or walks over two innings with five strikeouts and one save). The early velocity on his fastball came at about 96 mph.
Brandon Workman tossed 1.2 shutout innings with a hit, two walks, and two strikeouts.
The Cubs gave Alex Mills a save opportunity on April 6th when Kimbrel was unavailable. His season started two clean innings with two strikeouts and a save.
Andrew Chafin shined over his first three appearances (no runs over three innings with six strikeouts).
Chicago White Sox
In his only game on April 2nd, Liam Hendriks earned a save despite allowing two runs, three baserunners, and one home run over 1.1 innings.
Michael Kopech has been dominating in long relief (no runs over four innings with eight strikeouts). The White Sox will limit his innings in April before moving to the starting rotation when they have an opening.
Chicago also has a second stud starter in waiting with Garrett Crochet. He didn’t give up a run over 3.1 innings with five strikeouts in his first two appearances.
After dominating spring training (no runs or hits over four innings with 10 strikeouts), Amir Garrett battled his way through a save conversion on April 5th. He allowed a run, three baserunners, and a home run over one inning with one strikeout. In a mop role on Wednesday afternoon, Garrett surrendered a grand slam.
Lucas Sims pitched a clean inning with one strikeout in his only appearance.
Over three games, Sean Doolittle teased that his arm is back to top form. He didn’t allow a run over 2.2 innings with one hit and five strikeouts. Doolittle has plenty of closing experience if he has no injury setbacks while regaining his velocity.
For those not reading the closing tea leaves in Cleveland, Emmanuel Clase may be the long-term solution for saves. In his two appearances, he tossed two shutout innings with three strikeouts. His fastball continues to break the 100 mph mark while offering a swing and miss slider.
Nick Wittgren’s chances of closing ended when he strutted to the mound in the seventh inning on April 3rd. He proceeded to give up three runs and five baserunners over two-thirds of an inning. Cleveland turned to him on Wednesday with a two-run lead in the ninth. Wittgren pitched a shutout inning to earn a save. Promising, but on the outside looking in.
The wild thing is James Karinchak hasn’t allowed a run over two innings with one walk and two strikeouts. His ceiling remains high if his command improves.
Daniel Bard battled his way through a save on opening day when he allowed no runs over one inning with two strikeouts. In his three appearances, Bard didn’t give up a run over three innings with five strikeouts.
The Dodgers beat Mychal Givens for a two-run homer on April 3rd, leading to a loss. His arm played much better in his next two outings (no runs or hits over two innings with three strikeouts).
Gregory Soto earned a win, and a save over his first three games. He struggled on April 1st (two runs, three baserunners, and one home run over one inning) while surviving to preserve a win. On the year, he has 4.50 ERA and 1.50 WHIP over four innings with four strikeouts.
The Tigers also gave Bryan Garcia a save chance on April 3rd, which he converted. He gave up two runs and four hits over 3.1 innings with four strikeouts.
Ryan Pressly started the year with three shutout innings with three strikeouts and a win. He doesn’t have a save chance.
The Astros started the year 5-1 while outscoring opponents by 27 runs. Their bullpen may have risk in tight games based on the start of the year.
Enoli Paredes issued four walks over 1.1 innings with two strikeouts, but he didn’t allow a run. Houston needs him to pitch well to bridge to the ninth inning.
Their best setup man has been Ryan Stanek, who tossed 3.2 no-hit shutout innings with one walk and six strikeouts.
Kansas City Royals
Coming into 2021, Greg Holland looked like a secure second-tier option for saves. When the lights went on opening day, Holland walked to the mound in the eighth inning. After recording one-out, he was in a position for a save in the ninth, but a single, ground out, walk, and walk led to him getting the hook. The Royals haven’t pitched him in their next three games.
Wade Davis earned a save in his first game when he cleaned up Holland’s mess with a pair of strikeouts. In his next outing, he served up a solo home run over one inning of work.
The Hahn job for a save chance came on April 5th. Jesse Hahn closed out a win against Cleveland when he allowed two baserunners over one inning. Over his three appearances, Hahn has a 3.86 ERA over 2.1 innings with three strikeouts.
Fantasy owners are rooting hard for Scott Barlow to emerge for saves. His season started with 3.2 shutout innings with four strikeouts.
Los Angeles Angels
The frustration continues with Raisel Iglesias. He flashed electric stuff in his first save chance, but Iglesias came up short in two of his next three outings (four runs, six baserunners, and two home runs over three innings with five strikeouts.
Mike Mayers already has a win and save over four appearances. His only blemish was a home run allowed on April 5th. He has a 1.93 ERA over 4.2 innings with four strikeouts.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Over two games, Kenley Jansen picked up a save while not allowing a run or hit over 2.2 innings with two strikeouts.
Corey Knebel has been perfect through 1.1 innings with two strikeouts, and one save. His average fastball has been over 96 mph while showing strength in his command.
There was some buzz about Blake Treinen’s velocity on Twitter late in spring training. Unfortunately, batters hold the edge over him after two games (two runs, four baserunners, and one home run over two innings with three strikeouts).
Anthony Bass put up a disaster outing in his first save opportunity. He allowed four runs, four baserunners, and one home run over one inning against the Rays. In his next outing, Bass pitched a clean inning with a strikeout. He’ll have a short leash if he struggles again.
The next option for the ninth looks to be Yimi Garcia. His season started with one run and four baserunners allowed over three innings with two strikeouts.
After some speculation this spring that Josh Hader could be in a split role for saves with Devin Williams, the Brewers stated that he would be used in a traditional ninth-inning role just before the regular season. Hader breezed through his first inning of work (no hits or runs with three strikeouts).
Devin Williams pitched poorly in his first game (one run and two baserunners over two-thirds of an inning with one strikeout).
Despite not allowing a run over two innings, Alex Colome is 2-for-3 in save conversions. In his first outing, an error led to three unearned runs. The Twins gave him a two-inning save on Wednesday afternoon, pushing his season total to four scoreless innings with three strikeouts.
Taylor Rogers shined over his first three appearances (no runs over three innings with no walks and five strikeouts).
Colome has the edge for the most saves in Minnesota.
New York Mets
With the opening series canceled with the Nationals, Edwin Diaz has yet to take the mound in 2021. He remains uncontested for saves for the Mets.
Trevor May had tough sledding over his first two games (two runs and five baserunners over 1.1 innings with three strikeouts).
New York Yankees
Aroldis Chapman missed the first two games of the season with a suspension. In his first game, he tossed a no-hit shutout inning with three strikeouts.
New York turned to Chad Green in their first save chance, which he converted. Over three games, he threw four shutout innings with two strikeouts.
For anyone who drafted Trevor Rosenthal, I would be concerned with his throwing a pitch in 2021. He made a trip to Texas to look at his ailing shoulder. There is a chance that Rosenthal may need surgery to correct a thoracic outlet syndrome issue.
Sergio Romo has the most closing experience. In his first two outings, he gave up a run and four baserunners over two innings.
Some fantasy owners may place their closing bet in Oakland on Jake Diekman. I don’t see it. He walks too many batters while never offering a ninth-inning skill set. The Astros beat him for two runs and four baserunners over two-thirds of an inning in his first appearance.
Lou Trivino may be the best short-term option behind Romo. He flashed in his rookie season (2.92 ERA and 82 strikeouts over 74 innings), but his command has been a problem over the last two years. Trivino has a 1.93 ERA over 4.2 innings in 2021 with five strikeouts.
The Phillies named Hector Neris as the closer to start the season. Over his first three games, he pitched three shutout innings with no hits and five strikeouts, leading to a save in his only opportunity.
Philadelphia also gave Jose Alvarado a closing opportunity on April 5th. He converted the chance while allowing a run and three hits over one inning. Alvarado has a 3.00 ERA over three innings with seven strikeouts.
Archie Bradley started the year with no runs over 1.1 innings with one strikeout.
Richard Rodriguez hasn’t allowed a run or hit over 1.1 innings with three strikeouts. He picked up a save on April 1st.
The reliever trending forward in Pittsburgh this spring is David Bednar. He has a high 90s fastball with closing experience in the minors. Over his first two outings, he tossed two no-hit scoreless innings with two strikeouts. The Reds beat him for a pair of home runs in the eighth inning on Wednesday afternoon.
San Diego Padres
Late in March, Emilio Pagan had a big jump in draft value, with fantasy owners expecting him to get the first chance in the ninth inning for the Padres. San Diego went to veteran closer Mark Melancon to start the year. He responded with three shutout innings with two strikeouts while going 3-for-3 in save tries.
Pagan did reward his supporters with a pair of wins over the opening weekend. In his four appearances, he didn’t allow a run over 3.2 innings with three strikeouts.
Drew Pomeranz started the year with two shutout innings with three strikeouts. Not to be outdone, Keone Kela tossed three shutout innings with no walks and five strikeouts.
This bullpen will be in flux for saves early in the season.
After surrendering a one-run lead to the Giants in his first save chance, Rafael Montero buzzed through a clean inning with one strikeout two days later to earn a save.
Kendall Graveman shined his first appearance when he tossed two perfect innings with five strikeouts. Graveman has never had a save in his major league career, but he looks to be next in line for the Mariners.
San Francisco Giants
Jake McGee lived up to expectation over his first three appearances. He’s yet to allow a run or hit over three innings with two saves.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals decided to ride Alex Reyes in the ninth to open the year. He responded with two save conversions despite allowing four baserunners over 3.1 innings. Reyes has a high upside if he stays healthy and throws strikes.
Jordan Hicks had no issues over his first two shutout innings with one strikeout. His fastball continues to reach triple digits.
St. Louis worked Giovanny Gallegos the most out of the gate. He tossed four shutout innings with no walks and seven strikeouts, leading to a win.
Each arm remains a live option to earn saves at some point in the season.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays gave Diego Castillo three save opportunities over the first week of the year. He went 2-for-3 with a 3.00 ERA and five strikeouts. His only blemish came on a game-tying home run by Christian Vazquez to blow a one-run lead to the Red Sox.
Pete Fairbanks allowed five base runners and one run over his first 2.2 innings with two strikeouts.
Tampa has some concern with their bullpen’s backend, which will hurt their chances to make the postseason if it isn’t corrected.
The injuries to Jose Leclerc and Jonathan Hernandez opened the door for Ian Kennedy to open the year as the Rangers’ closer. He allowed a run and two hits over one inning in his first game. Kennedy converted his first save chance after tossing a shutout inning against the Blue Jays.
Toronto Blue Jays
The showstopper in the ninth inning over the first couple of days of baseball was Julian Merryweather. He breezed through two perfect innings with no walks and five strikeouts to pick up a pair of saves. His fastball came in at 98.8 mph with a swing and miss slider. Despite Merryweather’s success, he has a short resume of pitching at a high level.
Jordan Romano started the year with two shutout innings with two walks and three strikeouts. He earned a win, which gave his supporters something for investing in him on draft day.
Brad Hand landed the Covid list to start the year, which gives Daniel Hudson the early save chances for the Nationals. In his only appearance, Hudson picked up a win after one shutout inning with two strikeouts.