By: Noah Wright
As we advance into the future of baseball, bullpens are becoming more and more of a dominant force on a team’s roster. As we near the regular season, I wanted to go and look at the NL’s bullpens’ and try to rank them from best (1) to worst (15).
1.) Milwaukee Brewers:
Closer: Jeremy Jeffress/Corey Knebel
Set-up: Jefferess/Knebel, Matt Albers
Mid-Relief: Alex Claudio, Taylor Williams
Long relief: Corbin Burnes/Brandon Woodruff/Adrian Houser
Super-utility: Josh Hader
Need I state why they have the best pen in the NL? Jeremy Jeffress and Corey Knebel make a fearsome 1-2 punch in the back-end. One of Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff or Adrian Houser, depending on who takes that last rotation spot in ST will join a deep pen with bounceback options Alex Claudio and Matt Albers. The Brewers are also coming back with their secret weapon: Josh Hader. Hader can pitch 3-5 innings if need be, close a game out, or set-it-up. Hell, if you needed an emergency starter, he could do it. He’s basically a Marwin Gonzalez of pitching in terms of roles he can fill.
2.) Pittsburgh Pirates:
Closer: Felipe Vasquez
Set-up: Keone Kela, Kyle Crick, Richard Rodriguez
Mid-Relief: Tyler Lyons
Long relief: Nick Kingham, Steven Brault, Francisco Liriano/Jordan Lyles
The Pirates have one of the best pen’s in the NL. Behind one of the best closers in the the game, Felipe Vasquez, the Bucs have some top quality set-up men in Keone Kela, 2018 breakout highlight Kyle Crick, and another breakout highlight of 2018, Richard Rodriguez. Tyler Lyons fills in the LOOGY/lefty mid relief role, and Kingham, Brault, and either Jordan Lyles or Francisco Liriano round out the long relief section of the pen.
3.) Atlanta Braves:
Closer: Arodys Vizcaino
Set-up: A.J. Minter, Daniel Winkler, Jonny Venters
Mid-relief: Jonny Venters, Jesse Biddle, Chad Sobotka, Darren O’Day
Long relief: Max Fried
The Braves pen has quietly been shutting batters this past year. While the team doesn’t have any big names, they do have a myriad of decent options to fill out the pen. Arodys Vizcaino can be a top 10 closer if he can stay healthy. Even if he can’t stay 100%, A.J. Minter, and Daniel Winkler are very good set-up and closing options in the event of. Jonny Venters and Jesse Biddle make a nice lhp duo in the pen with Chad Sobotka and Darren O’Day filling out the rest of the middle pen. Max Fried, depending on how the Braves look to deploy him, could be one of the better swingman options in the NL.
4.) NY Mets:
Closer: Edwin Diaz
Set-up: Jeurys Familia
Mid-relief: Seth Lugo, Justin Wilson, Luis Avilan, Drew Smith
Long relief: Robert Gsellman
After having one of the worst pens in baseball during 2018, the Mets decided to do something about it, and bolstered it up. They’ve added young star closer Edwin Diaz, and brought Jeurys Familia back into the mix. Then they went out and got Luis Avilan and Justin Wilson to add to Seth Lugo, Drew Smith, and Robert Gsellman to smooth out the rest of the pen.
5.) Philadelphia Phillies:
Closer: Seranthony Dominguez/David Robertson
Set-up: Robertson/Dominguez, Pat Neshek, Hector Neris
Mid-Relief: Hector Neris, Tommy Hunter, Juan Nicasio, Jose Alvarez, James Pazos, Victor Arano, Edubray Ramos
Long relief: N/A
The Phillies have really improved their pen as compared to last season. Seranthony Dominguez looks to reclaim his closer role he received last season after an excellent performance out of the pen. Backing him is veteran RHP David Robertson who put up another great campaign with the Yankees last year. Veteran submarine righty Pat Neshek will also be looking for a healthy 2019 season, as will bounce back candidates Hector Neris and Juan Nicasio. New additions James Pazos and Jose Alvarez look to join with Tommy Hunter, Victor Arano, and Edubray Ramos to solidify the mid relief core.
6.) San Diego Padres:
Closer: Kirby Yates
Set-up: Craig Stammen
Mid-relief: Jose Castillo, Aaron Loup, Phil Maton, Robert Stock, Trey Wingenter
Long relief: Matt Strahm
The Padres have possibly the most underrated closer in the MLB, Kirby Yates. The right hander did better than the team’s former closer, Brad Hand, during 2018. Craig Stammen put up his second straight good season with the Padres. Jose Castillo, Robert Stock, Phil Maton, and new addition Aaron Loup fill out a solid mid-relief core, with swingman lefty Matt Strahm representing another possible option.
7.) Chicago Cubs:
Closer: Brandon Morrow
Set-up: Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek
Mid-relief: Carl Edwards Jr., Brandon Kintzler, Brian Duensing
Long relief: Mike Montgomery
This pen will have some questions, though it can be very very good if things go right. Brandon Morrow looked like an all-star before getting injured from putting on his pants (no, that actually happened). Strop and Cishek are really the only guys they can fully rely on to be healthy and good. If Carl Edwards can lower his walk rate a bit, and Brandon Kintzler and Brian Duensing have bounce back seasons, this pen could be an exciting one to watch.
8.) LA Dodgers:
Closer: Kenley Jansen
Set-up: Pedro Baez, Joe Kelly
Mid-relief: Josh Fields, Scott Alexander, Dylan Floro
Long relief: Caleb Ferguson
The NL Pennant winners pen is probably the weakest part about their team. However, it’s still solid overall. Kenley Jansen is a top 5 closer in the MLB. Pedro Baez put up solid numbers last season as well. Though Joe Kelly was so-so last year, he was a decent MLB pitcher in 2017. Josh Fields, Scott Alexander, and Dylan Floro all put up nice 2018 seasons. Youngster Caleb Ferguson is only looking at a swingman spot because they have a handful of great rotation options.
9.) St. Louis Cardinals:
Closer: Andrew Miller/Jordan Hicks
Set-up: Jordan Hicks/Andrew Miller, Dakota Hudson
Mid-relief: Brett Cecil, Jon Brebbia, Dominic Leone
Long relief: Daniel Ponce De Leon
The Cardinals pen has some solid options all throughout, but nothing that shouts super impressive. Andrew Miller could have a nice bounce back season, but is getting up there in age. Flamethrowing right handed 2018 rookie Jordan Hicks was ok, but nothing super special (other than his fastball) in his debut season. Brett Cecil did have a bounce back year, and Jon Brebbia was a solid option out of the pen last season. Dakota Hudson is a young right hander who could be a nice option at the back of the pen, or as a long relief/swingman option.
10.) Cincinnati Reds:
Closer: Raisel Iglesias
Set-up: Jared Hughes, David Hernandez
Mid-relief: Zach Duke, Amir Garrett, Wandy Peralta
Long relief: Cody Reed, Jackson Stephens
Super utility: Michael Lorenzen
Though Cincy doesn’t boast anything that could strike fear into the heart of a batter, the Reds have put up a solid pen. Raisel Iglesias, though struggled through a 4.23 FIP, had put up his 3rd straight sub-3 ERA season. Jared Hughes and David Hernandez quietly put together very good 2018 campaigns. To offset the RHP’s to LHP’s, the Reds brought in LOOGY Zach Duke to help balance out the pen. Michael Lorenzen is a true super utility player. Not only can he fill in parts of the pen, and rotation, but he’ll also see some time as a 2 way player, as the 4 HR pitcher will log some innings in the grass next season.
11.) SF Giants:
Closer: Will Smith
Set-up: Tony Watson, Mark Melancon
Mid-relief: Reyes Montoya, Sam Dyson
Long relief: Ty Blach
The Giants pen isn’t overall that bad. It’s just not that deep. Will Smith, Tony Watson, and Mark Melancon all are quality 7-8-9 inning options. Sam Dyson and Reyes Montoya are fine major league relief pitchers too. Though they don’t have very much past that. Ty Blach struggled last season, and their depth options aren’t too impressive overall.
12.) Washington Nationals:
Closer: Sean Doolittle
Set-up: Trevor Rosenthal, Kyle Barraclough
Mid-relief: Justin Miller, Matt Grace, Sammy Solis
Long relief: Joe Ross/Erick Fedde
The Nationals had a horrible bullpen last season, but have made some strides to try to improve it. They’ve brought in TJ bounceback candidate Trevor Rosenthal and former Marlins closer Kyle Barraclough to fill in the set-up role. Sean Doolittle can be a top tier closer, but just needs to stay healthy. Justin Miller and Matt Grace had solid 2018 seasons, but they’re nothing that should be considered a top of the line bullpen options. One of Joe Ross or Erick Fedde are likely going to see a bullpen spot this year with the other winning the 5th rotation spot.
13.) Arizona Diamondbacks:
Closer: Archie Bradley
Set-up: Greg Holland, Yoshi Hirano
Mid-relief: Andrew Chafin, T.J. Mcfarland
The Diamondbacks pen really lacks truly great options. Archie Bradley could be a top 10 relief pitcher, but he struggled a tad last season. Greg Holland was very very bad with the Cardinals before being picked up by the Nationals where he thrived, but he’s not super young. Yoshi Hirano and Andrew Chafin both had nice seasons last year. T.J. Mcfarland will be a bit of a question mark though, as 2018 was the first season since 2014 he posted an ERA that was right around or above 5.
14.) Colorado Rockies:
Closer: Wade Davis
Set-up: Bryan Shaw, Mike Dunn, Seung Hwan Oh, Jake McGee
Mid-relief: Chris Rusin, Scott Oberg
Long relief: Chad Bettis
Among all the players the Rox have in their pen, only Scott Oberg was the only pitcher in the pen who is still on the team in 2019. Losing Adam Ottavino could really hurt this team, as most of their options are old, and struggled last year. Other than Seung Hwan Oh and Oberg, this pen is going to be interesting to watch in the pitchers hell known as Coors Field.
15.) Miami Marlins:
Closer: Drew Steckenrider
Set-up: Sergio Romo
Mid-relief: Adam Conley, Tayron Guerrero
Long relief: ???
This Marlins pen is likely the worst in baseball. Only Steckenrider put up an ERA that was north of 4, but it was 3.91. Half of the guys on this list will likely be dealt by the deadline or sooner. Except for maybe Romo and Steckenrider, there’s nothing in this pen that is too impressive.