2021 MLB Opening Day Closer Depth Chart

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arizona diamondbacks
Arizona Diamondbacks

Joakim Soria (R)
Stefan Crichton (R)Kevin Ginkel (R)NoWith Archie Bradley gone, Arizona brought in Joakim Soria as his replacement. Soria, who pitched well in 2020, has 223 career saves. Behind him is Stefan Crichton, who converted all five of his save opportunities in 2020, and Kevin Ginkel, whose impressive rookie season in 2019 was dampened by a rough 2020.
atlanta braves

Atlanta Braves

Will Smith (L)

Chris Martin (R)A.J. Minter (L)NoThe departure of Mark Melancon and Darren O'Day left a bit of a power vacuum at the top of the Braves' bullpen totem poll. First up is likely the ex-Giant, Will Smith. Smith posted a 2.91 FIP over 321 IP from 2013 to 2019, but struggled in 2020. Chris Martin and A.J. Minter will likely serve as the primary setup men, and could push for closing duties if Smith can't regain is pre-2020 form.
baltimore orioles

Baltimore Orioles

Tanner Scott (L)
Cesar Valdez (R)Dillon Tate (R)YesWith Mychal Givens gone and an injured Hunter Harvey, Orioles skipper Brandon Hyde confirmed he'll take a committee approach to the late-inning bullpen work. A likely candidate for many save opportunities is 25-year-old lefty Tanner Scott. After a disappointing first few years in the league, Scott showed up reinvented in 2020, with slightly more velocity and a lot more spin and it led to a 1.31 ERA and 23 strikeouts over 20.2 innings of work. Other candidates are Dillon Tate, and former Mexican Professional Baseball player Cesar Valdez.

boston red

Boston Red Sox

Matt Barnes (R)
Adam Ottavino (R)Hirokazu Sawamura (R)YesManager Alex Cora declared Matt Barnes the closer. However, this was prior to the acquisition of ex-Yankee, Adam Ottavino. All reports out of spring training indicate there's a battle brewing amongst these two for save opportunities. Also in the late-inning mix is Hirokazu Sawamura, a free agent signee from Japan, and Matt Andriese, who pitched for the Angels in 2020.
chicago cubs

Chicago Cubs

Craig Kimbrel (R)
Brandon Workman (R)Ryan Tepera (R)NoDeclaring Craig Kimbrel as the opening day closer feels like you're asking for a fire. Since coming over from Boston, Kimbrel's fastball has been substantially less effective and he's struggled mightily because of it. Through 36 innings pitched, Kimbrel has a 6.00 ERA, 6.29 FIP, and has blown four of his nineteen save opportunities. Waiting in the wings is both Brandon Workman and Ryan Tepera, both of whom could be given the chance to step up and take over if Kimbrel can't keep the job.
chicago white

Chicago White Sox

Liam Hendriks (R)
Aaron Bummer (L)Evan Marshall (R)NoThree-years, $54 million for Liam Hendriks. They let one of baseball's best relievers, Alex Colome, walk in free agency and replaced him with Hendriks, one of the only other relievers in the majors at his level in recent years. That, along with the return of Aaron Bummer, makes for one of the stingiest eighth-and-ninth-inning combinations in the league. Throw in Evan Marshall, Garrett Crochet, and Codi Heuer, and you might not have a better all-around group in baseball.
cincinnati reds

Cincinnati Reds

Amir Garrett (L)
Lucas Sims (R)Sean Doolittle (L)YesWith the departure of Raisel Iglesias, somebody in Cincinnati needs to step up and take charge of their bullpen. Reports out of spring training are that both Amir Garrett and Lucas Sims are in consideration for the role, both of which have pitched well out of Cincinnati's bullpen in each of the last few seasons. They did sign Sean Doolittle, who has 78 saves in Oakland and Washington between 2017 and 2019, but was not viewed as a closer and has not pitched himself into the conversation so far in spring.
cleveland indians

Cleveland Indians

James Karinchak (R)
Nick Wittgren (R)Emmanuel Clase (R)NoReleasing Brad Hand was not something we all saw coming. Then again, that might just be an indication of how much faith Cleveland has in the electric 25-year-old James Karinchak, whose 95-97 mph fastball and 12-to-6 curveball have dominated out of Cleveland's bullpen in his first two years in the league. That being said, he has just 32.1 career innings under his belt and has not surpassed 50 innings pitched yet in any of his three professional seasons. Can he hold up, or will Cleveland need to rely on veterans such as Nick Wittgren to step up?
colorado rockies

Colorado Rockies

Daniel Bard (R)
Scott Oberg (R)Mychal Givens (R)NoThe remarkable story of Daniel Bard returning to baseball got even better when Manager Bud Black declared Bard as the opening day closer. After having not played in the majors since 2013, making the roster last year and this year alone was impressive enough. His 3.64 FIP over 24.2 innings in 2020 earned him National League Comeback Player of the Year and a chance at being the closer in 2021. Should he falter, Colorado brought in Mychal Givens and expects Scott Oberg to be back at full strength at some point in the early goings of the season.
detroit tigers

Detroit Tigers

Bryan Garcia (R)
Gregory Soto (L)Joe Jimenez (R)YesNew Manager A.J. Hinch indicated that while he may declare somebody as the opening day closer, that individual's true role will be anything but the traditional sense of the term "closer." There's a lot of faith in Detroit around Bryan Garcia, the 25-year-old righty that finished 2020 with a 3.61 FIP in 21.2 innings pitched. Also in the mix are two familiar names in Detroit, Gregory Soto and Joe Jimenez.
houston astros

Houston Astros

Ryan Pressly (R)
Joe Smith (R)Enoli Paredes (R)NoFor the second year in a row, Ryan Pressly figures to get the nod as the Astros' closer. He's certainly put in the work to earn it. After five-plus seasons with the Twins, the Astros traded for Pressly and turned him into a stud. Through his two-plus seasons in Houston, he's done nothing short of come in and put out fires in almost any situation. He had 12 saves for Houston last year and should rack up a decent amount in 2021. Behind him is a solid group of relievers that includes Joe Smith, Enoli Paredes, Blake Taylor, and Brooks Raley.
kansas city royals

Kansas City Royals

Greg Holland (R)
Scott Barlow (R)Josh Staumont (R)NoGreg Holland is set to remain the Royals closer in 2021 after a wonderful rebound year in 2020. Holland, who is 35, struggled a bit in 2018 and 2019 after a six-year stretch in which he had a 2.36 FIP while accumulating 186 saves mostly for the Royals between 2011 and 2017. Backing him up as the primary setup men are Scott Barlow and Josh Staumont.
los angeles angels

Los Angeles Angels

Raisel Iglesias (R)
Mike Mayers (R)Ty Buttrey (R)NoLos Angeles brought in Iglesias to be "the guy." Over the past four years, Iglesias notched 100 saves for Cincinnati while posting 2.95 ERA and 3.42 FIP over 238 innings pitched. From there, much remains to be seen. Mike Mayers, who came to Los Angeles after four disappointing years with the Cardinals, added a cutter and finished 2020 with a 2.19 FIP over 30 innings of work. If he can repeat such a performance, he'll serve as the primary setup man to Iglesias. Behind him is Ty Buttrey, who despite having a rough 2020, has earned the praise of Joe Maddon. They'll also begin the season without Felix Pena, who in all likelihood will slot in as a staple in the bullpen upon returning.
los angeles dodgers

Los Angeles Dodgers

Kenley Jansen (R)
Blake Treinen (R)Victor Gonzalez (L)NoFor possibly the last time, Kenley Jansen will open the season as the Dodgers closer. Since 2010, Jansen has 312 saves and a 2.29 FIP over 636 innings pitched closing for Los Angeles. Sure, Dave Roberts appeared to lose confidence in Jansen in the World Series last year, but Jansen still finished the year with a 3.03 FIP and converted 11 of 13 save opportunities. Besides, nobody is going to feel bad for the Dodgers, considering how deep their bullpen and pitching staff is. David Price is likely going to be pitching in relief because of how stacked their rotation is, for crying out loud.
miami marlins

Miami Marlins

Anthony Bass (R)
Yimi Garcia (R)Dylan Floro (R)NoIn 2019, it was Sergio Romo before he was traded to Minnesota. Last year, Mattingly gave Brandon Kintzler the closing duties. Now with Kintzler gone, the job will likely go to free agent acquisition Anthony Bass. Bass, who has played for three different teams in the past three years, has posted a 3.44 ERA in 89 innings with 12 saves. Yimi Garcia has been performed well in both 2019 and 2020, and is likely next in line. Dylan Floro, the ex-Dodger, has been reliable out of the bullpen for the better part of his five year career, and will also figure into the mix.

milwaukee brewers

Milwaukee Brewers

Josh Hader (L)
Devin Williams (R)Brad Boxberger (R)NoJosh Hader and Devin Williams should be one of the best eighth-and-ninth-inning combinations in baseball. While Hader was a bit shakier than usual in 2020, there's little concern about his readiness in 2021. They also signed Brad Boxberger to pitch in high-leverage situations as well, having saved 32 games for Arizona in 2018 and posting a 3.00 ERA over 18 innings last year for Miami.
minnesota twins

Minnesota Twins

Alex Colome (R)
Taylor Rogers (L)Tyler Duffey (R)YesAfter two straight years of a sub-three ERA and FIP in 2018 and 2019, Taylor Rogers showed signs of humanity in 2020. Although his 2.84 FIP and .400 BABIP indicates his 4.05 ERA was in part a product of getting unlucky. Either way, Minnesota brought in Alex Colome, who had a 3.78 FIP and 42 saves for the White Sox in 2019 and 2020. Manager Rocco Baldelli loves playing matchups and giving relievers days of rest, so expect a true split of save opportunities for the righty / lefty combo in Minnesota. Coming in to put out fires in most other high-leverage situations will be Tyler Duffey the young flame-thrower Jorge Alcala.
new york mets

New York Mets

Edwin Diaz (R)
Trevor May (R)Miguel Castro (R)YesWhile manager Luis Rojas gave a vote of confidence to de-facto closer Edwin Diaz, he also noted he wouldn't be afraid to go with the matchups in any given save opportunity. After a rough 2019 following his record breaking 2018 season in which he posted 57 saves, Diaz rebounded nicely in 2020 with a 2.18 FIP, a whopping 17.5 SO/9 rate, and six saves over 25.2 innings of work. The Mets also signed ex-Twin Trevor May, whose contact peripherals aren't fantastic, but has managed a 3.19 ERA in 113 IP over the last three years.
new york yankees

New York Yankees

Aroldis Chapman (L)
Chad Green (R)Darren O'Day (R)NoThe news about Zack Britton missing significant time hurts. Him and Chapman make one of the strongest two-reliever combinations in the league. Chapman is still healthy, however, and Chad Green and free agent acquisition Darren O'Day are pretty solid setup men. They'll likely get Britton back at some point, and they're also confident that the 26-year-old starter-turned-reliever Jonathan Loaisiga can step up in a big way. If you haven't seen it yet, google "Aroldis Chapman new splitter." It's absolutely filthy.
oakland athletics

Oakland Athletics

Trevor Rosenthal (R)
Sergio Romo (R)Jake Diekman (L)NoYou'd think that your bullpen would be in shambles after losing both Liam Hendriks and Joakim Soria. Yet, things look pretty good in Oakland. They signed Trevor Rosenthal, who like Hendriks, has been pretty untouchable as of late. He finished 2020 with a 2.22 FIP and a 14.5 SO/9 rate over 23.2 innings of work. However, without the historical track record beyond 2020 to prove it wasn't a fluke, the Athletics are desperately hoping he can repeat that performance. They also signed Sergio Romo, and should get strong contributions fro Jake Diekman, Yusmeiro Petit, and J.B. Wendelken.

Philadelphia Phillies

Archie Bradley (R)
Jose Alvarado (L)Hector Neris (R)YesWhile the pecking order of the Phillies bullpen needs to be worked out, the pieces seem to be in place. They signed Archie Bradley, who has a 3.19 FIP over 323.4 innings of work dating back to 17, and traded for Jose Alvarado, to pitch alongside Hector Neris and compete for save opportunities. If you haven't checked in on Jose Alvarado this spring, you're missing out. He's throwing absolute gas. If he regains his velocity for good and gets back to where he was just a few years ago, he'll run away with the job.
pittsburgh pirates

Pittsburgh Pirates

Richard Rodriguez (R)
Kyle Crick (R)Chris Stratton (R)YesRichard Rodriguez led the team in saves last year, and seems to be the obvious choice here, yet Manager Derek Shelton has already indicated that he sees Rodriguez as more of a setup caliber type of reliever. A few other options would be Kyle Crick or Chris Stratton. Crick has a career 4.23 FIP over 147.1 innings pitched entirely as a reliever going back to 2017, whereas Stratton is a starter-turned-reliever who has looked much better since making the switch. Time will tell who pitches well enough to take over that role in Pittsburgh.
san diego padres

San Diego Padres

Emilio Pagan (R)
Drew Pomeranz (L)Mark Melancon (R)YesWhile there is a lot of talent at the top of the Padres bullpen, it's still a bit unclear how the order will shake out. As it stands, with Drew Pomeranz rehabbing his way back to full-time action, Emilio Pagan stands as the favorite to get early save opportunities in the season. After emerging in Tampa Bay in 2019, Pagan took a step back in 2020 with the Padres, finishing with a 4.69 FIP in 22 innings pitched, blowing five of his seven save opportunities. A healthy Pomeranz will likely push Pagan down the totem pole. San Diego also signed Mark Melancon, who has experience as a closer and has been a remarkably reliable reliever throughout his 12-year career.
san francisco giants

San Francisco Giants

Jake McGee (L)
Tyler Rogers (R)Reyes Moronta (R)YesDespite manager Gabe Kapler stating that free agent signee Jake McGee would be the "perfect candidate" to close out games for San Francisco, he's shown he is not afraid to go closer-by-committee. Either way, McGee stands a good chance to see most of the save opportunities early on. He pitched well in 2020, finishing with a 1.67 FIP and a 14.6 SO/9 rate in 20.1 innings of work. Kapler has also speaks highly of Tyler Rogers, the right-handed brother of Twins closer, Taylor Rogers. The dark horse candidate is Reyes Moronta, who could return to his dominant form if he regains his health and velocity in 2021.
seattle mariners

Seattle Mariners

Rafael Montero (R)
Kendall Graveman (R)Keynan Middleton (R)NoOne of the worst bullpens in baseball doesn't look much better in 2021. While they did sign Ken Giles and received Andres Munoz in a trade, both underwent Tommy John surgery in 2020 and are unlikely to be available anytime soon. They traded for Rafael Montero and Keynan Middleton, who himself is on a post-Tommy John surgery redemption arc. Montero should begin the season as the closer, having converted all eight of his opportunities with Texas last season, with Keynan Middleton and returning Kendall Graveman as the primary setup men.
st louis cardinals

St Louis Cardinals

Giovanny Gallegos (R)
Jordan Hicks (R)Alex Reyes (R)YesWhat can we expect out of Jordan Hicks? Recovering from both Tommy John surgery in 2019 and opting out of the 2020 season, it can be expected that Hicks will not be 'guns-a-blazing' out of the gate. In the meantime, expect Giovanny Gallegos to be given the opportunity to close out late-inning leads. In four seasons as a big-leaguer, Gallegos has a 3.05 FIP in 120.2 innings pitched as a reliever.
tampa bay rays

Tampa Bay Rays

Diego Castillo (R)
Nick Anderson (R)Pete Fairbanks (R)YesWe all know Kevin Cash isn't afraid to play the matchups (Google "Blake Snell World Series Game 6"). Diego Castillo seems to be the favorite to receive most of the save opportunities. However, expect Nick Anderson and even Pete Fairbanks, to see their fair share of high-leverage situations. Last season, Nick Anderson led the team with six saves, Diego Castillo had four, and three others pitchers had two. Castillo, 26, has a career 3.06 ERA, 4.53 FIP, 10.3 SO/9 rate, and 12 saves over three seasons and 147 innings of work. While Anderson has only been in the league for two years at age 30, he's been spectacular, particularly with Tampa Bay. It should be noted however that on Wednesday, March 24th, it was reported that Anderson is dealing with an elbow issue. Were he to miss time, Pete Fairbanks would propel into his spot, and behind him competing for higher-leverage roles would be Collin McHugh and Ryan Thompson.
texas rangers

Texas Rangers

Ian Kennedy (R)
Matt Bush (R)Brett Martin (L)YesThe recent news that Jose Leclerc would miss significant time, paired with the uncertain health of both Jonathan Hernandez and Joely Rodriguez, have left Texas' bullpen in a state of disarray. As it stands, it's possible Ian Kennedy opens the season as the closer, despite originally signing a minor league contract with Texas this offseason. Another candidate would be Matt Bush, who is slowly working his way back from constant elbow issues dating back to 2018. A dark horse candidate would be Brett Martin, who finished 2020 with a 1.84 ERA in 14.2 innings of work. However, his 5.71 FIP and 0.89 strikeout-to-walk ratio does not indicate he can repeat his 2020 results.
toronto blue jays

Toronto Blue Jays

Jordan Romano (R)
Rafael Dolis (R)Tyler Chatwood (R)YesThings went from bad to worse for Kirby Yates. After what was just thought to be a strained elbow, it is now being reported that Yates will require Tommy John surgery. The sudden departure of the closer Toronto just signed this offseason leaves a power vacuum for late-inning responsibilities. The favorite is Jordan Romano, who attributed his successful 2020 season to a mechanics adjustment. While Romano has very little experience (30 career innings), the next option seems just as questionable. Rafael Dolis' 2020 season was his first major league action since 2013, having bounced around in the minors and ultimately pitching in Japan before his solid numbers earned him a contract with the Blue Jays last year. A few other names that figure to get into the mix are offseason acquisitions David Phelps and Tyler Chatwood.
washington nationals

Washington Nationals

Brad Hand (L)
Tanner Rainey (R)Daniel Hudson (R)NoAfter leading the American League in saves in 2020 and then being released by the Indians, Brad Hand signed a one-year, $10.5 million dollar deal to step in and close out games for Washington. The top of the bullpen totem pole was a bit shaky in Washington last year, and Hand should come in and settle that dispute nicely. While Daniel Hudson managed 10 saves, he also blew five of them and finished with an ERA and FIP north of six in 20.2 innings of work. He's since accepted slotting down to a setup role, making way for Hand to step in as the top dog. Emerging as candidates for large roles in 2021 as well are two of Washington's best relievers from 2020, Tanner Rainey and Kyle Finnegan. We can also expect Wander Suero to find himself in the mix as well.
Zach Boeder is a high school math teacher that has a passion for sports and data journalism. Zach received a Bachelor's Degree in Mathematics and a Master's Degree in Education from the University of Arizona. He currently teaches in Saint Paul and Lives in Minneapolis with his partner Sarah, their dog Dozier, and cat Remy. Zach plans to argue for a very long time that "2020 would have been the Twins' year if baseball hadn't been shut down."

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