The start of the season is a particularly messy time for bullpens. With the slate wiped clean for everyone, an entire world of possibilities is open, and it can take weeks for reality to winnow down the possibilities.

It doesn't help that three top-12 closers -- Devin Williams, Jhoan Duran and Paul Sewald -- were lost to injury in the final run up to opening day, introducing questions to bullpens that appeared to be settled. (You could say Jordan Romano was lost, too, though he already seems to be on the path to returning.) Meanwhile, there's been no shortage of late-inning chaos in the season's opening week.

Want to make sense of it all? Well, that's what I aim to do here, breaking down what I consider to be the 10 most interesting bullpens for Fantasy Baseball. Rest assured, there will be regular updates throughout the season.

Note: "Pecking order" refers to rosterability in Fantasy and not necessarily who's first in line for saves (though it's usually one and the same).

Alex Lange was the Tigers' on-again, off-again closer for all of 2023 and figured to handle that role at the start of 2024 as well. But it was Jason Foley, armed with a 100 mph sinker, who came in for the first save chance on opening day, and in fact, he's handled both of the team's save chances so far. He was also used in the ninth inning of a tie game Monday, much like a closer would be, so manager A.J. Hinch seems to be spelling it out for us.

If there's one reason for hesitation, it's that a left-hander (first Andrew Chafin, then Tyler Holton) preceded Foley in both of his save chances and stayed in to record the first out of the ninth. Foley has a shaky track record against lefties, so it made all the sense in the world for Hinch to leave the lefty in. Still, him doing so raises the question of what happens when all the batters due up in the ninth are left-handed.

When the Brewers lost Devin Williams to stress fractures in his back about halfway through spring training, they didn't make clear who would replace him for the first three months but offered enough promising choices that a committee seemed likely. It's pretty much just been Abner Uribe, though. The hard-throwing 23-year-old recorded a save on the first and second days of the season before ceding the third opportunity to Joel Payamps, presumably because he needed a day off.

Payamps has gone untouched through three appearances, which made me wonder if that first save might re-open the competition in the eyes of manager Pat Murphy, but there was Uribe back out for the team's fourth save chance Tuesday, with Payamps working the eighth. You might want to keep Payamps close in leagues where saves are scarce, just given Uribe's experience, but this situation seems pretty straightforward at the moment.


The Diamondbacks have yet to register a save, so I can't say with crystal clarity that Kevin Ginkel is indeed the one filling in for Paul Sewald. But really, who else would it be? The right-hander came on strong during the final four months of 2023, actually finishing with even better numbers than Sewald, and the Diamondbacks bullpen is kind of a mess otherwise. Ginkel's only two appearances so far have been to close out a win, just with a four-run lead rather than three or fewer. The bigger question than who fills in for Sewald is how long Sewald is out. He's already back to playing catch after suffering a Grade 2 oblique strain late in spring training.


Manager Bruce Bochy seemed hesitant to anoint Jose Leclerc his closer this spring even though he deployed the right-hander like an ace reliever throughout the playoffs last year -- and to the Rangers' great success, it's worth noting. It turns out Bochy was right to question Leclerc's closer bona fides, though, because so far, the 30-year-old has surrendered five earned runs in his two appearances. Poor control is the main culprit, as has often been true for him, and it just so happens that the Rangers brought in two relievers with closing experience this offseason, David Robertson and Kirby Yates. I have no reason to believe Leclerc's leash has run out yet -- and to be fair, he has a history of overcoming these sorts of control lapses -- but I'd want to keep his alternatives close.

Griffin Jax claimed an early advantage in the competition to replace Jhoan Duran (oblique), notching a save on opening day. His main competitor, Brock Stewart, worked the eighth inning of that game, which seemed to establish a clear pecking order. But manager Rocco Baldelli was rather fond of closing committees in the years leading up to Duran's emergence, and sure enough, Jax's and Stewart's roles were reversed in their second outings Saturday. It's just that the Twins had expanded their lead to four by the time Stewart came in. I still say that Jax has the advantage, but by the slimmest of margins. The point may be moot if Duran doesn't even end up missing all of April.

Of the many possibilities to replace Craig Kimbrel as closer, Jose Alvarado always seemed like the most logical one, but he made for an uncomfortable pick in Fantasy Baseball given his past fakeouts and manager Rob Thomson's silence on the matter. Sure enough, Alvarado came in for the eighth inning on opening day, with fellow left-handers Matt Olson and Michael Harris due up, and was promptly shellacked. Two days later, though, he came in for what remains the Phillies' only conventional save chance so far and handled it with ease.

It's possible that Thomson continues to play the matchups game and Alvarado's save chances aren't the most consistent early on, but I still expect him to settle into the role long term. And the backup for saves is so unclear that I'm slotting Orion Kerkering there even though he's not yet on the active roster, having missed much of spring training with an illness.

White Sox

In the lead up to opening day, manager Pedro Grifol rejected the idea of having a dedicated closer while strangely also leaving the door open for one. "I wouldn't have one anyways unless you bring back Dennis Eckersley or somebody like that," he said. "We're attacking leverage. Somebody takes it on, somebody takes it on."

Who's the most likely somebody? It has to be Kopech, who most everyone on the White Sox beat has teased as a possible closer since the White Sox moved him back to the bullpen late in spring training. Sure enough, Kopech handled the White Sox's first save chance Tuesday, entering with the game on the line in the eighth and staying in to clean up his own mess in the ninth. He can only afford so many messes, but his stuff seems to play better in relief. If nothing else, it's clear that Grifol regards him as his highest-leverage reliever, but what kind of upside he has on a bad White Sox team is another matter to consider.

Tanner Scott was a revelation for the Marlins in the ninth inning last year, but he struggled mightily with control this spring and seems to have carried over those struggles to the regular season. He's no stranger to them, having issued 5.8 BB/9 for his career before seemingly putting the issue to rest last year, but the issue appears to have resurfaced. In fact, he's been so shaky that he was actually tasked with the eighth inning rather than the ninth in his latest appearance Tuesday and, fittingly, issued three walks. The good news (depending on your perspective) is that Anthony Bender, who came in after Scott, was even worse, failing to complete the ninth inning. This bullpen figures to be touch and go for a while, which should work in Scott's favor unless someone else seizes the opportunity.

Like Rangers manager Bruce Bochy with Jose Leclerc, Cubs manager Craig Counsell was hesitant to name Adbert Alzolay his closer despite the right-hander's success in the role last year. But actions speak louder than words, and so far, Alzolay has been deployed just like a closer would be. Granted, he blew his one save chance, allowing a game-tying home run to Travis Jankowski on opening day, but it was just one bad pitch. His only other appearance was also to close out a win, but with a four-run lead. The sample is small, yes, and Counsell has an experienced alternative in Hector Neris. I'm thinking, though, that there won't be a need to comment on the Cubs' closer situation in the next Bullpen Report.


Leave it to Scott Servais to muddle what should be a crystal clear closer scenario. The longtime Mariners manager has always enjoyed mixing and matching in the ninth, and it's held back the value of pitchers like Paul Sewald and Kendall Graveman in the past. Already, we're seeing the same thing happen to Andres Munoz, who was tasked with pitching the eighth inning, against the heart of the Guardians lineup, in his latest outing Monday. Fellow right-hander Ryne Stanek handled the ninth inning for the save. Muñoz remains far and away the Mariners' best reliever, particularly with Matt Brash sidelined by a tender elbow, but he'll be no better than a second-tier closer in Fantasy if Servais continues down this path.