After starting poorly, the Cardinals’ bullpen rebounded to a strong year despite poor defense. How do they rank this year in the positional power rankings?
1. Chicago Cubs
With Chapman’s free agency, the Cubs could have taken a hit in the closer spot this year. But one could argue that they have actually improved this season. Since moving away from starting, Wade Davis has established himself as one of the top relievers in the game, with a microscopic 1.18 ERA the last two seasons. After dominating with the Royals, Davis will test himself against the other central division. Let’s hope for the Cardinals sake that it doesn’t go as well.
Backing him up are a trio of talented setup men in Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, and Carl Edwards Jr. After a step back in 2016, Hector Rondon will look to return to form next season, while Pedro Strop will look to continue his recent dominant stretch and Carl Edwards Jr. looks to solidify himself as a top-end reliever. Grimm, Duensing, Uehara, and Smith will provide meaningful outs should they be called on, and the Cubs will look to reign supreme at the top of the bullpen again next season.
2. St. Louis Cardinals
After bursting onto the scene in 2016, Seung Hwan Oh will look to continue his dominance (both from last season and his career in Asia) as the opening day closer for the Cardinals. Although already 34 years old, as Oh continues adjusting to the MLB he could improve more. However, his age could play a role and begin to limit his effectiveness. The good news for the Cardinals is they have plenty of backup. Kevin Siegrist built on his 2015 campaign with another strong 2016 campaign, lowering his workload and providing meaningful innings at the back end of ballgames.
In 2016 the home runs killed Siegrist, as he doubled his career total given up last season, with 10 more. If he is able to figure out how to minimize those he could become an even stronger asset for the Cardinals. Brett Cecil, a new signing, will fill in nicely where Zach Duke left off, however with a whole season to work with. One of the most talented lefty relievers in the game, the Cardinals will appreciate Cecil’s skills in high leverage situations.
Jonathon Broxton’s effectiveness has begun decreasing, but he will provide innings in low leverage situations, while Matt Bowman continues his improvement into a potential setup role. Behind them is mystery however, as many pitchers jockey for starting pitching jobs, some will inevitably be left out and end up in the bullpen. Look for them to dominate in the bullpen, strengthening a bullpen barely a step below the Cubs.
3. Milwaukee Brewers
Despite lacking a closer, the Brewers’ bullpen is young and talented. Jhan Mariñez, Rob Scahill, Tyler Cravy, Brent Suter, Carlos Torres, and Jacob Barnes all impressed last season. After an exceptional 2015, and a weak 2016 Michael Blazek will look to rebound in 2017. The Brewers even have somebody named Damien Magnifico! While a lack of closing experience may hurt this unit, there is enough talent to make teams feel uncomfortable late in games.
4. Pittsburgh Pirates
After taking over for Mark Melancon, Tony Watson’s stellar statistics lessened. Just 15 for 20 on saves, he definitely under-performed. However, Watson is still a fantastic pitcher, and will likely return to his former self in 2017. The issue here is with depth. Jared Hughes is a fantastic pitcher, but there is very little outside of him to provide mid-late inning relief.
AJ Schugel and Wade Leblanc wer solid in 2016, but Juan Nicasio, Antonio Bastardo, Daniel Hudson, and Felipe Rivero all struggled in 2016. While we should expect some improvements, a full season without Mark Melancon will not help this bullpen at all.
5. Cincinnati Reds
Of all the pitchers in the Reds bullpen, Michael Lorenzen and Raisel Iglesias had the best seasons last year. And at 25 years old, Lorenzen still has room to grow, while Iglesias, at 27, looks to enter his prime years of production. Jumbo Diaz had a solid campaign last season. Cingrani did not impress in the closer role, with a 4+ ERA, while Drew Storen pitched poorly (for different teams). Nobody on this Reds team looks ready to close games, although there is talent there. If young Reds pitchers continue their improvement, this list may look very different next season. For now though, the Reds sit in last.
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