- Red Sox
- Blue Jays
Once the Yankees’ bullpen enters to protect a lead, it’ll be hard enough for hitters to make contact, let alone mount a late rally. Each of the club’s top six relievers — Dellin Betances, Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle, David Robertson, Chasen Shreve and closer Aroldis Chapman (pictured above) — averaged better than 11 strikeouts per nine innings last year. They combined for 417 whiffs in 286 innings. Betances, Green, Kahnle and Robertson each had ERAs below 3.00 with New York. Chances are, if you don’t score on the Yankees early in the game, you won’t score at all.
The Red Sox bullpen is littered with guys who throw hard but don’t always get great results, like righties Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes and Heath Hembree. But you can get away with a lot when you have the most dominant closer in the division. Craig Kimbrel, in 69 innings last season, struck out 126 batters and put just 51 runners on base. He was 35-for-39 in save opportunities and posted a 1.43 ERA, his best since 2013.
A hallmark of the Orioles’ last six years of success has been their stalwart bullpen, but this season, their relief crew, initially, seems middle of the pack. Closer Zach Britton’s torn Achilles will sideline him until at least late May, leaving most of the ninth-inning duties to Brad Brach, who struggled at times in that role last year. Mychal Givens and Darren O’Day could also get save opportunities. In addition, the Orioles are taking a risk by carrying two Rule 5 picks in the bullpen, Nestor Cortes Jr. and Pedro Araujo, the latter of whom has pitched only two innings above Single-A.
The Blue Jays had the worst relievers’ ERA in the division last year at 4.21; they’re hoping the additions of veterans John Axford and Seung Hwan Oh can help stabilize the bullpen ahead of quality closer Roberto Osuna. Meanwhile, the Rays’ rotating fifth starter gambit means they’ll be carrying multiple long relievers, but they don’t have great middle relief or setup options ahead of last year’s MLB saves leader, Alex Colome. They surprisingly cut two of their expected setup men, veterans Dan Jennings and Daniel Hudson, at the end of spring training.