Drayer: Will Mariners have AL West’s best bullpen again in 2022?

Jan 29, 2022, 9:52 AM

Mariners Paul Sewald...

Paul Sewald of the Seattle Mariners reacts after striking out Matt Chapman of the Oakland Athletics to end the eighth inning. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

In recent weeks we have taken a look at how the Mariners heart of the order, rotation and farm system compares to that of their division rivals.

Salk: The Mariners who should improve, maintain or regress in 2022

Today, a look at the bullpens.

If the season were to begin today, how do the Mariners stack up against the division’s bullpens as projected by Fangraphs?

First, a look a look back. The Mariners relievers finished fourth in baseball last season and first in the division with a fWAR of 7.0.

  1. Mariners 7.0
  2. Angels 4.7
  3. Astros 3.6
  4. Rangers 2.4
  5. A’s 1.2

The Mariners bullpen was a pleasant surprise in 2021 with Kendall Graveman excelling in his new role as a high-leverage reliever and the trio of Paul Sewald, Casey Sadler and Drew Steckenrider having career years. Graveman, of course is gone, but the rest of the fourth-best ‘pen by fWAR remains and which perhaps inspires as much unease as it does confidence when looking ahead due to the fickle nature of bullpens.

Fortunately, the Mariners have added to the 2021 with Fangraphs projecting the following group to take up residence in the bullpen in 2022.

Seattle Mariners

Drew Steckenrider
Paul Sewald
Diego Castillo
Casey Sadler
Ken Giles
Anthony Misiewicz
Andrés Muñoz
Eric Swanson

Giles and Muñoz should be ready to go after each spent last season — save for one appearance with the big club by Muñoz — in Peoria rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Both bring big arms, big velocity and, in Giles’ case, big leverage experience. I’m fairly certain this is not the ‘pen Jerry Dipoto thought he would be adding these back-of-the bullpen arms to when he made the investment in their rehab seasons, but the more the merrier. To steal a favorite word from another Mariners beat writer, even with regression, Scott Servais should have a plethora of leverage relievers to call upon.

While reliever has not been an item seen on the Mariners’ offseason shopping list this winter, their eyes are no doubt open for pitchers they can further develop and there has been some word that the organization is actually a targeted destination for free agent relievers looking to take that next step.

For the immediate future, it wouldn’t hurt to add another lefty as Misiewicz struggled last year. But outside of that, barring injury, trade or total meltdowns, there should not be much intrigue in what the Mariners bullpen will look like on opening day.

The rest?

Los Angeles Angels

Raisel Iglesias
Mike Mayers
Aaron Loup
Austin Warren
Jose Quijada
Andrew Wantz
Jimmy Herget
Packy Naughton

While the Angels finished eighth in bullpen WAR last year, getting the ball into the hands of their closer was the problem.

This winter they took a step towards improving in that department signing Aaron Loup to a two-year, $17 million contract. Loup is coming off a career year with the Mets where he posted a 0.95 ERA and struck out 57 batters in 56 2/3 innings. Loup allowed just two extra-base hits to lefties in 2021 and was nearly as effective against right-handed batters. If this indeed was a breakout season for Loup, then the Angels for the first time in a long time should be very tough in the eighth and ninth innings.

The surrounding cast, however, leaves a lot to be desired. They are expected to continue to add when the lockout ends.

Houston Astros

Ryan Pressly
Ryne Stanek
Hector Neris
Phil Maton
Blake Taylor
Pedro Baez
Rafael Montero
Jake Odorizzi

The Astros took a hit with the departures of Graveman, Yimi García and Brooks Raley to free agency.

The addition of Hector Neris on a two-year, $17 million contract gives them another strong back-of-the-bullpen arm along with Ryne Stanek, but both have been suspect against lefties. To that end, outside of Pressly, the Astros bullpen is very mix and match and they have the personnel to do such.

Not a dominant, ‘jump off the page’ ‘pen, but they largely have the tools and experience to get the job done. Of interest will be whether or not they continue to add and which starters could end up in the pen.

Oakland A’s

Lou Trivino
Deolis Guerra
A.J. Puk
Domingo Acevedo
Sam Moll
Daulton Jefferies
Grant Holmes
Brent Honeywell Jr.

Lou Trivino is a nice bullpen arm. Unfortunately, he is the top returner for the A’s.

Gone are Yusmeiro Petit, Sergio Romo, Jake Diekman and Andrew Chaffin.

While none of the first three were in their prime last year, if you caught them in a good stretch, they could be trouble. This year, that experience is not there.

If the A’s are not expecting to compete, the bullpen will not be a priority. That’s not to say something could not come out of it in terms of development, but the way it looks today is there should be opportunity for opponents late in games.

Texas Rangers

Joe Barlow
Spencer Patton
Brett Martin
Josh Sborz
Dennis Santana
John King
Nick Snyder
Kolby Allard

The names, likely not terribly recognizable, but this pen is worth keeping an eye on.

Joe Barlow made a strong showing in his rookie season, showing a nasty slider and posting 11 saves in 31 games. Brett Martin, Josh Sborz and Spencer Patton all proved to be effective in ’22 and John King, who leaned on what was rated the best changeup in the Rangers organization, also showed promise.

Like the rest of the Rangers not named Seager or Semien, the ‘pen will be young, and still developing. What you see in April may not be what you see in August and in that they could or should be interesting.

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Drayer: Will Mariners have AL West’s best bullpen again in 2022?