Chapman, Hendriks co-favored to lead MLB in saves in 2021
For a position considered by many to be one of the more important on a baseball team, the “closer” sees plenty of turnover.
In 2020, Brad Hand of the Cleveland Indians led the MLB in saves with 16. But it took many months before he finally settled on a one-year, $10.5 million contract with the Washington Nationals this offseason. Now he’s a +2500 longshot to record the most saves in baseball in 2021.
Aroldis Chapman of the New York Yankees and Liam Hendriks of the Chicago White Sox are co-favored at +750 to tally the most saves this year. We’ll dive into their respective cases below, and see if there’s a “dark horse candidate” that should also be considered in this market.
Most Saves 2021
Wed, September 1 2021, 5:00 PM
The case for Chapman
Chapman didn’t factor into the race for AL Reliever of the Year in 2020 (won by Hendriks), as he didn’t make his season debut until Aug. 17 due to COVID-19 protocols and ended up tallying only three saves. But that’s not to say that “The Cuban Missile” was off his game last year, as he recorded a 0.857 WHIP, his lowest since 2016.
The AL East is there for the taking for the Yankees this year, who should win 95 or more games fairly easily. As long as Chapman is healthy, manager Aaron Boone will have plenty of opportunities to tab him for the save.
The case for Hendriks
Hendriks has a new home and a new manager after leaving the Oakland A’s and Bob Melvin behind in free agency. He’ll be plying his trade for the South Siders and Tony La Russa, who makes his return to the dugout after a decade away.
La Russa has been noted to play “matchups,” bringing in righties to face righties and lefties to face lefties. The relatively-new three-batter minimum rule will prevent him from making too many pitching changes, but how quickly will he pull the lefty Hendriks in a tight spot with a righty at the plate?
It also remains to be seen if the White Sox are truly ready for primetime in 2021.
Upset candidate: Josh Hader (+800)
It wouldn’t be a tremendous upset, but Milwaukee Brewers closer Josh Hader looks like a logical option if you want to try and beat the favorites in this market.
Though his ERA shot up from 2.62 in 2019 to 3.79 in 2020, Hader still led the NL in saves (13). He started the campaign with 12 straight hitless outings.
Per the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Hader is working on a changeup in Spring Training that could make him that much harder to figure out at the plate.
The Brewers are fringe players, along with the Chicago Cubs, in the NL Central, with the St. Louis Cardinals looking like the team to beat. So Hader should get his fair share of save opportunities once more, with rookie sensation Devin Williams setting him up.