Closer Report: Tom Wilhelmsen, Greg Holland, Trevor Rosenthal
With many fantasy leagues heading into the last few weeks before the playoffs, every single save could be the difference between sneaking into the last playoff spot and staying on the outside looking in. A few big-name closers will be missing some time and some barely-owned guys could be making a big impact. As is the case with most things, fantasy owners who are on top of their game (with a bit of good luck sprinkled in) will likely come out on top. With quite a bit of ninth-inning shuffling across the league, there could easily be a waiver claim placed this week that makes a difference in the fantasy playoffs for head to head leagues. Likewise, inactivity could prove costly and one save separating a winning and a losing team is far from unheard of in rotisserie baseball.
Check out our Closer Depth Chart.
Closer News Around the League
The Seattle Mariners finally came to their senses and jettisoned Fernando Rodney. He was designated for assignment on Saturday after posting an awful 5.68 ERA over 54 appearances. He saved 16 games, but blew 7. It was clear to essentially everyone in baseball that Rodney didn’t have “it” anymore, but manager Lloyd McClendon continued to throw him out there for ninth inning leads regardless of that fact. Righty Carson Smith had been mixing in for a few save opportunities lately, but he was a much better pitcher in the first half than he has been in the second. Still, he holds a 3.00 ERA overall with 13 saves and 4 blown saves. Smith strikes out an impressive 11.50 per 9 innings. Despite Smith’s upside, McClendon seems to have chosen a different closer; Tom Wilhelmsen. Wilhelmsen has saved two games this week and according to his manager, he is the team’s closer “as we speak.” He’s worth an add in all formats of fantasy. So far this season, Wilhelmsen has a 3.86 ERA with 8.68 K/9 and 4.44 BB/9. The walks are high and the strikeouts not high enough to make him an elite option in the ninth inning, but he should be good enough, and a “good enough” closer is more than enough to be on a fantasy roster. He’s currently owned in only 8% of leagues, so get to your wire and submit a claim. In the meantime, the Chicago Cubs signed Rodney in hopes that a change of scenery would do him some good. He’s unlikely to be any more effective moving to a more hitter-friendly home field even if he is given save opportunities, so he can continue to be ignored in fantasy.
Kansas City Royals
The Kansas City Royals are enjoying a seemingly insurmountable 12-game lead in the American League Central. Because of this, manager Ned Yost can afford to rest some of his stars whenever he feels the need. Lately, closer Greg Holland has been dealing with what Yost has referred to as a “cranky arm,” so Yost has been able to keep him shelved while he rests. Having Wade Davis as his backup certainly doesn’t hurt. Holland has been up and down all season dealing with several injuries. In fact, he is putting up the worst numbers of his career in almost every meaningful category. His ERA stands at 3.92, his worst in a full season before this year was 2.96. His K/9 is 10.38, his lowest in a full season before this year was 11.10. His BB/9 is an ugly 5.31, his highest in a full season before this year was 4.57. Basically: he’s been struggling all year. He still has 28 saves and has only blown 4, so he has been able to pitch around his aches, pains, and relative ineffectiveness. Truth is, this version of Greg Holland is still better than a lot of closers other teams have to trot out in the ninth. Fantasy owners desperate for saves could do worse than picking up Wade Davis to try to snag a few this week. Holland’s owners, meanwhile, should try their hardest to free up a roster spot for Davis if he’s available.
St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals are enjoying a wonderful season. They have the most wins in baseball and were the first team to 80 wins. Closer Trevor Rosenthal has 41 saves already and is having another excellent season, arguably his best. He holds a sparkling 1.52 ERA, 10.31 K/9, and 3.19 BB/9. He’s only blown two saves all season. His strikeouts are down a bit from his career average of 11.36 K/9, but he’s shown more control in the process (career BB/9: 3.53). He’s already accumulated 2.1 fWAR and has a chance to top the 2.3 he put up in his best season, 2013. Fantasy owners are surely thrilled with the 25-year-old, but he will be missing a few games this weekend to attend the birth of his second daughter. The Cardinals travel to San Francisco to take on the Giants, and Rosenthal won’t be in the bullpen for those games. In his place, Kevin Siegrist is expected to take any save opportunities that come up. Siegrist is having another great season and could probably close for a lot of teams. In 58.1 innings, he has a 1.70 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP. He strikes out 10.80 per 9 and walks 3.09 in that span. He has collected five saves this season previously filling in for Rosenthal and he’s a good bet to add one or two to his total this weekend. Fantasy owners desperate for saves should go ahead and add Siegrist, knowing that he is immediately droppable upon Rosenthal’s return.
- Oakland A’s closer Sean Doolittle is expected to earn his closer role back eventually, but he’ll have to string together a few solid outings first. On August 23rd, his first outing since May 27th, he didn’t look sharp. He allowed two runs while only getting two outs. Three days later, he completed an inning but allowed two base runners and a run to score. For now, Drew Pomeranz looks like the guy to own in the A’s bullpen, but fantasy owners should keep an eye on Doolittle and pick him up as soon as he looks like his old self.
- Minnesota Twins closer Glen Perkins was unavailable again on Wednesday due to back spasms. The fact that he was passed over for a save chance by Kevin Jepsen was not good news, but learning that it seemingly had nothing to do with his neck injury certainly was. With Perkins’ delicate health of late, fantasy owners would be smart to “handcuff” him with Kevin Jepsen if roster space permits it.
The youngest player in baseball is the closer on a first place team heading to the playoffs. How’s that for a trial by fire? Toronto Blue Jays rookie closer Roberto Osuna is only 20.5 years old, and he’s pitching at an elite level. He has 15 saves so far in 16 chances, only blowing one. His ERA is a splendid 1.91, and he has already accumulated 1.7 fWAR. His 10.01 K/9 is nice, but his 1.91 BB/9 is what really stands out, leading to an exceptional 0.86 WHIP.
Top Performers for the Week of August 21-28, 2015
- Mark Melancon – 4 IP, 3 SV, 2 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.25 WHIP
- Kevin Jepsen – 5 IP, 3 SV, 5 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.20 WHIP
- Hector Rondon – 3 IP, 3 SV, 4 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.90 WHIP
- David Robertson – 3 IP, 3 SV, 3 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP
Melancon continued doing what he has been doing all season, saving games for the Pirates despite not really striking anyone out. He allowed just one hit this week, picking up three saves and adding a win to his total as well. For the year, Melancon has 41 saves and a 1.48 ERA despite only striking out 6.49 batters per 9 innings. His 1.77 BB/9 helps him keep runners off the bases (0.97 WHIP) and limit any damage on the rare occasions where he gets in trouble.
Jepsen isn’t even the Twins’ full time closer, but he filled in for the injured Glen Perkins this week and had an outstanding week for himself. Jepsen pitched five innings and allowed only one hit, saving three games and striking out five. As long as Perkins’ health remains iffy, Jepsen is a must-own for players with Perkins on their roster.
Rondon seems to be settling in as the Cubs closer (and Joe Maddon seems to be settling into allowing him consistent save opportunities). This week, Rondon appeared in four games, picking up a win and three saves. He struck out four and allowed just two hits and a walk. He’s currently owned in 82% of leagues, so have a look on your wire: there’s a chance he might be there.
Finally, Robertson had a perfect week. He came into three games, faced nine batters total, and got all nine out. He saved three games for the White Sox and struck out three along the way. Oftentimes the forgotten man amongst elite top-tier closers, Robertson has a 12.24 K/9 rate along with stellar control shown by his 1.98 BB/9 rate. Dynasty and keeper league players should try to buy low on him while people still refuse to think of him as elite.
Don’t forget to check out our Closer Depth Chart.