Closer Report: Shawn Tolleson, Jeanmar Gomez, A.J. Ramos
The more baseball that is played, the fewer chants of “small sample size!” you’ll hear for guys who are off to a hot start. Granted, one month is still not a lot of baseball, especially for a closer, but it’s time to start thinking that some surprisingly good or surprisingly bad players may are what they appear to be. The easiest time to buy low and sell high is coming to an end, so start trying to make a splash if your fantasy team is off to a slow start.
Closer News From Around The League
- Philadelphia Phillies
Not even Jeanmar Gomez would have believed you if you said Jeanmar Gomez would have nine saves by early May. In fact, many people wouldn’t have even believed that the Phillies would have nine wins over that span. Plenty of things are going the Phillies’ way early in the season, though, not the least of which is Gomez in the closer’s role. He is 9-for-10 in save opportunities after blowing his first save this week. He’s kept a tidy 2.70 ERA, and a 3.31 FIP shows that it is mostly sustainable. He won’t ever be an elite closer due to his 6.48 K/9, and the fact that he’s still Jeanmar Gomez, but barring an injury or extended slump, he should be able to hold down the ninth inning for the foreseeable future. Waiting in the wings, however, is Hector Neris. Suddenly an amazing bullpen arm after a year of relative anonymity, Neris has a 1.04 ERA and an excellent 14.02 K/9 with an equally impressive 2.08 BB/9. He’s not this good, as the .172 BABIP against him is sure to normalize, but he’s been more than solid as a setup man and is next in line for saves after Gomez.
- Texas Rangers
Rangers closer Shawn Tolleson is not the best arm in the team’s bullpen. The Rangers seem to know that, though, and in “real life” baseball, the ideal strategy is actually not to limit your best arm to only the ninth inning in a game. Tolleson had a very rough start to the season, allowing five runs without getting a single batter out in his second appearance of the year. Since then, however, he has only allowed two earned runs and has picked up eight saves. His ERA is still ugly at 5.73, but he’s likely to keep the job and may be a buy-low target if he’s owned by someone who looks only at his ERA. His strikeouts aren’t piling up at the rate they have in previous years, but he’s getting guys out and should be able to hang on to the job.
- Miami Marlins
The Miami Marlins have won nine of 10 and are playing great baseball after a slow start. After a rough start to the season, due mostly to predictably bad roster decisions, the bullpen is actually looking like a strength. Closer A.J. Ramos has always been solid, setup man David Phelps is excelling in his new role, and rookie Kyle Barraclough has yet to allow a run, racking up plenty of strikeouts in the meantime. This is Closer Report, so a look a Ramos shows a tiny 0.79 ERA and nine saves. His 12.71 K/9 is excellent, but his 6.35 BB/9 is concerning, to say the least. Ramos had a mostly effective 2014 season despite 6.05 BB/9, but those types of walks numbers are far from ideal. Last season, he seemed to control his pitches better, registering 3.33 BB/9. If he can maintain his current effectiveness while cutting his walks in half as he did in 2015, he will sneak into the upper tier of closers. It’s a big “if,” though, as Ramos sometimes looks unable to throw anything near the zone. With the Marlins winning several close games lately, Ramos has seen a ton of work, earning a save in his last seven appearances.
- Minnesota Twins closer Glen Perkins, seemingly always featured in the injury report, has still not resumed throwing at full strength, but he is now focused on “strengthening [his] shoulder. When he went on the disabled list earlier in the season, the Twins hoped he would be ready to return as soon as his 15 days were up. That has clearly not been the case, and he may in fact still be a ways away from returning to the mound. In his place, Kevin Jepsen has been mediocre at best, leaving the door open for Trevor May to perhaps take over.
- Baltimore Orioles closer Zach Britton had to miss a few games due to a sprained left ankle suffered while fielding a bunt. He threw a successful bullpen session recently, though, and pitched 1 1/3 innings in Thursday’s extra-inning game. He was able to avoid the disabled list and should be fine going forward.
Blowups and Breakdowns
The Cincinnati Reds’ bullpen, still without an official closer, set a Major League Baseball record this week by allowing a run in 21 consecutive games. The closer situation for manager Bryan Price remains fluid, with Ross Ohlendorf recently appearing in the ninth inning with a four-run lead, the closest to a save situation the Reds have had in a while. On April 16th, J.J. Hoover recorded the only save by a Reds pitcher so far this season.
Top Performers from April 28 – May 5
- A.J. Ramos (MIA): 3 IP, 6 K, 4 SV, 2.70 ERA, 1.20 WHIP
Appearing for the second straight week as a top performer, Ramos was the only closer in baseball to record four saves in the dates above. He struck out six in his three innings of work while allowing a run on two hits and two walks. As mentioned above, the walks are keeping Ramos out of the elite tier, but keep an eye on him in case he improves his control like he did in 2015.
- Steve Cishek (SEA): 3 IP, 5 K, 3 SV, 0.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP
Mariners closer Steve Cishek keeps on trying to prove that his awful 2015 was just a bad year and not a sign of bad things to come. This week, he saved three games by notching five strikeouts in three innings, allowing just a hit and two walks.
- Craig Kimbrel (BOS): 3 IP, 4 K, 3 SV, 0.00 ERA, 0.33 WHIP
Kimbrel is a notoriously slow starter but seems to be over that hump now. This past week, he saved every game he appeared in, allowing only one walk while striking out four. He’s obviously an elite ninth-inning option, and any owners who were worried in April can probably take a deep breath and enjoy the ride from here until October.
- Fernando Rodney (SDP): 3 IP, 3 K, 3 SV, 0.00 ERA, 0.33 WHIP
Padres closer Fernando Rodney has a 0.00 ERA for the season. One more time, for effect: Padres closer Fernando Rodney has a 0.00 ERA for the season. This past week, he saved all three games he was asked to, striking out three and allowing just one batter to reach on a walk. He’s still Fernando Rodney, so it’s hard to trust him, but he seems to be shooting some better arrows this season.