Fantasy Baseball Closer Report: Week 3
Save chasers who flocked to Milwaukee following Corey Knebel’s injury are still waiting for some clarity on the situation, but it was the Alex Colome owners who had a much worse week. Meanwhile, that sound you hear is a sigh of relief from those who invested an early round pick in Kenley Jansen.
Welcome to Week 3 of the Closer Report. Here are your team-by-team rankings:
|Team (Closer)||Current Rank||Previous Rank|
|Dodgers (Kenley Jansen)||1||3|
|Red Sox (Craig Kimbrel)||2||1|
|Yankees (Aroldis Chapman)||3||2|
|Mariners (Edwin Diaz)||4||4|
|Blue Jays (Roberto Osuna)||5||5|
|Pirates (Felipe Vazquez)||6||6|
|Reds (Raisel Iglesias)||7||8|
|Indians (Cody Allen)||8||9|
|Rockies (Wade Davis)||9||10|
|Mets (Jeurys Familia)||10||12|
|Padres (Brad Hand)||11||13|
|Nationals (Sean Doolittle)||12||14|
|Astros (Ken Giles)||13||7|
|Cardinals (Greg Holland)||14||11|
|Cubs (Brandon Morrow)||15||15|
|Diamondbacks (Brad Boxberger)||16||18|
|Braves (Arodys Vizcaino)||17||17|
|A’s (Blake Treinen)||18||19|
|Royals (Kelvin Herrera)||19||20|
|Tigers (Shane Greene)||20||21|
|Rangers (Keone Kela)||21||22|
|Giants (Hunter Strickland)||22||23|
|Orioles (Brad Brach)||23||26|
|Twins (Fernando Rodney)||24||24|
|Phillies (Hector Neris)||25||25|
|Rays (Alex Colome)||26||16|
|Marlins (Brad Ziegler)||27||28|
|White Sox (Committee)||30||29|
The Big Movers
Jansen’s fall from the top spot lasted all of one week. Just as I had to move him down to account for the increased risk in his profile, I need to move him back up now that he’s answered those concerns. Since his April 2 meltdown in Arizona, Jansen has thrown 2 2/3 clean innings, gathering two saves and five strikeouts while allowing a total of three runners to reach base.
More importantly, after showing diminished velocity in his first two appearances, Jansen is back to throwing as hard as he did in 2016 and 2017. He was the number one closer in 5×5 roto leagues each of those seasons, so he deserves to be back atop these rankings.
Giles never makes it easy on his fantasy owners, does he? Giles has yet to blow a save (thanks to Byron Buxton narrowing missing a game-tying home run on Monday), but after removing Giles from the closer job during the World Series last year, Astros manager A.J. Hinch again appears less committed than other managers to sticking with a designated closer. Hinch used Giles in a game the Astros were trailing on April 6 and in a tie game on April 7, so when a save opportunity presented itself on April 8, Giles was unavailable, and Brad Peacock stepped in.
Giles did collect his first save the next day, but even in that game, it was Chris Devenski who started the ninth. Giles is still the best bet for saves in Houston, but his unstable role and lack of job security push him behind some other closers who are more reliable at the moment.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter declined to anoint Brach as the closer in March, but his actions have spoken louder than words in April. Brach has collected all three of the team’s saves so far and looks set to hold down the role at least until Zach Britton returns from a ruptured Achilles tendon, which will likely be in June. That said, Showalter still isn’t calling Brach the closer and seems eager for Britton to reassume that role, stating, “Zach allows you to attack the eight innings a certain way. We don’t ever take for granted the ninth inning, but he makes everybody else better as far as the consistency.”
We always knew there was a good chance Colome wouldn’t be closing for the Rays by the end of the season, but his fantasy owners undoubtedly hoped he could at least put together a few good months as the ninth inning man before getting traded into a set-up role for a contender. Instead, Colome is on the verge of completely imploding two weeks into the season. Some warning signs were already there; his strikeout rate fell off a cliff last season, but his ability to dodge the home run ball allowed him to post a solid enough 3.24 ERA and league-leading 47 saves.
The Rays aren’t playing to win this year and would undoubtedly prefer that Colome build back his trade value, so they’ll probably give him a relatively long leash. But if he continues to be this bad, they may have no choice other than to pull him from the closer role, at least temporarily.
While all the early season concern has been about Jansen’s velocity, Kimbrel’s velocity has dropped even more precipitously and has yet to recover, as Fangraph’s Jeff Zimmerman pointed out. Still, the reduced pitch speed has yet to have any impact on Kimbrel’s performance — he has four saves and eight strikeouts in six scoreless frames — so his owners shouldn’t be panicking right now. His last three appearances have been at home, so perhaps the cold Boston weather has had something to do with it.
Diaz didn’t move up the rankings this week because Jansen, Kimbrel, and Aroldis Chapman have done nothing to deserve a move down. But make no mistake, Diaz has been flat-out dominant to begin the 2018 season (5 IP, 12 strikeouts, 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP). There’s a significant gulf between the top-four closers and the next tier at the moment, and if Diaz continues to pitch like this, he could eventually find himself in the top spot even if Jansen, Kimbrel, and Chapman continue to pitch reasonably well.
Holland had an inauspicious start to his career as a Cardinal, walking four of the five batters he faced (one intentional) and picking up a loss in his debut. But he bounced back with a scoreless frame two days later, and it remains simply a matter of time until he becomes the closer in St. Louis. I would guess that he gets his first save before next week’s Closer Report, but we’ll see how Mike Matheny handles the next late-inning lead. Bud Norris is the apparent fill-in in the meantime.
Those who were hoping for a quick resolution to the Brewers’ closer situation had no such luck. Upon announcing that Corey Knebel would be out for four-to-six weeks, manager Craig Counsell said that while someone should eventually get the majority of the save chances, “I don’t know who that will be right now.” Since then, Jacob Barnes has blown two saves, and Matt Albers also blew one before earning the team’s first post-Knebel save on Wednesday.
Albers seems like the current favorite for saves, but Barnes isn’t out of the picture yet, and it’s not too late for Jeremy Jeffress to work his way into the mix if Albers and Barnes continue to falter. Counsell has made clear that Josh Hader is not in consideration for the closer role because the team value’s his contribution as a bridge between the starters and the ninth inning.
Keynan Middleton looks like the current favorite for saves in Anaheim, but it’s too early to say this is no longer a committee. Middleton picked up an untraditional save on Wednesday, entering the game in the eighth inning with a four-run lead, getting two more insurance runs in the top of the ninth, and then giving up a run and four baserunners in the bottom of the inning before finally shutting the door. Blake Parker, Jim Johnson, and Cam Bedrosian look to be further down the pecking order for now, but nothing is certain with Mike Scioscia in charge.
The White Sox
Joakim Soria collected the first three saves for the White Sox, but it was Nate Jones who successfully converted the most recent save opportunity on Wednesday, proving that this situation still needs to be viewed as a closer committee. Soria and Jones are both trade candidates; Soria is probably more likely to get dealt, but Jones is more likely to get hurt. Both are worth owning in leagues that value saves, but be aware that it’s entirely possible neither will be closing in Chicago by the end of the season.
Felipe Rivero is no more; ladies and gentlemen, meet Felipe Vazquez! Vazquez officially changed his last name to match his sister’s name, but it won’t affect his fantasy value unless you play in a league where bonus points are awarded for “Z” names. As a longtime admirer of Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Carlos Zambrano, I’d love to play in that league.