Best Values at Closer (2019 Fantasy Baseball)

Mar 6, 2019

Trevor May was a top-10 RP down the stretch last season

Navigating the landscape of closers and saves is always a process for fantasy baseball owners. Our own Josh Shepardson noted the case in his recent Relief Pitcher Primer:

The high degree of volatility has made it difficult for closers to return value. According to Alex Chamberlain’s research, only the first two closers by ADP have consistently made for good investments. The top two closers in ADP currently are Edwin Diaz (47.7) and Blake Treinen (61.7). Craig Kimbrel (63.0) and Kenley Jansen (67.7) are the only others with a top-70 ADP. Nine relievers have a top-100 ADP, with Josh Hader (100.3) nearly making it 10. A top-50 pick is a steeper price than I’m willing to spend on a closer, but Treinen and Jansen are enticing options at their respective prices. In Alex’s linked tweet, he advocates fading closers and waiting to grab scrap heap relievers.

As Josh and Alex recommend, owners can do well targeting closers late in drafts and even picking them up off waivers during the season. That was certainly the case in 2018 with this year’s top two closers by ADP, Diaz and Treinen, who each returned solid value compared to their ADP. With that in mind, we’ve asked our writers to provide their best value at the closer position this fantasy baseball draft season.

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What closer do you believe comes at the best value in drafts?

Trevor May (MIN)
“May missed the majority of the season, but from the moment he was back in the big leagues, he was a top-10 reliever in baseball. With a full season of work, I’d put his over/under on strikeouts around 100 with exceptional ratios. If he were a lock to be the Twins’ closer to start the season, I’d expect his ADP to be 80 spots higher, but I’m confident he will win the job so I’m willing to reach for him as my second or third closer. Frankly, however, even if Blake Parker closes, May has plenty of value much like a Chad Green.”
– Bobby Sylvester (@bobbyfantasypros)

Pedro Strop (CHC)
Brandon Morrow is likely to miss at least the first month of the season while rehabbing from offseason elbow surgery. That puts Pedro Strop in line for saves with a great Cubs team. Even when Morrow returns, Strop could continue to serve in the closer role if he can put together a solid start to the season which I view as very likely. Since joining the Cubs in 2013, Strop has maintained a sub-3.00 ERA and should be able to continue that this season.”
– Kari Thomas (@12ozCurlSports)

“With all the best options taken, I’ll give Strop another endorsement. Brandon Morrow won’t be ready to open 2018, and nobody should anticipate a hasty return from a 34-year-old limited to 30.2 innings last season. A handful of guys currently drafted for saves will lose their roles by the time Morrow comes back, so play for now and take a steady option out of the gate. Along with posting a 2.63 ERA with the Cubs, Strop has recorded a swinging-strike rate of 15.5% or higher in each of the last five seasons. Don’t be surprised if he never abdicates the ninth-inning gig.”
– Andrew Gould (@andrewgould4)

Kelvin Herrera (CWS)
“Herrera will be competing against Alex Colome for the closer job in his first season with the Chicago White Sox. I see Herrera winning the job sooner or later for the up-and-coming club. Last year he didn’t have the best numbers as his K/9 fell to 7.71 and he recorded a 4.34 ERA in 21 games with the Nationals, however, he’s been a dominant relief pitcher when healthy, and he should get right back to that heading into the 2019 season. I like him at his current ADP.”
– Kamran Hoda (@Kamran_H7)

Matt Barnes (BOS)
“With Craig Kimbrel giving his word that he won’t be returning to the reigning World Champs, it is time for Barnes to take the wheel. Sure, the walks might make you uneasy (double-digit walk rate), but his 36% K rate more than makes up for it. With Ryan Brasier nursing a toe injury, the closer role is Barnes’ to lose. If he takes the job, you can expect 25+ saves, tons of Ks, and ratios that won’t kill you, with the potential to be above average (2.71 FIP in 2018).”
– Carmen Maiorano (@cmaiorano3)

Joe Jimenez (DET)
“Jimenez isn’t technically the Tigers’ closer yet, but he’s the best reliever on this team. Ignore Jimenez’s 4.31 ERA last season because his underlying numbers suggest he has the potential for dominance. The 24-year-old put up a monster 29.2% strikeout rate along with a 2.91 FIP in 62.2 relief innings last season, his first full year as a big-leaguer. As the rare reliever with prospect hype, Jimenez has been Detroit’s closer-in-waiting for a few years now, and with the Tigers staring down the barrel of a long rebuilding process they might want to get him in that role sooner rather than later. Incumbent Tigers closer Shane Greene piled up 32 saves in 2018, but he did it while posting a 5.12 ERA, 4.61 FIP, and an egregious 1.71 HR/FB ratio. That is unacceptable from a closer, and if Greene cannot correct his home run problem it won’t be long before he’s out as the closer. Nobody else in Detroit’s bullpen has the stuff for the ninth, and once Jimenez gets the role he’ll never let it go.”
– Elliott Baas (@elliottbaasbb)

Andrew Miller (STL)
“Miller joined a Cardinals’ bullpen that was in need of some high-leverage arms after the likes of Bud Norris and Greg Holland saw save opportunities in 2018. The closer of the future Jordan Hicks, while electric, has some major control issues to work out. Miller is going off the board around 235 overall around Seranthony Dominguez and Alex Colomé, both stuck in committees. Miller has looked good early this spring and the Cardinals will likely give the veteran the first shot at closing. If he recaptures his elite skills, he could keep the role all year on a team that should win a lot of games. Otherwise, he retains the Hader role (formerly the Miller role) helping with ratios while chipping in 5-10 saves and a handful of wins.”
– Max Freeze (@FreezeStats)

Jordan Hicks (STL)
“The Cardinals want to use Jordan Hicks as their closer. Looking at their bullpen from 2018, the real thing they were missing was a lockdown lefty. Brett Cecil, Tyler Lyons, and other left-handers the Cardinals were counting on failed miserably. So, they went out and acquired Andrew Miller. Ultimately, Miller could slide into the closer role if Hicks struggles. But the Cardinals would much rather have him as the lefty swiss-army knife they have been missing. That would leave the door wide open for Hicks to take the closer gig and run with it. Hicks is the closer of the future for the Redbirds, and he proved last year he could do it. Lost in his 100+ mph fastballs was the fact that he finished eighth among relievers with a 60.7% ground ball rate. If Hicks misses a few more bats this year, which he absolutely has the stuff to do, we could be looking at one of the nastiest closers in baseball, on one of the better teams, at one of the best values.”
Alex Altmix (@altmix_23)

Jose Alvarado (TB)
“The Rays are one of baseball’s most forward-thinking teams, which means they might not commit to one guy as their closer in 2019. However, if they are going to give the lion’s share of saves to anyone it would have to be Jose Alvarado. The 23-year-old was fantastic last season, posting a 2.39 ERA to go along with 80 strikeouts in 64 innings. He also picked up eight saves and 32 holds. The nasty southpaw will be particularly valuable in saves-plus-holds formats, but he’s also interesting in more traditional leagues that only count saves. He should flirt with 100 strikeouts if Tampa Bay commits to using him more often this season. Since February 1 he has an ADP of 167 on NFBC.”
– Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma)

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