Fantasy Baseball Closer Report: Week 2
We’re only one week into the 2019 fantasy baseball season, and we’re already dealing with a closer landscape that gets pretty dicey after the top 12 or 13 guys. The middle tier of the Closer Report is filled with relievers who may not have the job all year, closers with questionable skill sets who may hurt your ratios, and full-blown committee situations.
There is another huge drop off once you get to the bottom three teams on this list, and when it comes to those teams, you have to ask yourself whether the pursuit of saves is worth the heartache. The Royals, Marlins, and Orioles aren’t going to win a lot of games, and currently have messy committees that involve pitchers who could blow up your ratios. Unless you’re really desperate for saves, you could be best served to avoid those situations entirely and just pick up an elite middle reliever instead.
|Team (Closer)||Current Rank||Previous Rank||+/-|
|Mets (Edwin Diaz)||1||1||–|
|A’s (Blake Treinen)||2||2||–|
|Dodgers (Kenley Jansen)||3||4||+1|
|Yankees (Aroldis Chapman)||4||3||-1|
|Astros (Roberto Osuna)||5||6||+1|
|Indians (Brad Hand)||6||5||-1|
|Padres (Kirby Yates)||7||8||+1|
|Brewers (Josh Hader)||8||7||-1|
|Pirates (Felipe Vazquez)||9||9||—|
|Rangers (Jose Leclerc)||10||10||–|
|Nationals (Sean Doolittle)||11||12||+1|
|Reds (Raisel Iglesias)||12||11||-1|
|Blue Jays (Ken Giles)||13||21||+8|
|Giants (Will Smith)||14||16||+2|
|Cubs (Pedro Strop)||15||13||-2|
|Red Sox (Committee)||16||17||+1|
|Angels (Cody Allen)||17||18||+1|
|Rockies (Wade Davis)||18||20||+2|
|Diamondbacks (Greg Holland)||19||25||+6|
|Tigers (Shane Greene)||20||28||+8|
|White Sox (Alex Colome)||21||23||+2|
Toronto Blue Jays
Ken Giles is one of the biggest winners in this week’s Closer Report. Giles posted an ugly 4.65 ERA last season between Houston and Toronto, but as I mentioned in my pre-season piece breaking down each team’s closer situation, his peripherals pointed to a much better pitcher. His sterling 53-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio particularly stood out, and he looks to be carrying that over to 2019 with seven strikeouts against zero walks to begin the year. Giles has proven in the past that he has top-10 closer upside, and he could be there before long if he keeps this up.
Greg Holland was excellent for the Nationals down the stretch last season after pitching terribly for the Cardinals earlier in the year, and his first two outings of 2019 have me cautiously optimistic that we could get the good version of Holland again this season. There’s always the chance this goes south in a hurry, but the same could be said for most of the other closers who surround Holland in the rankings.
Speaking of pitchers who surround Holland in the rankings, Shane Greene gets a big jump into the mid-tier after his fabulous start to the 2019 campaign. He currently leads the league with five saves and has yet to give up a run. Greene has a career 4.82 ERA and 1.37 WHIP, so he remains potentially flammable to your ratios, but for now, he certainly belongs in that mid-tier of closers with questionable skills who have the job to themselves.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays appear to be deploying a two-man committee at closer between Jose Alvarado and Diego Castillo, with Alvarado the current favorite to get the majority of save chances. Both Alvarado and Castillo are capable of helping out in ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts, so they are both worth rostering in most formats even though neither is particularly likely to run away with the closer job.
St. Louis Cardinals/Philadelphia Phillies
Both of these teams have multiple relievers with excellent track records, so this will likely prove to be the low point for the Cardinals and Phillies on the Closer Report. But there is no sugar-coating the fact that these situations have not been going according to plan for fantasy owners in the early going.
The Cardinals have two saves so far this season, and those belong to John Gant and Dakota Hudson, unlikely sources to say the least. Gant and Hudson both picked up their saves in extra innings, and neither figure to be legitimate closer candidates going forward. Among the actual closer candidates, Jordan Hicks remains the favorite to lead the team in saves but is unlikely to have the job to himself anytime soon, if ever. Andrew Miller still figures to factor into the equation at some point — and he can accrue plenty of value without closing — but Miller’s been flat-out bad to begin the year. Alex Reyes recently had a chance to close a game out but couldn’t get the job done, and Carlos Martinez could also eventually become a factor once he returns from the Injured List. All of these guys have the upside to be top-10 closers, but it’s kind of a mess right now.
The Phillies’ closer job still figures to be a battle between David Robertson and Seranthony Dominguez, but neither has been great so far. Robertson, in particular, has been horrifically bad, giving up runs in all three of his outings thus far, so perhaps the door is opening a crack for Dominguez to establish himself as “the guy.” The most likely scenario, though, is that Robertson gets back on track and that manager Gabe Kapler continues to deploy a committee in the ninth inning. Robertson and Dominguez should both be owned in just about every league while we wait to see how things shake out.
Hunter Strickland looked like he was going to end up being an excellent value pick after serving as the Mariners’ clear-cut closer to begin the season, but then injury struck. Strickland suffered a Grade 2 lat strain and is expected to miss at least a couple of months. Four different Seattle relievers have already picked up saves since Strickland got hurt, so this has all the makings of a messy committee. But it’s worth noting that Anthony Swarzak picked up a save in his first game back from the IL on Tuesday. The 33-year old Swarzak has had a pretty uninspiring career and was awful last year, but he was excellent in 2017 (2.33 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 10.59 K/9 rate). If manager Scott Servais does opt to go with a designated closer, Swarzak has to be considered the favorite.
New York Yankees
Much has been made of Aroldis Chapman’s diminished velocity to begin the season, but he’s only had one bad outing in four appearances, so it isn’t time to panic yet. It isn’t uncommon for pitchers to throw less hard early in the year, and he’s still throwing 97 miles per hour, so it’s not like Chapman has suddenly become a soft-tosser. He does appear to be throwing more sliders than usual, however, so it’s always worth keeping a close eye on a pitcher when we see changes in velocity and pitch mix.
Josh Hader is probably the toughest player to rank this week. He’s pretty clearly the number one closer for however long he holds down the job, but my instincts tell me that Jeremy Jeffress will inherit the role once he works his way back from shoulder soreness. Jeffress is set to begin a Triple-A rehab assignment on Friday and could be back with the Brewers before long. Jeffress was excellent when asked to assume the closer role last year, and him pitching the ninth would give Brewers manager Craig Counsell more flexibility to use Hader in the most high-leverage situations.
Raisel Iglesias is off to a rough start, but he’s been too good for too long to overreact to two bad outings. It would be nice to see him throw more strikes, though — he has walked four batters (one intentional) through his first 2 1/3 innings. If we see a few more appearances with poor command, it may be time to take his issues a little more seriously.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox are easily my favorite of the committee situations for the time being. For one thing, this committee only involves two relievers, Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier, whereas many other committees around the league involve three or more relievers. Plus, both Barnes and Brasier are capable of helping you in categories other than just saves, and Boston is a team that should be able to create a lot of save opportunities, even though they are off to a pretty terrible start. Expect Barnes to collect around two-thirds of the saves in Boston, with Brasier picking up the rest. Both are well worth owning in mixed leagues.
The Braves activated A.J. Minter from the Injured List, and we’ve seen this movie before in terms of how Atlanta will divvy up save chances between Minter and Arodys Vizcaino. This committee is sort of appealing in its simplicity: expect Vizcaino to be the preferred option when a righty-heavy stretch of hitters are due up in the ninth, and Minter to close out lefty-heavy lineups. Both can put up solid ratios and are worth owning in most mixed leagues.