Fantasy Baseball Closer Report: Week 3
As readers of this column surely know by now, we have to expect the unexpected when it comes to closers. Craig Kimbrel remains unsigned, six different Mariners have already picked up a save, and Shane Greene has eight saves in 11 games for a Tigers ball club that wasn’t supposed to be any good. If you saw all of this coming, please leave the winning numbers for the next Powerball drawing for me below in the comments.
Thankfully, one thing we do have right now is some stability at the top. The top nine closers in this week’s rankings remain unchanged from last week. Hopefully you’ve got at least one or two of them, so you don’t have to resort to picking up Connor Sadzeck!
|Team (Closer)||Current Rank||Previous Rank||+/-|
|Mets (Edwin Diaz)||1||1||–|
|A’s (Blake Treinen)||2||2||–|
|Dodgers (Kenley Jansen)||3||3||—|
|Yankees (Aroldis Chapman)||4||4||—|
|Astros (Roberto Osuna)||5||5||—|
|Indians (Brad Hand)||6||6||—|
|Padres (Kirby Yates)||7||7||—|
|Brewers (Josh Hader)||8||8||—|
|Pirates (Felipe Vazquez)||9||9||–|
|Nationals (Sean Doolittle)||10||11||+1|
|Reds (Raisel Iglesias)||11||12||+1|
|Rangers (Jose Leclerc)||12||10||-2|
|Giants (Will Smith)||13||14||+1|
|Blue Jays (Ken Giles)||14||13||-1|
|Cubs (Pedro Strop)||15||15||—|
|Cardinals (Jordan Hicks)||16||24||+8|
|Angels (Cody Allen)||17||17||—|
|Rockies (Wade Davis)||18||18||—|
|Diamondbacks (Greg Holland)||19||19||—|
|Red Sox (Committee)||20||16||-4|
|Tigers (Shane Greene)||21||20||-1|
|White Sox (Alex Colome)||22||21||-1|
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals were one of the big losers in last week’s Closer Report, but unlike the Phillies, St. Louis shoots back up the rankings this week. The reason is that Jordan Hicks is looking good and appears to have a firm hold on this job for the time being. One of Hicks’ main competitors for saves, Andrew Miller, has had a rocky start to the season and has yet to see a save opportunity. The other, Alex Reyes, was optioned to Triple-A after failing to close out a game last week.
It’s certainly possible that Miller, Reyes, or even Carlos Martinez could factor into the ninth inning at some point this season, but Hicks clearly has the stuff to close and it now looks like he may now have an opportunity to run away with the job.
Boston Red Sox
Ryan Brasier has the two most recent saves for Boston, so it may be time to adjust my expectation that Matt Barnes will lead the team in saves. Still, this always had the look of a two-way committee. Both Braiser and Barnes should see plenty of save opportunities if Boston can just start generating some ninth inning leads, and both can help you enough elsewhere that they are well worth owning even in the likely event that they continue to share the job.
Josh Hader has been predictably awesome in the ninth inning, but Jeremy Jeffress is on the verge of returning, so things are about to get interesting in Milwaukee. My money is on Jeffress eventually inheriting the closer job so that Hader can be deployed in a more flexible role, but we’ll know soon enough. Both pitchers should be just about universally owned in fantasy leagues.
Jose Leclerc has had two messy outings in a row, raising a bit of concern about his job security. He was hit hard on Tuesday, but the more troubling outing was on Wednesday, when he hit two batters and walked a third. Leclerc posted some really ugly walk rates at both the Major- and minor league levels prior to last season, so hopefully his control issues aren’t resurfacing.
The Rangers bullpen doesn’t have much in the way of competition for Leclerc, but if he can’t throw strikes the team could be forced to make a change, at least temporarily. He’s only struggled with control in one appearance so far this year, so it’s too early to panic, but it would certainly be nice to see Leclerc throw a few clean innings this week.
Pedro Strop picked up his first save of the season on Thursday, confirming that he is indeed Joe Maddon’s top choice for saves in Chicago right now. The problem for Strop owners is that the Cubs are off to a poor 4-8 start, which has deprived Strop of the chance to build up some job security for when Brandon Morrow returns from the injured list. Morrow is ramping up to throwing live batting practice in Arizona as he works his way back from offseason elbow surgery, so he could only be a few weeks away from returning. It is impossible to know what Maddon will decide to do when Morrow returns, but it would help Strop’s chances of holding onto the closer job if the Cubs could start creating some more save chances for him.
How can Shane Greene move down a spot after his incredible start to the season, you ask? Well, we’re still talking about a pitcher with a 4.78 career ERA. Greene has been very fortunate when it comes to batted balls so far — he’s actually striking out fewer batters than he has in the past — so this could still go south in a hurry. Greene owners have to be pleasantly surprised, but I would absolutely be looking to sell high if I owned him.
Blake Parker has picked up the Twins’ two most recent saves, but this is likely to remain a committee. Parker appears to have a leg up on Trevor May, who has yet to see a save chance, but it would hardly be surprising to see Twins skipper Rocco Baldelli give May an opportunity at some point. Left-hander Taylor Rogers should also continue to see some save opportunities when lefty-heavy lineups are due up in the ninth. Parker is probably the current favorite to lead the team in saves, and he won’t kill your ratios, so he’s a reasonable player to roster in leagues where the saves chase is fierce. Just keep your expectations in check.
Phillies manager Gabe Kapler doesn’t care about your fantasy team, it’s as simple as that. The battle for saves in Philadelphia figured to be between David Robertson and Seranthony Dominguez, but instead we saw Kapler turn to Hector Neris, Pat Neshek, and Edubray Ramos to protect ninth inning leads over the last week. Ramos blew his save chance and then got sent to the minors, but Neris and Neshek seem at least as likely as Robertson or Dominguez to get the next opportunity. It doesn’t hurt to roster any of them for strikeouts, ratios, and the occasional save, but Kapler doesn’t figure to settle on a regular closer anytime soon, if ever.
If you thought the Phillies situation was messy, take a gander at Seattle, where six different relievers have already earned a save. Anthony Swarzak picked up two quick ones after returning from the injured list and looked like the clear frontrunner for saves going forward, but he pitched in the eighth inning of a tie game on Wednesday, opening the door for Roenis Elias to get the save. Then, with both Swarzak and Elias unavailable on Thursday, it was Connor Sadzeck who closed out the game for Seattle.
Right now, predicting who will get the next save in Seattle is even harder than spelling (or pronouncing) these guys’ names. Swarzak is probably still the favorite, but it is looking quite possible that this could be a committee all year.