Welcome one and all to another edition of the Closer Report. It was (thankfully) a relatively quiet week on the closer front with one notable exception: Arodys Vizcaino was lost for the season following shoulder surgery. Maybe the Braves will finally sign old friend Craig Kimbrel now?
More on the Braves’ situation, Greg Holland’s ascendance, Pedro Strop’s job security, Jeremy Jeffress‘ return, and the rest of the closer landscape follows this week’s rankings:
|Team (Closer)||Current Rank||Previous Rank||+/-|
|Mets (Edwin Diaz)||1||1||–|
|A’s (Blake Treinen)||2||2||–|
|Astros (Roberto Osuna)||3||5||+2|
|Yankees (Aroldis Chapman)||4||4||—|
|Dodgers (Kenley Jansen)||5||3||-2|
|Padres (Kirby Yates)||6||7||+1|
|Indians (Brad Hand)||7||6||-1|
|Pirates (Felipe Vazquez)||8||9||+1|
|Brewers (Josh Hader)||9||8||-1|
|Nationals (Sean Doolittle)||10||10||—|
|Reds (Raisel Iglesias)||11||11||—|
|Giants (Will Smith)||12||13||+1|
|Diamondbacks (Greg Holland)||13||19||+6|
|Rangers (Jose Leclerc)||14||12||-2|
|Cardinals (Jordan Hicks)||15||16||+1|
|Blue Jays (Ken Giles)||16||14||-2|
|Angels (Cody Allen)||17||17||–|
|Rockies (Wade Davis)||18||18||–|
|Braves (A.J. Minter)||19||24||+5|
|Tigers (Shane Greene)||20||21||+1|
|Red Sox (Committee)||22||20||-2|
|White Sox (Alex Colome)||23||22||-1|
|Twins (Blake Parker)||24||25||+1|
|Cubs (Pedro Strop)||25||15||-10|
We saw both the good and bad version of Greg Holland last season, but so far this season it’s been all good. Holland is taking to the desert climate quite nicely, posting a 0.57 WHIP and 15.43 K/9 rate over seven scoreless innings to begin his stint with the Diamondbacks. Given that the good part of Holland’s 2018 season was the second half, it is looking increasingly likely that he has rediscovered the form he had during his glory days as a dominant ninth-inning man.
We learned last Sunday that Arodys Vizcaino was dealing with shoulder pain, and three days later he was undergoing season-ending surgery to repair his labrum and remove scar tissue. It was a shocking turn of events for Vizcaino owners, but a golden opportunity for those rostering A.J. Minter.
While Minter and Vizcaino previously formed a lefty/righty closer platoon, Minter is now the obvious choice to see the bulk of the save chances, at least for the time being. Minter collected 15 saves with decent ratios last season, and would be a solid mid-tier closer if he’s able to hold down the job. The problem is he’s currently got a 7.94 ERA and the Braves are being constantly linked to their former All-Star closer, Craig Kimbrel. But Kimbrel is reportedly holding out for a multi-year deal, something the Braves say they won’t do, so perhaps Minter has some time to build up some job security. No other internal candidate seems like a major threat to steal the job.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Kenley Jansen has given up a run in three of his last four appearances, but there’s no reason to worry about him. He’s still sporting a 2.89 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and a plus K rate. His small drop down the rankings has more to do with how good Roberto Osuna has been (0.24 WHIP!) and the fact that Aroldis Chapman appears to be back on track.
San Diego Padres
Based strictly on performance to date, Kirby Yates is a top-two closer, and there’s really no reason to say he’s pitching over his head — he was excellent last season, too. It is hard to move anyone in the top-five down right now considering their pedigree, but if Yates keeps this up there is a good chance he finishes at or near the top of these rankings when all is said and done.
Josh Hader remains the number one closer in all of baseball based on pure ability and performance, but it remains an open question whether he will remain in that role long-term. Jeremy Jeffress, who had plenty of success as the closer last year, was recently activated from the injured list. The Brewers plan to bring Jeffress along slowly, and manager Craig Counsell says he wants to see Jeffress “get his feet wet, so to speak, before we put him in the spots we saw him in last year.” Counsell added that once Jeffress is back up to speed, “the structure” of the bullpen will change, but it isn’t clear if he’s referring to the current arrangement of Hader handling the ninth.
Raisel Iglesias had a disastrous outing on Monday, blowing the save by allowing two runs without recording an out, but he bounced back with a perfect three-strikeout save on Thursday. Iglesias’ season hasn’t started the way he or his fantasy owners would have hoped, but there’s nothing to see here in terms of closer drama.
Last week, in this space, I said it would be nice to see Jose Leclerc throw a few clean innings following a couple messy outings, and that’s more or less what happened. Leclerc collected three saves in four days this week, allowing just one run — and one walk — along the way. He remains the clear choice for saves in Texas, and has the stuff to dominate in the role as long as his past control issues don’t resurface.
Tampa Bay Rays
I’ve referred to the Red Sox as my favorite closer committee, but the Rays ever-so-slightly surpass them this week. Both teams have appealing two-man committees where both pitchers are capable of posting helpful ratios and strikeouts. But Tampa’s Jose Alvarado and Diego Castillo have been even better than Boston’s Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier so far, and the Rays are creating more save chances right now than the struggling Red Sox. All four of these guys should be owned in any league where saves are a big deal.
Blake Parker has collected four of the Twins’ last five saves, so I’m going to go ahead and name him the team’s closer even though I do expect Taylor Rogers, Trevor Hildenberger, and perhaps even preseason fantasy favorite Trevor May to see some chances. Parker isn’t a dominant closer by any means, and he may not have a ton of job security, but he can certainly provide serviceable ratios and strikeouts to go along with his saves and Minnesota should continue to create plenty of chances.
I mentioned last week that this bullpfen looked destined to remain a committee for the foreseeable future, and nothing has changed on that front. Anthony Swarzak briefly looked like the favorite for saves when he returned from the IL, but Roenis Elias picked up his team-leading third save on Thursday with Swarzak pitching the eighth. Both players are fine to own in save-hungry leagues, but don’t expect either to seize the full-time role anytime soon, and some other members of this bullpen will probably grab the occasional save as well.
Mychal Givens was widely considered the favorite to serve as Baltimore’s closer coming into the season, but he is not among the four Orioles relievers who have collected a save thus far. Givens finally got his first save chance of the season on Thursday, but he couldn’t close the deal. It’s probably best to steer clear of this situation entirely unless you happen to play in a 36-team league where saves count double.