Fantasy Baseball Closer Report: Week 8
Welcome, friends, to another edition of the Closer Report. As always, there’s plenty to discuss!
This week we’ve seen bullpen situations in Atlanta, Chicago, Tampa Bay, Los Angeles, and Seattle become a bit clearer, while the closer situations in Milwaukee, Boston, and Philadelphia are seemingly headed in the opposite direction. Which of these teams now have a clear-cut closer and which are still mired in a committee? Let’s take a look.
|Team (Closer)||Current Rank||Previous Rank||+/-|
|Mets (Edwin Diaz)||1||1||–|
|Padres (Kirby Yates)||2||3||+1|
|Astros (Roberto Osuna)||3||4||+1|
|Yankees (Aroldis Chapman)||4||5||+1|
|Indians (Brad Hand)||5||6||+1|
|Pirates (Felipe Vazquez)||6||7||+1|
|A’s (Blake Treinen)||7||2||-5|
|Dodgers (Kenley Jansen)||8||8||–|
|Cardinals (Jordan Hicks)||9||10||+1|
|Nationals (Sean Doolittle)||10||9||-1|
|Reds (Raisel Iglesias)||11||12||+1|
|Brewers (Josh Hader)||12||11||-1|
|Tigers (Shane Greene)||13||13||—|
|Blue Jays (Ken Giles)||14||14||—|
|Diamondbacks (Greg Holland)||15||15||—|
|Giants (Will Smith)||16||16||—|
|White Sox (Alex Colome)||17||17||—|
|Rockies (Wade Davis)||18||19||+1|
|Red Sox (Committee)||19||20||+1|
|Orioles (Mychal Givens)||20||23||+3|
|Braves (Luke Jackson)||21||29||+8|
|Marlins (Sergio Romo)||26||24||-2|
|Rangers (Chris Martin)||27||25||-2|
There’s no reason to be overly concerned about Blake Treinen, but his strikeout rate is down considerably from last season, and he is walking nearly five batters per nine innings, which is not a recipe for sustained success. It’s most likely just a matter of small sample size, but it’s hard to justify keeping Treinen above Kirby Yates, Roberto Osuna, Aroldis Chapman, Brad Hand, and Felipe Vasquez, who have all been completely dominant in the early going.
Luke Jackson has collected five of the Braves’ last seven saves, with the other two going to Jacob Webb and Johnny Venters when Jackson was presumably unavailable after having pitched the previous two nights. It remains to be seen whether Jackson will be able to hold this job down all season, but he’s pitching well enough right now to get the job done, and he may not have much competition unless Atlanta eventually decides to look outside the organization for bullpen help.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon made a point of saying that anyone in Chicago’s bullpen could see save chances while Pedro Strop is on the injured list, but Steve Cishek certainly looks like Maddon’s preferred option. Cishek has both saves since Strop got hurt, and he got them in back-to-back games. We’ll keep this one as a committee for now, but that could change next week if Cishek picks up a couple more saves in a row.
What’s the saying “Fool me one…”? Here is what I wrote in last week’s Closer Report: “Hector Neris now has collected each of the Phillies’ last four saves, so it is looking increasingly clear that he is the closer in Philadelphia, at least for the time being. Gabe Kapler quickly earned a reputation for mixing and matching in the ninth inning last season, but this is only his second year on the job so perhaps he’s had a change of heart. Famous last words, I know.”
Well, it took all of one week for that logic to come crashing down. The Phillies have not been generating many save chances lately, but when they finally did create one on Monday, it was Pat Neshek — not Neris — who got the call in the ninth inning, even though Neris had barely pitched over the previous week. Neris may need to get 10 saves in a row before I make the mistake of declaring him the Phillies’ closer again.
New York Mets
Edwin Diaz’s numbers still look great, but his velocity has been down in May, as Brad Johnson recently pointed out for Rotoworld. It’s not enough of a concern to drop Diaz from his perch atop the closer rankings, but it’s something to keep an eye on for now.
Regular readers of this column have been aware for weeks about the possibility that Jeremy Jeffress could infringe upon Josh Hader’s status as the Brewers’ exclusive closer, and it appears we’ve finally reached the tipping point. MLB.com recently reported that “Jeffress’ recent surge in velocity could result in a closer-by-committee approach in the near future,” and quoted Brewers manager Craig Counsell as saying that both Hader and Jeffress were given save chances last year depending on how “the game played out,” and that “[t]hat’s what we’re kind of considering at this point.”
I won’t officially designate this situation a committee until Jeffress earns his first save, but it’s only a matter of time. Hader should still see plenty of save opportunities, and he remains a must-own player due to his dominant strikeout rate and ratios, but it’s fair to consider him a possible sell-high candidate if you can get top-five closer value in return. Jeffress should now be owned in all saves-hungry leagues.
Boston Red Sox
The closer tides are turning in Boston, where Ryan Brasier is scuffling a bit and Matt Barnes has been one of the most lights-out relievers in baseball. Barnes has earned two saves since Brasier last got one way back on April 21, but as Boston’s best reliever, expect manager Alex Cora to continue using Barnes in high-leverage situations whether they occur in the ninth inning or not. Still, it no longer seems clear that Brasier will get anything resembling a traditional closer’s usage, so this situation is back to being a committee.
Tampa Bay Rays
Diego Castillo has picked up each of the Rays’ last three saves, but it is a little too early to say that he is Kevin Cash’s preferred ninth-inning man over Jose Alvarado and Emilio Pagan. Given how unpredictable Cash has been with his bullpen this season, we’ll keep this one as a committee for now. But stay tuned.
Los Angeles Angels
Hansel Robles has picked up four saves since Cody Allen was deposed at the Angels’ closer, while Ty Buttrey has only gotten one. Buttrey is the better pitcher, but it certainly looks like Angels manager Brad Ausmus prefers to give Robles the ninth inning while deploying Buttrey in a more flexible, high-leverage role. We’ll give it another week before making Robles’ ascension to the closer role official.
The Mariners’ closer situation has been extraordinarily messy all season — six different relievers have collected saves — but Roenis Elias has emerged as the best fantasy option of the bunch. When asked about his approach to closing out games, Seattle manager Scott Servais said he’s “looking to ride a hot hand right now” and added that “Elias has probably been our most consistent guy down there, from the start of the season to today.” It’s hard to say if Servais will ever really abandon his committee approach, but if he does, it’s a good bet that Elias will be the guy who emerges as Seattle’s closer.