Fantasy Baseball Closer Report: Week 16
Welcome back to another edition of the Closer Report, everyone — and thanks to my esteemed colleague Andrew Gould for covering the column for me last week.
Things have been relatively stable at the closer position across MLB over the last few weeks, but expect that to change soon with the trade deadline fast approaching. This season has been marked by an elite tier of about 10 high-end closers, followed by a ton of movement and uncertainty in the lower two-thirds of the rankings. That’s truer than ever now. It is easy to imagine any pitcher outside of this week’s top 10 losing their job by this time next week.
While shaky job security has been an issue for plenty of closers over the course of the season, we’re now at the point where at least a handful could get traded to a team that doesn’t need them to close. Or they could lose save opportunities because their current team acquires another reliever to save games. So if you own a closer or two who are likely to be moved, now isn’t a bad time to see what the market will bear in your league.
|Team (Closer)||Current Rank||Previous Rank||+/-
|Brewers (Josh Hader)||1||1||—|
|Padres (Kirby Yates)||2||2||—|
|Indians (Brad Hand)||3||3||—|
|Yankees (Aroldis Chapman)||4||4||—|
|Dodgers (Kenley Jansen)||5||5||—|
|Pirates (Felipe Vazquez)||6||6||—|
|Astros (Roberto Osuna)||7||7||—|
|Cubs (Craig Kimbrel)||8||8||—|
|Nationals (Sean Doolittle)||9||11||+2|
|Mets (Edwin Diaz)||10||15||+5|
|Giants (Will Smith)||11||9||-2|
|Blue Jays (Ken Giles)||12||10||-2|
|Tigers (Shane Greene)||13||13||—|
|White Sox (Alex Colome)||14||14||—|
|A’s (Liam Hendriks)||15||24||+9|
|Twins (Taylor Rogers)||16||26||+10|
|Angels (Hansel Robles)||17||16||-1|
|Reds (Raisel Iglesias)||18||20||+2|
|Cardinals (Carlos Martinez)||19||17||-2|
|Royals (Ian Kennedy)||20||19||-1|
|Braves (Luke Jackson)||21||22||+1|
|Phillies (Hector Neris)||22||12||-10|
|Diamondbacks (Greg Holland)||23||18||-5|
|Rangers (Shawn Kelley)||24||21||-3|
|Red Sox (Committee)||26||25||-1|
|Marlins (Sergio Romo)||27||29||+2|
|Mariners (Roenis Elias)||28||23||-5|
|Rockies (Wade Davis)||29||28||-1|
New York Mets
Edwin Diaz has fired off four consecutive clean innings since his latest meltdown, so perhaps the worst is behind him. As I mentioned in this week’s “Buy/Sell” column, he has thrown hard and is getting plenty of strikeouts, but he has been hurt by poor batted-ball outcomes. I’d rather have him than a closer who’s been better so far but lacks his bat-missing skills and is at risk of getting dealt into a setup role at the trade deadline.
Gould moved Liam Hendriks way up his rankings last week, and this week it is my turn to do the same. Blake Treinen was a dominant closer last year, but he just hasn’t been the same pitcher this year. Treinen’s brief stint on the injured list with a shoulder strain afforded A’s manager Bob Melvin the opportunity to feature Hendriks in the ninth inning, and while Melvin initially planned to give Treinen his job back, he now views Hendriks as the closer going forward. If he continues to pitch anywhere close to as well as he has been (1.21 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 11.25 K/9), Hendriks should keep rising up the closer ranks.
Gould was tempted last week to declare the Twins’ closer committee over and anoint Taylor Rogers, but he kindly left the decision up to me. Well, after seeing another week of bullpen usage in Minnesota, I agree it’s time to recognize Rogers as the Twins’ exclusive ninth-inning man. After all, he has each of Minnesota’s last five saves and eight of the last nine. He’s also been fantastic for Minnesota all year long, posting a 1.61 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, and 11.28 K/9 rate. The only thing keeping Rogers from ascending further up the rankings is the looming possibility that the Twins go out and acquire a high-end closer for the stretch run.
I’ve probably moved Hector Neris up and down the closer rankings too much this season, but both he and Phillies manager Gabe Kapler are simply too erratic for my taste. Neris has really struggled of late, surrendering 10 earned runs in seven innings over his last eight appearances. He’s also set to serve a three-game suspension for throwing at the Dodgers’ David Freese.
I was skeptical that Kapler would allow Neris to run away with the closer job to begin with, and maybe I am moving him down too far again. But David Robertson is expected to rejoin the Phillies’ bullpen by the end of July. Given Robertson’s hefty contract and Neris’ poor recent form, it’s easy to envision this closer situation getting murky in the near future.
Greg Holland is currently in the midst of yet another rough stretch, allowing five runs in five innings over his last six appearances. But Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo has proven to be very patient with Holland’s ups and downs, perhaps in part because the team doesn’t have an obvious replacement on their roster. As such, Holland does not appear to be in imminent danger of losing his job, but his fantasy owners may have to suffer through some rocky ratios in order to get their saves.
Roenis Elias is still the best bet for saves in Seattle at the moment, but neither he nor the Mariners have been any good lately. Hunter Strickland began the year as Seattle’s closer before missing over half the season with a strained lat muscle. With Strickland finally set to begin a rehab assignment, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him seize the closer job from Elias sometime in August.
San Diego Padres
Kirby Yates’ name has surfaced in some trade rumors lately, but it’s unclear if the Padres are seriously considering moving him. Even if they are, the price should be sky high, and Yates is good enough that he will likely close no matter which uniform he’s wearing. He’s one closer whose fantasy value isn’t much threatened by the trade chatter.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Kenley Jansen suffered a bruised ankle from a comebacker while blowing a save on Tuesday, but by Thursday he was deemed healthy enough to pitch by Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. The Dodgers are reportedly interested in acquiring another late-inning reliever — the Giants’ Will Smith and Pirates’ Felipe Vazquez have come up in published reports — but it is hard to see Los Angeles picking up any reliever that would seriously challenge Jansen’s hold on the ninth inning.
Speaking of Vazquez, he does not seem very likely to get traded — either to L.A. or elsewhere. According to Pirates GM Neil Huntington, “[Vazquez] has the potential to contribute to us for this and four more years. Our expectation and anticipation is that Felipe will be closing out playoff games, be it this year or in the future with us.” That could obviously change if they get blown away with an offer, but as with Yates, it is hard to see a scenario where a team that wants to use Vazquez as a setup man is willing to pay what it will take to acquire him.
Craig Kimbrel struggled a little out of the gate in Chicago, but he seems to be settling in nicely now, firing four scoreless innings and picking up three saves leading up to and following the All-Star break. There was never any reason to panic with Kimbrel; he’s been a dominant closer for a decade and pitches for a team that should provide him with tons of save chances over the final two-plus months.
Raisel Iglesias has pitched much better of late and looks to have fully wrestled back the primary closer job from Michael Lorenzen. Reds manager David Bell will probably continue to be a bit eccentric with the use of his best reliever, but it no longer looks like a major concern for Iglesias owners. Iglesias is currently on paternity leave, however, so Lorenzen may see a save chance or two before he returns.
St. Louis Cardinals
Strangely, the Cardinals have been rumored to both be considering trading away closer Carlos Martinez and trading for high-end relievers like Smith. Usually teams are either buyers or sellers at the trade deadline, but maybe St. Louis is trying to be both? Although the Cardinals don’t really have the look of a World Series contender, they are still in the thick of both the NL Central and wild-card races. Martinez is set to earn $11.7 million per year through 2021, so perhaps the Cardinals want to offload his contract while he’s healthy and effective. There are real questions about whether he can ever handle a starter’s workload again, but that isn’t an awful salary for a good closer either. The best guess here is that Martinez ends up closing for St. Louis for the rest of the season. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox never fully went away from a closer committee in the first half, but Brandon Workman clearly established himself as the best Boston reliever to own in fantasy leagues over the last month or two. However, that could quickly change with the impending return of Nathan Eovaldi. Reports surfaced at the beginning of July that Eovaldi would serve as the Red Sox closer upon returning from the injured list, and it now looks like that will happen on Saturday. Unless the Red Sox decide to trade for a high-end closer, Eovaldi could be a valuable fantasy commodity over the rest of the season.