Fantasy Baseball Closer Report: Week 15
Even despite taking a one-week hiatus before the All-Star break, there’s no turnover to report in the second half’s inaugural Closer Report. I’m taking the wheel from Andrew Seifter at the calm before the storm, as ninth-inning roles are almost guaranteed to change by July 31’s one and only trade deadline.
A few closers are in danger of disappearing from this list within the next three weeks. Ken Giles, Will Smith, Shane Greene, and Alex Colome are all flight risks, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll lose save opportunities with a new club. The risk was factored into their rankings.
The only major development happened so quickly that it represents a reset to the situation covered by Seifter two weeks ago. Oakland initially said Blake Treinen would slide right back into closing duties, but it only took one rocky outing for the A’s to reverse course and keep Liam Hendriks in the driver’s seat. He may not hold the gig through September, but the red-hot reliever is still this week’s biggest climber.
|Team (Closer)||Current Rank||Previous Rank||+/-
|Brewers (Josh Hader)||1||2||–|
|Padres (Kirby Yates)||2||1||–|
|Yankees (Aroldis Chapman)||3||4||+1|
|Indians (Brad Hand)||4||3||-1|
|Pirates (Felipe Vazquez)||5||6||+1|
|Dodgers (Kenley Jansen)||6||5||-1|
|Astros (Roberto Osuna)||7||7||–|
|Mets (Edwin Diaz)||8||15||+7|
|Blue Jays (Ken Giles)||9||10||+1|
|Cubs (Craig Kimbrel)||10||8||-2|
|Nationals (Sean Doolittle)||11||11||–|
|Giants (Will Smith)||12||9||-3|
|Phillies (Hector Neris)||13||12||-1|
|Tigers (Shane Greene)||14||13||-1|
|A’s (Liam Hendriks)||15||24||+9|
|Reds (Raisel Iglesias)||16||20||+4|
|D-backs (Greg Holland)||17||18||+1|
|White Sox (Alex Colome)||18||14||-4|
|Braves (Luke Jackson)||19||22||+3|
|Angels (Hansel Robles)||20||16||-4|
|Cardinals (Carlos Martinez)||21||17||-4|
|Royals (Ian Kennedy)||22||19||-3|
|Rockies (Wade Davis)||23||27||+4|
|Rangers (Shawn Kelley)||24||21||-3|
|Mariners (Roenis Elias)||27||23||-4|
|Red Sox (Committee)||28||25||-3|
|Marlins (Sergio Romo)||29||29||–|
Well, let’s hope everyone who grabbed Hendriks didn’t drop him once Treinen returned from a shoulder strain. He has since picked up three saves and extended his scoreless streak to 15.1 innings. The recently minted All-Star (chosen as one of many replacements) last issued a walk on June 12. Now boasting a 0.92 ERA with 63 strikeouts in 50.2 innings, the 30-year-old is starting to feel an awful lot like this year’s Treinen.
How long will the A’s maintain this arrangement? Based on their early insistence of keeping Treinen in the ninth, they likely would prefer last year’s breakout star to earn back the job. Yet Hendriks’ dominance gives them no reason to rock the boat. The post currently belongs all to Hendriks, so ride the hot hand as long as it lasts.
New York Mets
Seifter understandably reached his breaking point with Diaz, dumping the troubled closer from No. 8 to 15 in his last installment. Don’t mistake my adjustment as the 25-year-old joining everyone’s good graces again. I also moved him down significantly in my personal rankings, dismissing him from the top five.
Perhaps he would have dropped further if not for uncertainty surrounding his peers. Giles has blown up plenty of times before, but the trade risk keeps him one spot lower. Craig Kimbrel allowed five runs in four outings after joining the Cubs. The king of WHIP last year, Sean Doolittle’s mark has more than doubled from 0.60 to 1.37. Hector Neris had a pair of three-run outings in June, so consider Diaz the start of a new tier behind seven surefire studs.
We can’t make excuses for a ghastly 5.50 ERA forever, as his once dominant slider has surrendered a 132 wRC+ this season. Perhaps the Mets are to blame, as Noah Syndergaard has experienced the same fiasco. Diaz, however, has still maintained an excellent 17.4% swinging-strike rate with 56 strikeouts in 34.1 innings. He brandishes a 2.59 SIERA and the highest differential between his wOBA (.345) and expected wOBA (.269).
Considering how much the Mets gave and took back from the Mariners in the form on Robinson Cano’s abysmal contract, the 25-year-old also appears to have job security in a bullpen with no alternatives. It may be pure stubbornness on my part, but I’m keeping Diaz in my top 10 and viewing him as a prominent buy-low candidate.
Roenis Elias strung together eight hitless innings — going the last seven without a walk — before allowing four runs in his last four outings before the break. Just like that, his ERA is back up to 3.98. He’s still usable while striking out over a batter per frame as Seattle’s closer, but the 30-year-old likely doesn’t have much job security. Working his way back from an earlier setback, Hunter Strickland could return by the end of July. Even if he doesn’t come back to reclaim his job, one more bad day from Elias could turn this situation into a lackluster committee.
Boston Red Sox
Per NESN’s Tom Caron, the Red Sox plan to move Nathan Eovaldi from starter to closer when he returns from the injured list. At this point, anybody getting the full-time role would be a welcome sight for fantasy managers. Ryan Brasier leads the squad with seven saves, only one of which he obtained since April 22.
Eovaldi showed great promise out of the bullpen last postseason, allowing four baserunners and two runs (one earned) over eight pivotal innings. A hard-thrower in the rotation, he should have little trouble reaching the high 90s if healthy. There’s still, however, no set date for his return, and these plans could change if Boston makes a marquee bullpen acquisition. Stash Eovaldi anyway, but don’t bother trying to sort out the current committee.
Maybe this isn’t a committee anymore. Taylor Rogers recorded two saves last week and three in his last four outings. He now has a dozen on the season to go alongside a sparkling 1.82 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 51 strikeouts in 39.2 innings.
I was tempted to label Rogers the sole closer and elevate him up the rankings. Instead, I’ll defer and let another week pass for Seifter to suss out the situation. Blake Parker still has 10 saves on the season, so the Twins could keep playing the handedness splits. There’s also the strong possibility of a deadline acquisition. According to La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Twins have “definitely checked” on Giles and Kirby Yates. The former seems like a perfect fit who would likely see the bulk (if not all) of their save opportunities.
For now, Minnesota’s ranking probably doesn’t do Rogers’ value proper justice. He’s a better short-term option than Wade Davis and Shawn Kelley, but both have a better chance of maintaining save opportunities into August.
San Francisco Giants
The worst possible rumor for Smith managers surfaced Wednesday. Per MLB.com’s Jon Morosi, the Dodgers “have varying levels of interest in multiple Giants relievers,” including their dominant closer. Rivaling presidents Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi are reportedly willing to talk despite their NL West ties.
Some contenders, especially the Red Sox and Twins, could open the opportunity for a closer to keep his role on a better squad. The Dodgers, however, are all set with Kenley Jansen, who has manned their final frame since 2012. Sporting a 1.98 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, and the fourth-best K-BB rate (33.8%), Smith would easily be a top-10 fantasy stopper if not for the looming threat of a trade. As a lefty, he’s particularly in jeopardy of getting inserted into a high-leverage role out of sight of save opportunities.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays placed Jose Alvarado on the injured list Wednesday with an oblique strain. An elevated timetable now has him expected to miss six to eight weeks. Meanwhile, they’re slated to welcome back Diego Castillo on Friday. Out since June 22 with a shoulder injury, the 25-year-old righty had registered a 2.48 ERA before two bad outings bloated it to 3.93.
Tampa Bay hasn’t settled on one closer all year — including when Alvarado sat out four weeks on personal leave — so don’t expect that to change anytime soon. A two-man committee between Castillo and Emilio Pagan, however, would make both valuable mixed-league commodities. Pagan has especially flourished this season, posting a 1.75 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, and 47 strikeouts in 36 innings. He’s likely to regress when a .222 BABIP and 90.2% strand rate realign to the mean, but the 28-year-old is valuable ratio solidifier who picked up five saves before the All-Star break. He could receive a few more down the stretch.