Fantasy Baseball Closer Report: Week 20
The MLB trade deadline has come and gone, and so has the trade deadline in most fantasy leagues. The saves category represents one of the most direct avenues to climbing the standings in roto leagues and locking in a weekly advantage in head-to-head categories leagues, so hopefully those of you who play in those formats did what you had to do to position yourself for a title run.
But if you’re still short on saves, all hope is not lost. Injuries still happen, darkhorse closers still emerge, and in daily transaction leagues you can even play the “save vulture” game (picking up a team’s top setup man when the regular closer is due for a night off). And picking up the closer of the moment should be easier than it was earlier in the season, now that many of your league mates undoubtedly have fantasy football on the mind.
|Team (Closer)||Current Rank||Previous Rank||+/-|
|Padres (Kirby Yates)||1||1||–|
|Brewers (Josh Hader)||2||2||–|
|Yankees (Aroldis Chapman)||3||7||+4|
|Giants (Will Smith)||4||5||+1|
|Indians (Brad Hand)||5||3||-2|
|Pirates (Felipe Vazquez)||6||4||-2|
|Astros (Roberto Osuna)||7||6||-1|
|Dodgers (Kenley Jansen)||8||8||–|
|A’s (Liam Hendriks)||9||12||+3|
|Phillies (Hector Neris)||10||14||+4|
|Blue Jays (Ken Giles)||11||10||-1|
|Reds (Raisel Iglesias)||12||16||+4|
|Cardinals (Carlos Martinez)||13||17||+4|
|Nationals (Sean Doolittle)||14||9||-5|
|Red Sox (Brandon Workman)||15||21||+6|
|Royals (Ian Kennedy)||16||19||+3|
|Rays (Emilio Pagan)||17||24||+7|
|White Sox (Alex Colome)||18||15||-3|
|Angels (Hansel Robles)||19||18||-1|
|Rangers (Jose Leclerc)||20||22||+2|
|Diamondbacks (Archie Bradley)||21||25||+4|
|Mets (Edwin Diaz)||22||11||-11|
|Rockies (Scott Oberg)||23||23||—|
|Tigers (Joe Jimenez)||25||28||+3|
New York Yankees
Many of the top tier closers have not been at their best of late: Josher Hader, Brad Hand, Roberto Osuna, and Sean Doolittle all sport ERAs over 4.00 in the last month, while Felipe Vazquez has been terrific but starved of save chances. Meanwhile, Aroldis Chapman continues to dominantly close out games like he’s been doing for the better part of a decade. Chapman is currently tied with Kirby Yates for the league lead in saves (33), and he should keep piling up the saves with strong ratios over the final six weeks.
The Hector Neris rollercoaster ride up and down these rankings continues this week. Neris isn’t seeing all of the save chances in Philadelphia, but he’s seeing most of them, and he’s done quite well for the most part. He’s been particularly good lately, with an impressive 0.90 ERA, 0.40 WHIP, and 14 strikeouts in 10 innings over the last month. With many of the other mid-tier closers experiencing a bump in the road recently, Neris vaults into the top-10 closers this week.
Cincinnati Reds/St. Louis Cardinals
Raisel Iglesias and Carlos Martinez both see a nice bump in the rankings this week, but it has more to do with the struggles of other closers than a change in their own outlooks. Iglesias and Martinez are both proven commodities with ample job security who have had their ups and downs this season, performance-wise. They are the true definition of mid-tier closers.
Sean Doolittle hasn’t been very good recently, and he suggested this week that it could be the result of a heavy workload catching up to him. Doolittle has already thrown more innings than he has in any season since 2014, and there is a chance he sets a new career-high in both innings and appearances if his current usage continues. Staying healthy has always been a major issue for Doolittle, but this is the first time we’re potentially seeing his workload impact his on-field performance. He hasn’t pitched since August 12, so perhaps a few days off will do him some good.
Boston Red Sox
Brandon Workman has quietly been one of the best relievers in fantasy baseball. And with Nate Eovaldi suddenly looking more likely to start a game than finish one, Workman has a longer leash in the ninth inning than he has all year. With great ratios and save potential, Workman is poised to finish the season strong.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays have been averse to naming a closer all season, but Emilio Pagan has quietly run away with the job in August. Pagan has all five saves that Tampa Bay has generated this month, including four in a span of five days from August 9-13. Oh, and he’s also been putting up terrific ratios all season — his 1.95 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 12.7 K/9 rate, and 13 saves will play in any format.
With Greg Holland mercifully out of the picture in Arizona, Archie Bradley has collected the last four saves for the D’Backs. Bradley hasn’t quite lived up to the hype he had as a pitching prospect, but he can still appear dominant at times. His 11.35 K/9 rate this year is easily a career best, but he’ll need to fix his bloated 4.82 BB/9 if he wants to have extended success in the ninth inning.
New York Mets
I don’t know about you, but I am tired of making excuses for Edwin Diaz. Yes, his peripherals suggest he should be doing much better. But it is August 16 and Diaz has a 5.56 ERA and 1.48 WHIP, abominable numbers that really hurt you in a roto/categories league. And he isn’t showing any signs of getting better, either: Diaz has given up seven earned runs over his last six innings, and his hold on the closer job is no longer airtight. It’s always possible he finds his form at any moment, but with just six weeks left in the season, I’d rather have just about any closer who’s been pitching well and collecting saves.
Taylor Rogers and Sergio Romo look to be sharing closer duties in Minnesota since the trade deadline, with Sam Dyson also potentially factoring into the equation. The Twins should theoretically create enough save chances for all of these guys to be interesting in fantasy leagues, but only if they’re producing strong accompanying ratios. They all have pretty good numbers on the year, but Romo has easily been the best of the three lately.
It’s safe to say that the Braves’ trade deadline acquisitions have not gone according to plan, with Shane Greene and Mark Melancon taking turns making a mess of the late innings. Greene and Melancon will likely see more save chances, but all of a sudden, it looks like holdover Luke Jackson may still be Atlanta’s best option to close out games. The Braves would surely like to have one of these guys take hold of the role, but until that happens this will be a highly-volatile committee.
Hader has been uncharacteristically hittable lately, surrendering six earned runs — and four long balls — over his last five innings dating back to July 30. Home runs have been a thorn in Hader’s side this year: he’s already given up 13 of them, matching his total from 2017 and 2018 combined. The good news is that he’s still performed like a top-two closer, and has continued to miss bats with the best of them even during this recent rough stretch. I’m going to chalk it up to a few hitters putting in a few good swings, and keep Hader locked into the second spot in the closer rankings.
It’s hard to imagine Milwaukee making a change, but Matt Albers does look to be second in line and isn’t a bad pickup if you’re looking for a few more saves down the stretch.
Liam Hendriks has been a revelation as Oakland’s replacement closer for Blake Treinen, posting a 1.57 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, and 15.7 K/9 rate since he earned his first save on June 22. No full-time closer has been better over the last month for fantasy purposes. Expect Hendriks to continue to rise up the ranks if he continues to pitch this well — and the other top-tier closers around him continue to falter.
Toronto Blue Jays
Ken Giles gave his fantasy owners a scare with a recurrence of nagging elbow inflammation, but he bounced back with a clean save on Tuesday. Giles has been excellent in 2019, but his performance has tailed off as the season has gone along and the injury is an added concern. During Giles’ brief absence, it became clear that Derek Law is next in line in Toronto. He’s a prudent insurance policy for Giles owners, and a reasonable pickup for anyone who is on the hunt for saves.
Kansas City Royals
Ian Kennedy may be the Rodney Dangerfield of fantasy closers in 2019 because he doesn’t get much respect. A flamed out former starter pitching for a bad team, Kennedy seemed likely to lose his job or get traded. But here we are in August, and Kennedy is still the closer in Kansas City, where he has reached 20 saves and is currently pitching his best baseball of the season.
With Shane Greene in Atlanta, Joe Jimenez has stepped in as the Tigers’ new closer, although they’ve created so few save chances that it may be hard to tell. Jimenez has great raw stuff, but he can be wild at times and is prone to the long ball. His ratios may not be pretty, but closers are closers, so he should be owned in all saves-hungry leagues.
The Cubs closer situation is messy at the moment, but that will change when Craig Kimbrel returns, which could happen any day now. Kimbrel has had a rough start to his Cubs’ career, but once he’s back, he’ll vault towards to top-10 closers on pedigree alone.