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8 Closers to Target (2020 Fantasy Baseball)

Apr 9, 2020

Give Craig Kimbrel a mulligan for an ugly 2019 caused by signing during the season.

We’ve asked our writers to identify the closer that they view as the best value in upcoming fantasy baseball drafts. Here’s what they had to say.

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Q: Which closer do you believe comes at the best value in drafts?

Keone Kela (PIT)
Closers are especially frustrating to draft because they lose their jobs so often, but Kela has little competition for saves, and his draft price won’t hurt you much if anything does happen. He has always been an excellent reliever who has just struggled to stay healthy. In fact, he was one of the best relievers last year after he came back off the IL. If he can continue a similar pace, we will be talking about one of the top-10 closers in fantasy baseball this year, all for the price of the #24 closer off the board.
– Bobby Sylvester (@bobbyfantasypro)

Craig Kimbrel (CHC)
Truth be told, I’m not in love with the value on any closer, but what I value most is job security. Absent injury, Kimbrel is one of the least-likely closers to lose his job. Although his control declined at the end of 2018, nothing could have prepared fantasy owners for the disaster that was 2019. But, for the most part, drafters should disregard it, as Kimbrel’s late signing obviously affected his performance and led to various injuries. With his large contract running through 2021, the Cubs not only would have a difficult time dealing him, but they’d also have a difficult time removing him from the closer’s role. Just entering his age-32 season and still armed with an elite strikeout rate, Kimbrel makes one of the best values for relief pitchers.
– Dan Harris (@danharris80)

Edwin Diaz (NYM)
Diaz entered last season easily in the upper echelon of closers, but his 2019 campaign was dangerously horrible. Not only did he under-perform by nearly all metrics, but he lost his role. Saves are the prime currency for closers, and Diaz was no longer in line to reap the rewards. That appears to have changed, as the New York Mets are committed to Diaz closing. We can’t forget about his shaky floor, but drafters have pushed him to the point where he is now a bargain. His ADP is in line with the risk-reward he presents, but it’s imperative to note that his strikeout rate remained high throughout his poor season. That, coupled with save opportunities, yields a high ceiling for Diaz.
– Mario Mergola (@MarioMergola)

Nick Anderson (TB)
Anderson is a very popular name among fantasy analysts. That’s what happens when you post a 42% strikeout rate over a full season. That elite K% ranked second in baseball, behind only Josh Hader. Despite such an outstanding performance last year, Anderson probably isn’t a household name among fantasy players after spending the first half of 2019 with the Miami Marlins. He was traded mid-season to the Rays, who worked their magic to turn him into a Hader-esque weapon out of the bullpen. Following last year’s deadline deal, Anderson posted a 2.11 ERA (backed up by a 1.19 xFIP) and a 42-2 K/BB ratio in 21.1 innings. Tampa Bay traded away closer Emilio Pagan this offseason. Yes, the Rays will mix and match in the ninth inning at times (as they always do), but Anderson’s price is reasonable, and he is expected to see the majority of save opportunities once the season begins.
– Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma)

Giovanny Gallegos (STL)
To begin, Gallegos will likely be the closer on a good team. Acquired from the Yankees in the Luke Voit trade in 2018, he’s under the radar because he isn’t a household name. Gallegos is in his prime at age 28 and has enough of a repertoire (fastball, slider, changeup) to get the job done. His fastball sits at 93, but that may be enough. While I don’t see him as the best closer in baseball, I think he exceeds expectations and the auction/draft price/round.
– Bernie Pleskoff (@BerniePleskoff)

Ken Giles (TOR)
Giles has an alarming every-other-year pattern of breakdowns, posting ERAs of 4.11 and 4.65 in 2016 and 2018, respectively. Nagging injuries also limited him to just 53 innings last season. Consistency and durability concerns keep him priced as the 10th closer (in terms of ECR and ADP) despite ranking fourth in strikeout rate (39.9%) and FIP (2.27) among all qualified relievers last season. Volatility aside, his career 2.67 ERA and 25.8 K-BB% is still befitting of a top-tier closer. There are valid reasons to fear Giles, but don’t avoid the 29-year-old just because the Blue Jays didn’t present him enough save opportunities last year. He converted all but one of his 24 chances, and saves are notoriously fickle year to year, regardless of the team. An improved squad in a shortened season could yield a drastic swing. Take the elite skills at an affordable cost.
– Andrew Gould (@AndrewGould4

Mark Melancon (ATL)
I’m targeting guys who on strong teams that have the best shot at being named closer, and it’s an absolute crime that Melancon is barely inside the top-30 relievers. Heck, even teammate Will Smith is still going ahead of him in drafts! The first thing going for Melancon is that he was a perfect 11-for-11 in save chances with the Braves last year. It’s his job to lose. Further, while Melancon was never a high-strikeout guy, he did strike out nearly 24% of batters faced last year, above his career average of 22.5%. His high BABIP (.365) was due to being a ground-ball pitcher (62% last year), but it’s bound to negatively regress. He was in the top one percent in barrels last year, giving me comfort that his higher-than-average BABIP is not something to worry about. The Braves are the front-runners to win the NL East, so getting Melancon is a steal at his current price.
– Carmen Maiorano (@carmsclubhouse)

Jose Leclerc (TEX)
After Leclerc signed a contract extension that keeps him in Texas through 2023, with a club option for 2024, the Rangers seemed to have locked up their closer for the future. Then he imploded in 2019, but his contract, lack of competition, and underlying metrics suggest he can still be the dominant closer they signed him to be. Leclerc’s 3.73 SIERA indicates his 4.33 ERA was not entirely earned. Rather, the bloated 13.0% BB rate and massive 10.4 HR/FB ratio led to some poor luck resulting in poor performance that a loss of confidence only compounded. Leclerc’s Statcast profile remained elite in 2019, and he actually raised his average fastball velocity into the upper 90s last year (96.8 mph). The 13.11 K/9 clearly demonstrates that Leclerc possesses some of the best swing-and-miss stuff in baseball. He will probably never have the ground-ball rate and command necessary to be the best closer in baseball, but he already has all he needs to be the best value.
– Paul Ghiglieri (@FantasyGhigs)

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