Fantasy Baseball Closer Report: Week 4
One of the constant challenges when producing the Closer Report each week is judging how to rank mediocre closers who clearly have the job vs. committee situations involving one or more high-end relievers. For this week, I’ve opted to push the Mets, Cubs, and Astros quite low in the rankings because of the lack of clarity about who will see each team’s next save chance. But if one pitcher can emerge as the designated closer in any of those situations, they could quickly climb into the top-1o or perhaps even the top-five, which is where those teams ranked on Opening Day.
By the same token, pitchers like Alex Colome, Daniel Hudson, and Mark Melancon wouldn’t typically find themselves in the top-10, but they’ve been pitching well and have plenty of job security, which is more than you can say for most closers right now.
As always, you can find me on Twitter @andrew_seifter if you want to pick my brain on the latest closer happenings or anything else fantasy-related. Now on to this week’s closer rankings.
|Team (Closer)||Rank (Δ)||Notes|
|Brewers (Josh Hader)||1 (-)||MLB’s best reliever appears locked into the 9th|
|A’s (Liam Hendriks)||2 (-)||Top breakout closer of last year continues to look quite good|
|Dodgers (Kenley Jansen)||3 (-)||Proven reliability is a big plus amid current closer madness|
|Reds (Raisel Iglesias)||4 (+4)||Proven closer in a groove right now|
|White Sox (Alex Colome)||5 (+5)||Off to a terrific start|
|Nationals (Daniel Hudson)||6 (+1)||Even more job security with Sean Doolittle on the IL|
|Braves (Mark Melancon)||7 (-1)||Plenty of job security at the moment, so the saves should keep flowing|
|Twins (Taylor Rogers)||8 (-4)||Been knocked around lately, and Twins have plenty of other options|
|Padres (Kirby Yates)||9 (-)||Dealing with “body soreness” and losing some save chances to Drew Pomeranz|
|Indians (Brad Hand)||10 (+1)||Velocity is worrisome, but still the closer in Cleveland|
|Diamondbacks (Archie Bradley)||11 (+2)||Looks strong so far|
|Phillies (Hector Neris)||12 (-7)||Hit hard last time out|
|Red Sox (Brandon Workman)||13 (-1)||Major regression candidate, but misses enough bats to provide value if he can hold onto the job|
|Rangers (Rafael Montero)||14 (+14)||Four saves in a week show he’s the man in Texas|
|Marlins (Brandon Kintzler)||15 (+1)||Looking like a draft day value|
|Pirates (Keone Kela)||16 (+9)||Back from IL, should quickly regain closer job|
|Tigers (Joe Jimenez)||17 (-3)||Coming back down to earth after great start|
|Blue Jays (Anthony Bass)||18 (-3)||32-year old journeyman with a spotty track record, but the job is his for now|
|Angels (Ty Buttrey)||19 (+2)||Has both Angels saves since Hansel Robles was deposed|
|Yankees (Zack Britton)||20 (-2)||He’s been excellent, but Aroldis Chapman should return this week|
|Giants (Trevor Gott)||21 (+5)||Hard to trust Gabe Kapler, but Gott’s got four of Giants first five saves|
|Rockies (Jairo Diaz)||22 (-5)||Daniel Bard is suddenly knocking on the door|
|Royals (Trevor Rosenthal)||23 (-6)||Mike Matheny said he’d use a committee, but it hasn’t played out that way so far|
|Orioles (Cole Sulser)||24 (+3)||Blew a save…and then atoned for it the next day|
|Mets (Committee)||25 (-3)||Edwin Diaz is pitching well of late, but Seth Lugo has two most recent saves|
|Rays (Committee)||26 (-2)||Has the look of a year-long closer committee|
|Cubs (Committee)||27 (-8)||Rowan Wick and Jeremy Jeffress are both still in the hunt for the Cubbies’ gig|
|Astros (Committee)||28 (-8)||Could be awhile before we get much clarity in Houston|
|Cardinals (Committee)||29 (-6)||Covid-19 outbreak means we’ll have to wait to sort through this closer committee|
|Mariners (Committee)||30 (-)||Taylor Williams has three saves, but still lots of uncertainty here|
Raisel Iglesias has had his ups and downs as a fantasy asset, including some frustrating usage at times, but he’s still managed to rack up 92 saves over the last three seasons in Cincinnati. He was hit around in his first two appearances of 2020, but has bounced back nicely since then, hurling 4 2/3 scoreless innings with eight Ks and zero baserunners. He typically belongs towards the back end of the top-10 closers, but with so many formerly elite closers either hurt or struggling, he vaults into the top-5 this week.
Chicago White Sox
Speaking of unusual appearances in the top-5, this is certainly a high water mark for Alex Colome. The 31-year old right-hander has had a fine career, posting three 30+ save seasons including 2019, but he’s rarely been a pitcher you would call “dominant.” With less than a strikeout per inning again this year, that hasn’t suddenly changed, but one big difference so far this year is that he’s issued only a single free pass over his eight scoreless innings. Walks have been a bit of an issue for Colome in the past, so if he can improve on that front he could have a career year. Probably not a top-5 closer year, mind you, but a very useful one for fantasy purposes.
It was little more than a casual annoyance for Taylor Rogers owners when Sergio Romo and Trevor May each converted early season save opportunities. The Twins win a lot of games, and hence create a lot of save opportunities, so Rogers can miss out on a few and still produce a nice save total by season’s end. A bigger concern is that Rogers has been hit hard lately, allowing four runs on six hits over his last 2 1/3 innings. He’s still striking out batters and not walking anyone, so it will likely prove to be a small bump in the road. But as a left-handed reliever on a team stocked with fallback options, this does serve as a reminder that Rogers likely has less job security than most other high-end fantasy closers.
Last week, Hector Neris was a big beneficiary of the chaos elsewhere in the closer ranks, vaulting into the top-5 despite barely making any appearances. But with the Phillies back in action after a Covid-19-induced hiatus, he unraveled against the Orioles on August 11, allowing five baserunners and three earned runs. It was just one bad appearance, and he should still have plenty of job security, but it was a good reminder that relying on Neris can be a bit dicey at times.
The biggest mover in this week’s rankings is one Rafael Montero, who stepped into a very uncertain situation and immediately took hold of the closer job. Jonathan Hernandez initially received the most hype in fantasy circles and Nick Goody earned the first save, but it’s Montero who has converted the Rangers’ last four save chances. It’s been a struggle for the 29-year old Montero to stick in the big leagues, but he seemed to turn a corner last year, posting a 2.48 ERA and 10.55 K/9 across 29 innings. With former closer Jose LeClerc and Edinson Volquez both on the 45-day IL and highly unlikely to return in 2020, Montero has a clear path to significant fantasy value over the rest of the season.
After missing the first few weeks of the season due to a positive Covid-19 test, Keone Kela is finally back, and the closer job is there for the taking. Kela has commendably expressed his willingness to be used in any high-leverage situation to help his team win, but Pirates manager Derek Shelton quickly made it obvious that he intends to immediately return Kela to the closer role, inserting him into the ninth inning of a four-run game on Thursday. Save chances could be hard to come by in Pittsburgh, but Kela can also pile up strikeouts while providing solid ratios.
San Francisco Giants
If you’ve been reading the Closer Report over the last couple years, you know by now how skeptical I am when it comes to Gabe Kapler settling on a designated closer. There is no shortage of evidence in Kapler’s words and deeds to conclude that he doesn’t believe having a traditional closer is the best way to win baseball games. But I must admit that there have been some times where he has gone to a single reliever for saves over an extended stretch, as he did with Hector Neris in Philadelphia last season.
Right now, in San Francisco, that pitcher appears to be Trevor Gott, who has earned four of the Giants’ five saves to begin the year. There’s little reason to believe Gott can be a dominant closer, or that Kapler will stick with him for the long run, but stranger things have happened on both counts. He absolutely deserves to be owned and started for the time being.
Jairo Diaz looked to be running away with the Rockies’ closer gig until he ran into trouble on Tuesday night against the Diamondbacks. Diaz was charged with two runs on three hits and a walk over 1/3 of an inning, and left it up to Daniel Bard to rescue the victory for Colorado. And just like that, there is suddenly talk of Bard as a bonafide closer candidate himself. Diaz should still get the next save opportunity, but he can’t have a ton of job security based on his limited track record. Whether Bard sees more save chances or not, the 35-year old is an incredible comeback story who last pitched in the Major Leagues seven years ago.
Kansas City Royals
Royals skipper Mike Matheny said prior to the season that he didn’t want to use a designated closer this year, but Trevor Rosenthal certainly appears to be his preferred choice for the ninth inning at the moment. Rosenthal has collected four of the Royals six saves so far, including three over a five game stretch from August 7-12. Greg Holland and Scott Barlow each have one save, and it would hardly be surprising if they soon get more. Rosenthal has faltered before and it could easily happen again, but until he does, it’s hard to call this situation a committee.
With Craig Kimbrel trying to regain his past form, the Cubs have two very capable closer candidates in Rowan Wick and Jeremy Jeffress. If one of them can emerge as the full-time closer, they’ll have quite a bit of fantasy value. Wick closed out Thursday’s victory and looks to be the current favorite for saves, but then again he pitched in the seventh and eighth innings of a four-run game on Wednesday, with Jeffress handling the ninth.
The Astros’ closer situation has been a mess from day one, and it could get even messier before things start to clear up. Ryan Pressly appeared to be in the driver’s seats for saves once Roberto Osuna hit the injured list, but Pressly has dealt with injury and ineffectiveness, opening the door for lefty Blake Taylor, who finished off Thursday’s four-run victory. Meanwhile, two proven relievers, Brad Peacock and Chris Devenski, are currently working their way back from injuries and could join the closer fray soon. Another major wildcard is Josh James, who has the potential to be a dominant closer if he can get right. The Houston closer is always appealing for fantasy, but there is no shortage of candidates for the job right now.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals haven’t played a game since July 29 due to the team’s Covid-19 outbreak, meaning we know nothing more about the team’s closer situation than we did at this time last week. With Kwang-Hyun Kim set to join the starting rotation, Ryan Helsley, Giovanny Gallegos, and Andrew Miller are currently the leading contenders for saves in St. Louis.
San Diego Padres
The 2020 season has not gone according to plan so far for Kirby Yates, who currently sports an ugly 10.38 ERA and 2.54 WHIP. Yates is also apparently dealing with “soreness in his body,” whatever that means. The good news for Yates owners is that Padres manager Jayce Tingler says there is a “great chance” that Yates will get the next save chance for San Diego. Drew Pomeranz has been nothing short of excellent in games where Yates has been unavailable or ineffective, collecting four saves over 7 2/3 scoreless innings so far. Pomeranz could quickly emerge as a high-end closer if Yates isn’t able to get back on track soon.
Los Angeles Angels
Ty Buttrey has both of the Angels saves since Hansel Robles was removed from the closer role, emerging as manager Joe Maddon’s preferred choice for the ninth inning at the moment. But Buttrey hasn’t exactly looked dominant, and Robles has pitched much better of late, striking out seven over three scoreless innings since August 9. If that pattern continues, Robles could regain his job.
New York Yankees
Arolidis Chapman is scheduled for a second simulated appearance against live hitters on Friday, and if that goes according to plan, it sounds like he may finally be ready to return from his bout with Covid-19. With seven saves, a 1.23 ERA, and a 0.82 WHIP, Zack Britton has been one of the best closers in baseball thus far, but there is little doubt he will step back into a set-up role once Chapman is ready.
Cole Sulser has four of the Orioles’ six saves to begin the year, and even after he blew one on Tuesday, manager Brandon Hyde went right back to Sulser for a save chance the following night, which he converted. The 30-year old righthander did not make his Major League debut until last season, but he did compile impressive strikeout totals in the minors and will continue to hold some fantasy intrigue as long as he’s seeing the vast majority of the save opportunities in Baltimore.
New York Mets
Seth Lugo has had little trouble stepping in for Edwin Diaz as the Mets’ closer, but it remains to be seen how long Lugo can hold Diaz off from regaining the job. Diaz has yet to allow a run in August, hurling six scoreless innings with 12 strikeouts, albeit mostly in low-leverage situations. Diaz and Lugo are both capable of being high-end fantasy closers, so this situation should be closely watched.
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