Fantasy Baseball Closer Report: Week 5
Welcome back to the Closer Report. This week, we have a couple of big names rejoining the upper echelon of closers, yet another top closer dealing with a potentially season-ending injury, and a number of situations reverting back to messy committee situations. Just another week in closer town, right?
If you can’t wait for this column to drop each week and would like my closer thoughts in real-time, just shoot me a message on Twitter @andrew_seifter. Now onto this week’s ranks.
|Team (Closer)||Rank (+/-)||Notes|
|Brewers (Josh Hader)||1 (-)||MLB’s best reliever appears locked into the 9th|
|A’s (Liam Hendriks)||2 (-)||Top breakout closer from last year continues to look quite good|
|Dodgers (Kenley Jansen)||3 (-)||Proven reliability is a big plus amid current closer madness|
|Yankees (Aroldis Chapman)||4 (+16)||He’s back, and Zack Britton is hurt|
|Mets (Edwin Diaz)||5 (+20)||Got right in middle relief, now the closer job is his once again|
|White Sox (Alex Colome)||6 (-1)||Off to a terrific start|
|Indians (Brad Hand)||7 (+3)||Pitching a bit better of late, and still has the job|
|Reds (Raisel Iglesias)||8 (-4)||Coming off poor outing, but displaying elite bat-missing ability|
|Nationals (Daniel Hudson)||9 (-3)||Even more job security with Sean Doolittle on the IL|
|Braves (Mark Melancon)||10 (-3)||Plenty of job security at the moment, so the saves should keep flowing|
|Twins (Committee)||11 (-3)||Taylor Rogers has five saves, Sergio Romo has three|
|Diamondbacks (Archie Bradley)||12 (-1)||Very good other than one really bad outing|
|Phillies (Hector Neris)||13 (-1)||Hasn’t been very good so far, but Phillies lack alternatives|
|Red Sox (Brandon Workman)||14 (-1)||Major regression candidate, but misses enough bats to provide value if he can hold onto the job|
|Pirates (Keone Kela)||15 (+1)||Still looking for first save opportunity|
|Padres (Committee)||16 (-7)||Kirby Yates is done for the year and Drew Pomeranz is ailing. Emilio Pagan time?|
|Royals (Trevor Rosenthal)||17 (+6)||Mike Matheny said he’d use a committee, but it hasn’t played out that way|
|Rangers (Rafael Montero)||18 (-4)||Needs to bounce back strong from first rough outing|
|Marlins (Brandon Kintzler)||19 (-4)||Given up 3 ER over last 2 IP|
|Tigers (Joe Jimenez)||20 (-3)||Coming back down to earth after a great start|
|Blue Jays (Anthony Bass)||21 (-3)||32-year old journeyman with a spotty track record, but the job is his for now|
|Angels (Ty Buttrey)||22 (-3)||Has both Angels saves since Hansel Robles was deposed|
|Astros (Ryan Pressly)||23 (+5)||Hasn’t been great, but looks to have the job again|
|Orioles (Cole Sulser)||24 (-)||Came out of nowhere, but getting the job done|
|Mariners (Taylor Williams)||25 (+5)||His four saves are three more than any other Mariner|
|Cubs (Committee)||26 (+1)||Craig Kimbrel finally got his first save, but David Ross isn’t ready to give him the job back just yet|
|Cardinals (Committee)||27 (+2)||Andrew Miller has two saves, but Giovanny Gallegos could still be a factor|
|Rays (Committee)||28 (-2)||Has the look of a year-long closer committee|
|Rockies (Committee)||29 (-7)||Jairo Diaz’s recent slip-ups have cost him the job|
|Giants (Committee)||30 (-9)||After Trevor Gott’s awful week, this is back to a full-blown committee|
New York Yankees
Aroldis Chapman is finally back from the Covid-19 injured list, and his understudy Zack Britton has taken his place on the IL with a hamstring strain. Is it just me, or do these fill-in closers always seem to get hurt the minute the team’s primary closer returns? Anyway, you know what you’re going to get from Chapman, and it’s a top-five closer. The Yankees have been moved up the rankings accordingly.
New York Mets
Seth Lugo was doing a fine job as the Mets’ closer while Edwin Diaz worked through some things in middle relief, but now Lugo is heading to the starting rotation, paving the way for Diaz to get his job back. No closer has been more unpredictable than Diaz has been since he came to Queens, but his ridiculous 20.25 K/9 rate demonstrates the Hader-esque upside he has when he’s on his game. He’s pitching very well at the moment, and while it’s anybody’s guess how long that will last, it’s enough to vault him back into the top-five given the lack of top-tier closers across the league.
The Twins are winning a lot of baseball games, so it wasn’t surprising to occasionally see Sergio Romo pick up a save here and there while presumptive closer Taylor Rogers got rest. But the fact that Rodgers set up for Romo on August 16 seems like a pretty good indicator that this truly is a committee situation. Rogers is still the best bet for saves for now, but the left-hander hasn’t been overly sharp this season, so it’s certainly possible that the balance could shift more towards the right-handed Romo as the season progresses. Given how many save chances the Twins create, both are well worth owning in leagues that count saves.
Raisel Iglesias drops a bit this week after surrendering three runs and blowing a save on Thursday, but he’s still solidly a top-10 closer given the current landscape. He currently sports an impressive 23.3 percent swinging-strike rate, so clearly his stuff is as good as ever.
San Diego Padres
Well, this situation went haywire in a hurry. Kirby Yates hasn’t looked like himself this year, and we learned this week that he’s suffering from bone chips in his elbow that will almost certainly require season-ending surgery. With nine scoreless innings and four saves, Drew Pomeranz has looked up to the task of replacing Yates, but then news broke on Thursday night that Pomeranz is dealing with shoulder “tightness.” Padres manager Jayce Tingler is characterizing Pomeranz’s status as “day-to-day” and said he expects the reliever back in a matter of days, but he did admit that it’s possible it could “linger” and turn out to be something “serious.”
Should Pomeranz’s absence prove to be a lengthy one, Emilio Pagan would likely step into the role. Pagan is off to a poor start in 2020, but he was completely lights out last year, and he’s a smart speculative pickup while we await word on Pomeranz.
Kansas City Royals
Royals skipper Mike Matheny entered the season talking about wanting to avoid a designated closer, but he’s apparently fallen back on old habits. Trevor Rosenthal has six of Kansas City’s eight saves thus far, and he’s put up excellent numbers in the process with a matching 0.87 ERA and 0.87 WHIP. It’s been a few years since Rosenthal was a useful reliever, so it’s hard to know how long this will last. But Ian Kennedy had a sneakily valuable year as the Royals’ closer in 2019, and right now it looks like Rosenthal could be following in his footsteps.
Rafael Montero had been cruising along as the Rangers’ new closer until Manny Machado took him deep for a game-winning grand slam on Wednesday night. It was the only hit he allowed on the night, and just the second hit he’s given up all season. Montero isn’t going to lose this job based on one tough outing, especially given the Rangers’ lack of proven alternatives. At the same time, he likely doesn’t have a long enough track record to have an extended leash, so fantasy managers may need to start to worry if his next outing doesn’t go better.
Nobody is going to mistake Brandon Kintzler for Josh Hader, and there are going to be stretches where Kintzler gets hit around as he has over his last two outings. Still, this is a pitcher who has been solid much more often than not over his career, and he still has little competition for saves. He artificially jumped up the rankings due to the failings of other closers, but he’s now settling in right around 20th, which sounds about right.
The Houston Chronicle is now referring to Ryan Pressly as the Astros’ “closer,” so I’ll go ahead and do the same by removing the committee label. Pressly has three of Houston’s four saves since Roberto Osuna landed on the injured list, and he was likely being rested for the other one, which went to lefty Blake Taylor. Pressly has struggled with walks and hard contact, but he is still racking up strikeouts, and he was excellent last year. If he can string together a few clean outings, he could quickly move up the rankings.
The Mariners have only generated six saves so far, but Taylor Williams has four of them. With Carl Edwards Jr. on the injured list and Dan Altavilla currently sporting a 7.27 ERA, this bullpen no longer has the look of a committee. There’s not much in Williams’ resume to justify being overly confident in him, but he does miss a lot of bats. The big question is whether he can keep the walks under control.
Following a couple of rough outings by Jairo Diaz, Rockies manager Bud Black confirmed this week that he would no longer have a “designated, per se, closer” going forward. Diaz has allowed 15 baserunners over his last 4 2/3 innings, so he may not even be the frontrunner at this point. Carlos Estevez bailed Diaz out and collected his first save on August 16, but he pitched the final two innings with the Rockies down by three on Thursday night, so he’s clearly not being held back for save chances. Daniel Bard also has one save and should continue to be a factor. In other words, this situation is a mess for fantasy purposes.
San Francisco Giants
It’s hard to imagine anyone in baseball who had a worse week than Trevor Gott, who has allowed 11 earned runs in 1 1/3 innings since August 14, costing him the Giants’ closer gig in the process. Manager Gabe Kapler said he still has “a lot of confidence in the long-term prospects for Trevor Gott,” but he also acknowledged that Gott would no longer be pitching in high-leverage situations. That leaves Tony Watson and Tyler (“don’t call me Taylor”) Rogers as the most likely candidates for saves. Watson is a reliable veteran who was the presumed favorite heading into the season, and he’s certainly pitched well enough so far this year to deserve the opportunity. But Kapler was going against his instincts to settle on a closer to begin with, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he stuck with a committee from here on out.
Craig Kimbrel lost his handle on the ninth inning by allowing nine runs in 2 2/3 innings from July 27-August 6, but he’s been nearly perfect in three outings since then, striking out seven of the nine batters he’s faced and allowing only one baserunner. The last of those three outings turned into Kimbrel’s first save of 2020. Cubs manager David Ross wasn’t ready to name Kimbrel as his closer following the game, but it seems like only a matter of time as long as Kimbrel continues to pitch effectively. For now, though, Kimbrel, Rowan Wick, and Jeremy Jeffress are all just about even bets to get the next save chance.
St. Louis Cardinals
Andrew Miller has both of the Cardinals’ saves since Kwang-Hyun Kim joined the starting rotation, but he allowed two runs and picked up a loss in his most recent appearance. For now, Miller appears to be the favorite for saves in St. Louis, but Giovanny Gallegos and even John Gant could also be factors. Miller was one of the best relievers in baseball from 2013-2017, so there is plenty of upside here if he can regain his form and hold onto the job.
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