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Fantasy Baseball Closer Report: Week 6

by Andrew Seifter | @andrew_seifter | Featured Writer
Aug 28, 2020

There was some much-needed stability in the upper echelon of fantasy closers this week, but that’s not to say it was a week devoid of drama. We had closers losing their jobs due to trade (Hector Neris), injury (Keone Kela, Drew Pomeranz), and good old-fashioned demotion (Joe Jimenez, Anthony Bass).

We’ll cover all that and so much more (said in game show host voice) in this week’s edition of the Closer Report!

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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 (-) He’s back, and Zack Britton is hurt
White Sox (Alex Colome) 5 (+1) Off to a terrific start
Indians (Brad Hand) 6 (+1) Officially back in a groove
Mets (Edwin Diaz) 7 (-2) Departed his last outing with a leg cramp, but it doesn’t sound serious
Reds (Raisel Iglesias) 8 (-) Has been displaying elite bat-missing ability this year
Nationals (Daniel Hudson) 9 (-) Ran away with the job while Sean Doolittle was on the IL
Braves (Mark Melancon) 10 (-) Plenty of job security at the moment, so the saves should keep flowing
Twins (Committee) 11 (-) Taylor Rogers still seems like the primary option, but others will see opportunities, too
Diamondbacks (Archie Bradley) 12 (-) Very good other than one really bad outing
Phillies (Brandon Workman) 13 (-) Acquisition from Boston pushes Hector Neris into a set-up role
Marlins (Brandon Kintzler) 14 (+5) The crafty vet keeps getting the job done
Padres (Emilio Pagan) 15 (+1) Pitching better of late, he should hold the job at least until Drew Pomeranz returns
Rangers (Rafael Montero) 16 (+2) Bounced back nicely after his first rough outing
Angels (Ty Buttrey) 17 (+5) Has every Angels save since Hansel Robles was deposed
Astros (Ryan Pressly) 18 (+5) Hasn’t been great, but looks to have the job again
Orioles (Cole Sulser) 19 (+5) Came out of nowhere, but getting the job done
Red Sox (Matt Barnes) 20 (-6) Red Sox closer by default provides plenty of strikeouts, plenty of walks
Cardinals (Giovanny Gallegos) 21 (+6) With Andrew Miller on the IL, Gallegos should at least have the job until Ryan Helsley returns
Royals (Trevor Rosenthal) 22 (-5) Could be traded, and likely wouldn’t close elsewhere
Mariners (Taylor Williams) 23 (+2) Was pitching really well before Thursday’s implosion
Pirates (Richard Rodrguez) 24 (-9) Keone Kela is IL-bound, leaving Rodriguez to step in
Blue Jays (Committee) 25 (-4) Anthony Bass and Jordan Romano now appear to be sharing the job
Cubs (Committee) 26 (-) Wick, Kimbrel, and Jeffress have rotated through the ninth recently
Rays (Committee) 27 (+1) Has the look of a year-long closer committee
Rockies (Committee) 28 (+1) Daniel Bard looks like the current favorite, but the job isn’t fully his yet
Tigers (Committee) 29 (-9) Joe Jimenez is out as closer, replaced by a messy committee
Giants (Committee) 30 (-) Back to a full-blown committee


Big Movers

Boston Red Sox
As someone who’s frequently rostered Matt Barnes in fantasy leagues as a potential “closer-in-waiting,” I should be more excited now that he’s finally getting a chance to close following the Brandon Workman trade. The problem is that while I’ve always been drawn to Barnes’ elite strikeout rate, his walk rate is so consistently abysmal that it inevitably does a number on his ratios. While he was always somewhat wild, the problem got markedly worse last year, when his BB/9 jumped to 5.32. So far this year, it’s 6.75. Boston doesn’t have a lot of other great options in the bullpen, so fantasy managers will just need to hold their nose and use Barnes for the strikeouts and saves. Think of him as the closer version of Robbie Ray.

St. Louis Cardinals
Andrew Miller got the first two saves after the Cardinals moved Kwang Hyun Kim to the starting rotation, but Miller’s performance began to go downhill from there, and the team ultimately placed him on the Injured List with shoulder fatigue on Thursday. That opens the door for Giovanny Gallegos, who may have already taken the job anyway (he has the team’s most recent save). Gallegos was a popular pick in fantasy drafts, and for good reason: he’s posted an impressive 2.85 ERA and 10.93 K/9 rate through the first 110 1/3 innings of his career. Gallegos has quite a bit of fantasy upside as the closer, but it is also worth keeping an eye on another much-discussed closer candidate, Ryan Helsley, who is inching closer to a return from Covid-19.

Kansas City Royals
Trevor Rosenthal sees a sizable drop in this week’s rankings, and it doesn’t have that much to do him giving up three runs and getting pulled from a save chance on Wednesday. Rosenthal has become the subject of intense trade speculation, and it would only make sense for Kansas City to pursue a deal given that he’s on a one-year contract, and they are in the cellar of the AL Central. It seemed odd that the Royals demoted Ian Kennedy from the closer role before the season, rather than try to build up his trade value, but perhaps general manager Dayton Moore decided that Rosenthal could fetch a slightly higher price. Whatever the case, if Rosenthal is traded, he’s unlikely to close in his new destination. Perhaps Kennedy would get his old job back under that scenario, but fans and fantasy managers would undoubtedly prefer to see Josh Staumont — and his 17.76 K/9 rate — in the ninth inning.

Pittsburgh Pirates
One day after Pirates manager Derek Shelton said that Keone Kela was available for Tuesday’s game (he didn’t pitch), director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk acknowledged that Kela had not even picked up a baseball since Friday due to lingering “tightness.” One day after that, Kela landed on the injured list. The Pirates were reportedly eager to deal Kela ahead of the trade deadline, which could explain their initial positive spin on his current ailment. Regardless, it doesn’t look like he will be closing games in Pittsburgh again anytime soon, which makes Richard Rodriguez a must-own commodity in leagues that count saves. The 30-year old right-hander has two saves and a 3.55 ERA so far along with a terrific 0.71 WHIP and 12.79 K/9.

Detroit Tigers
Joe Jimenez got off to a nice start in Motown, but the wheels started to come off (see what I did there?) when the calendar flipped to August. By the time the team pulled him from the closer role, he had surrendered 12 earned runs in his last 5 2/3 innings. Detroit will reportedly play matchups in the ninth inning going forward, with Jose Cisnero, Gregory Soto, and Buck Farmer all being mentioned as candidates to finish games. The Tigers take a big tumble in this week’s rankings as a result, but Cisnero and Soto have both been putting up strikeouts and solid ratios, so neither is a terrible pickup if you need to go fishing for the occasional save.

Random Musings

New York Mets
Edwin Diaz was forced to leave his last outing on Wednesday, but he wanted to stay in, and the Mets believe that it was only a left leg cramp. Diaz entered the game in the eighth with the Mets up three and the bases loaded, so it’s hard to know if he would have been allowed to pitch the ninth if the Mets had kept the lead, and he was able to stay in the game. But as long as he’s healthy, he’s still the heavy favorite to see the Mets’ next save chance.

Philadelphia Phillies
Philadelphia has a new closer after acquiring Brandon Workman on August 21, but they remain in the same spot in this week’s Closer Rankings. The Phillies clearly see Workman as a better option to handle the ninth than Hector Neris, but it’s less clear that Workman is better than Neris from a fantasy perspective. Both relievers were excellent in 2019, but they have both been less effective so far this season. They both struggle with walks at times, too, but it’s become a particularly concerning issue for Workman, who has walked well over five batters per nine innings since the beginning of last season. He’s remarkably only given up a single home run over 81 2/3 innings since the start of 2019, but if his home run rate normalizes, the walks could come back to haunt him.

San Diego Padres
With Kirby Yates likely headed for surgery and Drew Pomeranz currently sidelined with a strained shoulder, Emilio Pagan is the closer of the moment in San Diego. The 29-year-old right-hander was completely lights out last year for Tampa Bay (2.31 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 12.34 K/9), but his strikeout rate is way down and ERA way up this season. Still, he’s successfully closed out two games since Pomeranz hit the injured list, and he has the potential to be an above-average closer for however long he has the job.

Toronto Blue Jays
Anthony Bass hasn’t done anything to lose the Blue Jays’ closer job, but Jordan Romano has the team’s last two saves, including on Monday, when Bass was presumably available. Manager Charlie Montoyo says that he’s comfortable with either Romano or Bass closing games, which doesn’t exactly clarify things for fantasy owners. Both probably need to be owned for now. Meanwhile, Ken Giles continues to work his way back from a forearm strain, and it’s now looking likely that Giles will be back in a matter of weeks, barring a setback.

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Andrew Seifter is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Andrew, check out his archive and follow him @andrew_seifter.

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