Fantasy Baseball Closer Report: Week 9
There are less than two weeks left in the regular season, so if you’re still reading fantasy baseball content, it must mean you are in contention — or perhaps you’re already in the playoffs of a head-to-head league. I wish you the best of luck the rest of the way!
At this stage of the game, there’s no point in speculating on relievers who could eventually get an opportunity in the ninth inning sometime down the line. The only thing we care about now is who can get us saves right away.
Recency bias is always more justified when it comes to saves hunting than it is for just about any other aspect of life, and that’s even more true now. We are trying to predict who will get the call the next time a team is protecting a small lead in the ninth, not who’s going to be great in the long run. In this case, where fantasy value is determined by the whims of managers, the best predictor is what’s happened recently, so we’re looking for any possible trend lines we can identify. Even if a pitcher has earned his team’s last one or two saves, that’s something to go on.
This also happens to be a time of the year where closer situations are relatively stable. The trade deadline is behind us, the good teams have good closers, and the bad teams are often content having a loosely-defined committee. That makes finding saves on the waiver wire that much harder — but it’s not impossible. Hopefully, my analysis can help.
As always, if you’d like my input on any of these closer situations — or anything else, really — I can be found on Twitter @andrew_seifter. I’m mostly tweeting about football these days, but that doesn’t mean I won’t answer your question!
|Team (Closer)||Rank (+/-)||Notes|
|A’s (Liam Hendriks)||1 (-)||Last year’s breakout closer has officially reached the pinnacle|
|Dodgers (Kenley Jansen)||2 (-)||Looking like vintage Kenley|
|Indians (Brad Hand)||3 (+1)||Started out rocky but is now tied for the league lead in saves|
|Brewers (Josh Hader)||4 (-1)||Didn’t give up a hit until September 5; now his ERA is over 4.00|
|Cubs (Jeremy Jeffress)||5 (-)||Replicating his dominant 2018 season|
|White Sox (Alex Colome)||6 (-)||A pleasant surprise, just like the White Sox as a whole|
|Padres (Trevor Rosenthal)||7 (+10)||Has all three of the Padres’ saves since being acquired|
|Yankees (Aroldis Chapman)||8 (-1)||The save chances have been few and far between|
|Mets (Edwin Diaz)||9 (-1)||See Chapman, Aroldis|
|Reds (Raisel Iglesias)||10 (-2)||Underrated closer having another solid season|
|Braves (Mark Melancon)||11 (-)||Doesn’t miss a ton of bats, but he’s still plenty useful|
|Astros (Ryan Pressly)||12 (+2)||Starting to quickly rack up saves|
|Rangers (Rafael Montero)||13 (-)||Off to a very nice start to his closer career|
|Marlins (Brandon Kintzler)||14 (+1)||Quietly continues to get the job done|
|Royals (Greg Holland)||15 (+13)||Has KC’s last three saves, and his overall numbers are impressive|
|Nationals (Daniel Hudson)||16 (-6)||ERA (7.02) is off-putting, but he’s generally been solid|
|Rockies (Daniel Bard)||17 (+2)||It took a while, but the job is his|
|Red Sox (Matt Barnes)||18 (+5)||Red Sox closer by default provides plenty of strikeouts, plenty of walks|
|Blue Jays (Committee)||19 (+2)||With Ken Giles back on the IL, it looks to be Rafael Dolis time|
|Twins (Committee)||20 (-4)||Taylor Rogers still seems like the primary option, but others will see opportunities, too|
|Rays (Committee)||21 (-1)||Nick Anderson and Diego Castillo currently sharing closer duties|
|Pirates (Richard Rodrguez)||22 (+2)||Only three saves, but has the ninth inning locked up|
|Mariners (Yoshihisa Hirano)||23 (+2)||He’s exclusively handled the ninth lately|
|Diamondbacks (Stefan Crichton)||24 (+3)||Has Arizona’s last three saves and a 2.66 ERA|
|Phillies (Committee)||25 (-7)||Hector Neris on the verge of winning job back from Brandon Workman|
|Cardinals (Committee)||26 (-14)||With Giovanny Gallegos on the IL, this situation is once again up in the air|
|Angels (Committee)||27 (-5)||Matt Andriese has the team’s last two saves|
|Tigers (Committee)||28 (-2)||Bryan Garcia has seemingly overtaken Gregory Soto|
|Giants (Committee)||29 (-)||Don’t say I didn’t warn you about Gabe Kapler|
|Orioles (Committee)||30 (-)||Cole Sulser is out as closer; Hunter Harvey could eventually be in|
San Diego Padres
It appeared at the time that the Padres acquired Trevor Rosenthal to serve as their closer, and since he has all three of the team’s save since the deal, we now know it to be true. Rosenthal was flashing his pre-Tommy John form in Kansas City, and he’s picked up right where he left off in southern California by hurling five scoreless frames so far. Expect plenty of saves and strikeouts the rest of the way.
Kansas City Royals
Rosenthal’s former team didn’t look likely to choose a full-time replacement at closer (to me at least), but that was then, and this is now. Greg Holland has each of the team’s last three saves, and you can’t say he doesn’t deserve the opportunity. The 34-year old right-hander is putting together his best season since his best years with the Royals from 2011-2014. The key has been his control; every season that he’s had a walk rate of less than 3.0 BB/9, he’s had an ERA below 2.20.
Daniel Hudson has pitched better than his surface stats suggest, but it’s hard to defend a 7.13 ERA. At 33, he’s missing bats at a much higher clip than ever before, but he’s been absolutely ruined by the home run ball. His 2.70 HR/9 is nearly three times his career average. In that sense, the man who recorded the final out of the 2019 World Series is representative of a disappointing Nationals team that has gone from World champs to NL East basement dwellers this year.
Boston Red Sox
It’s never going to be a comfortable ride rostering Matt Barnes, but the hard-throwing right-hander does have seven saves since the BoSox dealt away Brandon Workman on August 21. That, combined with Barnes’ excellent strikeout rate, make him plenty useful in fantasy circles for the stretch run — even though the next blowup is always just around the corner.
Speaking of Workman, he hasn’t exactly been “working out” for the Phillies, if you know what I mean. Workman has five saves for Philadelphia, but he also has two blown saves, two losses, and nine walks in 11 1/3 innings. That ain’t going to cut it. It’s gotten to the point where the Phillies appear to be turning back to Hector Neris, who picked up the save on Tuesday even though Workman hadn’t pitched in three days. You know the story with Neris by now: he can look amazing for stretches and absolutely terrible for others. He’s currently in one of his good stretches, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him produce helpful fantasy numbers over the final couple weeks.
St. Louis Cardinals
Just when it looked like Giovanny Gallegos was ready to deliver on his preseason hype and produce top-10 closer numbers, he strained his groin and landed on the injured list. Now the Cardinals (and fantasy managers) are back to square one. Andrew Miller collected a couple saves when Kwang-Hyun Kim was first moved to the starting rotation, and Miller is reportedly poised to see the majority of save chances going forward. Lefty Tyler Webb has the team’s most recent save, but that was in extra innings of a game where Miller was presumably being rested.
Los Angeles Angels
At this time last week, it looked like the Halos’ closer job would come down to whether Ty Buttrey could hold off Felix Pena. Then out of nowhere, 31-year old journeyman Matt Andriese picked up back-to-back saves. Andriese has never had a season with more than two saves or an ERA under 4.00, but if you are scrounging for every last save, he’s currently the best bet in this bullpen.
Small sample sizes can really kill relief pitchers’ numbers, and that is doubly (or triply?) true in a Covid-19 shortened season. Case in point: Josh Hader. Widely regarded as the best reliever in the game, Hader had a 0.00 ERA and 0.54 WHIP until August 29, when he walked five batters and blew his first save. He’s had two more bad outings since then. Hader gave up his first hit of the season while blowing a save chance against Cleveland on September 5, and he then gave up four runs in the ninth to the Cubs on September 12. Now, a guy who was quite literally un-hittable two weeks ago has a 4.30 ERA.
It’s taken a while to come to fruition, but Yoshihisa Hirano looks to finally be the Mariners’ clear choice to close out games. Hirano has pitched the ninth inning of close games in each of his five appearances in September, and the last three interestingly came in three straight games from September 12-14. There were reports earlier in the season that the Mariners would try to avoid using the 36-year old Hirano on back-to-back days, but that no longer appears to be the case.
Toronto Blue Jays
When Ken Giles returned from the injured list on September 11, it seemed to just be a matter of time until he retook his closer job from Rafael Dolis, who had just recently usurped Anthony Bass. But Giles lasted all of five days — and two appearances — before landing back on the IL due to the recurring arm injury. Toronto will reportedly stick with a committee approach between Dolis and Bass, but it sure seems like Dolis is the preferred choice right now. Both pitchers have been very good this season, but it is Dolis who has each of the team’s last three saves.
The desert hasn’t been a great place to hunt for saves since Archie Bradley was traded away (even if you’ve got a metal detector with you). But with Kevin Ginkel no longer on the active roster, the heavy favorite for saves going forward is Stefan “don’t call me Michael” Crichton. Crichton is highly unlikely to be the D’Backs’ long-term solution in the ninth, but he’s got a nifty 2.66 ERA with almost a strikeout per inning, so he should at least be serviceable over the final two weeks.
Whether you’re new to fantasy baseball or a seasoned pro, our Fantasy Baseball 101: Strategy Tips & Advice page is for you. You can get started with our Sabermetrics Glossary or head to more advanced strategy – like How to Make Custom Fantasy Baseball Rankings with Microsoft Excel – to learn more.