Every year by the time Spring Training or even Opening Day arrives, about a third of all MLB teams are still undecided at the closer position. Oftentimes, injuries or an abysmal spring performance can muddy an established situation. Still, it’s the teams with question marks at the back end of their bullpen that gives fantasy owners the biggest headaches. While every major league team would love to have a firm grasp going into the season on who will be THE guy to get those final few outs, it’s simply not the case. Some clubs use a committee approach (usually not by choice), while others figure it out during the regular season. However, the job is a revolving door, so even if you miss out on a guy, stay alert because the situation could change at any moment.
This season after careful evaluation, I’ve spotted 13 teams that are still unresolved when it comes to naming a closer, and for many clubs, there are more than a few players who could take the job. The real question for fantasy owners is, do you draft these guys, and if so, when? Should you take a chance on what could be described as the second or third option after the favorite to win the job?
There is definitely a strategy involved when picking these types of players. In most cases, you want to draft the player who will start the year off earning saves, even if the other relievers on their team present more upside. What will usually happen is another owner(s) will draft the other players in competition, and after the season starts and they are mainly used in a setup role, the owner will need that roster spot for something else, and the pitcher will eventually get dropped. This allows you to start the season off with the actual closer and then add the next man in line (the player who was just dropped) if your guy starts to falter.
The main idea is to draft the player who’s likely to be given the first crack at save opportunities, even if you think the other relievers are slightly better. There are, of course, extreme cases like Wade Davis over the last two seasons in Colorado, where yes, he was the closer, but he was so bad that he ended up hurting you more than he helped. And unless the projected setup guys’ numbers are extremely high, i.e., Devin Williams on Milwaukee, then he too is better left for the wire. It’s just more efficient to save your precious bench spots for something more essential.
There are other exceptions, like in daily leagues where a few top setup guys can help keep you under the inning’s limit while contributing moderately to your overall stats. It also depends on your roster size (how many bench spots you have), as well as what your innings limits are (if it’s low, you typically don’t want to use too many innings from pitchers throwing in situations that don’t have much of a chance at a win or a save). But overall, in standard weekly leagues with only 5 bench spots, leave these players for other owners or on waivers.
I’ve broken down all 13 teams with unsettled closer situations, identifying which pitchers you should target and their main competition. There are plenty of borderline players, but these are the guys likely to be given their team’s first save opportunities.
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Nick Anderson (TB) ADP 144
Main Competition: Diego Castillo ADP 252, Pete Fairbanks ADP 368
I may be in the minority here, but when it comes to choosing the Rays closer, I’m targeting Nick Anderson. Casual fans are quick to disregard his near-perfect regular season after he absolutely fell apart in the postseason, particularly in the World Series (but there’s a reason for it, which I’ll get to in a minute). And while many are quick to point to Diego Castillo as his replacement, it’s not like he dominated the Dodgers either (2.2 IP 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K’s). Plus, Castillo walked a batter every other inning during the regular season and was even worse during the postseason (7 walks in 11 innings), something that just drives managers crazy in the late innings.
Fairbanks also looks like he could be the man for the job, with his high spin, high-velocity heater, but he too is a bit wild (12% BB rate) and needs to prove himself before being given the position outright. He did earn three saves in the postseason after not earning any during the regular season. Still, he also walked too many batters (4.38 BB/9), gave up 3 home runs (in 12.1 innings), and was often forced to walk a tight rope (94.2% LOB) after giving up hits and free passes to escape innings. I highly doubt they hand him the job to start the season without giving the other two a chance first. Plus, that’s just not the Rays’ way of doing things. They’ll likely use a committee as they did last season (12 different players earned saves!), with Anderson getting the largest share of save opportunities to start the year.
Anderson’s collapse in the playoffs can be attributed to the Rays’ decision to rely so heavily on their trio of dominant relievers, asking them to go more than one inning. During the regular season, Anderson pitched in 19 games and went a total of 16.1 innings. Anderson allowed a total of one earned run during those short outings, five hits, and three free passes while striking out 26. Those are unbelievable, video game-type numbers!
In the playoffs, however, Kevin Cash and company decided to use their unhittable weapon for 14.1 innings over 9 games and then decided to randomly put him in during the sixth inning, in the final game of the World Series. Managers tend to get more creative in the playoffs with their bullpens, but how many times have we seen this strategy backfire? Throwing guys into situations they’re simply not accustomed to and expecting the same results regardless doesn’t usually work. Many relief pitchers, closers, in particular, are creatures of habit and need the redundancy to feel fully comfortable and thrive. Going from throwing an inning or less at the end of games to being utilized all over the place and for multiple innings just didn’t play to Anderson’s strengths.
I fully expect Anderson to revert to being a very reliable closer who can pitch in the 9th or the 8th inning depending on the situation (the Rays love to mix and match) and earning the lion’s share of save opportunities for Tampa. The Rays will continue to use a committee-style approach, however, utilizing both Anderson and Castillo and occasionally throwing Peter Fairbanks in the 9th. All three are worth rostering, with their ability to help in all categories, but if I had to pick one, Anderson is the easy choice. Draft him at the end of round 12.
Alex Colome (MIN) ADP 160
Main Competition: Taylor Rogers ADP 148
The Twins signed Colome to help shore up the back end of their bullpen, but as many are quick to point out, some of the underlining metrics paint a different picture despite Colome’s continued success. While his ERA dropped to an incredibly low 0.81 last season, his strikeouts decreased for the third year in a row, falling to 6.45 K/9. He’s become a two-pitch pitcher who induces a heavy amount of ground balls and relies mostly on a cutter that averages just under 90 mph. While he’s proven efficient with this combination, the Twins still have Taylor Rogers, who produced 30 saves and 90 strikeouts in 2019.
While Rogers gave up 26 hits over 20 innings last year, his FIP was nearly identical to 2019, as were his walks and strikeout rates. He even lowered his HR/9 rate down to under 1. Many of the hits given up can be equated to an unlucky .400 BABIP, but Rogers’s line drive rate did increase by over 11%, so not all of it was bad luck. If he can somehow cut down on that number, returning to his 2019 output, the Twins won’t hesitate to move Rogers back into the closer role if Colome struggles even slightly. Colome is still the player to target and is worth drafting around round 16, while Rogers is worth a pick at least a few rounds later.
Some experts may feel differently, but I believe the Twins brought Colome in for a reason, and other than the strikeouts, his production has been downright impressive over the past 5 seasons (138 saves, 2.62 ERA). And how can you argue with a proven track record and his latest performance of only giving up 2 earned runs over 22.1 innings? Colome operating as the primary closer also allows Minnesota to place Rogers in a setup role, creating a formidable lefty/righty combo with Tyler Duffey. The Twins will win a lot of games, and Colome should be able to rack up saves early and often. Draft him with confidence in the middle rounds as your #2 closer and if you have room, back him up with Rogers a few rounds after.
Trevor Rosenthal (OAK) ADP 187
Main Competition: Jake Diekman ADP 254, Sergio Romo ADP 563
With the A’s signing of Trevor Rosenthal, Oakland looks to have its 2021 closer in hand. He racked up 11 saves over 23 and 2/3’s innings last year while allowing only 12 hits and managing nearly a 5:1 strikeout to walk ratio. Normally you’d consider these types of numbers to be a lock for a player to be tabbed the team’s closer, but when dispensing an ERA of 13.50 the year before and a 30.6 BB%, one must pump the breaks before anointing the shiny new bullpen piece as the full-time closer.
Yes, he looked to be over his control problems last season, but it’s a little difficult to fully buy into the resurgence when Rosenthal really hasn’t had a great season since 2015. Bob Melvin recently stated that Diekman was still the likeliest choice for saves, although he may use him earlier in high-leverage situations. That was, of course, before the team went out and spent an uncharacteristically large amount of money to sign Rosenthal.
But as good as Rosenthal was, Diekman may have been better. Not only did he hold opposing teams to one earned run all season (21 innings), but he also struck out a career-best 37% of the batters he faced. Some of his other numbers, such as his BABIP and LOB rates, were insanely low and high, respectively, but the veteran was lights out in the clutch and basically unhittable. He doesn’t have much experience closing, if at all (7 total saves over an 8-year career, his latest coming in 2018), so he and Sergio Romo will likely make up a powerful lefty/righty, situational, set-up team, while Rosenthal acts as the full time closer. However, keep an eye on his control in spring training because if it becomes an issue, look for the team, who will once again be a contender in the AL East, to make a move likely to Diekman.
Even in a setup role, Diekman’s not a terrible addition in extremely deep leagues, considering his high strikeout rates and low ERA and WHIP. However, at the present moment, Rosenthal is the player to target, who is actually going later than he should (ADP 187) and could end up as your top closer racking up plenty of saves in the spacious Oakland Coliseum.
We also can’t leave the recently signed Sergio Romo out of the conversation. While he isn’t much of a threat to steal save opportunities, he may thrive in the Oakland environment and spacious ballpark (and at times heavy winds) and would likely slide into the closer role if the other two don’t produce. However, I definitely wouldn’t add him to your draft queue as he’s a 38-year-old soft-tossing reliever who is relatively inconsistent and has had an ERA that hovered just under 4 over the last 3 seasons. He’s also been on 6 different teams over the past five years, which is usually not a great sign.
Romo’s the guy nobody really wants as a closer but is usually the player called upon to replace the incumbent when he goes cold, which is exactly why I say to keep tabs on him. He has little worth in fantasy leagues unless he’s getting saves. However, he could prove valuable later on if injuries or consistency become a problem for the other two previously mentioned. Leave him for the wire, possibly along with Diekman, and draft Rosenthal in the middle rounds.
Drew Pomeranz (SD) ADP 198
Main Competition: Mark Melancon ADP 243, Emilio Pagan ADP 409
The Padres will likely take a similar approach as Tampa Bay and deploy the hot hand at closer and/or rely on analytics to dictate certain matchups and situations. Unlike the Rays, however, the Padres have the luxury to match up with either righties or lefties, whereas the Rays’ top three relievers are all right-handed.
If Melancon, who turns 36 in a month, can somehow reproduce his stats from last year, then you have to think he’ll be the closer more often than not this season, with Pomeranz and Pagan matching up in the 8th. However, this may prove difficult as he has been up and down in terms of production over the last few seasons.
Going into 2020, no one believed Melancon would continue to close games for the Braves after they signed ex-Giants’ closer Will Smith (who was coming off a terrific All-Star season). Unfortunately, Smith started the year on the COVID list, and the closer job was handed back to Melancon, who was surprisingly excellent. While Melancon was getting it done in Atlanta, you could argue Pomeranz started even better in San Diego. He rendered hitters to 3 hits, 4 walks, and 15 strikeouts over 11 innings (and 4 saves) before he suffered a left shoulder strain and was subsequently placed on the IL. The flame-throwing Trevor Rosenthal replaced him, and when activated, he returned in a setup role, where he was a bit wild, and Rosenthal kept his job.
All that said, the smart money is on San Diego employing some sort of committee to start the season, using both guys in high leverage situations in the 7th, 8th, or 9th inning. Emilio Pagan also needs to be in the conversation, as he was lights out his final year in Tampa and is a righty who profiles better than Melancon. He wasn’t great last year for the Friars, though, blowing 5 leads while producing a 4.50 ERA, 4.16 SIERA, and a 4.87 xFIP. In my mind, he’s not worth drafting unless something drastic happens in the Spring and is best left for extremely deep or NL-Only leagues.
Pomeranz has a much higher ceiling than Melancon or Pagan, but if you’re looking for strictly saves, Melancon shouldn’t be ignored. Target him near round 21. And while Pomeranz loses some value with the addition of Melancon (and even Keone Kela, but he’s not much of a threat to steal saves), he’s still worth a pick around 185th overall. Whatever happens, there’s going to be a wealth of save opportunities to go around in San Diego, and even if Pomeranz only ends up with 10-15 saves, he’ll still provide plenty of value, lowering your ERA and WHIP totals while averaging well above a K per inning.
Giovanny Gallegos (STL) ADP 235
Main Competition: Jordan Hicks ADP 234
The Cardinals have so many potential arms for the closer job. It may be wise just to stay away from the situation completely until it’s all sorted out. That said, if one of them falls to you late in the draft, don’t hesitate to grab them, as both Gallegos and Hicks need to be owned in all fantasy leagues. Just don’t reach for either of them, as it’s not worth the gamble. If at any point it is announced by management who their closer will be, then his draft stock should shoot up a solid ten rounds because both are that good and either is capable of ending up as a top 10 closer.
The team is expected to start with some sort of committee, with the eventual full-time gig falling to either Gallegos or Hicks. After enduring Tommy John surgery in 2019 and all the rehab that follows, Hicks decided to sit out last year to aid his recovery further. If Hicks can return to form (he was the Cardinals closer in 2019 before being shut down) after not playing for nearly a year and a half, his low 100’s velocity will likely earn him the job. However, I’m not completely convinced, and I really like Gallegos and his ability to control the strike zone. When Gallegos was healthy and pitching at the end of games, he was the shut down closer all teams and fantasy owners covet, as he held every lead handed to him during the regular season. His WHIP was under 1.00, and he struck out 21 batters in 15 innings while earning 4 saves. And while his ERA was 3.60, his FIP was 2.06, and his xFIP was 2.73.
Both players are worth drafting in the late rounds, possibly going within ten spots of one another, but I would target Gallegos first, near round 21. I believe he’s going to start the year at closer, plus I think he’s a bit better. Then I’d look for Hicks a round or two later because the lure of his league-high velocity is too intriguing to ignore. It could go either way; therefore, both players should be targeted. Alex Reyes and Andrew Miller could also steal a few save opportunities, further damaging their value, so don’t invest too much on any of the possible Cardinals’ closers.
Amir Garrett (CIN) ADP 258
Main Competition: Lucas Sims ADP 361, Sean Doolittle ADP 384
Garrett should be the go-to arm in Cincinnati to close out games, especially with the signing of Sean Doolittle (LHP), who will pair nicely with the right-handed hurler, Lucas Sims, in the eighth. Garrett has shown improvement every season over the last three years since moving to the bullpen, and in 2020, he not only got batters out via the strikeout (38% K rate), but he lowered his hard-hit rate by over 8%, leading to a .161 opponent BA. He throws hard, doesn’t back down from anyone, and possesses that killer instinct/attitude that you want from your closer. He did give up a few home runs, and his FIP was almost 2 full points higher than his ERA, but his xFIP was still a low 2.76. If the walks become a problem for Garrett (which they weren’t last year but have been in years’ past), Sims could take over at any point, but for now, leave Sims for the deepest leagues or those that reward holds and draft Garrett in the late rounds.
Hector Neris (PHI) ADP 270
Main Competition: Archie Bradley ADP 245
After blowing a whopping 14 saves in 2020, the Phillies underwent a major overhaul in the off-season, revamping nearly the entire bullpen. Looking to compete in an improved NL East, there is no way they will put up with all the late-game collapses they suffered last season, so whoever is given the closer job to start the season is going to have an extremely short leash. With this in mind, any potential Phillies closer is not worth taking until the later rounds, but a closer look at the numbers reveals some hope for the club.
Not all of those blown saves were Philadelphia’s opening closer, Hector Neris’ fault. After blowing three saves (one on unearned runs) over the first few weeks of the season, the team traded for Brandon Workman, who actually faired much worse. The closer job eventually went back to Neris, who ultimately found some success. Over his final 16 innings, Neris gave up four earned runs and procured three saves.
Fantasy owners would do well to remember he was sensational at times for Philly in 2019, earning 26 saves, with an ERA below 3.00 and a WHIP near 1.00. And while his 2020 season was not what anyone was hoping for, it may have been the result of some terrible luck. After allowing a low .240 BABIP and stranding 84% of base runners in 2019, last year his BABIP shot up to .381, and his strand rate fell to 59.5%. Surprisingly, this all happened while his hard-hit rate decreased by 10%, and his ground ball rate went up! His balls in play profile were hindered by lots of soft and medium contact that found its way through the middle and opposite way. His fastball exhibited the same velocity as years past, but hitters just seemed to sit on the splitter and were content to take it the other way.
His worst attribute was the number of batters he issued free passes to, but he still maintained a heavy strikeout rate, similar to his previous seasons. He even more impressively didn’t give up a single home run. All this led to a low 2.50 FIP for the season, the lowest of his career. With history on his side and after earning 72 career saves for the Phillies, you have to believe he’ll be the closer come opening day.
However, he will likely be given a very short leash with Archie Bradley waiting in the wings. Bradley, no slouch on his own, was a godsend for the Reds last year, allowing only 1 run over 7 and 2/3 innings in a set-up-type role. The Phillies signed him to a 6 million dollar deal, so you know Neris will have to consistently put up zeros to keep his job. Bradley also significantly improved his advanced numbers. He reduced the number of hard-hit balls and HR/9. He’s also someone who doesn’t give up many free passes, unlike Neris. His curveball is above average and, paired with his mid 90’s fastball, makes for a solid 1, 2 punch.
As long as Neris doesn’t implode in spring, my gut tells me they’ll slot Bradley in the 8th and Neris in the 9th to begin the season. Not only based on the mere fact that Neris is the incumbent, but that when he’s on, he can be downright nasty. However, it’ll be a very short leash in Philadelphia, so it’s definitely a situation to pay close attention to. Right now, Neris is going near the end of drafts, but if things go his way, he could be quite the steal. Target him near round 23, and possibly grab Bradley as well in the final round if you have space.
Chris Martin (ATL) ADP 285
Main Competition: Will Smith ADP 298
Chris Martin, although he wasn’t the closer last season, put up some impressive numbers. The well-traveled, 6’8″ righty changed his pitch selection by cutting down on the number of sinkers he threw and increasing his slider usage. The results were impressive, only allowing hitters to pull the ball (where hitters generate the most power) 14% of the time. He has impeccable control and strikes out over a batter per inning. And while his 5 pitch repertoire is not common among closers, he could be their best option, considering what he has shown he’s capable of in Atlanta. It should also be noted that Martin was not only great during the regular season (2 ER’s, 1 HR, 2 unintentional BBs, 20 Ks) but was also fantastic in the playoffs (2.25 ERA, 0.88 WHIP).
His main competition will come from 2019 All-Star Will Smith. Signed in the 2020 off-season, many believed he would take over as the full-time closer, but after starting the season on the Covid list, Mark Melancon earned the role and never relinquished it. Over 16 regular-season innings, Smith did reasonably well except for the whopping seven home runs he gave up. He also got clobbered by the Dodgers in the NLCS. The main thing he has going for him is his experience in the role, while Martin only has six saves in his career.
The team will likely use a committee approach to start the season, largely dependent on matchups. The team possesses plenty of quality lefties in the pen, so they won’t necessarily need Smith for high leverage situations earlier involving left-handed hitters (which works in Smith’s favor). Both players should be drafted in fantasy leagues, as either could end up with a vast majority of the saves. Right now, if I had to choose, I would go with Martin by a hair. While Smith did had considerable success in San Francisco (a great pitchers’ park), eight home runs given up over 22 innings (including the playoffs) is not gonna cut it for Atlanta when the game is on the line. Target Martin at the end of drafts, with Smith going just slightly behind.
Joakim Soria (ARZ) ADP 300
Main Competition: Stefan Crichton ADP 312
The Diamondbacks have two guys in competition for the closer role. One of them is the incumbent (Crichton), who did an admirable job and earned his first 5 saves of his career at 28 years old. And the other is the recently signed wily vet, Joakim Soria, who has 223 career saves under his belt. Crichton had a nice finish to last season but ultimately doesn’t fit the closer prototype, relying on a low 90’s sinker and a curveball that doesn’t break 80. He was efficient but lacked the typical high strikeout, power pitcher pedigree. Soria comes in with a ton of experience and will likely start the season off closing games for the Snakes, even though he too doesn’t average above 93 mph on his fastball. However, with nothing for sure and Soria having a somewhat low ceiling, you can wait until the final rounds (if not the final round) to grab him.
Hunter Harvey (BAL) ADP 302
Main Competition: Cesar Valdez ADP 613, Tanner Scott ADP 664
Over the past few years, Harvey has been rumored to be the future closer for the O’s, and now, it finally looks like his time. Last season ended with Baltimore turning to Cesar Valdez, a journeyman starter from the Mexican Leagues, who had totaled just over 50 big league innings, the most recent coming in 2017. Valdez did an admirable job filling in as closer with a tumbling changeup that gave hitters nightmares. Unfortunately, his fastball only averages about 85 mph, and he’s about to turn 36 years old, not exactly your prototypical closer.
Harvey wasn’t great last year over his 10 appearances, but he was coming off of injury and can touch 100 on his fastball while also showing decent control. Tanner Scott may actually be their best arm in the pen, but my feeling is he’ll be more often used in lefty on lefty situations at any high leverage point in the game. Dillon Tate also deserves mentioning, but I think he profiles better in the 7th or 8th and doesn’t possess the high-velocity as Harvey.
Harvey should get the first crack at saves for Baltimore if all goes as planned, and he can finally avoid the IL. If you need saves at the end of the draft, grab Harvey and his upside, and hope he can hold onto the job.
Anthony Bass (MIA) ADP 365
Main Competition: Yimi Garcia ADP 337
The Fish went out and signed Bass, which has everyone giddy with excitement. Jokes aside, Bass is an underrated pitcher who has racked up 12 saves over the past two seasons between Toronto and Seattle. He limits home runs, doesn’t offer many free passes, and gets a heavy amount of ground balls. His strikeout rate is average, even less so for a closer, but he is efficient and should be given the first opportunity to close in Miami. Garcia has better “stuff” and looked downright nasty last season, but it was only over 15 innings, and he had never really displayed that level of effectiveness before. The Marlins have a great starting staff and a much-improved bullpen, and they’ll likely play in many close games, allowing for plenty of saves chances to go around. Even if Bass isn’t given every opportunity to close, he should be handed the majority of them and is worth a spot on fantasy rosters, especially if you missed out on a third closer and don’t have any other glaring needs in the final round of your draft.
Reyes Moronta (SF) ADP 429
Main Competition: Jake McGee ADP 504
The Giants don’t have a declared closer heading into spring training, but manager Gabe Kapler has stated he would like to see Moronta “back there.” And as far as a committee goes, GM Scott Harris had this to say:
“I’ve seen one point misrepresented a little bit on the internet that perhaps Farhan (Farhan Zaidi – Team President), Gabe, and I prefer not to have a closer, that we prefer to have a closer-by-committee situation. That’s not the case… If a reliever asserts himself and proves he deserves that role, we’re going to hand it to him because it makes our job easier and improves our chances of closing out games and winning every night.”
In my mind, it’s a two-man competition. On the one hand, you have Jake McGee, who somehow threw his fastball 97% of the time (with average spin rate and above average velo) last year and produced an astronomical 41.8 K%. And then you have Moronta, who if he can return to the level of play he showed in his first three seasons with the Giants (after a year off recovering from shoulder surgery), then he could be just what the team is looking for.
In 132 appearances from 2017-2019 (only 7 games in 2017), Moronta produced a 2.66 ERA, a 29.8 K%, and a 1.20 WHIP. He was never given the opportunity to close other than 1 save in 2018 but was considered the front runner for the closer job in 2020 before needing surgery. Andrew Bailey, the Giants’ pitching coach and a former closer himself, challenged Moronta (5’10”, 265 lb) to come into Spring Training in peak physical condition this year, “in hopes of re-establishing himself as a key late-innings option.” If he can win the role outright, he will likely be given almost every opportunity, judging by management’s stance on closers.
Southpaw, Jake McGee, hasn’t earned a successful save in the last three years and was average at best during his seasons in Colorado. However, after joining the Dodgers last year, he produced some extremely polarizing stats (leading to a quality 2.66 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP). While he did rank above the 95th percentile in K% and BB%, his hard-hit rate and exit velocity given up were in the bottom 5%. His hard-hit rate ranked as one of the worst in all of baseball, in the top 1%!
Teams typically like to save their left-handed bullpen arms for situational use. Still, with the highly effective lefty Jarlin Garcia in the fold, McGee could be left to close out games, especially if Moronta shows any signs of rust or wildness. There’s also the chance that the organization would rather ease Moronta back into games and not throw him directly into the closer role right away. It’s hard to trust McGee as a one-pitch pitcher to hold up as a season-long closer, and with a team change comes a change in philosophy. He may be asked to throw his other pitches more often now that he’s no longer with LA, which could help or hurt him. McGee was a closer back in 2014 and parts of ’15 and ’16, but even if he starts the first few series as the closer, it won’t be long until Moronta takes over. For those reasons, I think it’s better to target Moronta over McGee.
There are a few other young promising arms in the mix (Tyler Rogers, Matt Wisler), but Moronta is the standout and the player to target, with McGee coming in a close second. For now, I’d leave them all undrafted in standard leagues, but if you’re truly desperate for saves, select Moronta at the end of your draft.
Bryan Garcia (DET) ADP 521
Main Competition: Gregory Soto ADP 597, Joe Jimenez ADP 637, Jose Cisnero ADP 839
The Tigers will be better this season and should be in a few more games leading to more save opportunities. The first crack at the closer position will likely go to Garcia, who was fantastic down the stretch last season, earning four saves and delivering a 0.84 ERA over his final 14 games. He barely strikes anyone out, however, and doesn’t get a ton of ground balls. He also doesn’t throw exceptionally hard, averaging about 94 mph on his fastball. SIERA and xFIP also don’t think he’s too great, judging by the numbers he earned last season, both north of 5.60. He does induce plenty of weak contact, however, and limits barrels to a low 4%. While he gives up his fair share of fly balls, many of them are in the infield, which he also showed a knack for in the minor leagues.
Detroit also features LHP Gregory Soto as an option to close, but they may be better served deploying him against tough left-handed hitters, regardless of the inning. When looking at his splits over the last two seasons, it’s obvious where his strength lies (.610 OPS vs. L/ .889 OPS vs. R). He also walks too many guys and gives up a lot of hard contact (91.3 mph EV). Another possible candidate, Joe Jimenez, was tabbed as the future closer for the Tigers over the last few years but simply hasn’t avoided the long ball and is currently situated for middle relief.
In terms of pure stuff, I believe Jose Cisnero is the best reliever Detroit possesses and should eventually be given a chance to close out games. The 31-year-old threw nearly 30 innings last year, resulting in a 3.03 ERA, 2.65 FIP, with a 27.6 K%. His fastball averages 96 mph, and he throws a hard slider that gets plenty of swings and misses. He also threw 46 changeups last year, all to LH hitters, which resulted in a .000 batting average. No one is currently drafting Cisnero or even putting him in the conversation to close. Still, in my mind, if the other two fail early or look mediocre in spring training, it won’t be long until logic kicks in and Cisnero and his 15% SwStr rate are asked to close.
I wouldn’t draft Garcia or Soto in standard leagues unless one of them stands out with an exceptional spring. The team is likely to use a closer by committee approach anyway, using Soto against a lefty-heavy portion of the lineup and vice versa for Garcia. If you are desperate and in a deep enough league, you could look Garcia’s way, but you’re probably better served rounding out your pitching staff with a high-end setup man or a sleeper-type starter with high upside. Just remember to keep a heavy eye out for Cisnero, as he could be given a chance to close before long.
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