Fantasy Baseball Closer Report: Week 11 (2021)
It may seem controversial that I am moving Raisel Iglesias ahead of Alex Reyes in this week’s closer rankings. After all, Reyes has 16 saves and a 0.90 ERA, while Iglesias has only 10 saves and a 3.75 ERA. But the surface stats only tell us so much.
Reyes continues to flirt with disaster by walking nearly a batter per inning. He has issued at least one free pass in each of his last six appearances and 11 of his last 13 outings going back to May 8. Yes, he is an elite bat-misser, and he has done an excellent job of limiting hard contact to date. Even so, his 0.60 HR/FB rate, .217 BABIP against, and 96.9 percent left on-base percentage are all due for some pretty substantial regression, which is why his ERA indicators (xERA, FIP, and xFIP) all point to an ERA in the 4.00 range.
Contrast that with Iglesias, who has a better strikeout-t0-walk ratio than any closer other than Liam Hendriks. Iglesias endured some tough outings early in the season, and his ERA sat at 7.20 on May 3. But his ability to miss bats while also limiting walks was bound to produce good results eventually, and that’s exactly what’s transpired. Since he reached rock bottom in early May, he has a 1.29 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, and 14.1 K/9 rate (along with six saves and two wins). Those are elite closer numbers by any measure.
Add in the fact that Iglesias has been a successful fantasy closer for five straight seasons — and is being paid like one by the Angels — and it’s easy to see why he has a higher floor and more job security than Reyes. If I was rostering Reyes in a fantasy league, I’d see if I could swap him for Iglesias — and maybe even get a useful bat or starter as a throw-in.
Before we get to this week’s closer rankings, I also want to mention a new endeavor I’m rolling out. I am co-hosting a new podcast with Lauren Auerbach called The Rest of Season Rankings podcast, and we’ve paired it with a new website, rosrankings.com. Each week, Lauren and I will be publishing a new set of rankings for rest-of-season fantasy value on rosrankings.com, along with updated player notes for dozens of players. And we’ll be using that as a jumping-off point for podcast discussions of waiver wire picks, buy low/sell highs, and what we call “Movers and Shakers” in the rankings. We’ll eventually be doing the same thing for fantasy football and basketball as those seasons get going.
If you’ve enjoyed the content I’ve been churning out here at FantasyPros over the years, I’d be delighted if you would also subscribe to The Rest of Season Rankings podcast on Apple or Spotify. If you’re willing to rate and review our pod, that would be even better!
Ok, enough plugging stuff! Here are this week’s closer rankings.
For the second straight week, Daniel Bard is the biggest riser in the rankings. Bard has a microscopic 0.56 ERA since May 5, along with a healthy 1.06 WHIP and 13.5 K/9 rate. You'd be hard-pressed to take a committee arm over someone pitching that well who is getting all of his team's saves. And at this point, I feel more confident in Bard than in some other full-time closers who have better overall numbers, namely Brad Hand and Richard Rodriguez.
Ian Kennedy was having a marvelous season -- and building up quite a bit of trade value -- before he landed on the injured list with a hamstring strain this week. The good news is that the injury is considered "mild," and Rangers manager Chris Woodward anticipates that he'll be ready when first eligible to return on June 16. The Rangers are a last-place team who don't have a logical fill-in for Kennedy, so there is no point in picking up someone like Joely Rodriguez, Josh Sborz, or John King for the next six days.
New York Yankees
It feels unfair to drop Aroldis Chapman down two spots for one bad performance, but there isn't any margin for error if you want to top these rankings! That's a testament to just how good Josh Hader and Liam Hendriks have been -- and how good Chapman had been before he gave up four runs without retiring a batter on Thursday night. There is no reason to worry about Chapman going forward, and he's still having one of the best seasons of his career at age 33. Chalk it up to one rough night where he fell victim to a couple of other veterans who have had nice careers, Josh Donaldson and Nelson Cruz.
Braves closer Will Smith has had a bit of a bumpy ride this season, and he's in the midst of yet another rough stretch in which he's surrendered four earned runs in his last five appearances. He only allowed six baserunners in those outings, so it's not like he was getting hit all over the park. Smith's walk rate is the highest it's been since 2016, which isn't helping matters, but, generally speaking, his peripherals point to a pitcher who should have a much lower ERA than 4.74.
The biggest issue is that he is stranding just 67.2 percent of baserunners, the lowest mark among all full-time closers. Jake McGee and Cesar Valdez have stranded even fewer, but they don't have the closer job anymore. I expect Smith to be better and hold onto the job going forward, but this is shaping up as a second consecutive season where his ERA is higher than anticipated.
Tampa Bay Rays
At this time last week, J.P. Feyereisen had closed out three games in a row for the Rays, but I steadfastly refused to anoint him the team's closer. I often subscribe to the "three saves" rule, but that goes out the window when it comes to managers with as long a track record of mixing and matching as Kevin Cash. Sure enough, Diego Castillo has now earned Tampa's last two saves. The committee lives on!
Much as with Tampa, the pendulum for saves has swung back and forth in Oakland between Jake Diekman and Lou Trivino. Trivino currently has the upper hand, converting each of the team's last three save opportunities. I've long suspected that Trivino would garner the majority of the save chances due to the fact that he's the right-handed member of the committee, so the fact that Trivino has nine saves and Diekman has six sounds just about right.
San Francisco Giants
It's tempting to call Tyler Rogers the Giants' closer. He has six saves since May 13, compared to just two saves for Jake McGee, the team's clear choice in the ninth inning in early April. But while Rogers does have the team's two most recent saves, McGee's last one wasn't that long ago (May 30). That was two days after Rogers was roughed up for three runs, but he had thrown only 15 pitches in that contest, so he was presumably available two days later when McGee was called upon.
Big picture, while it's fair to say that Rogers is the current committee head, the two relievers have been sharing saves rather evenly for the better part of two months, which is par for the course for a Gabe Kapler-led team.
Kansas City Royals
Josh Staumont is back after an IL stint with a sprained knee, but his first two appearances since returning have been prior to the ninth inning in games that the Royals were trailing. In other words, not typical closer usage. Scott Barlow, Greg Holland, and Kyle Zimmer all picked up saves while Staumont was on the shelf, so it is anyone's guess who Mike Matheny turns to the next time he has a lead to protect in the ninth.
Ok, so it turns out I'm a bit of a hypocrite. Last week in this space, I wrote that you would be better off picking up a player who is out of baseball than adding D'Backs closer Stefan Crichton. But then the other night, I went and picked up Crichton myself! To be fair, it's probably going to turn out to be a bad move, but I was drawn in by the fact that he had strung together four straight scoreless appearances and was perfectly fine the previous two seasons.
Now, Arizona has a record of 5-30 since May 4, so Crichton hasn't exactly been piling up the saves. He's already given up one run since I put the waiver claim in, too, and if he has another bad outing or two, I'll probably send him right back to the waiver wire. But I just couldn't resist adding a clear-cut closer in a fantasy league where every other closer (and just about every part-time closer) is already rostered. Call it temporary insanity.
Lucas Sims picked up three saves in four days from June 3-6, but before you start getting too excited about him being "the guy," keep in mind that he pitched in the sixth inning on Thursday. Tejay Antone is going to continue to see his share of save chances, and even Sean Doolittle and Heath Hembree could close out a game here and there.
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