Fantasy Baseball Closer Report: Week 17 (2021)
Between the All-Star break and my personal travel plans, it’s been a little while since we convened for a closer chat. When we last met, Aroldis Chapman was in the process of imploding; now it’s Kenley Jansen and Edwin Diaz. We’ve also had Heath Hembree, Gregory Soto, and Joakim Soria emerge as closers. We’ve got a few closers who could be moved ahead of next week’s trade deadline, and of course, a bunch of elite closers and airtight committees that just keep on keeping on.
Before we get to all of that, a quick reminder that I am also creating fantasy baseball and football content over at rosrankings.com, focusing on a rest-of-season redraft perspective. I’m also co-hosting the Rest of Season Rankings podcast each week. This week, Lauren and I recorded our first football pod. We’re planning to preview the fantasy ramifications of the MLB trade deadline on next week’s baseball show.
I’m always happy to answer your fantasy questions, closer-related or otherwise, on Twitter @andrew_seifter. Now on to this week’s rankings!
Ryan Pressly doesn't typically find himself in the conversation of the league's best closers, but perhaps that should change. Pressly has not allowed an earned run since May 29 and now sports a 1.35 ERA and 0.78 WHIP to go along with four wins and 17 saves. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is fourth-best among all pitchers, behind only Liam Hendriks, Jacob deGrom, and Corbin Burnes.
I removed the committee designation in Oakland in the last edition of the Closer Report, and now I am giving Lou Trivino the bump up the rankings he deserves. Trivino has a cool 1.91 ERA and 1.15 WHIP on the year, and while he is due for some regression in that department, the saves should keep flowing on an A's squad that is 13 games over .500.
New York Yankees
When it comes to top-tier closers completely falling apart, I tend to err on the side of caution in the rankings since they often require a break from the closer role or even an IL stint to get right. That's what I did with Chapman a few weeks ago, but thankfully the All-Star break seems to have come at just the right time for him. Since then, he's issued only a solo home run and two walks across four innings.
Walks were the key to Chapman's undoing in the first place. From Jun 19 to July 6, he walked 11 batters in 4 1/3 innings, after only walking 11 batters in his previous 25 1/3 innings. Chapman has always walked some batters here and there, but that bout of wildness was uncharacteristic of him. Assuming it is now under control, he should be able to quickly go back to dominating opposing hitters.
Los Angeles Dodgers
What the heck is going on with Kenley Jansen all of a sudden? That's the question Dodgers fans and fantasy managers are surely asking themselves right now.
After blowing a save by giving up a run on July 18 at Coors Field, Jansen had an infinitely worse experience in the recently-concluded series with the rival Giants, coughing up seven more runs and blowing two more save chances. Jansen's second blown save against San Francisco was not without controversy, as the game appeared to be over before replay overturned a close play at second base, and then the umpires missed what should have been the final out on a check-swing by Darrin Ruf.
Those circumstances may work in Jansen's favor, at least temporarily, as a fired-up Dave Roberts said after the game: "I don't think all the blame should be on Kenley. The game should have been over a couple of times in that inning." That should buy Jansen at least one more chance to get back on track, but if he happens to blow his next opportunity, Roberts may have no choice but to give him a break from the ninth and roll with Blake Treinen (or perhaps even a trade acquisition).
New York Mets
Jansen isn't the only top-tier closer having a tough time lately. Mets closer Edwin Diaz has given up seven earned runs and taken two losses over his last three outings.
Diaz can be as good as any closer in baseball when he's on, and that's the case most of the time. But he had gone through brutal stretches before, most notably in his first season with the Mets in 2019, when he never really got on track. We shouldn't overreact to three bad appearances, but given his track record, it is not unthinkable that he could need a break from the ninth inning. Should that happen, Trevor May is a proven commodity who could have plenty of success in the role. He's a wise stash if you're hunting for saves.
It wasn't exactly clear which direction the Reds would turn when Lucas Sims landed on the injured list, but Heath Hembree quickly emerged as the guy, piling up five saves in a nine-day span from July 2 to July 10. The Reds' most recent save actually went to Amir Garrett, likely because manager David Bell wanted Hembree to face the heart of the Mets' order in the eighth. So while it's apparent that Hembree won't see each and every save chance, he's clearly the reliever Bell trusts the most and the one who will get the ninth more often than not.
The Tigers' closer situation has been a difficult one to gauge all season, but we seem to finally be getting some clarity on it. Fireballing 26-year old left-hander Gregory Soto has earned each of the team's four saves since the All-Star break and five consecutive saves altogether.
Soto's high walk rate is a little concerning, especially once his home run rate normalizes, but save chasers likely aren't concerned with such nuances. He looks like a decent source of saves right now on a Tigers squad that is only five games under .500.
Texas Rangers/Pittsburgh Pirates
While Craig Kimbrel trade rumors are sure to generate the most ink, the Rangers' Ian Kennedy and Pirates' Richard Rodriguez remain the two most likely closers to be dealt by July 30. Given that most contending teams already have effective closers (or closer committees) -- and that neither Kennedy nor Rodriguez is what you'd call an elite ninth-inning option -- it's likely both are destined to soon be set-up men elsewhere.
However, their departures would create new closing opportunities in Texas and Pittsburgh. The Rangers don't exactly have a plethora of strong bullpen arms, but the last time Kennedy missed a game, Joely Rodriguez got the save. Rodriguez currently has a 6.04 ERA and 1.58 WHIP, though, so buyer beware.
The more interesting name for fantasy purposes is the Pirates' David Bednar, who typically handles the eighth inning in front of Richard Rodriguez. Bednar currently sports a 2.84 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 11.13 K/9 rate, numbers that are good enough to give him plenty of value even if save chances are sporadic for the bottom-dwelling Pirates. He's well worth a stash ahead of the trade deadline.
With his microscopic ratios, it seemed like Kendall Graveman was the obvious choice to take on the ninth for the M's once he was back from the injured list. But things are rarely that simple in Seattle. Paul Sewald has pitched very well in his own right, impressively trailing only Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman in strikeout rate among pitchers who have thrown 20+ innings. Graveman and Sewald have traded off saves over the last month, and considering the Mariners have never really settled on a single closer all season, we probably shouldn't expect that to happen now when they have two strong late-inning options.
Ranger Suarez appears to have emerged as the top closer option in Philly, picking up three consecutive saves from July 3-16. He's having a real nice season, as evidenced by his 1.18 ERA and 0.82 WHIP. Of course, old friend Hector Neris recently earned his first save since June 25, but that was likely because Suarez was unavailable after having pitched the previous two days. Still, we'll keep the committee tag on this one a little longer.
Raise your hand if you had your money on Rule 5 selection, Tyler Wells, as the Orioles' second-half closer. No one?
Wells hasn't earned a save yet, so it would be premature for me to call him the closer, and Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde certainly isn't doing that either. But as MASN recently reported: "Wells has handled the ninth in his last four appearances, covering the eighth through 10th on July 11 against the White Sox. None of them have been save situations, and only two have been scoreless, but most important is that Wells is the chosen one."
If you're really desperate for saves, take note!
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