Some of you like to grab at least two elite closers in every league you play in. You want that certainly in the saves category and don't want to have to watch the waiver wire on a daily basis for closers in waiting. Others like to grab one or zero closers on draft day, and prefer to watch the waiver wire, or grab the closer in waiting instead.
Today's piece focuses on those of you who follow the latter strategy. Below are five relievers who could be closing games sometime in 2016 and should either be targeted late in your deeper mixed or "only" league drafts, or sit atop your watch list during the season.
Silvino Bracho, Diamondbacks
I wrote about Bracho in my piece earlier this week. Here is what I wrote about him:
Bracho is a 23 year old, small-framed reliever who tore through two levels of the minors in 2016 before his eventual call up to the big leagues at the end of August. Prior to his call up, Bracho dominated High A hitters, striking out 14 of the 20 batters he faced in just six innings of work. He was promoted to Double A, where he continued his dominance, as he struck out 59 and walked nine in 44.2 innings, saving 16 games in doing so. After his late August call up, Bracho struck out 17 batters and walked four in 12.1 innings, but was victimized by the long ball. He is an extreme fly ball pitcher, so he will need to work on this aspect of his repertoire in the big leagues, but he could end up closing in Arizona this season. He is blocked by closer Brad Ziegler and set up man Tyler Clippard. Ziegler gets by with his sub-marine delivery and an extreme ground ball rate, as you and I could probably strike out more batters than he does. Clippard has closed in the past, but is better suited in the set up role, opening up a spot for Bracho should the Diamondbacks front office want to make a change at the closer role should Ziegler struggle.
Bracho may not be first in line to save games should Ziegler struggle, but he might be their closer of the future since Ziegler is a free agent at the end of the season.
Jason Motte, Rockies
The Rockies traded outfielder Corey Dickerson to the Rays for reliever Jake McGee, but manager Walt Weiss has yet to name his closer this late in spring training. While McGee is the favorite to closer to start the season, there are some signs that he may not last long in the role, at least in Colorado. With the Rockies rebuilding and the trade value of relievers at an all time high, it would behoove the Rockies to deal McGee as soon as they see fit, to bring in some young rotation arms. Motte has closing experience and would be the next in line should McGee be dealt or struggle to keep balls in the ball park at Coors Field.
Tony Zych, Mariners
The Mariners signed closer Steve Cishek to a relatively cheap, $10 million, two year deal this offseason to be their closer. But, we all all seen this movie before, as Cishek, while he can be dominating, he can be wild as well. In addition, his strikeout rate dropped dramatically last season, and his walk rate rose above 4.00 BB/9, so there is risk in investing in him on draft day. The Mariners also traded for reliever Joaquin Benoit this offseason, but they may have their closer in waiting in Zych. Zych is a relative unknown in all but AL only leagues, but he was pretty darn dominating in his 18 innings of work in Seattle last season, striking out nearly 32% of the batters he faced, while walking just 4%. Add in a 50% ground ball rate, and you have a dominator who just needs an opportunity to close.
For more on Zych, I highly recommend this piece written by Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs.
Brandon Maurer, Padres
Well, the Padres signed closer Fernando Rodney this offseason to a one year deal with a club option for 2017. Like Cishek above, we all have seen Rodney perform at a high level, but also get lit up like a Christmas tree as well. Enter, Brandon Maurer. The Padres wanted to see if Maurer was a rotation option this spring, but that was a miserable failure. Now that he is back in the bullpen, he is the favorite for save opportunities once Rodney fails to perform up to expectations. Maurer isn't a big strikeout pitcher, but he does throw heat, and keeps the ball in the yard, and that is important when closing games out.
Jumbo Diaz, Reds
J.J. Hoover is set to start the season as the Reds closer, but he is not your typical closer, as he is not dominating, striking out just around seven batters per nine innings, he is wild, as he walks more than four batters per nine, and he gives up his share of long balls. Diaz is the next in line in Cincinnati, as he possesses the skills to close, as he throws heat, and he struck out more than a batter per inning last season. He also limits the free pass, but does have some issue with the long ball himself, as he gave up nine home runs in 60 innings of work last season. I would not be surprised if Diaz was closing by the end of April.
Rob Parker recently ranked relievers based on their skills alone and is a must read:
And our Closer Rankings for 2016:
And some prospects who could close in the future: