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Closing Remarks: MLB Closer Report for Week 2

Matt takes a look at how the fantasy baseball closer landscape has changed in the past week.

MLB: Game 1-Pittsburgh Pirates at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The second full week of the fantasy baseball season is over and we have had some interesting developments in closer land. We have had pitchers lose their jobs, committees sorted, velocity regained, and even had someone disappear from existence. Edwin Diaz is off to a wicked start while Alex Colome is doing all he can to get out of Tampa and off your fantasy roster. Every week I will break down what changed in the fantasy baseball relief pitching landscape as well as update my closer tiers. Let’s take a look at the news and notes in this week’s Closing Remarks: MLB Closer Report.

No Mas Rivero

Felipe Rivero has lost his job as the Pirates’ closer. He has been replaced by Felipe Vasquez. In case you have been living under a rock, they are in fact the same person. The Pirates’ closer recently decided to legally change his name. Maybe it’s a good thing he did because Felipe Rivero had an awful spring and blew up on Opening Day for four earned runs and three walks in 23 of an inning. Felipe Vasquez on the other hand, has been dominant. Vasquez has not allowed a run since Opening Day with a 1.30 FIP, 9.9 K/9, and just 1.4 BB/9. He has picked up five saves in that time and I think it is safe to say that the Pirates lefty is back to normal. Vasquez should have a big year for the first place club.

Velocity? Is that you?

Kenley Jansen, did you ever have any doubt? Yeah you did. The ace reliever’s velocity has returned and Jansen is starting to remind fantasy owners why he was considered the number one closer coming into this season. The Dodgers closer has earned a 0.34 FIP since April 2nd when blew up in Arizona and had fantasy owners panicking and looking to trade him for Matt Davidson (I hope you didn’t do that). Since his atrocious start to the year he has struck out five batters over 3 23 innings while walking none and collecting a couple of saves. I still want to see another week of Kenley being Kenley before bumping him back up to the top tier, but he is essentially there in my mind and should be treated as such in fantasy leagues.

Houston, we have a problem (had to do it)

Ken Giles is in the doghouse. It was one thing to watch Brad Peacock come in to get the save for the Astros last week when Giles was possibly unavailable due to pitching the previous two days. However, it was another thing to watch Chris Devenski come in to pitch the ninth the very next save opportunity with a fresh Giles in the bullpen last Monday. Giles did end up coming in to the get the one-out save after Devenski allowed a double. The Astros “closer” came within inches of losing that game when Byron Buxton smoked a near game-winning home run just by the foul pole. The final straw that sent the Astros bullpen into an unofficial committee occurred on Friday night when Chris Devenski, with all options available that night, came in to strike out the side to pick up his first save of the season. Houston manager A.J. Hinch has hinted to reporters that Giles may relinquish some save chances to other relievers. That certainly seems to be the case now. Giles owners should not be dropping the right-hander anytime soon since whoever ends up getting the bulk of the saves for the Astros’ will still be very valuable. It still may end up being Ken Giles. The only problem is that he has a lot of quality competition between Devenski and Brad Peacock. Committees are lame and no one likes them, but that is exactly where we are right now. Learn to love it.

The Closer Tiers

The Cream of the Crop

Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox

Kimbrel’s velocity has been down this season, but it has yet to affect his ability to close out games. It is a situation worth monitoring, but he will remain in the top spot until there is a reason to worry or if Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman, or maybe even Edwin Diaz decide to take it from him.

Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees

Chapman’s FIP this season is -0.08 , almost like the other team owes him runs back, to go with his typical amazing strikeout rate.

The Elite

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

Welcome back, velocity! One more week of Kenley being Kenley and he will be back at the top.

Edwin Diaz, Seattle Mariners

Diaz holds an 18 K/9 to go with a 0.00 ERA and 0.35 FIP this season. He has also not allowed an earned run on one hit and one walk through seven innings. Wow. I still want to see the low walk rate continue further into the season before anointing him among the very best, but color me intrigued.

The Next Best Thing

Roberto Osuna, Toronto Blue Jays

Jeurys Familia, New York Mets

Felipe Vasquez, Pittsburgh Pirates

Solid Options

Brad Hand, San Diego Padres

Brad Hand needed only 19 pitches to strike out four Giants on Saturday. He seems to be back on track after a rough start that had some fantasy owners speculating on Kirby Yates. Hand and his 15.9 K/P and .091 AVG against over the last week will continue to move up the rankings if he continues this current level of dominance.

Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals

Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians

Wade Davis, Colorado Rockies

Wade Davis may not be the dominant closer he used to be in Kansas City, but he continues to be a solid option that can get the job done for a good Rockies team. He has nine strikeouts in 6 13 innings to go with six saves so far this season. I suspect rough outings are in his future, but he is still a reliable option for now in fantasy.

Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds

Brandon Morrow, Chicago Cubs

Greg Holland (Bud Norris?), St. Louis Cardinals

Perhaps the Cardinals rushed their shiny new toy into game action to quickly. Greg Holland came in for a save opportunity in his first appearance on the year Monday and walked four batters, including walking in the winning run to take the loss. He has looked sharp in two appearances since with Bud Norris handling Friday’s save opportunity. It seems obvious the Cardinals want Holland in that role and are looking to work him back into it. I would think this situation will simply end that exact way, but with Norris pitching well it’s still a situation to monitor. For now, Holland stays in this tier.

Brad Boxberger, Arizona Diamondbacks

The “Meh” Tier

Ken Giles, Houston Astros*

This is looks like a committee or even an open competition at this point, but since the Astros closer will be valuable no matter who it is, I couldn’t drop Giles any further until more information is available.

Blake Treinen, Oakland Athletics

Arodys Vizcaino, Atlanta Braves

Keynan Middleton, Los Angeles Angels

I have removed “committee” from the Angels’ closer position because Middleton has collected the last three save chances including back-to-back opportunities over the weekend. The 24-year-old is talented enough to keep the job and could climb his way up the rankings over time.

Kelvin Herrera, Kansas City Royals

Hunter Strickland, San Francisco Giants

Hector Neris, Philadelphia Phillies

Brad Brach, Baltimore Orioles

Orioles manager Buck Showalter hasn’t made it a secret that he is not a huge fan of Brad Brach in the closer role. That being said, Brach is the only Orioles’ pitcher to record a save in 2018. He will likely lose the job if and when Zach Britton returns healthy from the disabled list, but until then Brach seems to be the Orioles closer.

The Runts of the Litter

Alex Colome, Tampa Bay Rays

Alex Colome looks awful. I’m not sure what other options the Rays have at the point though. It’s possible if Colome doesn’t find a way to turn it around that veteran Sergio Romo may find himself back in closer role once again.

Joakim Soria, Chicago White Sox

Keone Kela, Texas Rangers

Brad Ziegler, Miami Marlins

Shane Greene, Detroit Tigers

Fernando Rodney, Minnesota Twins

Committees Make Me Sad

Jacob Barnes, Matt Albers, Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers

If a winner is named in this horse race, they will immediately move up into the “solid options” tier depending on the official timetable for Knebel to return (it has been rumored to be six weeks, but I get the feeling it could be longer). No one seems to want the job though. Barnes, Albers, and Hader have all collected a save this season. Your guess is as good as mine right now. My guess is still Jacob Barnes.

Ken Giles, Chris Devenski, Brad Peacock, Houston Astros

This situation may remain confusing all season long, but let’s hope not.

On The Mend

Mark Melancon, San Francisco Giants

Luke Gregerson, St. Louis Cardinals

Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles

Corey Knebel, Milwaukee Brewers