The first week of the fantasy baseball season has brought us injuries, velocity issues, mechanical issues, signings and of course....committees. The relief pitcher holds an interesting place in fantasy leagues that dramatically changes from format to format. Most leagues concentrate on only “saves” as a category, so that is where I will concentrate my efforts in breaking down the relief pitcher landscape. Every week I will break down what changed in various relief pitching situations and update my closer tiers. Let’s take a look at the news and notes in this weeks Closing Remarks: MLB Closer Report.
The Knebel Conundrum
According to the Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell, Knebel will miss “a minimum of six weeks” with his left hamstring strain. It sure looked painful. Knebel was getting work in, down 6-to-0 in the ninth inning Thursday night against the Cubs and fell to the ground in pain. Jon Morosi of the MLB Network reported that Counsell mentioned four possible candidates for the closer role while Knebel recovers: Matt Albers, Jacob Barnes, Jeremy Jeffress, and Dan Jennings. Craig Counsell said Friday that he prefers to keep Josh Hader in a multi-inning role. Regardless of who claims the job, Hader will remain the best pitcher in the Milwaukee bullpen and is worth rostering for ratio categories if you can afford the roster spot.
So who closes for the Brew Crew? Jacob Barnes got the first save chance in Saturday’s game against the Cubs and promptly blew the opportunity by allowing four runs to lose the game. He was the heir apparent to the Milwaukee Brewers closer role last season before Knebel rose from awesomeness. Barnes has an electric fastball and a good cutter to compliment it. He stumbled in the dog days last year (ERA over 6.00 in June and July) before rebounding to close out season. Who knows if he gets another chance after stumbling Saturday night. If the Brewers look to go in another direction, Matt Albers could be a solid option. He pitched the eighth and ninth on Friday, allowing just one hit. The journeyman is now pitching for his eighth team in his 12 major league seasons. Traditionally not much of a strikeout pitcher, Albers would be a boring but safe pick to land the job. We will just have to wait and see if Barnes is given another opportunity.
Who Cares About Velocity?
Kenley Jansen looks bad folks, allowing four runs on four hits and two walks so far this season. He has topped out at only 91-92 mph this season, down three mph from his career average. When asked about the dip in velocity Jansen answered with “Who cares?” A lot of people do, Kenley. It has been suggested that maybe his mechanics are off. “No, man, it’s not mechanics,” was the exact quote from Jansen last week when asked about the possibility. Thanks for clearing that up Kenley. He came into Saturday night’s game in the 12th inning and immediately gave up back-to-back hits before escaping with no damage. Coming off a career-high in innings pitched last year between the regular and postseason, Jansen’s woes can possibly be attributed to several different things.
Jansen’s release point has been all over the map this season. This leads me to believe that we are looking at a mechanical issue. But the question is: If it’s not mechanical, is he injured? It wouldn’t surprise me to wake up and see Jansen on the DL. It also wouldn't surprise me for the Dodgers to announce he is dealing with a “dead arm phase.” Unfortunately, the only thing Jansen owners can do is sit and wait for him to turn it around since anyone trading for him would be silly to offer anything close to full value.
The Closer Tiers
The Cream of the Crop
Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox
(Jansen could return if his velocity returns)
Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees
The Next Best Thing
Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers
Edwin Diaz, Seattle Mariners
Diaz has looked flat out dominant so far this season, with three saves and eight strikeouts and zero walks. I was tempted to move him up in to the elite group with Chapman but I want to see him continue this level of control, an issue that plagued him last season.
Roberto Osuna, Toronto Blue Jays
Ken Giles, Houston Astros
Felipe Rivero, Pittsburgh Pirates
Brad Hand, San Diego Padres
Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals
Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians
Wade Davis, Colorado Rockies
Currently tied for the major league lead with four saves. Last season he allowed a 4.30 BB/9 which bears watching (Two walks in 4 1⁄3 innings so far), but unless it proves to be an issue he is locked in as a solid option.
Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds
Jeurys Familia, New York Mets
Familia may lose save chances if Mickey Callaway decides to bring him into critical situations earlier in the game. So for this has not been an issue though, although Familia has come into to get a multi-inning save already. He has looked solid so far returning from shoulder clot surgery and is tied for the major league lead with four saves. Familia will move up in the tiers if he continues this consistency.
Brandon Morrow, Chicago Cubs
It is hard to gauge Morrow considering up until Saturday night he had only thrown two pitches. He did finally pick up his first save of the season last night agianst the Brewers, striking out two.
Greg Holland, St. Louis Cardinals
Greg Holland will hop into the Cardinals closer role soon (returning Monday) and I have every reason to believe he will be great. During the first half of 2017 he looked and pitched like one of the game’s elite closers again, earning a 33.3 percent strikeout rate while holding opposing hitters to a .159/.264/.259 line with a 1.64 ERA. Holland got beat up in August , posting a 13.50 ERA in 9.1 innings due to an increase in walks (12.5 percent) and home runs (3.86 HR/9). In a year returning from Tommy John surgery I am going to give Holland the benefit of the doubt and say he just ran out of gas. He ended up rebounding in September last season (32.4% strikeout rate) and I think he will be a solid closer for the Cardinals. I was tempted to put him in the tier above before he debuted, and if he looks like I think he will I will move him up quickly.
The “Meh” Tier
Brad Boxberger, Arizona Diamondbacks
Alex Colome, Tampa Bay Rays
Blake Treinen, Oakland Athletics
Arodys Vizcaino, Atlanta Braves
Kelvin Herrera, Kansas City Royals
Hunter Strickland, San Francisco Giants
Mark Melancon continues to have forearm trouble, so this job could be be Strickland's for the keeping. He is 2-for-2 in save chances with four strikeouts over four scoreless innings.
Hector Neris, Philadelphia Phillies
The Runts of the Litter
Joakim Soria, Chicago White Sox
Soria is 2-for-2 in save chances and it seems he is the closer for now. There was thought of a platoon between him and Nate Jones but until we see it we will consider the the job Soria’s.
Keone Kela, Texas Rangers
Brad Ziegler, Miami Marlins
Shane Greene, Detroit Tigers
Fernando Rodney, Minnesota Twins
Committees Make Me Sad
Brad Brach, Darren O’Day, Baltimore Orioles
Blake Parker, Keynan Middleton, Los Angeles Angels
Jacob Barnes, Matt Albers, 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).
On The Mend
Mark Melancon, San Francisco Giants
Luke Gregerson, St. Louis Cardinals
Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles
Corey Knebel, Milwaukee Brewers