Another week in fantasy has brought us injuries, bounce backs, and meltdowns. What else is new right? Greg Holland may be getting another chance, while Ken Giles continues to throw his in the garbage. Red flags and concerns have started to pop-up and may be a reason for fantasy owners to consider an early season trade to maximize trade value for some of their ninth-inning warriors. Don’t worry, I will show you who they might be. Every week I will break down what changed in the land of fantasy baseball relief pitching 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.
This is why we can’t have nice things
Just when fantasy owners were getting comfortable with Bud Norris and Keynan Middleton’s job security, the injury fairy leers it’s ugly head. Norris was finally given the green light as the closer due to big money free agent Greg Holland’s struggles. However, the Cardinals’ right-hander injured his triceps muscle and will be forced to miss several games to recover. It is not yet known if Holland will take over in the ninth or if that honor may skip to youngster Jordan Hicks. Either way, it will be an interesting situation to monitor over the next week to see is Holland can sneak his way back into the Cardinals’ good graces while Norris is on the shelf. Fantasy owners have no choice but to continue to roster both pitchers until this situation is finally resolved.
Keynan Middleton has been walking on shaky ground all season long, mostly due to Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia’s inability to commit the the reliever. However, all of those worries seemed to have faded away due to Middleton’s consistent performance so far. The situation took an unfortunate turn when the Angels’ closer was forced to sit out with elbow inflammation. Middleton seems confident that the injury is minor, but elbow issues are not something to be dismisses out of hand. I predicted that Cam Bedrosian would get the first crack to take over in the ninth inning, which is exactly what happened. Unfortunately he came in and immediately blow his first opportunity, possibly turning this situation into a full blown committee until Middleton returns. Angels beat writer Jeff Fletcher predicted that Justin Anderson would be the closer when the injury first went down, and maybe he will get a chance here too. Fantasy owners are going to have to wait and see.
No need to worry?
Just when you thought Fernando Rodney was finally going to lose his grip on the closers role, the veteran extended his contract with the devil to squeeze out a few more successful outings. Rodney collected four consecutive scoreless innings to grab hold on the ninth inning again in Minnesota, much to the chagrin of fantasy owners who picked up Addison Reed. It’s still very possible that Rodney loses his job at some point, and Reed is certainly the better pitcher, but the Twins and Paul Molitor are unlikely to make a change anytime soon.
Down in Atlanta, A.J. Minter earned his first save of the year on April 25, Arodys Vizcaino has picked up three save chances in six days over the last week. This situation was once thought to be a committee, but it seems Minter may only see the ninth if an elite left-hander is an immediate threat in the ninth. Minter is talented and may be a closer one day, but it’s tough to be the primary ninth-inning man as a lefty. Fantasy owners should consider Vizcaino the full-time closer right now, although he may lose the occasional chance to the young southpaw.
New reason to panic?
In the surprise on the century, Ken Giles blew a game in the ninth-inning. You see what I did there? It was not a surprise, because he is awful. After back-to-back scoreless outings it looked as if Giles may have earned his role back as the Houston closer, but c’mon, we all saw this coming. Fortunately for Giles, the rest of the Astros’ bullpen also seems to be allergic to the ninth inning this season. Chris Devenski, whom would be the likely favorite to take over the ninth if a change is made, took the loss Saturday night after allowing two walks and a hit against the Diamondbacks. This situation is a headache is for fantasy owners.
The Closer Tiers
The Cream of the Crop
Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox
Kimbrel’s velocity continues to be well below his career average, but it has yet to impact his performance. He will remain at the top of the closer rankings until he gives a reason to drop him.
Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees
Edwin Diaz, Seattle Mariners
I really want to move Diaz up into the next tier, he is that good. However, he has allowed eight walks over his last 11 1/3 innings after only allowing one walk all season. This is a red flag considering that free passes have always been his Achilles heel. Diaz did strikeout 17 batters in that stretch as well though, and no one has looked better than the Seattle closer so far this season.
The Next Best Thing
Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians
Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers
Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals
Doolittle’s 13.50 K/9 rate and 0.48 WHIP put him in an elite class. The concern here is that Doolittle has an inability to stay healthy and it seems like just a matter of time before the knife comes downs and cuts his season in half. The Nationals closer seems like a prime sell-high candidate is someone in your league believes he can keep this going for a full season.
Wade Davis, Colorado Rockies
Felipe Vasquez, Pittsburgh Pirates
Roberto Osuna, Toronto Blue Jays
Osuna’s strikeout rate is down to a career low 7.53 K/9, while he is giving up a career high 38.6% hard contact rate. These are not good things. The Toronto closer is carrying a fantastic 2.12 FIP, so there is no reason for concern yet. Fantasy owners may want to keep their eyes open though.
Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds
Brad Hand, San Diego Padres
Brandon Morrow, Chicago Cubs
Jeurys Familia, New York Mets
Kelvin Herrera, Kansas City Royals
Herrera has had a terrific season so far, carrying a 0.71 ERA, 9.95 K/9, and has yet to allow a walk. His career low 34.4% ground ball rate and unsustainable 100% strand rate are obvious red flags, but fantasy owners have been rewarded for investing in the Royals closer. The main concern here is that Herrera is likely to be traded to a contender in July and will most likely be used in a set-up capacity. Savvy fantasy owners could consider moving Herrera next month before the rumors start to flood social media this summer.
The “Meh” Tier
Blake Treinen, Oakland Athletics
Hunter Strickland, San Francisco Giants
Hector Neris, Philadelphia Phillies
Brad Boxberger, Arizona Diamondbacks
The Runts of the Litter
Keone Kela, Texas Rangers
Arodys Vizcaino, Atlanta Braves
Shane Greene, Detroit Tigers
Keynan Middleton, Los Angeles Angels
Joakim Soria, Chicago White Sox
Alex Colome, Tampa Bay Rays
Fernando Rodney, Minnesota Twins
Brad Ziegler, Miami Marlins
Committees Make Me Sad
Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress, Jacob Barnes, Matt Albers, Milwaukee Brewers
Ken Giles, Chris Devenski, Brad Peacock, Houston Astros
Yuck. See above.
Brad Brach,Darren O’Day, Baltimore Orioles
Zach Britton, feel better soon. This committee is the nightmare that nightmares have nightmares about. Darren O’Day seems to have taken the lead in the Baltimore committee, but fantasy owners should avoid this whole situation if possible.
Arodys Vizcaino, A.J. Minter, Atlanta Braves
Greg Holland, Bud Norris, St.Louis Cardinals
Keynan Middleton, Los Angeles Angels
On The Mend
Mark Melancon, San Francisco Giants
Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles
Corey Knebel, Milwaukee Brewers