Another week in fantasy baseball has given us an injury in Queens, the rise of an overpaid Giant, the near return of an elite closer, and the crumbling of a closer in St.Louis. 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.
Houston. What are you doing exactly?
“Ken Giles. Don’t trust him, never will,” has been the blurb underneath his name in the closer rankings for some time. The right-hander has been both awful and brilliant all season and may be at the end of his nine lives. Giles has allowed six runs on 10 hits in his last five appearances, which gives him a 5.40 ERA on the year.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch brought in Hector Rondon in to get the save Wednesday night and again on Saturday. Rondon has a sparkling 1.57 ERA and 1.13 WHIP to go with a 10.17 K/9. It looks like Rondon may be given a chance to run with this opportunity and it would be wise for fantasy owners to pick him up where available.
A Familia Problem
The Mets placed closer Jeurys Familia on the 10-day disabled list with a sore right shoulder. Anthony Swarzak would be my pick to take over as the primary ninth inning option in Queens, even though Robert Gsellman is sure to see some opportunities as well.
Gsellman would have been my favorite due to his fantastic 56.3% ground ball rate and ability to limit hard contact, but I see the Mets keeping him in more of a multi-inning role. It also didn’t help that he was brought in during the seventh inning on Saturday against the Yankees.
Familia is expected back possibly around the All-Star break and we are likely looking at a committee situation of some kind in New York while he recovers. Even though I see Swarzak picking up the bulk of the saves, Gsellman is still a priority to pick up due to his ability to help in ratios. Hopefully the situation will become clearer in the coming week.
The Hunter and the Hunted
Mark Melancon makes a ton of money and he was always going to be the closer if he could just prove he can be effective.
He has been effective.
Since his return, Melancon has struck out five of the seven hitters he has faced. He has also looked good doing it, even though it has been in the seventh inning. So although a change is not in the immediate future, it sure looks like the writing is on the wall.
Hunter Strickland was named the interim closer in the beginning of the season and has been fairly reliable for San Francisco during that time, leading many (like myself) to believe that he would keep the job even after Melancon returned. The problem is, Strickland has stumbled of late and now carries a 4.16 xFIP on the season. Whether due to finance or performance, a change is coming. Bank on it (pun intended).
The Zach Attack
Zach Britton’s return to the Baltimore Orioles is imminent and he should reclaim the closer’s role from Brad Brach almost immediately. Manager Buck Showalter, who has been vocal about not wanting Brach in the ninth inning, is waiting to see Britton pitch Sunday and Monday back-to-back before wanting him back on the big team. During his minor league rehab, Britton allowed just one earned run with four hits, three strikeouts and zero walks over 5 1⁄3 innings.
A major reason we can expect Britton to regain his closer’s role as soon as possible is due to the fact that Baltimore would love to trade the former All-Star. You will need all the time they can get to achieve maximum value. It is hard to gauge where Britton would end up, and if that would either increase or destroy his fantasy value. Either way, if Britton is somehow sitting on your waiver wire, now is your last chance to pick him up.
Cuff That Man!
No, I am not talking about Roberto Osuna. I am talking to Bud Norris owners and their imminent need to handcuff Jordan Hicks (who recorded his first save of the year Saturday). Over his last four appearances, Norris has allowed four earned runs (including two home runs) that led to two blown saves and two losses.
The Cardinals closer dealt with a biceps injury earlier in this season which may have led to him to alter his mechanics and pitch selection to alleviate discomfort or further injury. According to Brooks Baseball, Norris has has almost completely stopped throwing his slider, opting instead to go with a more fastball driven approach. The results have not been good and one has to assume he is doing this for necessity and not strategy. If so, the strategy needs to change.
Jordan Hicks is an interesting fellow. The man throws over 100 mph but holds a lowly 6.55 K/9, which is in line with what he showed in the minor leagues. He also has a bit of a bases on balls issue (5.18 BB/9) which is not what you want to see, especially in a closer. However, the kid shows flashes of greatness and has a near 60% ground ball rate. He may not be the prettiest option and a .211 BABIP screams regression, but if you own Norris it would be wise to grab his obvious handcuff. It sure is not Greg Holland.
The Closer Tiers
The Cream of the Crop
Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox
Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees
Chapman has been dealing with a tendinitis issue in his left knee. He has been playing through it, which is typically a bad idea. Chapman owners would be wise to seek other options via trade or handcuff before this problem becomes a worse one.
Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers
Jansen looks to be back to himself, collecting four saves this week. After an atrocious start, the Dodgers closer holds a 1.00 ERA, 0.56 WHIP, and an 18:1 K:BB ratio since May 3rd. The door to acquire Jansen low has been slammed shut.
Wade Davis, Colorado Rockies
Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals
Edwin Diaz, Seattle Mariners
The Next Best Thing
Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds
Brad Hand, San Diego Padres
Brad Hand has done a great job for the Padres but they sure seem like a team who wants to trade him, with rumors always circling the left-hander. Savvy fantasy owners would be wise to keep and eye on (and possibly stash) Kirby Yates. He is the obvious choice to be the closer if Hand were to be moved.
Brandon Morrow, Chicago Cubs
Kelvin Herrera, Kansas City Royals
Blake Treinen, Oakland Athletics
Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians
Corey Knebel, Milwaukee Brewers
Brad Boxberger, Arizona Diamondbacks
Felipe Vasquez, Pittsburgh Pirates
The “Meh” Tier
Bud Norris, St. Louis Cardinals
Jordan Hicks, pick him up.
Hunter Strickland, San Francisco Giants
Strickland owners would be wise to pick up Mark Melancon if available.
Arodys Vizcaino, Atlanta Braves
Keone Kela, Texas Rangers
Fernando Rodney, Minnesota Twins
Don’t look now, but the two pitchers above have not been terrible lately. In fact, they have been pretty good. Do I trust them? Nope, not at all. But I feel you need to know just how good they have been in the last 30 days:
Kela: 8 1⁄3 IP 2.16 ERA 0.76 WHIP 9K 7 SV
Rodney: 9 1⁄3 IP 0.96 ERA 0.75 WHIP 8K 8SV
Blake Parker, Los Angeles Angels
I would like to simply call Parker the closer at this point, as he holds a 1.17 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 15 appearances since the beginning of May, but Mike Scioscia likes to keep things interesting. *still listed as a commitee as well due to the “Scioscia factor”
The Runts of the Litter
Shane Greene, Detroit Tigers
Kyle Barraclough, Miami Marlins
Ryan Tepera, Toronto Blue Jays
Same as last week, this is still technically a “committee,” but Tepera looks like the guy and I am going to rank him as such.
Brad Brach, Baltimore Orioles
Same as last week, Zach Britton is going to be back soon and Brach will return to a setup role. Just be sure to hold onto Brach until Britton proves he is healthy, and even then the former All-Star may be traded if he proves useful.
Joakim Soria, Chicago White Sox
Joakim Soria looks to be back in as the White Sox closer Nate Jones recently imploded. I would avoid this situation if possible, but the smart money is for Soria to pick up the bulk of the saves moving forward. At least for now.
Committees Make Me Sad
Hector Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Luis, Garcia, Edubray Ramos, Philadelphia Phillies
Jose Alvarado, Chaz Roe, Sergio Romo, Tampa Bay Rays
Blake Parker, Justin Anderson, Los Angeles Angels *Parker seems like the closer, but again....Scioscia.
Hector Rondon, Chris Devenski, Ken Giles, Houston Astros
On The Mend
Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles (Back this week)
Keynan Middleton, Los Angeles Angels (out for the season)
Jeurys Familia, New York Mets
Roberto Osuna, Toronto Blue Jays