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Fantasy Baseball 2020: Closer Tiers

A look at every team’s ninth inning guy and where they rank among their peers.

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I'm not a huge user of the tiered ranking system but I know a lot of fantasy experts and casual players who use them. It offers an easy rundown of who is left at each position, so you can decide whether you want to wait on said position or dive into it before the water gets too shallow.

I use overall rankings. And sure, this kind of tiers players automatically, but I usually just look for the best overall player regardless of position.

With this exercise, I'm going to take a look at all 30 teams in baseball and determine who is the current closer, as well as throw in some bonus info on who I would prefer be in the role.

In addition to that, I will also be tiering the top 30 guys based on fantasy value, and saves are a large part of that value.

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The Elite

  • Josh Hader
  • Kirby Yates
  • Aroldis Chapman
  • Roberto Osuna

Not much surprise here. All four of these guys are firmly locked in as top relievers in fantasy. Sure, Hader could be moved out of the role in favor of Corey Knebel, and Chapman has perhaps the best bullpen arms in the MLB backing him—but there's little reason to doubt this group.

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The Really Good

  • Taylor Rogers
  • Kenley Jansen
  • Ken Giles
  • Brad Hand
  • Liam Hendriks
  • Raisel Iglesias
  • Archie Bradley
  • Brandon Workman

This group of eight is super solid. However, they either have enough questions in performance or role where we have to tier them lower than the elites.

Hendricks is my bust of this group based on history. 1) No Athletics pitcher has led the team in saves in consecutive seasons since 2013. 2) Hendricks wasn't very good prior to last season.

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The High Risk/High Reward

  • Giovanny Gallegos
  • Edwin Diaz
  • Craig Kimbrel
  • Nick Anderson
  • Jose Leclerc
  • Keone Kela

This group has huge potential. We've seen it from a handful of them. Diaz and Kimbrel have been on the top of the relief pitcher mountain. They could return there, but there are serious doubts in both cases.

Gallegos is my favorite target here but his role is honestly uncertain. The longer the season is delayed the more time Jordan Hicks has to get healthy. Gallegos has the tools to run away with the ninth inning job, but he has to be given the opportunity first.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Minnesota Twins Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Last Resorts

  • Sean Doolittle
  • Hector Neris
  • Alex Colome
  • Ian Kennedy
  • Hansel Robles
  • Mark Melancon

This is the boring but proven group. Nobody will applaud you for drafting these guys but they could be a huge fantasy boost in terms of reliable, consistent saves. They offer little upside but I am confident they can keep the closer gig all season.

Doolittle and Melancon might be the riskiest of this group because they have stout competition behind them. Will Smith is being drafted ahead of Melancon is some leagues. I think Melancon is competent enough to hold the role. Doolittle didn't even get the last out for his team in the World Series. He's had 24 or more saves in three straight seasons. Last year's numbers were heavily inflated by a dreadful August.

MLB: Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The “No Thank Yous”

  • Joe Jimenez
  • Hunter Harvey
  • Matt Magill
  • Tony Watson
  • Brandon Kintzler
  • Wade Davis

In this group, I either have zero confidence or zero interest. Sure, Jimenez and Harvey have big K upside...but they also play for two of the worst teams in baseball.

As for Magill, Watson, and Kintzler, they seem to be logically picks for the ninth inning role, but it's anything but set in stone. They also play for bad teams.

Wade Davis is like the sixth-best reliever on his own team. Yet, the Rockies named him as the closer. This should end well!

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The Stashes

  • Scott Oberg
  • Will Smith
  • Seth Lugo
  • Daniel Hudson
  • Corey Knebel
  • Diego Castillo
  • Mychal Givens

This group of relievers are next in line for saves on their respective teams. They each have a reasonably foreseeable path to getting saves.

Oberg and Smith are the highest owned of this group, with Lugo a solid ratio stash in deeper leagues. Oberg is almost guaranteed to get the closer's gig in Colorado. He's been stellar two years in a row and should be a top 15 option once given the role.

Smith was great for San Francisco last year, despite trade rumors that never came to fruition. He seems the obvious choice in Atlanta for saves but the team trusts Melancon. Melancon is much more likely to keep the role compared to Wade Davis.

MLB: Spring Training-Milwaukee Brewers at Los Angeles Dodgers Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Wild Cards

  • Freddy Peralta
  • Ryne Stanek
  • James Karinchak
  • Jairo Diaz
  • Aaron Bummer
  • Nick Burdi
  • Trevor Gott

This last tier of guys is pure speculation. That being said, they could be huge fantasy steals in a best case scenario.

Stanek is my sneaky sleeper for closer in Miami. I'm not a believer in Kintzler. The K-rate is solid for Stanek but he's a bit of a “walker.” Still, he's a much more intriguing fantasy option than the 6.4 K/9 Kintzler.

I bring up Diaz, Burdi, and Gott because of the Baseball Reference 2020 simulator. In case you didn't know, they are simulating the season day by day. Jairo Diaz is leading the league in saves in that sim. Nick Burdi leads the category for the Pirates and Trevor Gott has a grip on the ninth inning role for the Giants. The sim probably means nothing but it does give us more names to think of for fantasy.

Speaking of the sim... Freddy Peralta threw a 17-strikeout no-hitter against the Phillies. He seems likely to compete for a rotation spot but I see him as a solid relief option as well. Maybe even the ninth inning option if the Brewers want to make Josh Hader more flexible.