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Fantasy Baseball Closer Report: Julian Merryweather and Alex Reyes are cementing their roles

The early season saves watch has some top-notch relievers consolidating their jobs as closers.

Getty Images/Pete Rogers Illustrations

Each week, I will take a look at the closing situations for each of the 30 MLB teams, and will profile specific players whose arrow is pointing up or down as far as the ninth inning is concerned for fantasy baseball.

The second week is almost on the books, and Julian Merryweather and Ian Kennedy appear to be running away with the closer gig on their respective teams, while Anthony Bass keeps walking on thin ice.

Arrow up

Julian Merryweather, Toronto Blue Jays

Going into the season, Kirby Yates was going to be the Toronto Blue Jays’ unquestioned closer. However, he went down with a long-term injury, and when that happened, the fantasy baseball community assumed that Jordan Romano would get the lion’s share of the save opportunities even though manager Charlie Montoyo didn’t make such a commitment.

Well, Julian Merryweather impressed in the first series against the Yankees with a hard, heavy fastball and lots of strikeouts. Seeing the situation, we assumed it would be a closer-by-committee situation.

But that also didn’t happen. What has happened is Julian Merryweather running away with the closer gig and Romano being used in earlier innings as a fireman. For the season, Merryweather has an immaculate ERA in four innings, with a couple of saves, seven whiffs and a 0.50 WHIP. That’ll do.

Ian Kennedy, Texas Rangers

Injuries to Jose LeClerc and Jonathan Hernandez opened the ninth inning in Texas. Ian Kennedy wasn’t in anybody’s plans, as he secured his spot on the Rangers’ opening day roster as recently as March 30, after dominating in spring training with eight punchouts over 6 2/3 scoreless innings.

So far, the right-hander has gotten the two save situations that the Rangers have produced entering the ninth inning, and he has converted both of them. He is pitching well, with six strikeouts in three frames, a 3.00 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP entering Friday’s action.

There is no reason to think the Rangers will make a change as long as Kennedy gets the job done. Congrats if you were able to snag Kennedy off waivers!

Alex Reyes, St. Louis Cardinals

For much of the preseason, the fantasy community debated whether Jordan Hicks or Giovanny Gallegos was the best option as the Cardinals’ closer. Well, so much for that.

Despite Gallegos’ enormous strikeout upside and Hicks’ ability to dial it up to more than 100 MPH, manager Mike Shildt went with Alex Reyes as his preferred option to close, and boy, has he paid dividends to the savvy owners who picked him up.

In 4.1 innings, he has three strikeouts, three saves, a 0.00 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP. He now has a firm grip on the closer gig and that won’t change easily.

Arrow down

Anthony Bass, Miami Marlins

Even though he has appeared in three games so far, Anthony Bass has no saves. Two of those games resulted in blown opportunities: the first one was already highlighted in this space, and the last one came against the Mets in the infamous “hit by pitch” to Michael Conforto that ended the game.

That call was blown by home plate umpire Ron Kulpa, as Bass had struck out Conforto but the latter slightly leaned into the pitch and it “hit” his elbow. However, Bass had already conceded a game-tying home run to Jeff McNeil.

Something is not right with Bass, and while he may still have some leash, the Marlins may start thinking about making a change if his struggles persist.

James Karinchak, Cleveland Indians

Karinchak was drafted as a closer, but so far he has no saves. He is clearly among the league’s best relievers, which is probably why Cleveland is using him to put out fires rather than as a traditional closer.

Nick Wittgren and Emmanuel Clase have a save apiece, and while this bullpen is a mess, it’s clear that Cleveland prefers to use Karinchak as a ‘fireman’ reliever and reserve the save opportunities for Wittgren and Clase. If you want to take a chance on one of the two, Clase has the most upside by far.

Closer Chart