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Fantasy Baseball Closer Report: Liam Hendriks is slowly rounding into form

The White Sox closer has a 0/9 BB/K ratio in May with three saves.

Chicago White Sox v Kansas City Royals Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Each weekend, we discuss the saves situations in each and every one of the 30 teams in the league, with special emphasis on who is trending up and who is slipping.

In a league in which committees are taking over seemingly most bullpens, surefire, bonafide relief aces who rack up save after save are gold. Matt Barnes and Liam Hendriks are discussed this week, plus several timeshares and committees that represent nightmares for fantasy owners.

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Liam Hendriks, Chicago White Sox

Hendriks’ ERA was an uncharacteristically high 4.35 on April 29. While he is not all the way back to his most dominant version of the last couple of years, it’s safe to say he has been pitching a lot better recently, lowering his ERA to 2.76 and his WHIP to 0.92 and striking out nine hitters in his last six frames, all with no earned runs allowed.

The White Sox have been using Hendriks heavily, as he had 28 pitches on Wednesday and racked up saves on Thursday and Friday. They are not afraid of throwing their high-dollar signing into the fire, and neither should you. He is up to eight saves and is an elite closer.

Matt Barnes, Boston Red Sox

Remember when we thought back in Spring Training that there could be a closer battle in Boston between Matt Barnes and Adam Ottavino? What a difference a month and a half makes! By putting a 1.89 ERA, a 0.47 WHIP and 33 strikeouts in 18 games, Barnes’ job security is at an all-time high.

Barnes has nine saves, and there are plenty more to come since Boston has been playing better than expected. The veteran right-hander hasn’t allowed an earned run since April 23, and remains one of the safest bests for saves in fantasy baseball.

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Will Smith, Atlanta Braves

Will Smith is a fine reliever, and he has proven experience at nearly all roles in a major league bullpen, including as a closer. However, he hasn’t been as sharp in 2021, with a 4.80 ERA, a 1.40 WHIP, and three losses so far before Saturday’s game.

Much of the damage was done this week, on Thursday, when he conceded four earned runs while getting just one out. The problem with Smith’s situation is that the Braves bullpen is getting healthier and just got a key performer in Chris Martin back from injury. Smith can’t afford many blips from now on.

His status as the closer isn’t in danger yet, as he was unscored upon in several straight appearances before Thursday. But now that Martin is healthy, keep an eye on the situation.

Lou Trivino, Oakland A’s

A few weeks ago, we thought that Lou Trivino was going to get the majority of save opportunities in the Athletics bullpen. The manager even said so! But he also warned us that Jake Diekman was going to be in the mix, and well, that’s what happened.

Trivino, a right-hander, should get used to being called upon whenever three straight tough righties, or two at least, are up in the order—no matter the inning. It happened on Wednesday, as Trivino had to face JD Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers in the eighth. Diekman took care of the ninth inning and nailed down the save.

It’s not like Trivino is trending down because of bad performance. It’s just that the combination of circumstances will likely result in a 50-50 split of save chances with Diekman, even though the latter lost Saturday’s game by allowing a three-run bomb.

Situations to monitor:

Arizona Diamondbacks

Stefan Crichton remains the closer, but Joakim Soria is back to full health and could theoretically enter the mix for saves at some point.

San Francisco Giants

Both Jake McGee and Tyler Rogers got saves this week, and the Giants situation remains fluid.

Minnesota Twins

Hansel Robles allowed a single hit while striking out two in a scoreless ninth to get the save on Saturday. It’s not enough to anoint him as the new closer in Minnesota, but the situation is certainly one to monitor over the next few days.

Closer chart