With Spring Training winding down and opening day just two days away, we will be here every week updating our relief pitcher rankings, starting with closers on Tuesdays.
Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a ton of clarity in regards to closer competitions around the league since the initial February release, but there was still enough news in the past weeks to lead to some changes to the list.
|Rank||Player||Change||Next in Line|
|1.||Edwin Diaz (New York Mets)||–||Jeurys Familia|
|2.||Kenley Jansen (Los Angeles Dodgers)||–||Joe Kelly|
|3.||Blake Treinen (Oakland Athletics)||–||Joakim Soria|
|4.||Aroldis Chapman (New York Yankees)||–||Zack Britton|
|5.||Josh Hader (Milwaukee Brewers)||+7||Jacob Barnes|
|6.||Sean Doolittle (Washington Nationals)||–||Trevor Rosenthal|
|7.||Kirby Yates (San Diego Padres)||–||Craig Stammen|
|8.||Jose Leclerc (Texas Rangers)||–||Shawn Kelley|
|9.||Roberto Osuna (Houston Astros)||–||Ryan Pressly|
|10.||Felipe Vazquez (Pittsburgh Pirates)||–||Keone Kela|
|11.||Brad Hand (Cleveland Indians)||–||Neil Ramirez|
|12.||Ken Giles (Toronto Blue Jays)||+1||Bud Norris|
|13.||Raisel Iglesias (Cincinnati Reds)||+1||Jared Hughes|
|14.||Wade Davis (Colorado Rockies)||+1||Seung-Hwan Oh|
|15.||Jose Alvarado (Tampa Bay Rays)||+2||Diego Castillo|
|16.||Will Smith (San Francisco Giants)||+2||Mark Melancon|
|17.||Cody Allen (Los Angeles Angels)||+5||Ty Buttrey|
|18.||Matt Barnes (Boston Red Sox)||+1||Ryan Brasier|
|19.||Pedro Strop (Chicago Cubs)||+9||Steve Cishek|
|20.||Alex Colome (Chicago White Sox)||+10||Kelvin Herrera|
|21.||Jordan Hicks (St. Louis Cardinals)||+5||Andrew Miller|
|22.||Arodys Vizcaino (Atlanta Braves)||+2||Chad Sobotka|
|23.||David Robertson (Philadelphia Phillies)||-2||Seranthony Dominguez|
|24.||Mychal Givens (Baltimore Orioles)||-1||Paul Fry|
|25.||Trevor May (Minnesota Twins)||+4||Blake Parker|
|26.||Hunter Strickland (Seattle Mariners)||+14||Cory Gearrin|
|27.||Greg Holland (Arizona Diamondbacks)||UR||Archie Bradley|
|28.||Shane Greene (Detroit Tigers)||+4||Joe Jimenez|
|29.||Sergio Romo (Miami Marlins)||+6||Drew Steckenrider|
|30.||Brad Boxberger (Kansas City Royals)||+4||Wily Peralta|
For the most part, the top half of the group stays intact, with one exception. Corey Knebel is going to begin the year on the IL and there’s a very good chance he is going to miss the entire year with a UCL sprain. With Jeremy Jeffress also starting the year on the IL, that leaves Josh Hader as the primary beneficiary for saves, because who else can they really trust in that bullpen right now? It might be short-lived, as the team’s rumored to be talking to Craig Kimbrel, but for now, this bumps Hader’s stock up a tick and still leaves Jeffress as an interesting stash if you have an IL spot available.
Moving further down the list, the Giants have yet to announce who their closer will be, but I have to believe it’s going to be Will Smith. Mark Melancon doesn’t seem to have much left in the tank at this point, while Smith out-pitched him this spring.
Alex Colome has been announced as the closer for the White Sox, which shouldn’t come as much surprise. He should be a solid source of saves while not completely destroying your ratios until he gets moved at the trade deadline.
Jordan Hicks is the favorite to see the bulk of the save chances in St. Louis, but despite the unlimited upside, we should still temper expectations. He has the job, he has elite stuff and velocity and he’s working on a new changeup which really isn’t fair. However, I still worry about whether he can fully command any of these pitches. He still has to prove last year’s K rate wasn’t a fluke and he has plenty of competition if he should falter early on. I want to believe in the skills, I’m just not ready to fully commit to a breakout just yet.
With AJ Minter beginning the season on the IL, Arodys Vizcaino is the only closer option left on the opening day roster for the Braves. I’m not a big Vizcaino backer and think Minter can steal the job away from him when he returns, but the real question here is why hasn’t Craig Kimbrel signed yet? A reunion makes too much sense.
Owning a Phillies reliever in a saves only league will likely be a huge headache throughout the year. I could see no one topping 25 saves, as Kapler mixes and matches nine relievers in the ninth all season. I still think David Robertson and Seranthony Dominguez carry mixed league value, but the timeshare will limit either from reaching their true upside.
Similarly, in Minnesota, it looks like Trevor May and Blake Parker are going to split save chances early on. Both are fantasy options in deeper leagues, but I prefer May’s overall upside to Parker’s.
Greg Holland will, somewhat surprisingly, be the Diamondbacks closer on opening day. He’s worth a look for now if you’re desperate for saves, but don’t be afraid to drop early on in the season if he continues to struggle.
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire.
I’m in a very shallow 10-team standard roto using saves only. There’s 1 P slot and 2 RP slots to roster closers, unless someone wants to use one of their 3 bench slots. My bullpen includes Leclerc, Giles and Barnes. I’m not to worried about Leclerc, but Giles concerns me from a ratio standpoint. Barnes concerns me from a ratio standpoint and the possibility he shares the closer role with Braiser. What type of ratios do you feel Giles and Barnes will put up and the likelihood of Cora using a Barnes/Brasier closer by committee approach?
I think Giles and Barnes can be alright together and almost even each other out (Barnes walk issues inflate his WHIP, while Giles usually has a higher ERA). I think Barnes will get the first crack but I have little faith in him keeping the job throughout the year. The save and K upside is still very much worth the gamble though. I think from a ratio and certainly a strikeout perspective you’ll be fine. Saves, on the other hand, could be tricky with those 3 but there’s a chance you get great production from all three.
Thanks Rick. I’m thoroughly discouraged now. :)
I can get Strop or Colome in the FA pool and possibly trade for Alvarado or Smith. Would either of them be better for saves? Also, do you think Morrow gets the closer job back when he returns even though he’s an injury risk?
Regarding Morrow, that depends on how well Strop pitches. I think Strop can run away with the job if he stays healthy and pitches well.
I’d hold for now and see how Barnes and Giles start as they still offer more upside than the alternatives without trading.
I have Scooter who will start the season on the DL and have a roster spot to grab Strop in case someone else does who needs a closer.
Not a bad idea, but I might take a bat depending on who’s available.
Thanks Rick. I know SP is Nick’s territory, but I’m having a hard time deciding between Woodruff, Freeland and Stahm for my 6th SP. Peripherals look good for both Woodruff and Strahm. Freeland’s ratios could be bad and I also already own one Coors SP in Marquez. Question is IP to get the QS (no Wins in my league) while also supporting K’s and ratios. What do you think?
Quality start league I’d definitely go Freeland. Strahm and Woodruff transitioning from the bullpen may limit how many innings they pitch a night, especially early on.
According to Maddon, if and when Morrow comes back the job is his:
“I won’t declare anybody the closer,” Maddon told reporters. “I didn’t even declare Stropie the closer. Once Brandon’s out, we’ve got to figure it out. Once Morrow comes back, he will be the closer.
Nice find. Thanks.
Yea but I wouldn’t put too much stock into this. If Strop goes and has a great first half, say he makes the All-Star team, do you think Maddon would really take him out of the role for a guy like Brandon Morrow?
Managers say this stuff all the time and then reverse course down the road. All comes down to Strop’s performance.
I’m very interested in the Twins bullpen this year. They should get a lot of wins in that terrible division, and the closer situation seems to have people shying away.
If Baldelli is truly going closer by committee, I think too many people are sleeping on Taylor Rogers as the guy who will get the 9th any time there’s strong lefties coming up. He likely is the best reliever in the bullpen with how well he finished the season last year, too. I like him as my last reliever in every pitching staff I put together.
That’s a good call, and I certainly can see Rogers as a viable option in 12 teamers. I think their best bet is to use Rogers and May at the end of games with Parker working more of a 7th inning set up role.
How do you see Jeffress factoring into the Brewers Bullpen when healthy? Also, when would you think is a reasonable expectation for his return? Do you expect the Brewers to sign Kimbrel? Trying to gauge whether its worth stashing Jeffress.
As long as Kimbrel doesn’t sign, I’d expect him to get worked into the closer’s mix shortly after being activated which should be by the second or third week of April. I still like the Braves as a slight frontrunner for Kimbrel, with the Brewers a close second and I wouldn’t sleep on the Cubs.
In a 14 team 5×5 league, how do you approach saves? I cant decide if I want to get 2 studs, wait and get multiple low end guys, or mixture. Thanks.
Good question. I don’t have a set philosophy this year when it comes to getting saves and have just been playing it by ear.
I’d say around the late 6th or 7th round, I’d consider Jansen or Treinen if they were still available.
I’d like to at the very least get one guy from that 2nd tier (Doolittle to Davis) though because everything after that is a complete crapshoot.
Don’t wait too late to get your second guy either, think more of that 12-24 range.
I’ve also been trying to grab a premium handcuff (Pressly, Seranthony, Brasier) late in drafts
Is Jeffress a stash for the closer’s job when he returns? Or is he going to split the closer role with Hader?
He may split it, but I’d imagine he’d get the bulk of the chances. Either way, he can still help out with low ratios too. I’d stash if you have an IL spot available.
Adam Conley – Same …. Jake Diekman – Same …. “I think too many people are sleeping on Taylor Rogers as the guy who will get the 9th any time there’s strong lefties coming up. He likely is the best reliever in the bullpen with how well he finished the season last year, too. I like him as my last reliever in every pitching staff I put together.