We are now in the home stretch, just two days away from opening day and of course, we still have about 10-12 closer competitions with no answers. Tier 3 represents a large majority of those, with the eventual winner in these battles to have significant fantasy value in all but the most shallow of leagues. I’m sure there will be at least one more injury prior to opening day after we lost Jose Leclerc, Nick Anderson, and Kirby Yates last week, so maybe that will help clear some things up.
Speaking of Kirby Yates, it was assumed that Jordan Romano would be competing with Rafael Dolis for the vacant closer role to start the season. While Romano has been impressing all spring, Dolis has been dealing with back spasms, not having pitched since March 13th. Romano has a 15/2 K/BB rate over 6.2 IP this spring while allowing just 2 earned runs. It’s hard to imagine the Blue Jays turning to someone who hasn’t pitched in over two weeks as their new closer, so this job should be Romano’s to lose.
- There’s been little talk publicly as to who the favorite to close out games for the Braves will be, but it’s hard to argue against Will Smith as the frontrunner right now. Smith’s had a terrific spring, with an 11/2 K/BB rate over 5.2 IP, allowing just one earned run. Chris Martin got a late start to the spring but has equally impressed with a 6/0 K/BB rate and no baserunners allowed over 3 IP. So why do I think Smith is the frontrunner? The Braves are carrying four (maybe five) lefties, and Martin is the only trustworthy right-hander in the pen. Smith is also the one being paid like a closer, but that shouldn’t matter all that much but his experience in the role could (49 saves vs. 6).
- Based on what pitching coach Derek Johnson shared this weekend, the Reds won’t announce a closer by opening day, with Amir Garrett and Lucas Sims (and possibly Sean Doolittle) sharing the role for now. That doesn’t mean one of them won’t eventually take the role and run with it, which is what’s actually likely to happen. I like Garrett for this job just a little bit more than Sims, who would be great in a setup/fireman role. Garrett has been dominant this spring despite a dip in velocity, as he’s failed to allow a baserunner over 4 IP while striking out 10.
- The Padres, like pretty much everyone else in this tier, are expected to start the year with a “closer by committee” approach. That trio includes Drew Pomeranz, working his way back from forearm soreness, Mark Melancon, whose 4/5 K/BB rate over 8.2 IP this spring won’t help, and Emilio Pagan whose steady spring likely makes him the favorite for saves here. Maybe even Keone Kela can throw his hat into the ring here following a strong spring.
- The Phillies closer situation still remains a two-man race between Hector Neris and Archie Bradley with Neris still getting the slight edge from me despite yesterday’s outing. He’s still allowed just 5 hits over 9.2 IP this spring to go with a 14/0 K/BB rate. Bradley has been great this spring as well, with just 7 hits allowed over 10 IP and a 9/2 K/BB rate. This may just come down to Neris’s 72 career saves vs. Bradley’s 28, whose best work has come in that bridge/fireman role.
- There still is no answer to who will be closing out games for St. Louis, with Alex Reyes, Jordan Hicks, and Giovanny Gallegos all potential candidates. Gallegos hasn’t had a great spring, but being the veteran and incumbent, I still believe he is the leader right now. Hicks hasn’t lost any velocity as he returns from Tommy John, but his command is still a bit rusty (2/5 K/BB rate this spring over 3.2 IP). Reyes has been really good this spring, so perhaps the Cardinals will reward him with the role. However, the team is looking to get him 100 innings this year, which may be tough to do locked into such an important late-inning role.
- Following the loss of Nick Anderson, the Rays are expected to turn to Pete Fairbanks and Diego Castillo to work as the teams closer, although we could see just about any other Ray in that role on any given day. I could see the team using Castillo in the old Anderson role, where he’d work the 7th, 8th, or 9th with the team leading depending on the situation. That could leave Fairbanks with more save situations hypothetically, but we really won’t know for another week or so.
- This might be a situation in which the team actually abides by the co-closer rules and winds up with two relievers splitting time in the 9th. Alex Colome has plenty of experience in the role and is having a (mostly) productive spring, especially in this K department. Taylor Rogers is still apart of that closer mix at the end of games though, as the team still sees him finishing games. Being the only trustworthy lefty in the bullpen, however, I’ve got to say Rogers would probably see more 7th and 8th inning work as long as Colome isn’t blowing games in the 9th.
- The situation in Cleveland still remains unresolved, with Francona basically alluding to Nick Wittgren, James Karinchak, and Emmanuel Clase splitting the closer role to begin the year. I’m still leaning towards Wittgren being the main option here, but I’d imagine we’ll have a better idea this time next week.
- It’s been a rough spring for Joakim Soria and it looks as if he may not have the closer role locked up after all. This is shaping up as a situation to mostly avoid for fantasy purposes unless someone not named Soria or Stefan Crichton gets a look. The same goes for the Rangers situation with Ian Kennedy and Matt Bush.
Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)