Closing Time 4/6: Ranking the Top 30 Closers every Tuesday

Rick Graham ranks baseball's closers for the 2021 season.

There’s been a lot of closer happenings over the past week but let’s start with the biggest mover in the top 10 of the list. Will Smith is officially the Braves closer and looked great in his one appearance so far this season. Smith struck out the side in order in the 9th inning of a tie ball game this past Thursday, mowing through the top of that Phillies lineup to the tune of a 64.3% CSW. This backs up his tremendous spring and theres no reason to think we won’t see the 2018-19  Smith who was a top 10 closer in this league.

 

Notes

 

  • Diego Castillo has picked up the Rays first two saves of the season, but this being the Rays, we shouldn’t be surprised if the next save chance goes to Andrew Kittredge. Regardless, Castillo is the Rays reliever to have rostered at the moment, but depending on your league size and settings, Pete Fairbanks may still be worth holding on to.
  • Amir Garrett finished the game for the Reds last night and preserving the save, however, it was a pretty shaky outing as he allowed a walk and two hits, with one being a HR to Philip Evans. That said, there’s nothing to worry about here, and Garrett should get the bulk of the chances here moving forward.

 

  • Alex Reyes was named the Cardinals closer last week and picked up his first save of the year in an uneventful 9th against the Marlins yesterday. I was a bit surprised to see Giovanny Gallegos work both the 7th and 8th inning, instead of Reyes who is expected to work multiple innings this season as the team tries to get him to 100 innings pitched. That kind of workload makes Reyes even more intriguing but its also far from certain the team keeps him in the role all year long.
  • Craig Kimbrel‘s first two save opportunities of the year have gone as smooth as we could have asked for with Kimbrel firing two clean innings while striking out 5. It was against a Ke’Bryan Hayes-less Pirates team but his command sure seemed better than what we’ve come to expect over the past two seasons. It was definitely an encouraging weekend for Kimbrel, and hopefully, something he can build off of.

 

  • Mark Melancon looks to be entrenched in the Padres closer role and has picked up the Padres only saves of the season. The upside doesn’t match that of Drew Pomeranz or even Emilio Pagan but closing out games for that team keeps him in the top half of all closers.
  • Julian Merryweather was talked about a lot this past weekend after the 29-year-old rookie fired two clean innings against the Yankees while striking out five and picking up two saves. The hype surrounding him is certainly warranted, as he has filthy stuff with three plus pitches in his fastball, slider, and changeup. However, we are only five days into the MLB season so I think we need to proceed with caution here as it looks like the Jays could be taking a Rays-like approach when it comes to their bullpen. To me, it looks like Jordan Romano could be the Nick Anderson to Merryweather’s Diego Castillo from 2020. If that’s the case, look for Romano to work the 7th, 8th, or 9th inning, whenever the middle of the opposing team’s lineup is due up, with Merryweather coming in after or possibly even before him. It’s hard to tell for sure if that is the case, but it should be noted that Romano was warming up in the 9th inning of yesterday’s game in case Rafael Dolis couldn’t get out of the inning (Merryweather may also not work back to back days). At this point, both Romano and Merryweather should be rostered in most leagues, and it’s possible both of them have value the rest of the way (a la Anderson/Castillo last season).

 

  • One of the biggest surprises of opening day was learning about Trevor Rosenthal‘s shoulder injury that resulted in him starting the year on the IL. Jake Diekman is in line to fill in for however long Rosenthal is out, which is a great question because I have yet to see or hear a potential timetable for him. Diekman is worth the add knowing he is the A’s closer for the foreseeable future.
  • We are still waiting to see a save situation present itself in Cleveland as we still have no real insight as to who might be the closer there. Based on everything we know and have seen, my best guess is that Emmanuel Clase is the favorite to get the first chance, but nothing is for certain here. Clase and James Karinchak‘s upside makes them both worth rostering until we see how this thing plays out.

 

  • The Royals bullpen situation got a whole lot murkier yesterday as Jesse Hahn was called on to record the save, not Greg Holland or Josh Staumont, or Wade Davis. However after Hahn allowed the leadoff hitter to reach, Holland immediately got up and started to get ready in the bullpen. The fact that he was available and didn’t pitch is definitely a concern, but for now I don’t think we can call anyone the true closer here.
  • César Valdez has the first two saves of the Orioles season, but this still is expected to be a committee with Tanner Scott and others mixing in on any given day. Valdez was actually the first reliever to warm up on Friday afternoon and could have easily entered that game earlier had John Means ever run into trouble.

 

  • The Arizona closer role is up in the air at this point, with Joakim Soria working the 8th inning on Sunday as well as injuring his calf during the game. Chris Devenski came on to close out the game but there’s a chance Kevin Ginkel could get a shot here if Soria misses time or maybe even if he doesn’t. It’s not a situation to go chasing after.
  • It looks like there may be a chance Gabe Kapler doesn’t use a committee for saves as Jake McGee has picked up the team’s first two saves of the season. I’m still a little bit skeptical but McGee is certainly trending up.

 

*-Brad Hand was placed on the IL today with an undisclosed injury (likely Covid related) so I replaced him with Daniel Hudson for the time being

Rank Pitcher Change
1Edwin DíazT1-
2Liam Hendriks-
3Aroldis Chapman-
4Josh Hader-
5Raisel Iglesias
T2
-
6Ryan Pressly-
7Will Smith+4
8Kenley Jansen-
9Héctor Neris+5
10Diego Castillo
T3
+6
11Amir Garrett+1
12Alex Reyes+UR
13Craig Kimbrel+5
14Mark Melancon+UR
15Alex Colomé+2
16Julian Merryweather+UR
17Jake McGee
T4
+9
18Richard Rodríguez+1
19Jake Diekman+UR
20Matt Barnes-
21Anthony Bass-
22Daniel Bard+1
23Rafael Montero+1
24Emmanuel Clase
T5
+UR
25Greg Holland-3
26Gregory Soto+2
27César Valdez+UR
28Ian Kennedy+2
29Daniel Hudson+UR
30Stefan Crichton+UR

Rick Graham

Rick resides in the Boston area and has experience as a player and coach at the collegiate level. He has been covering relievers for Pitcher List since 2017.

  • Avatar Mallex P. Keaton says:

    Rick, great to be back for another year of Closing Time (and your other RP articles!). Your notes and rankings have proven to be a tremendous benefit year in and year out.

    I am contemplating a little early-season save speculating in a 14 team mixed dynasty league… currently holding Stef Crichton. Should I drop him for any of the following: Dylan Floro, Lou Trivino, Ken Graveman, or Mike Mayers? Thanks for your input, my dude!

    • Avatar Rick Graham says:

      Thanks Mallex! I love what Graveman’s doing in Seattle but based off Soria’s injury and how bad Devenski looks, I’d probably just hang tight with Crichton

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