Closing Time 5/18: Ranking the Top 30 Closers Every Tuesday

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

After an up and down 2020, Ryan Pressly has regained his pre-pandemic form, where he was one of the best relievers in the game. While he’s having a somewhat quiet year, that can sometimes be a good sign for a relief pitcher as we often hear about them most when they are doing something wrong. Pressly only has seven saves, but he hasn’t done anything to hurt your fantasy team and when he has pitched, he’s looked fantastic. His fastball is up 0.9 mph and back to his 2018-2019 velocity. His two breakers aren’t getting the same amount of whiffs as we are used to, but I think that will change over time. The lack of whiffs are what are holding him back from the top tier, but if he can get that swinging-strike rate back over 17% and whiff rate over 36% again, we are talking about a top two or three closer here.

 

Notes

 

  • Kendall Graveman has still yet to allow an earned run this season, one of only two qualified relievers to do so this season (the other being Aroldis Chapman). The Mariners are slowly but surely shifting the closer duties to Graveman so all is good in the world. While it’s certainly possible Rafael Montero‘s continues to see the occasional save chance, but for the time being, I don’t think he’s roster-worthy outside of deep 16 team leagues or AL-only formats.
  • Rafael Dolis is back today, and given the short time off, I’d imagine he’ll slide right back into the closer role with Jordan Romano getting pushed back to the 8th inning. Dolis was having a decent season before hitting the IL, but I still worry about that walk rate of his coming back to haunt him. If he should struggle, the Jays could easily turn back to Romano or even Tyler Chatwood.

 

  • While it’s not official, I think it’s fairly safe to say the Giants will be going with Tyler Rogers as their closer for the foreseeable future. I think the lack of an offspeed offering is starting to hurt Jake McGee, as it does with most relievers eventually who rely on this strategy (is Ian Kennedy next?). As for Rogers, he should probably be rostered in most leagues at this point, and while he offers nothing in the strikeout department, he’s going to see a ton of save chances and won’t destroy your ratios.
  • The Twins’ closer carousel got interesting this past weekend when they had Hansel Robles close out a game, with Alex Colomé setting him up. I don’t think one game means that Taylor Rogers is out of the role, but we could see more of a timeshare going forward with the three of them all mixing in. While the 7.94 ERA for May isn’t pretty, Rogers still has a 10/1 K/BB rate for the month, and didn’t allow an earned run for all of April.

 

  • Greg Holland and Wade Davis combined to blow the Royals’ last save chance this past Sunday, while Josh Staumont was getting the day off because he had pitched the previous two days in non-save situations. Dealing with a Mike Matheny-run bullpen is and will always be a headache, but at this point, it should be pretty obvious that he only has two arms in that bullpen he can really trust in Staumont and Scott Barlow. That should mean good things for their value going forward.
  • A rough weekend for Jake Diekman and Yusmeiro Petit may have just re-opened the door for Lou Trivino to be closer 1A again, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right call. The surface numbers don’t look all that bad for Trivino, but a .353 xwOBA, 20.4% whiff rate, and 12.9% BB rate are a recipe for disaster. Hopefully Diekman straightens things out this week and can take over the closer role for good, as he is your best hope at steady production for the rest of the season.

 

  • After yo-yoing back and forth between the bullpen and rotation, it looks as if Michael Fulmer may finally have a permanent spot in the Tigers’ bullpen and as the team’s closer nonetheless. It’s a bit of a surprise, but he has been the team’s most consistent reliever when coming out of the bullpen, supporting a 2.12 ERA and .94 WHIP out of the pen with 22 strikeouts over 17 innings. Gregory Soto shifts back into a setup role, which is for the best, given his inconsistencies.
  • It’s May 18 and I still have no idea what the Reds’ plan is to close out games this season. Tejay Antone picked up a save this past weekend, but it was also Amir Garrett‘s first game back from suspension and Lucas Sims was also off that day. I would have Antone on this chart, but I really don’t see him pitching one inning at a time and being a traditional closer this season. Sims can work multiple innings as well, so perhaps that allows one of them to focus more on the 9th inning. FWIW, Garrett hasn’t allowed an earned run in over three weeks, while allowing just two hits over five innings pitched while having an 8/2 K/BB ratio over that time. It’s a small sample size, but those are potential closer numbers.

 

 

Rank Pitcher Change
1Josh HaderT1-
2Aroldis Chapman-
3Liam Hendriks-
4Edwin Diaz
T2
-
5Ryan Pressly-
6Matt Barnes-
7Raisel Iglesias-
8Kenley Jansen-
9Craig Kimbrel+1
10Mark Melancon
T3
+2
11Emmanuel Clase-
12Hector Neris+2
13Diego Castillo-
14Will Smith-5
15Alex Reyes+3
16Ian Kennedy
T4
+1
17Richard Rodriguez-2
18Cesar Valdez-2
19Brad Hand-
20Yimi Garcia-
21Kendall Graveman
T5
+UR
22Rafael Dolis+UR
23Tyler Rogers+UR
24Taylor Rogers-1
25Josh Staumont-1
26Lou Trivino-1
27Michael Fulmer+UR
28Amir Garrett+2
29Daniel Bard
T6
-
30Stefan Crichton-3
Stash List

 

Photo by Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

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 Chuck says:

    I wonder how long Neris can hang onto the job for. I think he’s gonna be the next top half of the list to fall off

    • Avatar Rick Graham says:

      Yea I could see that, but pretty much anyone in the bottom 2/3 could be the next to fall apart.

  • Avatar Sam says:

    Can you explain why Castillo is ranked ahead of Reyes? A curious choice, in my opinion.

    • Avatar Rick Graham says:

      The walk rate is a concern. I know Kenley has the same walk rate but he at least has a track record of limiting walks. I worry a bit about Reyes and that WHIP and the possibility of the Cardinals moving roles around.

  • Avatar Mike Honcho says:

    I gotta believe that the Twins will do all they can to get Colome right and get back to their preseason plan. It makes too much sense to have Robles and Rogers set up in a lefty-righty combo. Colome has too long of a track record to not be able to settle back in.
    I keep reading Fulmer may have earned his way into the closer role, but won’t get that many opps. Really??
    Bad teams play a lot of low scoring games and have plenty of 3-run or less leads.

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