Closing Time 6/1: Ranking the Top 30 Closers Every Tuesday

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

Before the season started, I don’t think anyone had Craig Kimbrel as a top three reliever in WAR by the start of June but here we are, June 1st and Kimbrel is third amongst all relievers with 1.1 WAR. He’s truly got himself back on track as one of the league’s premier closers, with his signature strikeout numbers (41.6% Whiff rate, 42.4% K rate) and matching .82 ERA and WHIP. It’s truly been great to see over his first 22 innings pitched, so why is he still just seventh on the list? First, others in front of him have been awesome as well this season, so it’s hard to move them down. The real concern I have is whether or not Kimbrel can hold up over the course of a full season. He’s pitched a total of 36 innings since the start of 2019, so will he be able to comfortably get to 60 innings this year at age 33? I hope so, but time will tell, as he first started showing signs of decline in the second half of that 2018 season with the Red Sox.

 

Notes

 

  • Jordan Romano is running away with the Blue Jays closer role, as he should as he was the favorite for saves to begin the season for good reason. After a brief IL stint, Romano has been dominant over his past 15 outings, with a 1.20 ERA and .67 WHIP to go with a 21/4 K/BB ratio. The xStats once again back up Romano’s performance, as he holds a 36.5% Whiff rate and .233 xwOBA. Another week or two like the past month and expect Romano to move up into the top ten.
  • The Rays seem pretty confident in J.P. Feyereisen as their closer at the moment, and while it’s the Rays, we’ve seen this before with the likes of Emilio Pagan. While the next tier, tier 3, represents 4 closers who will likely be traded in the next two months, I think I’d take my chances with Feyereisen excelling in the closer role for at least those two months, or until Nick Anderson returns and things get murkier.

 

  • I worry that Alex Reyes could be the next Emmanuel Clase who may lose his job despite a sub-one ERA. He just puts way too many hitters on base for them to be comfortable with him in the role. The Cardinals don’t have many alternatives, with Giovanny Gallegos as the only other real option, but they do seem to prefer him in more of a setup/fireman role. For now, Reyes is “safe” but this can’t be sustainable right (.214 BABIP, 95.6% LOB, 4.54 xFIP, 4.64 SIERA, .350 xwOBAcon)?
  • As I mentioned before, Tier 3 represents the tier of soon-to-be-traded closers on bad teams. I originally thought Ian Kennedy may be the first to go, but it could be Richard Rodriguez who also happened to have his first bad week of the year, with back-to-back lousy outings. He’s been great so far this season, but he’s not getting Whiffs at the same rate we are used to but to be fair, he is throwing his fastball at a career-high 89.7%. Anyway, there are teams looking to compete this year that desperately need the bullpen help (Astros) and are assuredly looking into a trade for someone like Rodriguez and I’d expect the Pirates to sell high on their best reliever.

 

  • James Karinchak hasn’t exactly excelled since switching roles with Emmanuel Clase, allowing five hits while having a 5/5 K-BB ratio and two losses over his past four outings dating back to last Sunday. Yesterday may have been a turning point, with Karinchak losing game one for Cleveland and Clase picking up a save in game two of the doubleheader. Clase has been far from perfect over the past week or so as well, as the walks continue to pile up. I still like Karinchak for now, but this situation has gotten a lot dicier than expected.
  • Since he is still not back with the team, it appears that Kendall Graveman actually did test positive for Covid-19, and has missed out on some save opportunities in the meantime. The Mariners have used a bit of a mix in the role with Graveman out, but could it be possible for someone like Keynan Middleton to take the job and run with it? The Mariners probably prefer Graveman isn’t closing out games so they can use him in more of a setup/fireman, potential multi-inning role. I still think Graveman is the only Mariner reliever worth rostering for the time being, but it’s something to keep an eye on, especially the longer Graveman remains out.

 

  • The Reds still look like a team that will go the closer by committee approach, but it’s nice to see Lucas Sims get back-to-back saves this past week. I still expect Tejay Antone to get a couple of multi-inning save chances, but it looks like Sims could get a shot here to take control of the situation at least for the time being. He’s still been way too inconsistent to recommend in shallower leagues, but in 12-teamers he’s worth a shot, especially given the upside he carries.
  • The Twins are also locked in a committee, and it seems like every guy they give a save chance to fumbles it. Taylor Rogers still looks like the favorite but he’s coming off a near-blown save on Saturday in which he allowed two earned runs. Hansel Robles picked up a save yesterday working the 10th inning, but he too made things interesting as he allowed a hit, a walk, and a run to score before shutting the door.

 

  • Based on usage in the last few games, it seems the Orioles are going to go with Paul Fry as their closer moving forward, so I suppose that makes him worth a speculative add as he actually has pitched really well this season and is by far their best reliever right now. The problem is that this Orioles team can’t win games right now, so the save chances will be few and far between.
  • With Josh Staumont landing on the IL with a knee injury, it appears as if Greg Holland will slot back into the closer role for the time being and could get you a save or two in the next couple of weeks or completely blow up in your face. Either way, I’d prefer rostering him to anyone in Arizona at the moment.
Rank Pitcher Change
1Josh HaderT1-
2Aroldis Chapman-
3Liam Hendriks-
4Edwin Diaz
T2
-
5Ryan Pressly-
6Matt Barnes-
7Kenley Jansen-
8Craig Kimbrel-
9Raisel Iglesias+2
10Mark Melancon-1
11Hector Neris+1
12Will Smith+1
13Jordan Romano+9
14J.P. Feyereisen+UR
15Alex Reyes-1
16Ian Kennedy
T3
-1
17Yimi Garcia-
18Brad Hand-
19Richard Rodriguez-3
20James Karinchak
T4
-10
21Kendall Graveman-
22Lucas Sims+UR
23Taylor Rogers+UR
24Tyler Rogers-1
25Paul Fry+UR
26Michael Fulmer-
27Lou Trivino+1
28Daniel Bard+1
29Greg Holland+UR
30Joakim Soria+UR
Stash List

 

Photo by Jay Anderson/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 JP says:

    Thanks for writing this! I’ll definitely pick up Feyereisen. Quick note – I think the date is wrong in your headline. I was confused for a second.

  • Avatar Dhroa says:

    Love seeing this every Tuesday…

    Quick question, thoughts on Cesar Valdez?

    • Avatar Rick Graham says:

      Thanks Dhroa!

      I think it’s safe to move on from him outside of the deepest of leagues (or maybe AL-only). He was always a long shot to hold the job for the entire season and now seems to be back to 2nd/3rd in line for saves.

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