Survival of the fittest at the closer position a month and a half in to the season. Of the 30 MLB teams, only 17 have had the same closer since opening day. At this rate we will have only 4 by the All-Star break. That shouldn’t happen, things should settle down but it hasn’t yet so who knows. This week we lost Aroldis Chapman to a shoulder injury, tentatively expected to keep him out around a month. They will probably play it safe with him as they don’t lose too much with Delin Betances in that role, so they could hold him out til the All-Star break. Edwin Diaz also decided to go all Fernando Rodney on us and has lost his job for the time being as a result. I fully expect him to be closing again sooner rather than later and now may be the best time to buy low for a potential monster second half from him. The fact that the Mariners are going with a 4-5 man committee to replace him, suggests it wont be long til he gets another crack at closing out games.
TIER 1: Nothing Compares 2 U
- Craig Kimbrel just continues to avoid bats like the plague. Most (myself included) believed a downward spiral was going to consume Kimbrel this year, but he has bounced back and is arguably better than he has ever been. He is averaging 98MPH on his fastball, which is a career high. He’s also backing that up by throwing his curveball at a career high rate (35%) as well. Both pitches have been basically unhittable (2 hits vs. the curve, 4 hits vs. the fastball).
TIER 2: Save Tonight
- Matt Bush is arguably a top 5 reliever right now, if you don’t take into account saves or holds. The Rangers have struggled but things are looking up for them, with multiple players due back from the DL in the next month or so to help with the offense and starting pitching. The saves opportunities will come, and when they do, Bush will be an elite closing option for fantasy purposes.
- Dellin Betances will be the Yankees closer for the next month, possibly more, giving him some nice added value in standard save only leagues, where he should have already been owned. He’d be top 5 rest of season if Aroldis Chapman were out that long, but enjoy the extra saves for now.
- While the position has been a dumpster fire at times, Raisel Iglesias has sneakily put together a high quality year, and like others, his peripheral numbers seem to indicate it’s not a fluke. I’m bumping him up into the top 12 due to how safe a play he has been and should be all year.
TIER 3: Bound for the Floor
- Addison Reed will probably be the Mets closer for the remainder of the season, and while he has a flashy 22/0 K/BB ratio and sub 4 WHIP, there’s still some reason for concern long-term. While he is missing bats a good clip and not issuing any free passes, his FIP (4.03) suggests his ERA will continue to rise a bit. That combined with pitching for a shaky Mets team makes him just a middle of the pack option.
- Corey Knebel is taking over closing duties “temporarily” from Neftali Feliz. In all likelihood, he should take the job and run with it for the rest of the season. That’s far from a sure thing giving Knebel’s past, but he has been lights out this season for the most part, and certainly has all the tools to flourish in the role. But if Feliz gets his act together and Knebel has just one meltdown, they could ended switching roles once again.
- While the top half of this tier has some boom/bust to them, the bottom half is relatively safe moving forward. Just don’t expect much help with ratios or K’s.
TIER 4: Better Days (and the Bottom and Out)
- Brandon Maurer hasn’t been as bad as his ERA suggests, but it would be nice to see what a healthy and effective Carter Capps could do at the back-end of that bullpen. His job is probably safe for a while, while Capps struggles mightily in his rehab assignment.
- I know I sound like a broken record but the Nationals really need to make trade for a closer if they won’t give Koda Glover a chance to keep the job. He’s certainly not a sure thing to be the answer, but its become quite clear that it’s not Shawn Kelley or Blake Treinen.
- As I said in the opening paragraph, Edwin Diaz will be back, with vengeance. Maybe it’s because I’ve been high on him all year and I’m just stubborn to give up on him, but he is just way to talented to not be dominant for some stretch of time. He’s also healthy, so just a little mechanical tweak could put him back in position to be an elite closer again.