Closing Time 6/15: Ranking the Top 30 Closers Every Tuesday

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

Mark Melancon currently leads the leagues in saves with a whopping 19, to go along with a sub one ERA and WHIP, so why the dip in the rankings? Well for starters, he only has five saves over the past 30 days, as I’ve said before, saves typically level out and his pace from April through the middle of May was just never sustainable. In a world where the 40+ save closer is exceedingly rare these days, I’d bet on Melancon never reaching the 40 save mark this season. Since 2017, only seven relievers have tallied 40 or more saves in a season, with the only one in 2019 being Kirby Yates who finished with 41 saves. It’s certainly doable, but you need to remain in the closer role for the full season to have a chance. This year’s best bets for 40+ saves are still Josh Hader and Liam Hendriks, although Craig Kimbrel could have a shot as long as he remains healthy.

Melancon has also been very mediocre since the start of May, bordering on just plain bad with a 4.65 FIP, 5.01 SIERA, 10/10 BB/K rate, and 13 hits allowed over 15.1 innings pitched. I considered moving him down into the low upside tier, but I kept him in this tier for two reasons. One, his save upside still remains incredibly high as long as he is the Padres closer. He also won’t be traded this season, and the only way he gets removed from the closer role is if it’s self-inflicted. The one caveat to that being, we’ve seen how aggressive the Padres are willing to be on the trade market, so no one would be surprised if they went out and added a premiere closer at the deadline. So what should you do if you currently roster Melancon? The answer is probably nothing, and while you can try and move him for other needs or another reliever, he’s worth holding on to as long as he is in the closer role.

 

Notes

 

  • The top two tiers remain roughly the same, but tier-three has moved around a bit. This is the “definite closer with upside…but beware” tier. Will Smith’s longest scoreless outing streak for the year is four games, which he did once in May. He’s had two streaks of three games in a row without a run allowed, once in April and again in late May, but other than that, he is allowing runs almost every other outing. Despite this, he still remains entrenched as Atlanta’s closer and gives you a great K rate (33.6%) and a sturdy WHIP (1.17).
  • Alex Reyes continues to be one of only two full-time closers to not blow a save this season (the other being Hader), which is remarkable considering his walk rate (20.4%) and that 1.34 WHIP. The only thing holding him back from being in the next tier really is that walk rate, which is just not a survivable number. If he continues to walk hitters at that rate, major regression will be coming eventually, as his 4.55 xFIP and 4.60 SIERA indicate.

 

  • Tier four represents the “high upside, but what exactly will their role be” tier. Jordan Romano hasn’t been used in a closer spot for a while now, as for whatever reason the Jays continue to trust Rafael Dolis in the 9th inning. Romano has only pitched in three games this month, and his last save came back in late May. That hopefully changes this week. Lucas Sims should be the Reds closer, but him coming in to get one out in the sixth inning of a game last week implies he won’t be used strictly as the team’s closer.
  • The other three in this tier saw a reliever other than themselves close out games for their respective teams last night. Pete Fairbanks got the save for the Rays last night while Diego Castillo worked the eighth inning against the top of the White Sox lineup. Expect that trend to continue, with Castillo getting the top part of opposing lineups late in games, whether it be the 7th, 8th, or 9th. James Karinchak got the last out in the seventh before pitching the eighth, with Emmanuel Clase working the ninth for just his first save since May. The team is going to be cautious with Clase it seems, as he’s only pitched three games this month, so I wouldn’t rule out Karinchak continuing to see save chances here. Over the past three weeks, they each have two saves apiece. Kendall Graveman is finally back with the Mariners, but he has yet to see a save chance, with Rafael Montero and Drew Steckenrider getting opportunities instead. That could, and probably should change this week, although it’s worth monitoring Gravemans velocity, which has been down since his return.

 

  • Tier five is the “low upside, but definitely a closer” tier. They are relatively “safer” than the tier four options, but there is risk for all but one of them to be traded in the next month and a half. Brad Hand actually is second amongst all closers over the past month with nine saves, and while things have been better in the ratio department for him in June, I still worry about his declining skill set.
  • Lou Trivino is the one closer in this tier who we need not worry about being moved next month, but there should still be some concerns about his ability and how long he will last in the closer role. I still see Jake Diekman as the superior pitcher, and there have been positive reports on Trevor Rosenthal lately. However, for now, Trivino is definitely the guy in Oakland, as he has picked up the A’s past five saves and he has looked much better in June (0 ER, .79 WHIP, 1/6 BB/K rate) compared to May (5.06 ERA, 1.69 WHIP, 8/7 BB/K rate).

 

  • Tier six is the “committee” tier, with a couple of low-upside committee options at the moment. It looks like Tyler Rogers could be out as the Giants closer with Jake McGee picking up a save last night and Rogers working the eighth. Rogers has been shaky as of late, but it would still surprise me if he doesn’t remain part of the ninth-inning mix. The Orioles have only had one save chance over the past two weeks, but Paul Fry was able to lock it down. Who knows what the Royals plan on doing if a save opportunity should arise anytime soon, but I suppose Josh Staumont hasn’t done anything to lose that job yet.
  • I wonder if Hansel Robles is more closer 1B in Minnesota currently, as Taylor Rogers picked up the team’s last save chance and Robles worked the eighth inning of a tie game yesterday. I suppose it all depends on matchups, which favors the right-handed Robles but if I had to roster one right now, it’d be Rogers. Michael Fulmer returned from the IL yesterday and could jump right back into some save opportunities, but that’s far from guaranteed.

 

Rank Pitcher Change
1Josh HaderT1-
2Liam Hendriks+1
3Aroldis Chapman-1
4Edwin Diaz
T2
-
5Ryan Pressly-
6Craig Kimbrel+2
7Matt Barnes-1
8Kenley Jansen-1
9Raisel Iglesias
T3
-
10Will Smith+2
11Hector Neris-
12Alex Reyes+3
13Mark Melancon-3
14Jordan Romano
T4
-1
15Lucas Sims-1
16Diego Castillo+10
17James Karinchak+4
18Kendall Graveman+4
19Daniel Bard
T5
-2
20Yimi Garcia-2
21Brad Hand-2
22Richard Rodriguez-2
23Lou Trivino+4
24Tyler Rogers
T6
-1
25Paul Fry-1
26Josh Staumont-1
27Hansel Robles+1
28Michael Fulmer+UR
29Brett Martin
T7
+UR
30Stefan Crichton-

 

Stash List

 

Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/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 Mike Honcho says:

    Is T.Mahle too much for Pressly in a 12 teamer?
    Need saves and have 4 other top 30 SPs.

    • Rick Graham Rick Graham says:

      It’s close enough to fair value that if you need saves and have good SP depth, it makes sense on your end.

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