Closing Time: 60 Game Season Edition

Rick Graham ranks the game's closers heading into Spring Training 2.0

Hey all. Baseball is finally back, and while not ideal, let’s hope we are able to get through a 60 game season safely. While the shortened season does have an impact on the game, it’s not going to cause a ton of movement here compared to my rankings back in March.

There are some things that we should take into account, however, when looking into what relievers to target in a short season. First, the expectation for innings for most relievers should fall between 20-30 IP. This gets me a little more excited for some of the pitchers who have struggled to stay healthy past 40+ innings in the past (Sean Doolittle, Keone Kela) as well as closers who are in that overworked category (Kenley Jansen, Brad Hand, Craig Kimbrel), as the extra time off and sprint as opposed to marathon style of the season should help them.

The other issue with such a short season—which is probably more related to holds/non-closer relievers—is that the “upside” options take a hit since there likely won’t be enough time for them to move up the depth chart into a prominent high leverage role. This is just a hunch as it could wind up being the complete opposite story and teams may be quicker to make role changes now more than ever. I just find it less likely that someone like James Karinchak sees save chances this year after losing 4 months of the season.

With that, let’s get to the list.

Notes

  • No changes to Tier 1, although we need to keep an eye on Corey Knebel‘s progress in the coming weeks as he returns from Tommy John surgery. He is expected to be ready by Opening Day, however, the expectation is that Josh Hader will remain the primary closer.  Here’s a quick reminder just how good Knebel and Hader were between 2017-2018.
    Pitcher IP Saves ERA WHIP K/9 xFIP
    Corey Knebel 131.1 55 2.54 1.13 14.66 2.73
    Josh Hader 129 12 2.30 .88 14.72 2.64
  • Nick Anderson gets moved down a spot and a tier despite still being the leading candidate for saves in Tampa Bay. There’s just more risk here than before as if he doesn’t begin the season in the role, he may be a total dud in the save column. That being said, I’m still buying at the right price, and it’ll be interesting to see where he is going to land in drafts now as his price was soaring before the shutdown.
  • As mentioned above, I’d expect the shortened season to benefit the likes of Kenley Jansen, Brad Hand, and Craig Kimbrel. Jansen and Hand certainly could use the time off as they seemed to wear down in the second half of 2019. Kimbrel I am still more skeptical about as he’s been trending downward since the second half of 2018 and the time off didn’t do him well last season. Perhaps in a short season, knowing he only needs to get through roughly 25 innings or so, he empties out the tank and wins comeback player of the year.
  • Sean Doolittle could benefit the most from the shortened season as the veteran reliever has typically pitched better in the first half of seasons before wearing down in the second half. However, there is some risk here as there is a chance he decides to sit out this season. If he decides to sit out, Daniel Hudson would likely be next in line to close out games and would fall into that tier 5 grouping. But if he opts in, Doolittle could be a steal in drafts as he should be healthy and ready to go for 20-30 innings this summer.
  • Giovanny Gallegos takes the biggest hit with the shortened season, as not only are we not sure who will be closing for the Cardinals opening day, there’s a good chance Jordan Hicks will be on the opening day roster now. I still like taking a gamble on Gallegos, but with Hicks available, it diminishes his chance to run away with the job. The expectation as of now is for the Cardinals to go with a committee, with Hicks slowly being worked back into the mix as the season progresses.

 

RankPitcherChange
1Josh HaderT1+UR
2Kirby Yates+UR
3Aroldis Chapman
T2
+UR
4Roberto Osuna+UR
5Liam Hendriks+UR
6Taylor Rogers+UR
7Ken Giles+UR
8Nick Anderson
T3
+UR
9Kenley Jansen+UR
10Edwin Diaz+UR
11Brad Hand+UR
12Hector Neris+UR
13Brandon Workman+UR
14Craig Kimbrel
T4
+UR
15Jose Leclerc+UR
16Raisel Iglesias+UR
17Hansel Robles+UR
18Sean Doolittle+UR
19Giovanny Gallegos+UR
20Archie Bradley
T5
+UR
21Alex Colome+UR
22Mark Melancon+UR
23Ian Kennedy+UR
24Keone Kela+UR
25Joe Jimenez+UR
26Mychal Givens
T6
+UR
27Wade Davis+UR
28Brandon Kintzler+UR
29Yoshihisa Hirano+UR
30Tony Watson+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 Perfect Game says:

    Nice write up. I’m in a shallow 6-team S+H league. Would you target the closers with the most job security vs. the top holds guys?

    Not having one of the top closers, I go back and forth thinking the top holds guys will have better ratios and K rates than the 2nd or 3rd tier closers. But, wonder if holds will be much more spread out depending on bullpen usage and expanded pitching rosters.

    I currently have Rogers, Anderson and Workman. Was thinking of ditching Workman for either Pressly or Pagan or trading him for Diaz. Thoughts?

    • Avatar Rick Graham says:

      I think I’d wait things out and see how Anderson is used in TB first. Ideally, you probably would want at least 2 closers. I still prefer Pressly to Workman, but in a small league such as that, I’m sure SV+HD totals will be quite high.

      • Avatar Perfect Game says:

        Want to give you more context of the make up of my league. Most of the 6 teams in my roto league carry 2 closers.

        Team 1 has Hader and Hendriks.
        Team 2 has Osuna and Hand.
        Team 3 has Giles, Jansen and Pomeranz.
        Team 4 has Yates, Chapman, Lugo and Ottavino.
        Team 5 has punted the SV+HD category and only has Diaz.
        My Team has Rogers, Anderson and Workman.

        We have 2 RP and 2 P slots where relievers can be in the starting lineup. Unless I have a SP starting that day, I may be the only one who consistently places 3 RP in my starting lineup at the same time.

        All that said, would I be in a better position than my competition to lead in SV+HD counts while being competitive in ratios if I dropped or traded Workman and replaced him with Diaz, Pressly or Will Smith?

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