Closing Time 7/28: Ranking the Top 30 Closers Every Tuesday

Rick Graham ranks baseball's closers for the 2020 season.

Just one weekend into the baseball season and this is already quite messy. Honestly, I feel as though tiers 5-7 are not too far apart, as half the league has some bullpen uncertainty that needs ironing out. There are even questions in the top half of the group, especially after Seth Lugo was called upon to get the final four outs of the game last night as Edwin Diaz.

For what it’s worth, I think Diaz looked good in his first two outings, and the HR by Marcell Ozuna was just a great job by Ozuna taking an up-and-away 98 mph fastball opposite field. Diaz’s Achilles heel last season was his slider, which so far has looked sharp with five swings and misses out of a total of 15 thrown. I know Diaz is on the hot seat after last season, but he should be allowed more than one blemish before being yanked from the closer role, even in a shortened season.

 

Notes

  • Craig Kimbrel last night was almost as bad as you’ll see from a closer, and at this point you have to feel for him after he was once a dominant force at the back end of games. The fact is, he just hasn’t been very good for over two years now, so this being his first outing of 2020 is a huge concern. I’d imagine the team still gives him another shot to keep the role, but Jeremy Jeffress may be worth a speculative add anyway.
  • Sean Doolittle worked in front of Daniel Hudson this past Sunday, and also gave up the go-ahead run in the eighth to earn a loss. It’s still too early to tell what the situation is here, as it may just be a situational thing, but Doolittle still takes a hit in the rankings. I wouldn’t consider Hudson a must-add, but for those needing all the saves they can get in bigger leagues, he should be on your radar. EDIT: I replaced Sean Doolittle with Daniel Hudson after Doolittle was used in a non-save situation prior to the 9th inning again tonight.
  • While he has yet to see a save opportunity, Nick Burdi is just far and away the Pirates best reliever right now and I’d imagine the only reason he didn’t pitch last night was to protect him pitching back-to-back days. Even if he’s not able to work on back-to-back days, I’m still buying Burdi wherever I still can as he looked awesome Sunday night. Despite being asymptomatic, Keone Kela has been testing positive for Covid-19 for a month now, so we really have no idea when he’d be ready to return. Burdi could run with this job if he’s given the chance to.
  • Oliver Drake‘s placement on this list doesn’t mean I think Nick Anderson is droppable, but it does mean I think Drake is worth adding in most leagues, even if he only has earned one save. The Rays are unconventional when it comes to roster usage, but they do tend to stick with one closer as compared to a full-blown committee. That closer has not necessarily been their best reliever, which could be the case with Drake, which is not to say he isn’t good, he did finish 2019 with a 32% K rate, 16.8% SwStr rate, and his splitter had a 37.8% Whiff rate. He did pitch for five different teams back in 2018 and is 33 years old, so this would be quite the story, but the unorthodox Drake closing out games this season does seem very Rays-like.
  • It appears as if Ken Giles will miss a significant chunk of the season as he was placed on the IL with an elbow/forearm injury, and surgery could very well be in his future. Anthony Bass will get the first crack to fill in for Giles, and converted a save last night without any drama. Bass should be a fine middle/low-tier closer option for those searching for saves, but there’s limited upside here with a 9.5% career SwStr%.
  • Trevor Gott looks like the Giants closer for now, but with Gabe Kapler things can change in a moment’s notice. He definitely deserves the role as he had been one of if not the Giants best-returning relievers. The Giants limit his upside, but given the closer landscape, he’s worth a look in most leagues. Just don’t expect much help in terms of ratios or Ks (8.1% career SwStr%).
  • Ian Kennedy‘s first usage of 2020 came surprisingly in the sixth inning in of a tie game this past weekend, and while he pitched well, it does look like Mike Matheny will be going in a different direction for the team’s closer role. Greg Holland came into a save situation that same game, and looked good, striking out Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor to end the game in the 10th. It looks like Holland may get the first crack at save chances and is worth rostering, but Trevor Rosenthal could be the next man up should he falter. I would wait at least another series before dropping Kennedy, but it feels like he may not be mixed league relevant this season.
  • This will likely be Zack Britton‘s last week as the Yankees closer, with Aroldis Chapman one more negative Covid test and a few bullpens away from returning to the Yankees’ bullpen. Brandon Kintzler was fine in his lone outing, but the Marlins situation is probably worth steering clear off for the time being. Taylor Williams got the Mariners’ first save chance, but this will probably be a revolving door this season until Yoshihisa Hirano or Austin Adams return.
RankPitcherChange
1Josh HaderT1-
2Kirby Yates-
3Roberto Osuna
T2
+3
4Liam Hendriks-1
5Taylor Rogers-1
6Kenley Jansen
T3
+2
7Brad Hand+2
8Hector Neris+3
9Edwin Diaz+1
10Brandon Workman+2
11Jose Leclerc
T4
+3
12Raisel Iglesias+3
13Hansel Robles+3
14Archie Bradley+4
15Alex Colome+4
16Mark Melancon
T5
+4
17Joe Jimenez+5
18Kwang Hyun Kim+5
19Craig Kimbrel-6
20Daniel Hudson+UR
21Nick Burdi
T6
+UR
22Oliver Drake+UR
23Anthony Bass+UR
24Wade Davis+2
25Trevor Gott+UR
26Greg Holland
T7
+UR
27Mychal Givens-
28Zack Britton-4
29Brandon Kintzler-4
30Taylor Williams+UR

Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm 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 Perfect Game says:

    I’m not sure, but didn’t N. Anderson pitch 1.1 IP the day or two before Drake was called to close? Surprised to see him off the closer list entirely.

    Is Anderson still worth keeping for a strong holds candidate or should I try to trade him for Liam?

    Looking for ratios and counting stats in S+H league. I have Hader, Rogers, Anderson and Pomeranz. Dropped Pressly after his elbow issue and blister before that.

    • Avatar Rick Graham says:

      Anderson pitched 1.1 inning in front of Drake the day he got the save. Anderson came in to finish the 7th and work the 8th.

      Anderson is still worth holding on to in every league for now, and is still an elite holds guy.

      • Avatar BB says:

        Isn’t it possible that the only reason Drake got that opportunity was Diego Castillo (who’s back now) being away on paternity leave?

        • Avatar Rick Graham says:

          100%. Anderson could get the next save or Castillo. Thats why Drake is so low on the list. If Cash came out and named him the closer, he might be top 10 given the current state of relievers in the league.

  • Avatar RC says:

    Seth Lugo is now the Mets closer, they just have not announced it yet. After Diaz reverted back to his 2019 form and coughed up a home run to tie the score I just do not see Diaz as the man. It completely took the wind out of the Mets sail and not only did they lose the game they were lifeless in the next game getting blown out by Atlanta the next day. Lugo is not only proven, he is also extremely talented. The Mets announcer Ron Darling called him one of the smartest pitchers in the league. In a 60 game season the only way Diaz gets an opportunity is if Lugo is not available, which could happen tonight.

    I would slot Lugo in as high as #6 because thats where the list gets a little shaky. In a couple of weeks I think Diaz will be a long way from #9 on the list. For the record I think Diaz is incredibly talented but closing is all about confidence and he has been a basket case his time in NYC.

    • Avatar Rick Graham says:

      If Lugo were announced as the new closer, he’d be in the top 6 for sure, but Diaz deserves more than one chance.

  • Avatar Firtree baseball says:

    Any concern about Hendriks after his blown save?

  • Avatar Jacob says:

    Not sure why you have Doolittle as the Washington closer. I would implore your readers to pick up Daniel Hudson. He’s only owned in 14% of CBS’s leagues. Doolittle has been pitching in the 7th inning and has barely hit 90 MPH. Hudson, who closed during their WS run is unquestionably their guy.

  • Avatar Mark M says:

    Do you think Gallegos gets his job back, or is it Kim’s to lose going forward?

    • Avatar Rick Graham says:

      Assuming Kim doesn’t move to the rotation, it should be his job to lose. Gallegos never really had a firm grip on it in Spring Training after all. He was always just rumored to be the guy.

  • Avatar Perfect Game says:

    Rogers has yet to appear in a game. True, the Twins have been blowing people out, but last night that went with Romo for the save. What’s up with that?

    • Avatar Rick Graham says:

      Baldelli’s reasoning was that Romo had already been warming up when it was a 6-2 game in the 8th, so he was already ready to go and needed work. It sounds like Rogers is healthy and still the closer.

  • Avatar Joey says:

    You used to list the setup man on this list. How come you don’t do that anymore?

  • Avatar David says:

    What about Kimbrel? I mean in a short season, what he did the other night… yikes.

    Shouldn’t Jeffress be an immediate add?

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