Closing Time 7/6: Ranking the Top 30 Closers Every Tuesday

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

It’s been a fun run for Miami closer Yimi García, but it appears it’s coming to an end soon. Not necessarily because of Sunday’s epic meltdown or the fact the Anthony Bender is clearly the team’s best reliever, but mostly because the Marlins will likely be trading him this month. There are a few teams that may trade for a reliever to become their closer, but more often than not, contending teams trade for these types of relievers to shore up the bridge to their current closer. The problem with García is that he really needs to be in a good pitcher’s park and environment to succeed as he allows a ton of hard contact and has very average swing and miss potential. While we wait for a potential move, it’s getting to be about that time to stash Bender in leagues where saves are hard to find. Among that tier of closers to be traded (tier 5), Bender easily has the highest floor and upside of the potential replacement closers.

 

Notes

 

  • Craig Kimbrel deserves the long overdue jump up the board this week, but I am still hesitant to vault him into that top tier. He’s been fantastic for the 30.2 innings he’s thrown this year, but keep in mind that he’s only pitched a total of 31 innings since 2019. I just worry that at his age, with the number of innings he’s logged over his career, will he have enough gas in the tank to keep up this pace for the second half of the season?
  • Yesterday’s rocky outing aside (non-save situation), Alex Reyes has been pitching very well since the whole MLB crackdown on sticky substances, and his control has actually improved, walking just two over the past 7.2 innings. He’s allowed runs in back-to-back games, but I wouldn’t worry too much about that as the first one can be chalked up to Coors and he shouldn’t have been pitching in yesterday’s game.

 

  • So, things have not been going well for Aroldis Chapman over the past month-plus, but in particular, since June 17, two days after the league sent out a memo about sticky stuff violations. Since then, Chapman has made five appearances (3.1 IP), allowing seven hits, 10 earned runs, nine walks, two home runs, and a hit batter. That’s more than just worrisome, bordering on time to panic as the Yankees can’t afford to keep blowing leads like they have been. I imagine Chapman gets the next save chance, but if that goes poorly, we could see a temporary change or possibly an IL stint here.
  • There’s a minor switch in the middle of the ranks this week, as Jake McGee and Kendall Graveman have been bumped up a tier, as I think it’s safe to say they are their respective team’s sole closers now. Whereas Diego Castillo still has to deal with the Rays being the Rays and James Karinchak is in a 50/50 split for saves with Emmanuel Clase (although that may have changed after last night).

 

  • Is it (finally) time for Scott Barlow to be the Royals closer full time moving forward? For the sake of consistency with this list every week, I sure hope so, and the All-Star snub certainly deserves the promotion. Barlow is far and away the best reliever in this bullpen, but manager Mike Matheny likes to shake things up based on matchups or whatnot, so for now, he is in the high upside committee tier (plus Lou Trivino).
  • Perhaps the Rangers are regretting not trying to move Ian Kennedy earlier, as he has not been quite the same since returning from the IL. In fact, the entire trade tier has been shaky as of late, potentially lowering their potential trade value leading up to this month’s deadline. With three weeks left before the deadline, expect the rumor mill to heat up once we get past the All-Star break.

 

  • The Phillies seem to have landed on their interim closer, with Ranger Suárez getting the call this past weekend for two save opportunities. It’s certainly well deserved for the left-handed Suárez who has an ERA and WHIP under one for the season in 31.2 innings of work. Suarez has limited strikeout upside as he pitches to contact, inducing plenty of weak groundballs with his sinker/changeup combo that makes him effective against right-handed hitters.
  • The Reds may have found their interim closer as well this past weekend, with Heath Hembree locking up two saves against the Cubs on back-to-back days. Hembree is almost the complete opposite of Suárez, as he has an ERA over five for the season but he does have a ridiculous 41.7% K rate on the year. Hembree does allow a ton of hard contact and fly balls, but he does have a K-BB rate you look for in a potential closer. Both Suárez and Hembree are worth speculative adds in most fantasy leagues.

 

Rank Pitcher Change
1Josh HaderT1-
2Liam Hendriks-
3Craig Kimbrel
T2
+3
4Ryan Pressly+1
5Edwin Diaz-1
6Matt Barnes+1
7Kenley Jansen+1
8Raisel Iglesias+1
9Alex Reyes+3
10Aroldis Chapman
T3
-7
11Will Smith-1
12Jordan Romano-1
13Mark Melancon-
14Brad Hand-
15Jake McGee+2
16Kendall Graveman+2
17Diego Castillo
T4
-2
18James Karinchak-2
19Scott Barlow+UR
20Taylor Rogers-1
21Lou Trivino-1
22Richard Rodriguez
T5
+1
23Daniel Bard+1
24Ian Kennedy-3
25Yimi Garcia-3
26Ranger Suarez
T6
+UR
27Heath Hembree+UR
28Cole Sulser+1
29Jose Cisnero-2
30Joakim Soria-

 

Stash List

 

Photo by Gregory Fisher/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.

  • Mike Honcho says:

    Rank these as who has the best chance at getting and keeping the closer job ROS?
    Hembree, R.Suarez, Bender, Merryweather, or Fulmer.

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