Instead of talking about someone who moved up or down the list here, I just want to point out how great Zack Britton has been so far this season, and if it were any other closer on this list returning from the IL, I’m not so sure he wouldn’t hang on to the job. I was skeptical at how much Britton would actually help fantasy owners as Aroldis Chapman was just waiting on two negative tests before returning, but per usual with IL stints, Chapman has taken a little longer than expected to return and Britton has taken full advantage.
While he could still be useful even when Chapman returns, as he’ll likely vulture a save or two, his value is definitely trending up in SV+HD formats, thanks to increased slider usage this season. In 2018, Britton was mostly a one-pitch pitcher, throwing his heater 94% of the time. Similarly to Chapman, he saw a dip in velocity, prompting him to start using his slider more often. Last year he upped his slider usage to 14%, and currently through four innings in 2020, he is throwing the pitch 28% of the time. It’s a small sample size, but his 13.9% SwStr and 30% K-rate would be his best since 2016.
Now currently tied with Joe Jimenez for the league lead in saves with four, even if Britton weren’t to pick up another save after Chapman returns, that number could very well put him around the top 20 for saves by the time the seasons over, especially the way things are going at the position. Add in the 0 earned runs allowed and .5 WHIP and that makes Britton well worth the late-round draft pick fantasy managers invested.
- After leaving a splitter up to Cody Bellinger with his second pitch of the 9th inning last night, Kirby Yates reverted back to his usual self, striking out the next three hitters, getting three Whiffs on six pitches with said splitter. Unlike the rest of Tier 3, I’m not too concerned with Yates early-season struggles and believe he may have figured things out last night after the Bellinger home run.
- Tier 2 features the Steady Eddie club, at least for now, as these guys all have control of the closer role and job security isn’t an issue… yet. Daniel Hudson looks to have the Nationals job sewn down, as Sean Doolittle continues to work through some things and Will Harris is on the IL. One thing of note, Hudson may be featuring a new pitch mix, as last year he threw a hard slider (87 mph) 23% of the time. It’s early, but he has only thrown three “sliders” this season, all for whiffs, averaging just 75 mph. His changeup usage is also up as a result, going from 6% last year to 13.5% this season. Again, it’s still very early, but that “slider” at 75 mph caught my eye.
- Tier 3 features all the classic “on the hot seat” guys, one blown save away from losing their job or possibly already out of the role guys. Kwang-hyun Kim has only pitched once so it may not be fair to group him in with the other two, but with the Cardinals having their Covid issues, I wonder if a. the time off allows Giovanny Gallegos to reclaim the closer role when the resume playing and/or b. we have to factor in a chance Kim himself could have Covid-19. Either way, he remains one of if not the biggest wildcard at the position.
- Tier 4 contains all of the replacement closers and/or timeshare guys. I had high hopes for Nick Burdi, but he likely needed to be near perfect before Keone Kela returns to keep that job for the rest of the season. Last night was a step in the wrong direction, while Kela has finally been cleared to return to the team. Burdi should continue to close for the next week or so, but that may only lead to one, maybe two more save chances, especially considering he won’t pitch on back to back days.
- I have Edinson Volquez in here as the Rangers closer, but it very easily could be Jonathan Hernandez. Hernandez features impressive stuff (think Jordan Hicks lite), but tie goes to the veteran Volquez, who even at his current age (37) is still averaging 95 mph with his fastball. He should get the first save chance, but don’t expect much leash should he struggle. If Corey Kluber returns before Jose Leclerc, does Kluber wind up closing out games in September?
- While I have Hansel Robles here, he’s almost certainly out as the Angels closer as he currently is just not right. His velocity is down 3 mph and his command has been all over the place (13.6 BB%). The problem is, there doesn’t seem to be a viable replacement at this point, as Ty Buttrey hasn’t been his normal self either, as he can’t seem to miss bats anymore. With a lot of other question marks in that bullpen, could someone like Felix Pena emerge as the teams closer?
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Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)