We are right in the middle of Spring Training and the World Baseball Classic as we inch closer to opening day, which means we are in prime fantasy baseball draft season. While there are some things of importance to take into consideration over the past few weeks, there hasn’t been a ton of changes this spring to elicit any major changes on the list. Luckily there have been very few injuries as far as relievers go to this point, and it’s still too early to worry about low velocity readings.
- I moved both Ryan Helsley and Félix Bautista down a tad, but they remain in this second tier as “probably sure thing” closers. I have some health concerns with both, as I get the sense the Cardinals are not looking to unleash Helsley this season and he could be limited to just 20 saves instead of reaching 30-40. With Bautista, who returned to game action yesterday, I just don’t feel great about him holding up for a full season given his history, size, and the fact he’s already been slowed this spring.
- I do think I’ve been too harsh on Kenley Jansen in these rankings, as he still was pretty great last season and might be one of the safest/steadiest closers in the game. I think the ceiling is limited though, and there’s no reason to expect a return to his prime form, but the Red Sox should be decent enough to give him plenty of opportunities, and he likely has the most room for error out of any closer.
- Jansen’s stability makes him feel like someone I’d much rather draft over anyone in tier 3, where there are plenty of question marks (as well as significant upside). Clay Holmes will open the season as the Yankees’ closer, but it’s hard to say for certain if that’s what his role will be come August (or even sooner). Aaron Boone recently acknowledged that Holmes won’t be the full-time closer and he’s right in that Holmes and his groundball skillset should be available earlier in games if needed. With David Bednar, it’s just the case of a good pitcher with injury concerns on a really bad team. He’s much closer to this next guy than anyone listed above him.
- Alexis Díaz is growing on me as one of the more underrated options in fantasy drafts right now, as we have a guy with a near-elite skillset and the closer role all to himself who just happens to pitch for a bad team in a hitter-friendly ballpark. The ballpark doesn’t concern me that much, but the Reds as a team are the only thing keeping him out of that next tier.
- Daniel Bard still seems like a trap at his current ADP, and I’d just prefer to stay away unless I’m getting a huge discount. He’s one of about 12 relievers who we can call “the” closer on a team, but his age and pitching in Coors just scare me away still. As valuable as he was last year, it did come with just a 12.4% SwStr% rate which should not sustain a 28.2% K rate again. His sinker command will need to be top-notch to repeat 2022.
- It’s been a terrible spring training so far, but I’m still high on Carlos Estévez with the Angels. The team still has shown confidence in him despite the spring training outings as they acknowledge he is working on some new things (he’s working on pitching at the top of the zone more … which is what we should want!), and I just don’t see any other option for an Angels closer to begin the year (Jimmy Herget‘s strikeout rate is not what you want from a closer).
- Reynaldo López and Evan Phillips are the two new additions to the list, and while it’s unclear if either will close out games early on in the season, both should be on your radar in most leagues. Kendall Graveman doesn’t fit the closer profile as Reynaldo does, but being a veteran on a bigger contract might still give him a leg up on the job. It shouldn’t though, as that seems like a move the former coaching staff would have made. Phillips should be in the drivers seat for early season saves with Daniel Hudson likely to miss part of April, and if he were ever to settle into the job full time, he has the type of upside that could vault him into tier 2.
- The Cubs closer situation is still very much unclear at the moment, but I do get the sense it may not be Brandon Hughes’ job to lose anymore. The team has brought in too many veteran relievers and Hughes is currently the only lefty in their bullpen. I still think Hughes is the most talented reliever on the opening-day roster (excluding Codi Heuer and Jeremiah Estrada) so if I had to take a shot on anyone here, it would be the guy who had 8 saves over the last month and a half of the 2022 season.
|Rank||Pitcher||Team||Notes (where to draft in bold)|
|1.||Jhoan Duran||MIN||Should be a closer but may be too valuable in 2021 role. Top of tier 3|
|2.||Andrés Muñoz||SEA||Should still see 10+ saves while helping in K’s and ratios. Top of tier 3|
|3.||Seranthony Domínguez||PHI||Most talented reliever in this four-man committee. Top of tier 4|
|4.||Jason Adam||TB||Could be option 1B in Tampa, worth a spot in 15 teamers. Middle of tier 4|
|5.||Kendall Graveman||CWS||May wind up in a timeshare with Reynaldo. Bottom of tier 4|
|6.||Taylor Rogers||SF||Kapler doesn’t like to stick with one closer. Bottom of tier 4|
|7.||Giovanny Gallegos||STL||Should still cut into Helsley’s save totals. Bottom of tier 4|
|8.||Aroldis Chapman||KC||Won’t start season in closer role, but is a threat to Barlow. Watch|
|9.||Jimmy Herget||LAA||Most likely to close out games if it isn’t Estévez. Watch|
|10.||Daniel Hudson||LAD||Veteran should be in the mix for saves once he returns. Watch/Stash|
Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)
I have Fairbanks and Lange as my bottom two closers on my team. Would it be smarter to cut Lange and pair Adams with Faibanks to add one combined closer or have one maybe closer in Fairbanks and what appears to be a locked in, but lesser opportunity closer in Lange?
I’d keep Lange over Adams. You’re definitely getting more saves this way, by handcuffing the Rays relievers your also handcuffing your potential saves output. If it was one of the lesser closers, maybe, but Lange is worth holding on to.
Appreciate it Rick!
Appears we all just lost Diaz. Think I might dump one of my bottom arm arm gambles and just grab Adams now lol
Rick, I don’t understand the dark print at the end of the watch list guys. Munoz, for example, has “top of tier 2”. Is that where he could be if he was closing instead of Sewald? Thanks for the article.
Hi Joe! I figured since it is draft season, I’d add in where I would draft the watch list guys right now.
And just like that Diaz goes down
You’ve got Jhoan Duran listed as to be drafted at “top of tier 2” — meaning there with Devin Williams, Pressly, Hader. What am I missing? Obviously not drafting a non-closer up with these guys.