Closers


Closer Updates: As, Astros, BoSox, Braves, Brewers, Cubbies, Jays, Mets, Reds, Rockies, Yankees

Welcome back to another edition of Closer Updates. This edition will be chock full of injury updates and insight into this ever-changing MLB closer landscape. In addition to a few relievers being relieved of their ninth inning gigs, we’ve also got some injury scares and other relevant notes.

Atlanta Braves – Bravos fans and Craig Kimbrel owners held their collective breath when a sore shoulder shut the reliever down for the past few days. However, Kimbrel should not hit the DL and will be back to action soon after experiencing no discomfort in a recent bullpen session.

Boston Red Sox – After discovering tightness in his shoulder during a pregame long-toss session last week, Koji Uehara was shut down and Edward Mujica has been closing games in his stead. Look for Uehara to return soon after three solid bullpen sessions and an MRI which showed no ligament damage.

Chicago Cubs – After a very poor start to the season (4 appearances, 2 blown saves, 12.27 ERA, 2.46 WHIP), Jose Veras has officially lost his closer title in Wrigleyville. Pedro Strop (1 save, 4.76 ERA, 1.41 WHIP) and Hector Rondon (1 save, 0.00 ERA, 0.86 WHIP) are the two candidates most likely to replace him.

Cincinnati RedsAroldis Chapman is steadily making progress in his return to the big leagues. After throwing a bullpen session earlier in the week, Chapman appears to be getting close to being cleared to throw batting practice. After that step and a few more bullpen sessions, we’ll have a much clearer timeline. Jonathan Broxton, who recently returned from the DL, should be covering the ninth in Chapman’s absence.

Colorado Rockies – Although many pegged Rex Brothers as the closer-in-waiting in Colorado, LaTroy Hawkins has performed well so far this season (5 appearances, 3 saves, 1.93 ERA, 0.86 WHIP). The Rockies didn’t sign Hawkins to ride the pine and they will look for Brothers to improve his season numbers (3.18 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 4.8 K/9) before getting any save opportunities.

Houston Astros – Manager Bo Porter has done a great job sticking with the closer-by-committee approach. Thus far, three different relievers have earned a save for the Astros. Anthony Bass (5.06 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 1.7 K/9) leads the field with two, while Chad Qualls (3.86 ERA, 1.93 WHIP, 9.6 K/9) and Josh Fields (3.86 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 11.6 K/9) each have one.

Milwaukee Brewers – Although manager Ron Roenicke said that Jim Henderson would have an opportunity to pitch his way back into the closer role, Henderson has pitched poorly so far (7 appearances, 5.06 ERA, 1.69 WHIP) and may be squandering that opportunity. If he doesn’t get his act together soon, Francisco Rodriguez will continue to get more comfortable closing for the Brew Crew.

New York Mets – With Bobby Parnell out for the season, veteran closer Jose Valverde was supposed to take the ninth inning in Queens and run with it. However, Valverde has been underwhelming thus far (4.26 ERA, 1.26 WHIP) and has also allowed home runs to three of his last eight batters faced. Without much reliever depth, the Mets might look to Kyle Farnsworth (1.35 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 5.4 K/9) sooner rather than later.

New York Yankees – After hitting the DL earlier in the month with a groin injury, David Robertson is nearly ready to resume closing duties for the Yanks. Though Shawn Kelley has performed admirably in the role (7 appearances, 3 saves, 2.84 ERA, 0.79 WHIP), Robertson will take the role back when he returns to the team early next week.

Oakland Athletics – It’s official, Jim Johnson has lost his job as closer for the As. With a horrendous start (7.56 ERA, 2.16 WHIP), Johnson will try to work his way back into the good graces of Athletics manager Bob Melvin. While he takes that road to redemption, Sean Doolittle and Luke Gregerson will share closer duties.

Toronto Blue JaysCasey Janssen has begun his rehab in Florida after suffering from a back strain at the end of Spring Training. If all goes well, Janssen will return to the Jays this weekend and take back his closer job from Sergio Santos (4 saves, 3.38 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 18.6 K/9).

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



Closer Updates: A's, Astros, Cubbies, Jays, Mets, Redlegs, White Sox, Yanks

It’s time to check up on the closer scene once again. In addition to some position battles and struggling closers, we’ll also take a look at a few injury situations this week.

Chicago CubsJose Veras hasn’t had a great start to the season (0 saves, 10.13 ERA, 2.63 WHIP) and there are already rumblings that Pedro Strop should take over the closer role. Strop is clearly a part of the Cubs’ future plans, has pitched well thus far (1 save, 2.45 ERA, 1.09 WHIP) and may take the job in time, but manager Rick Renteria seems to be sticking with Veras in the short term.

Chicago White Sox – With early frontrunner Nate Jones battling injury, Matt Lindstrom has held the closer title for the White Sox since Opening Day. However, Lindstrom has been a bit underwhelming in 2014 (1 save, 9.00 ERA, 2.33 WHIP, 6.0 K/9) and this bullpen could continue to be shuffled as the season progresses.

Cincinnati Reds – Although Aroldis Chapman has been resuming baseball activities with some light workouts, he is still far from returning to the big leagues. In his stead, J.J. Hoover has struggled and the Reds will likely look to Jonathan Broxton (who was just re-activated from the DL) to close until Chapman returns.

Houston Astros – The closer-by-committee competition in Houston has come down to two different relievers, Josh Fields (1 save, 0.00 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 9.0 K/9) and Chad Qualls (1 save, 6.75 ERA, 2.25 WHIP, 10.1 K/9). Each have a single save this season and only time will tell whether Fields or Qualls can take over the ninth.

New York Mets – With Bobby Parnell on the DL for the rest of the season, Jose Valverde seems to have inherited the closer role in Queens. Valverde has the pedigree of a good closer (career 3.17 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 9.9 K/9, 287 saves) and he may be in line for another solid season for the Mets.

New York Yankees – On the other side of town, closer David Robertson also hit the DL with a groin injury. Robertson had been strong this season and the Yanks will likely look to a committee to replace him (led by Shawn Kelley, Adam Warren, David Phelps, and Dellin Betances).

Oakland Athletics – The Jim Johnson experiment has struggled since Opening Day. In his first five appearances, Johnson has earned one save, two losses, and two blown saves… not to mention that batters are hitting .529 against him. If these struggles continue, Ryan Cook or Luke Gregerson might get the call pretty soon.

Toronto Blue JaysSergio Santos has pitched well in place of the injured Casey Janssen so far (3 saves, 2.70 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, 12.6 K/9) and should continue to do so. Janssen is recovering nicely from a lower back injury and will return in the next couple weeks after a few rehab games.

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



RotoAuthority League Update: Closer Chaos

The RotoAuthority League is a highly competitive 12-team fantasy baseball league run by Tim Dierkes. The settings consist of standard 5 X 5 Rotisserie scoring and 23-man lineups along with 4 bench spots. In an effort to keep owners interested as well as to infuse new blood into the league, the teams that finish below 8th place are kicked out of the league each year. The author of this column just hopes he isn't one of them.

Over the next six months, I probably won't write about closers all that often. Here at RotoAuthority we already have great work put forth by my colleague Luckey Helms in the weekly Closer Update as well as the must-follow @CloserNews on Twitter. Given what we witnessed over the first week of the season, however, I feel no choice but to discuss how bullpens in flux have impacted the league.

Since the RotoAuthority League Draft two weeks ago, we've already seen an astounding total of five changes in who's getting the ball (or who we thought would get the ball) in the ninth. At this rate, it's possible we could be looking at unprecedented turnover in closer roles this season.

A Century of Misery

Demotion - Nate Jones

My squad comes first alphabetically, so I'll reluctantly have to start here. Jones displayed excellent skills last season, and he was a preseason target of mine. I thought I had gotten decent value when I grabbed him at the end of Round 15, given that only five closers were still on the board at the time. Well, I guess this is Exhibit A in support of the notion that roles matter in drafting closers. Even though we as a fantasy community had all assumed that Jones would be the guy, Manager Robin Ventura had yet to make a decision. Now Jones is on the DL, and my squad doesn't have a single closer. This isn't exactly the start I had in mind.

Brewsterville Bruins

Promotion -  Jose Valverde

Demotion - Casey Janssen

I think it says a lot about the volatility of closers that Valverde wasn't even in the Yahoo player pool until March 27th. The Brewsterville Bruins wisely picked up the veteran reliever just a few days later, and now he's the closer for the Mets. In Toronto Janssen may be on the DL, but it sounds like he could be back as soon as he's eligible to return. Overall then, the Bruins have witnessed a net positive from the recent closer turmoil.

E-Z Sliders

Promotion - Josh Fields

Demotion - Jim Henderson

The Astros were said to be going with a closer-by-committee, and that still may prove to be the case. Most fantasy pundits, though, believed Chad Qualls would be the first one to get a shot a the job. Instead, it was Fields who came in for the first save opportunity for the Astros. It doesn't take a whole lot to be a successful closer, so the young reliever could certainly hang onto this job all season long. That's not too bad for a player who went undrafted in this league. Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, fantasy owners were surprised when K-Rod, not Henderson, came in for the first save chance on Opening Day. Manager Ron Roenicke has indicated that Henderson could regain the role , but for now the E-Z Sliders are left patiently waiting to get any value of their Round 14 pick.

Men With Wood

Promotion - Francisco Rodriguez & Sergio Santos

Perhaps no owner has benefited more from the early-season closer madness than Men With Wood. First, this owner skillfully drafted Santos in Round 25, and then he grabbed K-Rod minutes after the veteran entered the game in the ninth on Opening Day. Santos may not have the job much longer, but he could certainly be closing once again this season should Janssen struggle or be traded. I personally don't have much faith in K-Rod, but that doesn't matter all that much. He's the guy right now in Milwaukee, and role takes priority when it comes to closers.

Smell the Glove

Demotion - Bobby Parnell

Tim Dierkes will be without his Round 15 selection for the rest of the season, as Parnell is set to undergo Tommy John surgery. Dierkes's two other closers, Ernesto Frieri and Jonathan Papelbon, are also off to poor starts. Accordingly, the bullpen for Smell the Glove doesn't look all that great right now. Still, few owners are as active on the waiver wire as Tim, and I'm confident he'll be just fine in the saves category.

Spirit of St. Louis

Promotion - Matt Lindstrom

Like Men With Wood, Spirit of St. Louis was on the ball when he grabbed Lindstrom just minutes after news broke that Robin Ventura had named the veteran reliever as his closer. If you count Aroldis Chapman on the DL, that gives this owner a total of four closers, a true luxury when it comes to trade negotiations in this league.



Closer Updates: As, Astros, Brewers, Cubbies, Dodgers, Jays, Mets, Orioles, Reds, Rockies, White Sox

It didn’t take very long for the closer conversations to start up around the big leagues. This week we’ll take a quick run around the league and discuss several different developments on the bullpen front. From injuries to surprise replacements, we’ve got a bit of everything for you.

Baltimore Orioles

Tommy Hunter was given the closer title just before Opening Day and he certainly earned his first save of the season against the Red Sox despite allowing two base runners early. Given that Hunter performed well in this high pressure situation, his job security got a little bit better.

Chicago Cubs

Jose Veras had a tremendously rough outing in his first save opportunity of 2014 (38 pitches, 1 hit, 1 earned run, 2 walks, 1 strike out, 1 blown save). If his struggles continue and Pedro Strop pitches well, Veras might be on the hot seat before too long.

Chicago White Sox

This closer situation is still quite uncertain. Ronald Belisario and Matt Lindstrom have both pitched well thus far, but Nate Jones has not. In his first 2014 appearance (17 pitches, 2 hits, 2 earned runs, 1 walk, and 1 blown save), Jones pitched poorly and opened the door for Belisario and Lindstrom.  For now, Lindstrom has the closer job.

Cincinnati Reds

Without Aroldis Chapman, Cincy is still looking for their closer. Because the Redlegs have not committed to J.J. Hoover, Sam LeCure, or Logan Ondrusek, former closer Jonathan Broxton may take the gig outright next week (or whenever he returns from the DL).

Colorado Rockies

LaTroy Hawkins had a rough outing during in his first save for the 2014 Rockies (36 pitches, 2 hits, 1 earned run, 1 walk, 1 strikeout). This could be a blip on the radar, but if he continues to need 30+ pitches for a save – Rex Brothers might be manning the ninth before we know it.

Houston Astros

Josh Fields earned the Astros’ first save of 2014 and looked good doing it (1.0 innings, 10 pitches, 1 strike out). Chad Qualls struggled in his first appearance and Matt Albers pitched well in his first two outings. At this point, it looks like Fields has a slight edge in this race.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Kenley Jansen is fine, but Dodgerland will be missing Brian Wilson for a little while. Wilson hit the DL this week with nerve irritation in his elbow and is being shelved indefinitely. Without a timeline for his return, Chris Perez should be next in line if Jansen struggles.

Milwaukee Brewers

The biggest closer surprise came when Brewers’ skipper Ron Roenicke sent in Francisco Rodriguez for the Brew Crew’s first save opportunity. Apparently Rodriguez, rather than Jim Henderson, is the pitcher to own in Milwaukee’s bullpen. However, Roenicke also stated that he hopes Henderson will re-take the role in time.

New York Mets

Bobby Parnell’s return to Queens did not last nearly as long as everyone had hoped. Although Tommy John surgery is not certain, an extended trip to DL is. Look for Jose Valverde to pick up Parnell’s save opportunities and he just might be the Mets’ closer moving forward.

Oakland Athletics

Jim Johnson’s Oakland debut was not exactly what Athletics nation was looking for. With a poor outing, Orioles fans could hear the home crowd booing all the way in Baltimore. Thus far, Johnson has two blown saves in his first two save opportunities of the season. Unless the Indians are simply Johnson’s kryptonite, this might the beginning of a rough season.

Toronto Blue Jays

With Casey Janssen on the DL, it seemed that Sergio Santos would be the closer in Toronto. However, Santos has been inconsistent thus far and Brett Cecil stepped in for his second career save on Wednesday against the Rays. We’ll have to stay tuned, but Cecil might be the one to own pretty soon.

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



Closer Updates: Astros, Jays, Reds, Rangers, White Sox

As you already know, the 2014 MLB season is already under way after a quick series in the Outback and our saves leader thus far is… drumroll please… Kenley Jansen, with a whopping 1 save and a fairly rough start (6.75 ERA, 1.50 WHIP). With Opening Day on our heels, let’s take a quick look at some of the other developments on the closer scene.

Chicago White Sox

The bullpen picture for the Sox is clear as mud. Lead man Nate Jones hasn’t quite taken over the role as some had hoped and manager Robin Ventura recently acknowledged that a closer might not be named prior to Opening Day. Matt Lindstrom and Ronald Belisario are both still in the mix, but so is Javy Guerra – who was just picked up on waivers from the Dodgers.

Cincinnati Reds

With Aroldis Chapman out for at least a month, the closer job in Cincy will be a hot topic until he returns. J.J. Hoover should have the job going into the season after a strong 2013 (69 appearances, 2.86 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 3 saves). Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall are still working their way back from injury and won’t be ready for Opening Day.

Houston Astros

Rather than naming a closer before Opening Day, the Astros have opted to go with a closer-by-committee approach to start the season. Manager Bo Porter made it clear that he’ll be examining matchups before deciding who gets the nod. Right now, the group of potential candidates includes Chad Qualls and Josh Fields, as well as Kevin Chapman, Matt Albers, and Anthony Bass. If nobody takes the gig by May, Jesse Crain should emerge as the favorite once fully healthy.

Texas Rangers

It seems that manager Ron Washington has made up his mind and Joakim Soria will be the closer in Texas on Opening Day. With 160 career saves, look for Washington to stick with the two-time All Star through any early struggles. Former frontrunner Neftali Feliz was just sent to AAA and will try a move to the starting rotation while Alexi Ogando will assume the role of setup man.

Toronto Blue Jays

After a lengthy recovery from a shoulder injury, Casey Janssen made his spring debut on Monday and had a scoreless appearance. However, Janssen never topped 86 mph and this lack of velocity is a small red flag. That being said, Janssen should come back to full strength after a few more outings and his fastball will follow shortly thereafter. If not, April might be rough.

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



Closer Updates: Astros, Dbacks, Dodgers, Os, Rangers, Reds, Rockies, White Sox

With the Opening Series in Sydney, Australia a few days away, the fantasy season is nearly upon us. Because there are a few closer position battles still undecided, we’ll give you updates on them and the teams prepared to start the season Down Under. If you were hoping to find Closer Rankings, they were posted a few weeks ago and can be found here.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Addison Reed was brought to the desert via trade this offseason and the Dbacks are happy to have him man the ninth. Reed will look to provide some stability to the bullpen this season and, with a fresh start in Australia, he might just pluck a save this weekend.

Baltimore Orioles

Once Jim Johnson headed out west, most thought that the Os would hit the free agent wire looking to replace him. Although Grant Balfour was nearly brought in to close, it seems that the job has fallen to Tommy Hunter. While Hunter may not have the tightest grip on the closer reins, he should have the gig come Opening Day.

Colorado Rockies

Despite all of the Rex Brothers hoopla, the Rockies are still paying LaTroy Hawkins the big bucks. Even with Manager Walt Weiss stating that Brothers will get the occasional save, he won’t be worth much if Hawkins is still getting (and converting) a large majority of the save opportunities.

Chicago White Sox

A few weeks ago, the White Sox closer picture was an absolute mess. However, it seems that Nate Jones has begun to emerge as the favorite. This frontrunner has pitched in five games this Spring Training without giving up a run and has recovered nicely from a gluteal sprain suffered early in camp.

Cincinnati Reds

Panic spread through Reds Nation on Wednesday night when Aroldis Chapman was struck in the face by a come-backer. After being carted off the field, Chapman was taken to a local hospital where fractures in his face were discovered. While any type of fantasy impact is unclear at this time, this injury could be significant if Chapman is forced to miss time.

Houston Astros

Although far from decided, it seems that the Opening Day job will come down to Josh Fields (who performed admirably in the role last season after Jose Veras’ departure) and Chad Qualls (with 51 career saves). That being said, wait around for Jesse Crain, who should pitch well enough (when fully healthy) to wrestle the ninth from Fields or Qualls.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Kenley Jansen is a hot commodity this season as he tries to prove that last year’s numbers (1.88 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 13.0 K/9, 28 saves) were not a fluke. With the chance to learn from a trio of former closers with 377 career saves (Brandon League, Chris Perez, Brian Wilson), Jansen just might begin his march to the top of the closer rankings this weekend at the Sydney Cricket Grounds.

Texas Rangers

The best kept secret in the Rangers’ clubhouse is who Manager Ron Washington will name as closer. Unfortunately, we have not been privy to that information and will continue to speculate like everyone else. Neftali Feliz and Joakim Soria are still battling it out this Spring Training. Feliz has begun to regain his velocity and Soria has been effective in each outing, so stay tuned before committing to either…

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



How to Win 2014: Saves

No category and position are more closely related than Saves and the closers who luck into earn them. You certainly can't make up for lousy saves production out of your relievers by getting a third baseman who specializes in closing out ballgames. (You know...they way you might compensate for non-stealing middle infielders....) So, we're stuck with relievers.

There are more problems with relievers: they're inconsistent from outing to outing and year to year; they're pitchers and so more likely to get injured than others; they pitch in extremely small sample sizes, so luck doesn't even come close to evening out and a single bad night can ruin a season's ERA; their accumulation of Saves is subject to team performance, and that not even of winning but of winning by a certain small margin; their presence in the closer's role is dependent entirely on managerial fiat.

Wow. That list of problems is even worse in print than it was in my head. No wonder RotoAuthority's resident closer expert, Luckey Helms, argues against paying for saves

But I digress. The risks associated with relief pitchers aren't the topic of this article. How to reap their benefits is.

Strategy 1: Buy Those Saves

When you look at RA's Closer Rankings (or anyone else's, probably), you'll see four names far above the rest: Craig Kimbrel, Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman, and Greg Holland. In some outlets you might see our fifth through seventh guys rated near them as well: Koji Uehara, Joe Nathan, and Trevor Rosenthal. These seven pitchers aren't so highly rated because they're the best sources of saves, though.

No, premium closers are premium because they do so much more than save games, offering the possibilities of sub 2.00 ERA's and K/9's over 12.00. All that is great if you're looking to build a balanced fantasy team (which you probably should), but it comes at a very high price. Getting one of these closers as an anchor could be a good idea if you're already willing to spend auction dollars and high draft picks on a closer, but getting two or three of them is likely a price too dear.

But that's not so bad, because there's no guarantee that the best closers will earn the most Saves. Sure, they've got the best odds to do so, but that doesn't keep Jim Johnson from saving 50 games a season with a K/9 of literally zero.* You can get saves without elite relievers. You can win Saves without elite relievers. You just need volume.

*Actually, his career number is 5.96, also known as figuratively zero.

When I advocate paying for saves, I tend to think in terms of my eighth-twelfth round draft picks--it's a lot tougher for me to part with auction cash than it is fourth-tier corner infielders and mid-rotation starters. While it's hard for me to part with a third round pick for Kimbrel and his greatness (the ghost of Eric Gagne keeps reminding me that only Mariano Rivera can be great forever), it isn't so hard for me to give up two or even three of my middle-round draft picks to lock down some saves. When I do, I'm really not looking for closer excellence; in fact, I want just one thing: job security.

Okay, I want excellence too, if I can get it, but job security is my top priority when I employ this strategy. With only this one factor under consideration, let's do a little re-ranking of closers.

Total Security

These guys have been closing games for a long time, earned the trust of their team, or just got a big pile of cash from a new team after closing games for a long time. Their managers likely can't remove them from the role without permission from the front office. They will safely ride all temporary storms:

Kimbrel, Nathan

Wow. Just two. No wonder they're so expensive.

Very Secure

These guys will have long leashes thanks to their strong track records, or standout performance, though they may not have been in the ninth very long. Their teams may have few other solid bullpen options:

Chapman, Holland, Jansen, Glen Perkins, Sergio Romo, Steve Cishek

Varying levels of quality here, but some potential value.

Mostly Secure

These guys are either quite good, or their team has few other options, but not both. They may be talented pitchers but lack the "proven closer" merit badge. Or their team may have had a turbulent recent history in the closer's role and be more open than most for quick changes. An extended stretch of bad luck could result in a demotion:

Uehara, Rosenthal, Casey Janssen, Johnson, David Robertson, Jason Grilli, Ernesto Frieri, Grant Balfour, Jonathan Papelbon, Fernando Rodney, Bobby Parnell

There are a lot of ways to be just "mostly secure," but these guys are still good bets to keep their job all year.

Basically Secure

These guys own their job without question for now, but poor performance could change that, as they aren't established, have inconsistent histories, or their teams have multiple decent alternatives:  

Addison Reed, John Axford, Jim Henderson, Rafael Soriano, Huston Street, Jose Veras

Out of this group, falling strikeout rates and the presence of elite setup guys in their bullpens makes me think that Soriano and Street are particularly volatile. I won't be drafting either in any format.

On Thin Ice

These guys have next to no job security (but may be available very late in drafts for excellent potential value):

Tommy Hunter, LaTroy Hawkins

Fighting for the Job

These guys don't technically have the job, but are in the lead for it at the moment. When they get it, their prize will be to move to the "On Thin Ice" tier. Yay for them. Their top competitors are in parentheses:

Neftali Feliz (Joakim Soria, Tanner Scheppers), Nate Jones (Matt Lindstrom, Daniel Webb, plus a bunch of other guys), Chad Qualls (Josh Fields, the injured Jesse Crain)

Possession is nine tenths of the law in closer land, so anyone who does end up with a job is worth drafting in the hopes that good luck and inertia are in your favor.

Job Stealers

These guys have a better shot than most at stealing a closing gig at some point in the season. If your purpose in drafting non-closing relievers is to snag saves, these are your guys:

Mark Melancon, Pedro Strop, Joaquin Benoit, J.J. Putz, Rex Brothers, Tyler Clippard, Darren O'Day, Cody Allen

Also included are anyone who loses in the above closer battles.

Strategy 2: Don't Pay for Saves--but Don't Ignore Them

I spent a lot of time on the first strategy, so I won't fill up too much more space with this one. Frankly, it's pretty straightforward, just a lot easier said than done.

A caveat: I don't find this to be a worthwhile strategy in leagues with weekly free agent/waiver wire moves--you need to pay to compete in those formats.

The first thing to do is set aside some roster space for relievers. Maybe you use some late-round picks on the dark horses in closer battles, or some slightly-less-late-round picks on the leading candidates or even full closers with low job security. Or maybe you just take the best setup guys available, regardless of whether or not their closer has good security. Whatever.

No matter what you do with this roster space (and you'll want at least three roster slots for this, I should think), you'll be treating the players you draft as highly expendable. These are your rotating Saves slots for now, not players on your team.

You also need to start following @CloserNews on Twitter. No Twitter account? Get one if you don't want to pay for Saves. Use this advice not only to find out which closers are about to lose their jobs, but also who's likely to get rested the next day. Then, pick up the setup guy for the teams with resting closers. You'd be surprised how many Saves fall through the cracks each year. Back in the old days, when I worked for CloserNews, I seriously considered attempting to get all my Saves like this with a fantasy team to see what would happen. Still haven't had the guts to try it.

Get up early (if you're on the West Coast) and stay up late (East Coasters) to catch the latest updates.When they announce that LaTroy Hawkins is being removed from the closer's role, somebody in your league will already have their fantasy team loaded up. Be that person. 

Keep a particular eye on the strikeouts and velocity of closers and the guys replacing them--sometimes that's even more important than their overall stats. Remember, being "closer material" is less about being the best pitcher in the bullpen and more about being the coolest pitcher in the bullpen, selling jerseys, growing facial hair, pumping up the crowd, and blasting Metallica or AC/DC.

I'm totally on board with the first half of the rationale against paying for Saves: closers are volatile and unpredictable. The second half, that Saves are always available on the waiver wire, has grown dicier. It's totally true--but your whole league knows it, and they'll be looking for Saves too.

Strategy 3: Hybrids

You can always mix the two strategies; in fact, anyone paying for Saves should be just as active on the waiver wire as anyone else. Not only can you benefit from more Saves (and make trades if you have excess) you're protecting your investment by making it more difficult for anyone to get similar value for free. Your only limit is roster space.

You can also make Strategy 2 your primary plan, but keep an eye out in drafts for solid value. If enough of your league wants to get their Saves from the waiver wire, you might want to go the other way. Alternatively, it might be good to get one closer with high job security to anchor you while you speculate on further Saves.

Good luck in Saves--you'll need it. Or, better yet, follow @CloserNews! We'll be back next week to wrap up the traditional categories with Home Runs.



Closer Updates – A Quick Run Around the League

After giving a preview on each division, as well as some closer competition updates and overall rankings, it’s time for a general rundown of each team’s closer situation. In addition to providing some insight into various bullpens, you will also find some helpful injury updates. Moving through the regular season, you can find similar information on our Closer Depth Chart.

American League

Unlike the quiet NL, all of the Spring Training closer battles are happening in the American League thus far.

Baltimore Orioles – 1. Tommy Hunter, 2. Darren O’Day, 3. Ryan Webb

While Os skipper Buck Showalter still won’t firmly commit to Hunter as the guy, it certainly seems that he’s leading the pack right now.

Boston Red Sox – 1. Koji Uehara, 2. Edward Mujica, 3. Junichi Tazawa

Uehara issued a surprising walk against the Braves last week and catcher David Ross explained that the mishap could be chalked up to the closer working on another pitch for his repertoire.

Chicago White Sox – Competition – Ronald Belisario, Mitchell Boggs, Nate Jones, Matt Lindstrom, Daniel Webb

It’s been rough for the White Sox because no pitcher has emerged yet as closer – Belisario arrived late to camp because of visa issues, Jones & Lindstrom are close to healthy after missing time early, Webb missed a week for family reasons, and Boggs is still trying to distance himself from last year’s 8.10 ERA.

Cleveland Indians – 1. John Axford, 2. Cody Allen, 3. Bryan Shaw, 4. Vinnie Pestano

If his time at the World Baseball Classic caused Axford to fatigue in 2013, he could be in for a bounce-back season and bring consistency to the Tribe.

Detroit Tigers – 1. Joe Nathan, 2. Bruce Rondon, 3. Joba Chamberlain

With 341 career saves, Nathan will bring reliability to a Tigers’ bullpen that has developed a reputation for its inconsistencies.

Houston Astros – Competition – Matt Albers, Jesse Crain, Josh Fields, Chad Qualls

With favorite Crain out past Opening Day with an injury, Qualls is currently leading sophomore Fields and journeyman Albers for the closer role.

Kansas City Royals – 1. Greg Holland, 2. Aaron Crow, 3. Kelvin Herrera

Holland should be in line for another monster year in KC, while Crow and Herrera will see their setup roles increase in the absence of an injured Luke Hochevar.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – 1. Ernesto Frieri, 2. Dane De La Rosa, 3. Joe Smith

De La Rosa could provide real value if Frieri stumbles – Manager Mike Scioscia had the two splitting closing duties at one point last season.

Minnesota Twins – 1. Glen Perkins, 2. Jared Burton, 3. Brian Duensing

With a 90% save conversion rate, Perkins is a solid closer and should make a case for his second straight All-Star appearance this season.

New York Yankees – 1. David Robertson, 2. Matt Thornton, 3. Shawn Kelley

All eyes will be on Robertson this season and he should rise to the task, his career 11.7 K/9 and 2.76 ERA didn’t happen by mistake.

Oakland Athletics – 1. Jim Johnson, 2. Luke Gregerson, 3. Ryan Cook

Johnson’s arrival in Oakland shouldn’t change his stock too much – he’s still a dependable closer who can be projected for 35+ saves (though another 50-save season might be aggressive).

Seattle Mariners – 1. Fernando Rodney, 2. Danny Farquhar, 3. Yoervis Medina

Rodney has been signed to closer, but Farquhar might just be good enough to regain his job if there are struggles early.

Tampa Bay Rays – 1. Grant Balfour, 2. Heath Bell, 3. Joel Peralta

Balfour will be more reliable in Tampa than Rodney was last season and Peralta is a solid setup man, but buyer beware when it comes to Heath Bell.

Texas Rangers – Competition – Neftali Feliz, Tanner Scheppers, Joakim Soria

Manager Ron Washington has not yet chosen a closer for 2014 and is unopposed to a closer-by-committee approach, but the race should come down to Feliz edging Soria before Opening Day.

Toronto Blue Jays – 1. Casey Janssen, 2. Sergio Santos, 3. Steve Delabar

Entering a contract year, Janssen is a very solid closer who should have another above-average season in the Great White North.

National League

Barring any major injuries before Opening Day, the NL has a much clearer picture in terms of closers than its AL counterpart.

Atlanta Braves – 1. Craig Kimbrel, 2. Jordan Walden, 3. Luis Avilan

Kimbrel signed a four-year extension with the Bravos that is chock full of incentive bonuses – look for another dominant year for the righty.

Arizona Diamondbacks – 1. Addison Reed, 2. Brad Ziegler, 3. J.J. Putz

The Dbacks traded for Reed to be their closer, but J.J. Putz seems determined in Spring Training to regain his old job in 2014.

Chicago Cubs – 1. Jose Veras, 2. Pedro Strop, 3. Blake Parker

Veras will lead the Cubbies this year and should see more save opportunities in Wrigleyville than he did while serving as the Astros’ closer.

Colorado Rockies – 1. LaTroy Hawkins, 2. Rex Brothers, 3. Wilton Lopez

While Brothers may have the job before season’s end, Hawkins will definitely start the season as closer in Denver.

Los Angeles Dodgers – 1. Kenley Jansen, 2. Brian Wilson, 3. Chris Perez

Jansen has the opportunity to learn from some stud relievers (Wilson, Perez, and Brandon League) and emerge as a top-tier closer in 2014.

Miami Marlins – 1. Steve Cishek, 2. Mike Dunn, 3. A.J. Ramos

After replacing Heath Bell, Cishek was quite the surprise in Miami last season and will look to build on his strong finish to 2013.

Milwaukee Brewers – 1. Jim Henderson, 2. Francisco Rodriguez, 3. Brandon Kintzler

With K-Rod’s recent foot injury (yes, he stepped on a cactus), Henderson has an even longer leash entering Opening Day.

New York Mets – 1. Bobby Parnell, 2. Vic Black, 3. Jose Valverde

Parnell has pitched without pain this Spring and should be the closer in Queens again this season – unless Jose Valverde storms through the minors and takes the gig.

Philadelphia Phillies – 1. Jonathan Papelbon, 2. Antonio Bastardo, 3. Justin De Fratus

Papelbon was much better than described last season, has regained his velocity this Spring and seems to be on track for another solid season.

Pittsburgh Pirates – 1. Jason Grilli, 2. Mark Melancon, 3. Vin Mazzaro

Grilli has looked good in Spring Training and may be ready to charge out of the gates once again (10 saves last April).

San Diego Padres – 1. Huston Street, 2. Joaquin Benoit, 3. Dale Thayer

Benoit’s presence will greatly improve the Padres bullpen, but Street is still the Padre’s guy in the ninth and should be in line for another solid season.

San Francisco Giants – 1. Sergio Romo, 2. Santiago Casilla, 3. Jeremy Affeldt

Romo is another closer who is going into a contract year and he’ll be pushed by Casilla and Affeldt all season long.

St. Louis Cardinals – 1. Trevor Rosenthal, 2. Kevin Siegrist, 3. Carlos Martinez

Rosenthal has the potential to be a top notch closer and Cards’ management would certainly love to see their faith in him rewarded with a 35+ save season.

Washington Nationals – 1. Rafael Soriano, 2. Tyler Clippard, 3. Drew Storen

Soriano is still getting the big bucks in DC and his job is safe for now, but Clippard is an elite setup man who might be worth a look if you’re trying to improve your fantasy bullpen.

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



RotoAuthority Rankings 2014: Closers

As you certainly recall, we’ve recently dug into a number of different position rankings for hitters (including Outfield, Catcher, First Base, Second Base, and Third Base – with Shortstop rankings to arrive on Saturday). Now it’s time for Closers to get a little love. Like the rest of the RotoAuthority rankings, we’ll break down the position into tiers with some extra attention to sleepers and setup guys. Unlike Opening Day, we won’t make you wait any longer…

Tier 1 – Top Guns

1. Craig Kimbrel

2. Kenley Jansen

3. Aroldis Chapman

4. Greg Holland

The top tier features four excellent closers with high-end career strikeout rates (Kimbrel – 15.1 K/9, Jansen – 14.0, Chapman – 14.7 K/9, Holland – 12.3). With 163 combined saves last season, each one of these guys can give you a serious advantage in the relief pitcher department week-to-week. Many will place Kimbrel in a tier all by himself, and perhaps rightfully so, but I think that Jansen, Chapman, and Holland will give him a run for his money in 2014.

Tier 2 – Next Best Thing

5. Koji Uehara

6. Joe Nathan

7. Trevor Rosenthal

8. Casey Janssen

9. Jim Johnson

10. Glen Perkins

Uehara had an outstanding end to 2013 and might be among the game’s best. If he can prove that his 2013 numbers aren’t a flash-in-the-pan (1.09 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, 12.2 K/9, 21 saves), he’ll be pushing Kimbrel with the rest of the top tier. Nathan has been consistent (340 saves over the last 10 years) and should keep the Joe Show going in Detroit. Rosenthal will have to prove that last season was not a fluke (2.63 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 12.9 K/9) and he can handle the ninth before moving up the rankings. Janssen, Johnson, and Perkins are all consistent enough to round out the top 10 for the fickle closer position.

Tier 3 – On the Cusp of Top-Notch

11. David Robertson

12. Jonathan Papelbon

13. Jason Grilli

14. Sergio Romo

15. Ernesto Frieri

16. Rafael Soriano

17. Grant Balfour

18. Steve Cishek

Robertson will inherit the ninth after Mariano Rivera’s departure and has outstanding numbers as a setup guy (2.04 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 10.4 K/9 last season). If he can keep these numbers up, he’ll perform admirably in Mariano’s stead and be a draft day gem. Although Papelbon seemingly struggled last season, he still posted good numbers (2.92 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 29 saves) and should have another good year. Grilli provides strong value this season and was a dominant closer most of last season (2.70 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 13.3 K/9, 33 saves) despite missing time due to injury.

Tier 4 – Steady Eddies

19. Addison Reed

20. John Axford

21. Huston Street

22. Jim Henderson

23. Fernando Rodney

24. Bobby Parnell

Without being too flashy, this tier is dependable if you’ve decided to wait at closer. Axford might return to form and move up a tier before the season’s end. Rodney is closing for the new look Mariners and could have plenty of save opportunities. If Parnell can stay healthy for 2014, he’ll provide some great value later in drafts.

Tier 5 – Position Battles & Closer Sleepers

25. Jose Veras

26. Tommy Hunter

27. LaTroy Hawkins

28. Neftali Feliz

29. Nate Jones

30. Chad Qualls

31. Mark Melancon

32. Rex Brothers

33. Jesse Crain

34. Danny Farquhar

35. Joakim Soria

Unlike the above tiers, this one if chock full of potential and uncertainty. Jose Veras will regain the ninth as closer for the Cubbies and Tommy Hunter seems to have won the closer gig in Baltimore. Hawkins might eventually lose his job to Rex Brothers, but the Rockies are paying him to be their closer on Opening Day. While Jesse Crain may eventually own the job in Houston (out until April with injury), Chad Qualls should be the first to have it in 2014. Neftali Feliz and Nate Jones would both be ranked higher if either were officially named closer.

Tier 6 – Setup Guys

36. Darren O’Day

37. Tyler Clippard

38. Cody Allen

39. Pedro Strop

40. J.J. Putz

41. Matt Lindstrom

42. Joaquin Benoit

43. Brad Ziegler

44. Tanner Scheppers

45. Sergio Santos

46. Daniel Webb

47. Brian Wilson

48. Jose Valverde

49. Francisco Rodriguez

This grab bag tier features a number of names you’ve seen before and some that are fairly new to the scene. Clippard and Allen are both elite setup men that could steal a few saves. Strop, Benoit, and Santos also provide tremendous value as setup men and can be useful in several fantasy formats (especially those that count holds). Putz and Ziegler are speculative picks that could pan out if there’s a closer competition in Arizona. Other wild cards include former closer studs Wilson, Valverde, and K-Rod.

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



The Market Report: Relief Pitchers

The Market Report is a weekly analysis of player valuations in the fantasy marketplace in an effort to find undervalued commodities.

Baseball has finally returned at long last. Spring Training games have begun, and Opening Day is in sight. We conclude our positional breakdowns with a look at relief pitchers this week. Once again, ADP values are provided in parentheses.

Tier One

1. Craig Kimbrel (55)

Tier Two

2. Aroldis Chapman (75)

3. Greg Holland (84)

4. Kenley Jansen (104)

Tier Three

5. Koji Uehara (122)

6. Joe Nathan (122)

7. Trevor Rosenthal (127)

Tier Four

8. Addison Reed (139)

9. Jim Johnson (147)

10. Rafael Soriano (147)

Tier Five

11. Sergio Romo (165)

12. David Robertson (166)

13. Glen Perkins (172)

14. Jason Grilli (174)

15. Jonathan Papelbon (185)

Undervalued

Jason Grilli (ADP 174)

Grilli sure has had a strange career. After several years of mediocre performance out of the bullpen, the veteran somehow enjoyed a breakout campaign in his age 36 season in 2012 with a dominant 36.6 K% against just a 6.4 BB% as a setup man to Joel Hanrahan. In his first year as a closer, Grilli was simply brilliant last year with a remarkable 1.71 SIERA, just behind Craig Kimbrel for fourth in the NL. Now, there are reasons why such great skills are available at a discount.  Grilli is certainly up there in years, he suffered a right forearm strain late last season, and Mark Melancon is behind him and more than capable of closing. Having said that, the reward far outweighs the risk at that price. This is a dominant reliever with elite skills going roughly 100 picks after the Tier 2 closers. Invest.

Nate Jones (ADP 272)

OK, so he hasn't officially been named the closer for the Pale Hose just yet, but he appears to have a leg up on the competition. My general approach to a murky closer situation is to grab the reliever with the best skills and let the roles fall where they may. Well, Jones clearly possesses better skills than fellow White Sox closer candidates Matt Lindstrom and Daniel Webb. In fact, last year he ranked 10th in the American League with a 2.56 SIERA. Sure, the White Sox are going to be a miserable club this season, but I care more about protecting my ERA and WHIP than accumulating saves. Once again, if the job were already his, he wouldn't be available on the cheap. Based on the current ADP, the risk that he fails to win the job as closer is minimal, and I just see this as a buying opportunity. The worst case scenario is you have a dominant setup man to serve as a buffer in ERA and WHIP. Speaking of which...

Pick an Elite Setup Man, Any Elite Setup Man

By now, it's a rather common practice in fantasy baseball, but the point bears repeating. Elite setup men are wonderful additions in leagues that allow for daily lineup changes. Even if a primary setup man never usurps the closer role, he still can still provide help in the ratio categories. My favorite targets this year are Joaquin Benoit, Sergio Santos, and Pedro Strop. One thing that all of these setup men have in common is that they're currently behind closers who will be free agents at the season's end. I also don't expect any of their clubs to be contenders, so it's certainly possible the current closers are dealt midseason anyway.

Overvalued

Rafael Soriano (ADP 147)

Let's start with the fact that Soriano's skills last season were mediocre at best. A relatively poor 18.4 K% coupled with average skills elsewhere resulted in a 3.11 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP. In today's fantasy game, those numbers are actually below average for a closer. Moreover, his 3.71 SIERA indicates he was a tad fortunate, too. Now let's keep in mind that both Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen are likely better from a True Talent perspective. As a matter of fact, Steamer projects a better ERA for both of the setup man than for Soriano. Finally, the veteran has had trouble staying healthy over the course of his career. With all of this mind, there's  simply no good reason to draft the Nationals closer at his current pricetag.




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