Closers


Point/Counterpoint: Pay for Saves?

Fantasy baseball has changed so much over the past decade. When I started playing this game, I used to be adamantly against paying for saves. While others paid big bucks for Mariano Rivera and Billy Wagner, I always seemed to end up with the likes of Joe Borowski and Todd Jones. More often than not, however, I could still compete in the pitching categories by getting better results from my starting pitchers. DIPS theory was not quite mainstream at the time, so it was easier to fill out a staff with sabermetric darlings back then.

Andrew: Premium Closers Are Worth the Price

For a variety of reasons, I'm of the mindset that paying for saves is now the optimal strategy. For one, today's game is far different from the one we watched at the turn of the millennium. Last year's leaguewide .714 OPS was the lowest since 1992. To be more specific, though, the most glaring difference about today's game is the dramatic rise in strikeout rate. Seemingly every pitching prospect is able to throw in the high 90s, and power has dipped substantially with rules now in place to severely penalize for use of PEDs.

With a strikeout now taking place roughly once every five plate appearances, there have been several key fantasy ramifications. Power is scarce. A .260 AVG is actually good, not bad. More and more pristine results are required to compete in the pitching categories. Above all else, though, perhaps no category has been more impacted than strikeouts. In particular, the strikeout rates of closers have gone through the roof. A quick glance at the leaders in SIERA among relievers from last year reveals that 10 of the top 13 are current closers, all of whom had a K/9 over 10. It sounds weird to say, but in today's Roto game a closer who fails to strike out a batter per inning is actually damaging to a fantasy roster in that category.

To illustrate, let's take a look at the following scenarios:

Option A: Draft Craig Kimbrel (ADP 55) in Round 5 and then Danny Salazar (ADP 146) in Round 13

Composite Steamer Projections: 18 Wins / 28 SV / 285 K / 2.99 ERA / 1.13 WHIP in 238 innings

Option B: Draft Felix Hernandez (ADP 51) in Round 5 and then Jim Johnson (ADP 146) in Round 13

Composite Steamer Projections: 18 Wins / 28 SV / 236 K / 3.26 ERA / 1.18 WHIP in 257 innings

So yeah, I'm cherry-picking, but I think there's a point here. Wins and saves are rather whimsical while ERA and WHIP may not be all that different if other names are selected. Having said that, I'm a firm believer that a fantasy owner gains a significant edge in the strikeout category by drafting an elite closer like Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman, or Kenley Jansen. Particularly in leagues with innings caps, stellar innings from a lights-out closer are incredibly valuable.  

Luckey: Don't Pay for Saves

In theory, paying for saves can be a good bet when you know it will work. However, like most fantasy baseball projections, it’s hard to know when to draft a player for maximum value – and therein lies the rub. Before you draft your first closer this year, keep in mind three important things. First, closers have among the worst job security in baseball and can lose the ninth quickly. Second, the shelf life of a reliever is short and when they start to get worse – it happens in a hurry (see Trevor Hoffman in 2010 or Heath Bell in 2012). Third, closers become available throughout the season and are, therefore, much easier to find on the waiver wire than a top starting pitcher. So be sure to use that early draft pick on some consistent power or a sabermetric darling and minimize your risk.

1. Closers Have Poor Job Security – Sure drafting a Kimbrel or Chapman is sexy, but it probably isn’t the most efficient use of an early round pick. If you were to draft one of these closer studs, it’s going to cost you. Spend that pick on an ace or big-time offensive name and even with a week’s worth of poor games, you know they’ll still have their jobs. On the other hand, a closer that gives up a few blown saves in a week can easily be pulled for another reliever. If that new reliever pitches well, the job could soon be theirs and somebody else will certainly scoop them up at an amazing value. Last season, Mark Melancon stepped in for an injured Jason Grilli and pitched outstandingly (1.39 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 16 saves). This season, skip the big closer name and go with a position that’s a little safer.

2. Closers Do Not Last Forever – Like centers in basketball or running backs in football, closers have a fairly limited shelf life when they’re at their peak. Due to the physical demands of the position, many closers have a few amazing years before disappearing into oblivion and it’s often hard to predict when the wheels will fall off. A quick look at Kimbrel’s K/9 shows that it may be on a downward trend (having dropped from 16.7 in 2012 to 13.2 last season), while Chapman’s average velocity on his fastball has gone down in three consecutive seasons. Even though these two still have mightily impressive strikeout rates, taking them in the early rounds is a leap of faith. If you’re depending on a top starting pitcher, especially someone who relies on control rather than power, the fall from grace will not be so drastic.

3. Closers Can Be Found Later – It is important to note that players at the top of their position rarely fall to their expected draft day value and one of your fellow drafters may strike early. While it’s nice to think that all readers will have a chance to draft Kimbrel, Chapman, or Jansen at their ADP, you will probably have to overpay by a round or two to guarantee that he’ll be on your roster. Why do this when you can pluck a few closers from the waiver wire throughout the season that will be, cumulatively, just as strong? Keep an eye on the early competition battles in spring training and you’ll have an inside track in April. Once the injury bug hits, or a player loses his job after back-to-back blown saves, head to the waiver wire and take your pick…

Trust me on this, I used to pay for saves. If you do elect to wait on closers draft day, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter this season and we’ll keep you up-to-date on any breaking news in the closer world.



Closers Preseason Preview - AL West

As we head out west with the closer previews, there are a few more showdowns for the ninth. While there are some returners this season and a fresh face in Oakland, the two Texas teams offer tantalizing and competitive closer competitions. Like most divisions, the ability to win close games will depend on who finishes the season on top and all eyes will be on the Texas Rangers as their closer situation will have a big impact on the division race.

Houston Astros

Closer – Ongoing Position Battle (Jesse Crain, Josh Fields, Chia-Jen Lo, Chad Qualls)

Going into Spring Training, the Astros continue in lock step with last season as the least dependable bullpen in baseball. Not only are they inconsistent, but it seems that the Astros will give their closer few traditional save opportunities. If one of these candidates above emerge as an effective reliever, expect Houston to ship them to a playoff contender before the trade deadline (see Jose Veras). Last year’s top saves guys Josh Fields (5) and Chia-Jen Lo (2) both return this season. Fields had a below average first season in the big leagues (1-3, 4.97 ERA, 1.30 WHIP), but did manage to earn some trust with the Astros’ management and has a strong 9.5 K/9. On the other hand, Lo posted similar numbers last year (0-3, 4.19 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 7.4 K/9) and makes it difficult to anoint either as favorite.

The first person to challenge the returning sophomores will be journeyman reliever Jesse Crain, who will also provide the greatest competition. Although Crain only has four career saves, he was an All-Star last season and was nearly unstoppable (19 holds, 0.74 ERA, 1.15 ERA, 11.3 K/9) before succumbing to injury. If he comes back to form this season, the Astros may have their guy. Nipping at Crain’s heels will be Chad Qualls, who had an excellent season for the Marlins last year (5-2, 2.61 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 7.1 K/9) and was originally drafted by the Astros back in 2000.

Bold Prediction – Jesse Crain wins the job and is traded before the deadline. Qualls ends the season as Astros’ closer, with both having respectable seasons.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Closer – Ernesto Frieri

Frieri is very good and the Halos are glad to have him back given his career statistics (2.76 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 12.3 K9). That being said, Los Angeles is also hoping that last year was an anomaly (3.80 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 12.8 K/9) and he will return to the Frieri of old. Although there may be uncertainty for other teams, Ernesto will anchor the division as the AL West closer with the most job security. Even if the Angels’ offense does not live up to expectations, Frieri should still have 30+ saves this season.

Bold Prediction – Ernesto Frieri proves that last year’s shaky stats (which aren’t that bad in comparison to the rest of the league) were a fluke and his dominance continues with a 40-save season.

Who’s Lurking? – Dane De La Rosa returns to Anaheim this season and management will hope that he can repeat last season (2.86 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 8.1 K/9). If Frieri stumbles, De La Rosa may have demonstrated enough to take the ninth until order is restored. To go along with Frieri and De La Rosa, the Angels signed Joe Smith this offseason from Cleveland. Smith is a dependable reliever, who posted a 2.29 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and a 7.7 K/9, and should really help the Angels get out of a jam (Smith has only had 15 inherited runners score over the past two years). Finally, Sean Burnett will be jockeying for position in this bullpen after a strong 13 games last season (0.93 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 6.5 K/9). If Burnett continues to perform, he will add great depth to the Halos’ bullpen but will probably not get a chance at the ninth this season.

Oakland Athletics

Closer – Jim Johnson

With Grant Balfour gone to Tampa Bay via free agency, the A’s will turn to Jim Johnson in the ninth this season. After leading Major League Baseball in saves over the last two seasons (also only the second player in MLB history to record 50+ saves in consecutive seasons), Johnson was traded in December and will bring his talents to the Bay Area in 2014. With 145 appearances in the last two seasons, Oakland is hoping that Jim Johnson will continue to be durable and dependable in the ninth.

Bold Prediction – Somebody has to say it… Jim Johnson posts another 50-save season, but this time it’s out in Moneyballville. With a handful of blown saves, Johnson continues to be overlooked as an elite closer.

Who’s Lurking? – Should Johnson struggle this season, Oakland will certainly miss Balfour. However, there are a few candidates who should provide relief options just in case. Luke Gregerson has also arrived (via San Diego for Seth Smith) and should continue to be a steady setup guy. Gregerson has 16 career saves and a solid career stat line (2.88 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 9.1 K/9). Ryan Cook, last year’s setup guy (2.54 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 9.0 K/9), is ready to battle for the eighth and may be the first in line if Johnson starts blowing saves. Sean Doolittle is another option, who possesses a career 3.09 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 9.3 K/9, but may have to surpass Gregerson and Cook in camp before getting the ball in crunch time.

Settle Mariners

Closer – Danny Farquhar

Last season, the Mariners struggled to find a dependable closer. After trying out a number of candidates, Farquhar took the job from Tom Wilhelmsen and never looked back. Despite the fact that last year’s statistics look poor (4.20 ERA, 1.19 ERA, 12.8 K/9), Farquhar actually performed quite well after becoming the closer (16 saves, 2.38 ERA). With that performance, Farquhar has earned the trust of Mariners’ management and will enter Opening Day as the closer.

Bold Prediction – Farquhar continues to stay ahead of Wilhelmsen and ends the season with the job, but their battle demonstrates surprising bullpen depth for the Mariners.

Who’s Lurking? – Despite the fact that he lost the gig to Farquhar and was sent to AAA last season, Tom Wilhelmsen will enter Spring Training as some of Farquhar’s greatest competition. Despite the fact that Wilhelmsen struggled last season, he should regain his pitching motion and see stats more in line with his career numbers (3.21 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 8.5 K/9). Considering the fact that he posted 29 saves in 2012, Wilhelmsen could be breathing down Farquhar’s neck before too long. Yoervis Medina performed admirably in his first season (2.91 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 9.4 K/9) last year and could also provide Seattle with much needed bullpen depth. After being shut down in 2013, Stephen Pryor is a top prospect who should be fully healthy this season. If so, he will be the wildcard and could start to make a name for himself in 2014.

Texas Rangers

Closer – Ongoing Position Battle (Neftali Feliz, Tanner Scheppers, Joakim Soria)

With Joe Nathan in Detroit, there will be a very serious battle for closer this season in Texas. Given Nathan’s consistency, he will leave very big cleats to fill. First up will likely be Neftali Feliz, the former closer who began last season on the disabled list (career 2.61 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 8.8 K/9). Considering that Feliz posted 30+ save seasons for the Rangers in 2010-11, he may have the insid track on the job. Tanner Scheppers, last year’s dependable setup guy (1.88 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 7.3 K/9 in 2013), will also have a shot at the ninth. Two-time All Star Joakim Soria is also lurking after spending a majority of the last two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery. The one-time superstar closer (160 career saves) may have just enough in the tank to regain the ninth this season. Alexi Ogando is a difficult pitcher to predict. After bouncing from the starting rotation to the bullpen, Ogando is a jack-of-all trades for Texas and they will use him wherever necessary. If Feliz, Scheppers, and Soria all stumble this season, Ogando may become the closer by default.

Bold Prediction – Neftali Feliz returns to the ninth with a vengeance and reminds Rangers’ fans of the good old days. After earning the job in Spring Training, Feliz hits the ground running and wins comeback player of the year.

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.



Closers Preseason Preview – NL Central

Like its American League counterpart, the National League central has both fresh faces (Rosenthal and Veras) and returning closers (Chapman, Grilli, and Henderson). The three returning closers carry a strong pedigree (with 99 combined saves last season), but will face a serious challenge from the young guns for the 2014 NL Central Closer gold medal. If the race for the division title comes down to intra-division matchups, the closers below may just decide who gets a shot at the pennant.

Chicago Cubs

Closer – Jose Veras

After being moved from Houston to Detroit last July, Veras has landed in Wrigleyville for the 2014 season. Fresh off his first 20+ save season, he’s ready to bring much-needed consistency to the Cubbies’ bullpen. The right-handed veteran reliever carries a career 9.3 K/9 and hopes to help Chicago forget about last year’s Carlos Marmol experience (who was designated for assignment after a dismal 5.68 ERA in 31 appearances). Should Veras develop under pitching coach Chris Bosio, he will likely have even more success than he had in the American League last season (21 saves, 3.02 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 8.6 K/9).

Bold Prediction – Chicago will win far more games than the Astros did last year, giving Jose Veras his first season with 30+ saves and 80+ strikeouts. With the development of the other young relievers, he leads a talented bullpen and makes the rest of baseball take notice.

Who’s Lurking? -  The Cubs are fortunate enough to have a number of young relievers going into 2014. Pedro Strop pitched well after coming over from Baltimore last season (2.83 ERA, 0.94 WHIP) and has a career 9.1 K/9. After making Chicago’s Opening Day roster in 2013, right-handed reliever Hector Rondon settled in well and had a 3.20 ERA after the All-Star break. Blake Parker, who had a 2.72 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 10.7 K/9 in 49 appearances last season, should not be overlooked either. James Russell, the team’s only consistent lefty over last two years, should post some solid numbers as well, but will be grateful for not having to shoulder the load (151 appearances over the last two seasons).

Cincinnati Reds

Closer – Aroldis Chapman

There is little doubt that Chapman will be the closer in Cincy this season, as the lefty has been dominant since inheriting the job in 2012. Last season, the strikeout artist had a 2.54 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 15.8 K/9 en route to 38 saves. Although he slightly lags behind Craig Kimbrel in terms of strikeout rate, Chapman is certainly the cream of the crop when it comes to closers and is worth an early round draft pick. Given the Reds’ offensive potential, he could be easily looking at another 38-save season (his save total in 2012 & 2013) with a K/9 higher than 15.0.

Bold Prediction – Aroldis Chapman breaks past the 38-save barrier and jumps ahead of Kimbrel as the game’s best closer. Despite the fact that his average pitch velocity drops for the fourth consecutive year, Chapman’s control is better than ever and he chases a 16.5 K/9 – easily making him the most valuable closer in the big leagues.

Who’s Lurking? – After losing the closer’s job to Aroldis Chapman, Jonathan Broxton has struggled to stay healthy. Because Broxton is still a top setup man (career 10.7 K/9), he should have a number of holds for the Redlegs this year. Young righty J.J. Hoover had three saves during an excellent 2013 season (2.61 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 9.1 K/9) and may get a crack at the gig if the injury bug hits. Sam LeCure is also a candidate after a strong 2013 (2.66 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 63 appearances) and a respectable career 8.7 K/9. When Ryan Madson went down in 2012, Sean Marshall initially got the job but performed poorly enough for Chapman to take the ninth. There’s little doubt the Reds have forgotten and Marshall is probably on the outside looking in.

Milwaukee Brewers

Closer – Jim Henderson

Given his admirable performance last season (converted 28 saves of 33 opportunities, 2.70 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 11.3 K/9) and the Brewers’ lack of activity in the closer free agent market, right-handed journeyman Jim Henderson will likely be the closer in Milwaukee on Opening Day. Given that Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford were both traded away last season, Henderson has a fairly long leash in terms of job security and will be given the opportunity to work through any issues before being pulled.

Bold Prediction – Jim Henderson is so good that he reminds the Brewers faithful of Trevor Hoffman’s first season in Milwaukee. By limiting his blown saves and staying healthy, Henderson easily passes the 35-save mark with another 11.0+ K/9 season.

Who’s Lurking? – Brandon Kintzler is an above average setup guy and he should return to the eighth after a solid 2013 (71 appearances, 27 holds, 2.69 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 6.8 K/9). While he may be first in line if Henderson struggles, Brewers management could elect to keep him in a setup role simply because he’s a ground ball pitcher. Second-year relievers Jimmy Nelson (0.90 ERA in 10 innings last season, with a 0.70 WHIP and 7.2 K/9) and Rob Wooten (27.2 innings pitched, 3.90 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 5.9 K/9 in 2013) will both have a chance to prove themselves throughout spring training. Tom Gorzelanny is still the bullpen’s only steady lefty, so look for him to remain outside of this race for now.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Closer – Jason Grilli

After being named the closer before Opening Day 2013, Grilli hit the ground closing. After 10 saves in April, he went on a stretch of pure dominance and even pitched the ninth inning for the National League in last year’s All-Star Game (33 of 35 save opportunities, 2.70 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 13.3 K/9 last season). However, Grilli fell to a forearm injury and left the job open for Mark Melancon, who performed admirably in Grilli’s stead (16 saves, 1.39 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 8.9 K/9). By returning before the playoffs began, Grilli regained the trust of Pittsburgh management and will be the closer again in 2014.

Bold Prediction – Jason Grilli charges out of the gate with an April similar to last season (11.0 innings pitched, 10 saves, 1 earned run, 17 strikeouts) and makes any questions about lingering forearm issues a thing of the past. The dynamic duo of Grilli and Melancon give the Buccos baseball’s best one-two punch.

Who’s Lurking? – With Melancon a premier setup man, he is most likely to step into the ninth if Grilli becomes injured again. Although Vin Mazzaro (2.81 ERA, 1.21 WHIP) and Tony Watson (2.39 ERA, 0.88 WHIP) both pitched well last season, they will remain in a setup role for the time being. Justin Wilson is a dependable lefty for the Pirates (2.08 ERA and 1.16 WHIP last year), but he’ll need to separate himself from this talented pack if he wants a sniff at the ninth.

St. Louis Cardinals

Closer – Trevor Rosenthal

Going into spring training, the favorite for the St. Louis closer gig is Trevor Rosenthal. Although this comes with some debate (as Rosenthal could be moved to the starting rotation), he seems to be the best option for the Cards in 2014. With Edward Mujica in Boston, the fireballer hopes to build on the three saves he earned last season (3 saves, 2.63 ERA, 1.10 WHIP) and his strong postseason performance (four saves). Given his 12.9 K/9 and an average pitch speed of 96.4 mph, Rosenthal might just provide great draft day value this season.

Bold Prediction – At this time next year, baseball fans will start to wonder if Rosenthal is the best closer in the NL Central. Rosenthal has the build of a prototypical closer, with a tremendous strikeout rate, and is throwing nearly as fast as Aroldis Chapman. If Chapman doesn’t stay healthy and the Cardinals keep winning ball games, Rosenthal may just keep trending upward until he’s at the top.

Who’s Lurking? – If Rosenthal does not have success in the ninth, St. Louis might be in some serious trouble. Jason Motte is still recovering from Tommy John surgery and will miss the early part of the season. Sophomore Carlos Martinez is talented, but also very raw (5.08 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, and 7.6 K/9 in 2013) and needs to prove he can be consistent. Fellow second-year reliever Kevin Siegrist may be the real dark horse in this race (0.45 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 11.3 K/9 last season) and could emerge if Rosenthal struggles early.

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.



Closers Preseason Preview – NL East

Unlike their AL counterpart, the NL East closer picture seems eerily clear even before pitchers and catchers report. This list is also very similar to last year’s preseason preview, with only Bobby Parnell providing a new name as projected closer in 2014. Without many position battles, this week’s examination of closers should not change dramatically between now and Opening Day. Barring injury, the NL East may be the only division to give us a complete set of closers with adequate job security throughout the season.

Atlanta Braves

As the gold standard for closers, Craig Kimbrel hopes to have another epic season in 2014. Unsurprisingly, Kimbrel had a dominant season last year (1.21 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 13.2 K/9) and appears ready to continue the trend. Given the Braves’ consistency over the past few regular seasons, he may be in the position to put up another 45+ save season. Even if Kimbrel struggles, the Braves will let their perennial All-Star work through any issues and be hesitant to turn to anyone else.

Closer – Craig Kimbrel

Bold Prediction – It’s hard to have a bold prediction when you’re talking about Kimbrel. With 138 saves in three seasons as the Braves’ closer, he’s pitched almost perfectly for Atlanta. Instead of claiming that he’ll challenge Francisco Rodriguez’s record of 62 saves, let’s say that he’ll make a real run for the Bravos’ single season 55-save record (set by John Smoltz in 2002).

Who’s Lurking? – Fortunately for Braves nation, the Atlanta front office has some experience in rebounding from reliever injuries. This season, the Braves will turn to Jordan Walden, David Carpenter, or Luis Avilan in the late innings. Should Craig Kimbrel fall to injury, Walden posted a 32-save sophomore season in 2011 (for the Angels) and will be first in line to inherit the ninth. David Carpenter had 12 holds last season, a 10.14 K/9 and is also waiting in the wings. The true darkhorse candidate in this race is Luis Avilan, who may not have traditional strikeout stuff, but possesses a career 1.69 ERA and 0.98 WHIP.

Miami Marlins

At the beginning of last season, Steve Cishek was named Marlins’ closer and he performed admirably in the role. Despite the fact that Mike Dunn was nipping at his heels last season and Miami rarely gave Cishek a save opportunity, he was just good enough (2.33 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 9.56 K/9, 34 saves) to keep his job in 2014. Should he kick it up a notch, he’ll certainly become trade bait for a Marlins team who has a tendency to deal talent and build for the future.

Closer – Steve Cishek

Bold Prediction – Although he won’t reach Kimbrel-like heights, Steve Cishek gets his WHIP below 1.00 and has another 30+ save season. If Papelbon struggles in Philly, Cishek will quietly become the second best closer in the NL East.

Who’s Lurking? – A.J. Ramos is a young flamethrower that the Marlins favored at the end of last season and his overall performance was solid for his first full season in the big leagues. Mike Dunn was initially in the closer battle with Steve Cishek last season and pitched fairly well last season as a setup guy (2.66 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 9.58 K/9, 18 holds). If Cishek struggles, Dunn should be the first one to get the call. One offseason move that may have fallen under the radar was the Marlin’s acquisition of Carter Capps from the Seattle Mariners (in exchange for Logan Morrison). Capps is another youngster, who won the 2012 Best Relief Pitcher in the AA Southern League, and will be eager to run with the closer gig if given the opportunity.

Philadelphia Phillies

Although Jonathan Papelbon struggled last season, the Phillies are paying him far too much and his statistics aren’t bad enough to merit a demotion (2.92 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 29 saves). The bigger concern was the 7 blown saves and 8.32 K/9 (as opposed to a career 10.56 K/9). If the Phillies give him enough save opportunities, he should return to form this season. On the other hand, Philadelphia will have a few potent arms if last season’s K/9 becomes a warning sign of worse things to come for Papelbon (a la Heath Bell). Philadelphia will likely lean on Mike Adams, Justin De Fratus, and B.J. Rosenberg – each of whom have a strong reliever pedigree – to finish the ninth.

Closer – Jonathan Papelbon

Bold Prediction – A Boston-like year for Papelbon shows his return to form (projected – 68.0 IP, 2.20 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 10.00 K/9, 35 saves) and he becomes a major steal for savvy drafters. He may go a few rounds late because of the “hype” surrounding last year’s struggles, but he's got enough upside potential to anchor your collection of closers.

Who’s Lurking? – Although he will not likely be ready for Opening Day after last year’s shoulder injury, Mike Adams probably is the best fit (career 2.39 ERA, 1.08 ERA, 8.99 K/9) to replace Papelbon should the time come . Justin De Fratus and B.J. Rosenberg provide the Phillies with two young righties that have loads of potential, but they need to prove their worth before being trusted in the ninth.

New York Mets

After an injury-riddled 2013, Bobby Parnell has the closer role again for the Amazin’ Mets. With LaTroy Hawkins in Colorado and Frank Francisco on the free agent market, Parnell has been cleared to pitch and all signs point to him firmly inheriting the ninth with little internal competition. Because the Mets’ front office has wanted Parnell to be the closer for a while, his leash should be fairly long even if he starts blowing saves on a regular basis. Despite his injury last season, Parnell still posted a respectable 2.16 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 7.92 K/9, with 22 saves and will have even better numbers if he can stay away from the disabled list.

Closer – Bobby Parnell

Bold Prediction – Without strong competition breathing down his neck, Bobby Parnell finally lives up to his potential and has a 30+ save season. With a sub 1.50 ERA and 9.50 K/9, Parnell has Mets fans debating whether he’s better than K-Rod in his prime.

Who’s Lurking? – Unlike other teams in the NL East, New York does not possess the bullpen depth which seems to be the norm. The Mets will be entering 2014 with a trio of relievers that they used fairly frequently at the end of last season - Vic Black, Josh Edgin, and Gonzalez Germen. Black (a righty) and Edgin (a lefty) give the Mets the flexibility to play matchups in the seventh and eighth innings, while Gonzalez Germen could creep his way into the discussion if Parnell struggles and the hierarchy is shuffled.

Washington Nationals

Similar to Papelbon, Rafael Soriano had a 2013 season (3.11 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 43 saves) that doesn’t stray too dramatically from his career average (2.82 ERA and 1.08 WHIP), but does show a dramatic difference in strikeout rate (2013 – 6.89 K/9, career – 9.15 K/9). Even at 34 years old, Soriano should give the Nationals another strong outing this season.

Closer – Rafael Soriano

Bold Prediction – Soriano’s strikeout rate returns to form and he channels the fountain of youth left behind by his former mentor, Mariano Rivera. This season marks the beginning of a career rejuvenation for Soriano, who has 40+ saves, 2.75 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and a 9.00 K/9 en route to a  Nationals’ push for the NL East title.

Who’s Lurking? – Tyler Clippard is the ultimate setup man and he seems to be comfortable with that role (career – 110 holds and 9.97 K/9). Even if Soriano ran into big trouble, the Nats would likely keep Clippard in the eighth and go with Craig Stammen or Drew Storen. After losing the closer gig to Soriano a few seasons ago, Storen has settled into a setup and reliever role. With Storen’s demotion to AAA last July, Washington will probably go with Stammen first (2013 – 2.76 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 8.71 K/9) if Soriano needs to be pulled.

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.



Closers Preseason Preview: AL East

Editor's Note: The above byline is sadly inaccurate. Though posted by the writer whose name appears there, the work and writing of this article is from Luckey Helms.

Welcome to yet another year of fantasy baseball! As the big leaguers start to fine tune their skills for spring training, we’ll be helping you sharpen up the old fantasy toolkit. To start, we’ll explore each division and bring you the best insight on position battles, newly signed setup men, and any potential closers lurking in the wings. At the end of this series, we’ll give a clearer ranking system of the closer world – showing you who to snag, avoid, and root for in 2014… 

Baltimore Orioles

Closer – Ongoing Position Battle (Tommy Hunter & Darren O’Day)

There will certainly be some changes in the Baltimore bullpen this season. After trading away last year’s MLB saves leader Jim Johnson and bailing on Grant Balfour after a recent failed physical, the O's may still be on the market for a closer. That being said, their currently constructed roster sets up for a battle between Tommy Hunter and Darren O’Day, each of whom had their chances last season. Hunter posted a 2.81 ERA and 0.99 WHIP, with four saves and a 7.1 K/9. On the other hand, O’Day had similar numbers (2.18 ERA, 1.00 WHIP), but only converted two saves with his 8.6 K/9. Although Hunter converted a couple more saves last season, O’Day fits the mold of prototypical closer better and may take the job simply because of his ability to get batters to swing and miss more often.  

Bold Prediction – Darren O’Day wins the closer gig during spring training, the Orioles stay away from the closer free agent market (Kevin Gregg, Fernando Rodney, and Francisco Rodriguez), and O’Day puts up numbers similar to Jim Johnson’s MLB-leading 50 saves from last year.

Boston Red Sox

CloserKoji Uehara

Although the Red Sox bullpen went through its share of injuries during last season, they certainly found a ninth inning gem with Koji Uehara. After stepping in as closer mid-season, Uehara owned the ninth and almost every batter he faced. Koji’s effectiveness in 2013 cannot be understated - 4 wins, 1.09 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, and a K/9 of 12.2. Assuming that Uehara carries the same firepower as last season, and the BoSox offense puts him in the right positions, he could prepared for a monstrous 2014.

Bold Prediction – Uehara continues to own the ninth and a new dimension is added to the Red Sox – Yankees rivalry with the race between newly-minted closer extraordinaires (Koji Uehara and David Robertson). With the opportunity to close all season, Uehara earns an All-Star nod and closes the ninth for the AL in July. 

Who’s Lurking? – After initially being named closer in the wake of injuries to Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey, Junichi Tazawa eventually settled into the setup role for Boston. He continued in that role through the postseason, allowing only one run in appearances en route to Boston’s World Series victory and earning the trust of Red Sox Nation. Given the rash of injuries that the Red Sox bullpen suffered through last season, their front office brought in Edward Mujica to provide some always valuable bullpen depth. Despite the fact that Mujica closed for the Cards last season, the Red Sox will look to put him in a less stressful position this season and use him as Uehara insurance.

New York Yankees

Closer – David Robertson

Yes, Yankees fans will certainly miss Mariano Rivera. Unquestionably the best closer in baseball history, it will be strange to see a different pitcher take the mound to close for the Bronx Bombers. Any lingering disappointment about the name on the back of the jersey should be gone once David Robertson starts rolling. As a stalwart in the Yankees bullpen for a few seasons, fans are used to seeing him set up for the best and now it’s time to see if he can succeed him. If his numbers stay as consistent as they have over the past few seasons, Robertson will be a premier closer immediately.

Bold Prediction – If Uehara’s 2014 looks like last season and Robertson inherits the ninth, there may be a battle to see who the new closer king in the AL East is. If the Yankees offense shows up, look for David Robertson to have a Mariano-like year in his first year as Yankees closer.

Who’s Lurking? – If Robertson struggles, the Yankees may turn to reliever Shawn Kelley or Matt Thornton. Thornton has an average career stat-line for a closer (3.53 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 9.2 K/9), but he’s accumulated 18 saves over the last five seasons. Kelley provides an interesting contrast to the journeyman Thornton and carries a 3.77 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 9.6 K/9 through his five seasons. While each could be a substitute for Robertson, the Yankees will probably turn to the free agency or trade market if Robertson struggles mightily.

Tampa Bay Rays

Closer – Ongoing Position Battle (Heath Bell, Jake McGee, & Joel Peralta)

With Fernando Rodney still on the free agent market, Tampa Bay seems to be content with letting Heath Bell, Jake McGee, and Joel Peralta battle for the ninth inning. Although it’s possible that the Rays’ front office will snag another closer off the market, each of the three aforementioned pitchers (Bell, McGee, and Peralta) have experience as a closer and can easily earn the job in spring training. For anyone who owned Heath Bell in the last two seasons, they will certainly not forget his recent ability to melt down in the clutch. If the Rays sign a free agent like Grant Balfour, Bell is probably the first to go. With a 10.8 K/9, Jake McGee has the strikeout rate of a typical closer and has grown up in the Rays organization. If he proves his worth in the spring, the job can be his in 2014. With a handful of saves for the Rays in the last three seasons, Joel Peralta is probably the early favorite for the gig.

Bold Prediction – Because McGee and Peralta offer Tampa Bay a solid lefty-righty combo, manager Joel Madden decides to go closer by committee in 2014 and they surprisingly provide the Rays with the AL East’s most dominant bullpen.

Toronto Blue jays

CloserCasey Janssen 

Last season, Casey Janssen performed admirably in the closer role with a solid stat line (2.56 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 8.5 K/9) and 34 saves. Given his success in the last two seasons, the Blue jays will trust Janssen again and they should expect similar results. A quick glance over Janssen’s past three seasons (2011 – 2.26 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 8.6 K/9 ; 2012 – 2.54 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 9.5 K/9; 2013 – 2.56 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 8.5 K/9) proves he’s been a model of consistency in the Great White North.

Bold Prediction – Toronto’s offense starts living up to its potential and Janssen goes from above average to elite given his sheer number of save opportunities.

Who’s Lurking?Sergio Santos and Steve Delabar are both young relievers who have spent the last two seasons with Toronto. Should Janssen fall to injury or inconsistency, Santos and Delabar both offer a Toronto a similar set of skills. Although Delabar has a slightly better K/9, Santos will likely be the first one off the bench to replace Janssen in case of emergency.

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: End of Season Edition (As, Astros, Bucs, Cubbies, Tribe, White Sox)

As the regular season comes to an end, it’s time to close up our weekly Closer Updates column. Unlike previous weeks, there’s been some movement in closer circles this week and we’ll be happy to bring it to you. With further ado, let’s close out the season’s closer updates…

Astros

As always, Houston’s closer role is a constant question. However, it appears that Josh Fields has finally taken control of the position. Despite the fact that the Astros have not had a traditional save opportunity in the last week, Josh Fields is the guy to own in Houston. Despite a lackluster performance in the role, he’ll remain the guy over Chia-Jen Lo and Kevin Chapman for the season’s last few games.

Athletics

Fortunately for the A's, Grant Balfour has bounced back into form this last week. Although the Athletics have not had a traditional save opportunity, Balfour performed well in his Monday night performance with three strikeouts in one inning. Sorry, Ryan Cook owners. Clearly, the Athletics are still backing their guy and if he returns to mid-season form, they will be tough in the playoffs.

Cardinals

As the Cards chase home field advantage in the playoffs, Edward Mujica’s recent struggles have become too much to bear and they've installed Trevor Rosenthal in the closer role. While it's been said this move is temporary, St. Louis will likely stick with the hot hand.

Cubs

Last week, we announced that Pedro Strop would be receiving some save opportunities in place of Kevin Gregg. So far, those words have remained true. Last Saturday, Strop earned the save in a dazzling three-strikeout ninth inning. However, he was returned to the eighth inning setup role on Wednesday and Gregg earned the save. Consider it to be 50/50 shot this weekend as to who gets the call.

Indians

Although Cleveland has repeatedly stated that Chris Perez is still the closer, the writing is on the wall that somebody else might have the gig shortly. With the Indians in the midst of a playoff race, the closer position is not one they can afford to have in flux. Although Cody Allen has been tremendous this season, Joe Smith is likely the first to get the call.

Pirates

The battle for the Pirates closer job has yet another development. This week, it appears that Jason Grilli has regained the ninth and will continue to do so in the future (per Pittsburgh’s skipper). After struggling on consecutive nights, Mark Melancon yielded the role and Grilli has clearly earned enough confidence to be the Buccos’ closer through the playoffs.

White Sox

Addison Reed. Despite a superb season thus far, Reed has struggled mightily of late and had two blown saves in the last week. Because the White Sox are not jockeying for playoff position, don’t expect them to turn to Nate Jones with only a few games remaining.

Add-ition

Although journeyman LaTroy Hawkins is the Mets' closer from here on out, manager Terry Collins gave a save opportunity to Vic Black last week due to Hawkins’ heavy workload. Although it’s speculative, Collins may give Black another shot with the Mets so far out of postseason contention.

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 drop, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



Closer Updates: A’s, Astros, Bucs, Cubs & Rangers

This week, there’s been a shakeup in Chicago, a development in Houston, some potential trouble by the Bay, and minor updates from Texas and western Pennsylvania. Basically, we’ll be digging into some updates from all over the place and hopefully give you a little something to push you through those fantasy playoffs.

Astros

Ugh. In the last week, Houston has had only one save opportunity and it went to Josh Fields. Because Fields has the last three save opportunities for the Astros, he seems like the guy to own if you’re really looking for those saves. Despite struggling earlier in the season, he’s rebounded nicely in the past month (2.00 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 9.00 K/9) and Chia-Jen Lo hasn’t done much to impress over the same time (7.84 ERA, 1.74 WHIP, 9.58 K/9).

Athletics

What in the world is eating Grant Balfour? A consistent closer all season, Balfour has struggled mightily of late. In his last 9.2 innings, he has one blown save, six earned runs, and allowed 17 base runners. While his job is not necessarily at stake, it’s quite possible that the A’s look to Ryan Cook if this continues. Cook has been a little rocky lately too, but he’ll be their first alternative plan for the ninth. With the Athletics looking to clinch the AL West, they’ll want to get Balfour rested and stop those ninth innings from slipping away.

Cubs

On Thursday afternoon, manager Dale Sveum declared that Pedro Strop would be receiving some save opportunities over the remainder of the season. While the exact time share, if any, is yet to be determined, it’s clear that they're trying out Strop for next season’s closer gig. Despite the highly productive Kevin Gregg, the Cubs are certainly looking to the future and Gregg isn't that guy. If you’re scrambling for saves at the end of the season, Strop may be an ideal waiver wire pickup as he’s widely available in leagues across all platforms.

Pirates

While it seemed that the Buccos were trying to bring Jason Grilli back to the ninth, that plan may be on hold for now. While Grilli has begun to regain his form, he may remain a potent reliever instead of a saves guy over the last few weeks. Rather than simply re-inserting him into the closer role, he will likely be setting up Mark Melancon and, unless Melancon struggles or is injured, it’s clear Pittsburgh is comfortable with him closing games for here on out. Melancon owners shouldn’t be concerned about his recent blown save as he’d converted nine consecutive saves prior to Wednesday.

Rangers

While Joe Nathan is certainly not at risk to lose his job, the once-depleted Rangers bullpen is becoming fully healthy for the first time in a long time. Tanner Scheppers has excelled as a setup man, with an incredibly strong season (1.99 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 6.62 K/9). However, a friendly competition may be brewing between Joakim Soria and Neftali Feliz. Both are rebounding from significant injuries and have the stuff to be top closers if in the right position. Since returning in July, Soria has had 22 appearances and only allowed runs in four of them. While that is not an elite record, his six holds and 10.18 K/9 show that he’s starting to show glimpses of old times. On the other hand, Feliz has looked great, with no earned runs, a 1.29 WHIP, and 7.71 K/9 since returning at the beginning of September. If Soria and Feliz come around, the Rangers bullpen will have a surplus of weapons headed into the playoff chase.

Add-Vice

Should you be desperate for a save this weekend, B.J. Rosenberg may be a nice speculative pickup. He has dazzled in the last month (1.59 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 11.12 K/9) and simultaneously taken over the eighth inning in Philly. Jonathan Papelbon’s struggles this season are well documented, so Rosenberg may be in for a save or two in the last two weeks.

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 drop, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



Closer Updates: Astros, Cubbies, Mets, Pirates & Tigers

Once again, the closer newswire has been fairly calm this week. Although this is unfortunate for fantasy managers hoping to scavenge a save in the midst of the playoffs, it does allow us to take a look at some bullpens that might otherwise go ignored.

Astros

At this point, it wouldn’t be a Closer Updates article without some attempt to figure out what’s been going on in Houston since Jose Veras was sent to Detroit. The only traditional save opportunity this week went to Josh Fields, who gave up a solo shot but still converted his fourth save of the season. It seems that Fields is the best option to own in this unpredictable bullpen, as Chia-Jen Lo struggled this week with a blown save on Monday. Fields is not setting the world on fire for the Astros, but he is converting the few saves that come his way.

Cubs

After starting the season with the Carlos Marmol experiment, Chicago quickly turned to journeyman closer Kevin Gregg at the end of April and were handsomely rewarded. Gregg is six saves away from his career high (37) and is posting a career-best 3.00 ERA. That being said, Gregg is definitely not the future closer in Wrigleyville and Pedro Strop could step into the ninth for the occasional save opportunity before the season ends. If he succeeds, Strop could be the guy going into next season.

Mets

As soon as it looks like LaTroy Hawkins has a firm grip on the ninth in Queens, guess who comes storming back from oblivion? Bobby Parnell? Nope. The immortal Billy Wagner? Sadly, no. The one and only Frank Francisco has returned to the Mets bullpen with fervor and gusto. In his first appearance back, Francisco earned the win in 0.2 innings (with one walk and no earned runs or strike outs). However, he’s been a little rocky since that first victory and manager Terry Collins doesn’t quite seem ready to pitch him in back-to-back days, let alone give him the ninth. However, the Mets have been patient with his recovery and may be willing to give him some save opportunities before the season ends.

Pirates

The time for Jason Grilli’s return to the closer role is nearly upon us. While Mark Melancon may be in the Pirates’ plans for next year, they are not paying Grilli to be a set up guy in 2013. Since returning to the bigs, Jason Grilli has been a little rusty but his recent promotion to higher-leverage situations indicates that he’ll being put in a position to regain his old gig sooner rather than later. Stayed tune and don’t be surprised if he’s officially the closer (again) by the time Closer Updates comes out next week.

Tigers

After beginning the year as one of the more precarious closer situations, Detroit has sorted out their bullpen situation quite nicely. With an early carousel of Phil Coke, Drew Smyly, and Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit emerged as the best and most dependable of the bunch. With a 2.05 ERA and 1.07 WHIP, Benoit has posted 18 saves and firmly held onto the closer role in Motown. Former Astros closer Jose Veras was acquired via trade and has been a holds machine since coming to the Tigers, while continuing to build on his solid season stats (2.88 ERA, 1.01 WHIP). With the emergence of Benoit and the acquisition of Veras, Detroit has gone from shaky shoals to smooth sailing in the bullpen seas.

Add-Vice

Due to the relatively quiet closer scene lately, much of our Add-Vice is speculative and this week is no different. If you’re in the middle of a playoff chase for your league title, Kelvin Herrera may be a sneaky pickup. Although he’s not a closer, he is a setup guy with a tremendous strikeout rate (11.4 K/9) who grabs a win from time to time (two in August). If you’ve got an open pitcher spot, he can add to your K's and maybe grab you that one win you’ll need to get over the top this week.

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 drop, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



Closer Updates: Angels, Astros, BoSox, Marlins, & Pirates

For the most part, this week has been all quiet on the closer front. That means, in addition to regular updates, we’ll toss in a taste of next year by looking at a couple of closers who didn’t start the season with a firm grip on the ninth but have proven themselves thus far and seem to be going into 2014 with closer credentials.

Angels

The war may not be over, but the battle for the Halos closer seems to be done. Ernesto Frieri is earning back the skipper’s trust with three consecutive saves and nine consecutive appearances without allowing an earned run. Dane De La Rosa has performed admirably in his mini-audition for the gig (with an August ERA of 0.97) and he’ll be trusted with saves if Frieri is on short rest moving forward. If Frieri struggles again, he’ll be the first to step in and may even be able to steal a win or two down the stretch in relief situations.

Astros

The struggle for the Astros’ ninth inning continues. While the battle for Angels’ closer is more of a fistfight, the Houston position battle is a thumb war. Josh Fields had only one appearance in the last week, allowing one run and earning the hold. Then, he received the four-out save opportunity on Thursday night and converted with relative ease (he did not allow a walk or strike out a batter). Chia-Jen Lo, on the other hand, has seen his season ERA balloon to 5.25 after allowing four runs in one inning on Monday. This may have led the Astros to give Fields the most recent opportunity and if he can continue not to blow saves, the job might be his. That being said, tread lightly as any of these guys can be a serious liability across the fantasy board until one can prove himself in consecutive outings.

Marlins

When you think about dominant closers, you certainly do not think about Steve Cishek. And while the term dominant may be too bold, Cishek’s numbers aren’t too far off from the good stuff (29 saves, 2.52 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 8.75 K/9). If the Marlins were in a position to win more ballgames, Cishek could be a top closer. While his historical numbers aren’t the greatest, his contract isn’t high and he’ll likely have the Marlins gig in 2014. If they go on a spending spree this offseason, he may be a serious sleeper next year.

Pirates

Since we last visited the Steel City, Mark Melancon was proving to be a great replacement to Jason Grilli, who was rehabbing with the anticipation of an early September return. In that time period, lots have changed. Grilli’s return to the major leagues came in a blowout, putting very little pressure on the 30 save closer. He performed well, striking out two Brewers in one inning and proving his effectiveness. Look for him to get a few higher pressure outings this week before being inserted back into the closer’s role.

Red Sox

While Koji Uehara may be in dominant form now, the early debate was whether him or Junichi Tazawa would get the closer’s gig in Beantown. Koji took the job and ran with it, having a great 2013 season. With a severely depleted bullpen, Boston has leaned on Uehara and he’s delivered. Despite the return of many guys from injury, he could be their closer in 2014 or, at the very least, serious trade bait in the offseason. If you’re in a keeper league and snagged him off the waiver wire earlier in the year, keep this in mind.

Add-Vice

After triumphing in the battle for Seattle, Danny Farquhar has proven to be quite the ninth inning guy. He’s put up six saves in the last two weeks, with only one earned run in his last nine appearances. Furthermore, he’s striking out more than a batter an inning over that stretch and could be the guy in Seattle going into next season.

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 drop, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



Closer Updates: Angels, Astros, Orioles, Pirates, & Rockies

Welcome back! This week we’ll take a look at two position battles and provide some insight into other happenings in the closer world. Without “hold”ing you up, it’s time to “close” the introduction and “save” you from any more of these puns...

Angels

The Battle for Los Angeles Angels closer continued this week with yet another save split. Ernesto Frieri had two saves in three innings, looking good in his quasi-triumphant return to the ninth inning. In those appearances, Frieri gave up no runs, allowed one hit and one walk, with a K/9 of 9.0. On the other hand, Dane De La Rosa has pitched well with one save in 2.3 innings over the same time span. Although not as flashy, he’s been effective by scattering groundballs and popping batters up, giving up two walks, no earned runs and no hits. Although we’re not quite sure if Frieri has re-taken the reins out west, he’s well on his way to having the gig back.

Astros

If you’re looking for another closer job up for grabs, take a gander at Houston. This week, Jordan Lyles has the Astros' only save and he started against the Mariners on Thursday. While Chia-Jen Lo struggled in one appearance, Josh Fields has steadily made a strong case for himself. Since our last column, Fields has had four appearances and impressed with his consistency (2.2 innings pitched, two hits, four strikeouts, no walks or earned runs). Right now, Fields seems like the guy to own. If you’re really looking for a sleeper, Kevin Chapman has been a good reliever for Houston and, despite his atypical closer profile (groundball guy, low K/9), he could inherit the role by default.

Orioles

Despite last week’s Tommy Hunter scare, it seems that Jim Johnson is still the guy to own in Baltimore. The closer-by-committee approach may have just been a motivation tactic, or may still prove to be true once the O's get a few more save opportunities, but Johnson has both of their saves in the last week and has pitched well since his struggles a few weeks ago.

Pirates

First-half stud Jason Grilli is still rehabbing from his forearm injury, but his progression is coming along nicely. On Wednesday, Grilli completed a simulated game and could return to Pittsburgh within the next two weeks. That being said, his promotion to the big leagues depends on his performance in AA (Saturday) and back-to-back gigs in AAA (early next week). If Grilli performs well, he’ll be back in the majors and pressuring Mark Melancon for his job back. Whether or not Grilli is given the ninth inning immediately is still unclear, but you’ll be in the loop when we find out.

Rockies

This just in, Rafael Betancourt’s injury was as serious as everyone thought. It appears he’ll undergo Tommy John surgery and the rest of his career may be in doubt. That being said, Rex Brothers is still the guy to own here and moving forward (especially if you’re in a keeper or dynasty league). It’s been clear in Denver that Brothers was their closer-of-the-future, but that time is now. With a career 11.1 K/9, Rex has the stuff and will be a good-to-great closer for quite some time.

Add-Vice

While it may have snuck past some, do not think that we haven’t noticed Drew Storen’s slow and steady return to the Nats’ bullpen. After struggling mightily at the beginning of the season and spending some time in the minors (5.47 ERA in 2013), Storen has regained a spot in the 7th inning. Since his return at the beginning of August, he’s had a very serviceable 7.0 innings (2.57 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 2 Ks). While Tyler Clippard is still ahead of him in the depth chart, Washington has always preferred to keep Clippard in a setup role. The Nationals are definitely not paying Rafael Soriano for long relief, but if he continues to struggle (giving up at least one run in five of his last nine appearances) and Storen keeps on keeping on, don’t be surprised to see him get a shot at the ninth.

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 drop, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.





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