Saves


Closer Updates: Top Performers

Last week might have been a dramatic one for our soldiers of the ninth, but this one has stayed the course pretty well. Sure, Addison Reed notched one of the stranger wins in relief history, and the Marlins had to quash trade rumors about Steve Cishek, and Chris Perez might want to hire an attorney, but pitchers who had been struggling like Brandon League, Tom Wilhelmsen, and Fernando Rodney all took steps in the right direction.

As for injured pitchers, keep Vinnie Pestano in for the aforementioned Perez, but Jim Henderson looks to be back as early as tomorrow for Milwaukee. In San Diego, Luke Gregerson seems to be the primary closer and Dale Thayer the secondary in a quasi-committee situation for Huston Street.

Why burn through the roundup so quickly? So we have the chance to take a look at the season's top saves-getters. As we continue into June, we no longer get to talk about hot starts and have to start thinking about good seasons. As the trading season begins, it might help to have an idea about which top closers are worth targeting if you need saves...and which ones you might want to deal away before things head south. 

Alone Above the Wreck

Jason Grilli: 22 SV
Grilli has been a beast this year. He was relatively unheralded coming into the season (this author may have made the mistake of alerting his father to Grilli; said father is now dominating their shared fantasy league), but had pitched seriously well in setup last year. It doesn't look like smoke and mirrors for Grilli, as his 1.01 ERA is actually worse than his FIP of 0.63. His xFIP is a bit of a downer at 1.92. If that isn't enough, he's rocking a 14.51 K/9 and has yet to allow a home run. Grilli remains a great investment going forward, though his rate of save opportunities is likely to go down--he's on pace for 59 of them. 

Mariano Rivera: 21 SV
The Best Reliever in Baseball doesn't have that name because he has the best season of any reliever very often, it's because he has that rare ability to always have one of the best seasons. This year is no exception so far. In fact, his purported final season is shaping up to be one of the best of his career. (Let's hear it for making sure I drafted him one last time!) His 2.26 FIP and 3.09 xFIP aren't as great as his 1.61 ERA, but his 8.06 K/9 and his amazing 0.81 BB/9 should do the job just fine. With the Yankees success, he should see plenty of save opps for the rest of the season, though, like Grilli, it will probably be at a somewhat lower rate than he has so far. Otherwise both these guys will be challenging the record. Rivera is a great bet for quality production over the rest of the year, but his trade value will be inflated due to his well-earned brand name. If you need saves, Grilli might come at a better (but still high) price.  

 You're Not as Brave as You Were at the Start

Jim Johnson: 19 SV
How are you among the saves leaders despite going through a stretch of blowing three in a row? Get a ton of opportunities, of course. Johnson hasn't pitched terribly bad (except that one stretch), and his FIP (3.71) and xFIP (3.54) are both better than his ERA. Moreover, his 7.71 K/9 is much better than what we're used to from him. Johnson is a decent bet for good production the rest of the way, but his non-saves numbers are far from elite. All it will take is a little rough luck--or even normal luck--and his saves total won't be elite either.

Joe Nathan: 18 SV
Nathan's resurgence continues, and Texas is giving him plenty of opportunity to lock down saves. His 8.88 K/9 and 1.85 ERA are excellent, but his 2.59 BB/9 rate might be contributing a little to his not-as-amazing 3.15 FIP and 3.75 xFIP. Though his is a strong candidate for continued success, his peripherals and the likely high trade value associated with his brand and strong team mean he might be an even better sell-high candidate.

Addison Reed: 17 SV
Until yesterday, Reed was all over the closers' leaderboards. I don't feel bad about setting aside his weird extra-innings performance, but then, I wasn't totally sold on his previous success. His 10.67 K/9 rate gives him more value in strikeouts than many closers, and his 2.29 FIP is markedly better than his 3.67 ERA (which his 3.56 xFIP thinks is spot-on). His 3.00 BB/9 is a little high, but not terrible. Now is far from the time to trade Reed, but his short track record of greatness suggests he's at least as good a trade candidate as a keeper.

Edward Mujica: 17 SV
Jason Motte was supposed to be one of the year's top closers, but instead we've got his third-in-line replacement on this list. Mujica has a nifty 1.67 ERA, with a very good 2.36 FIP and 2.83 xFIP. His 8.00 K/9 gets the job done, while his 0.33 BB/9 makes Mariano Rivera look wild. Pitching for the dominant Cardinals, Mujica is a great candidate for continued success. His owners probably know that, but make him a trade target anyway to be sure.

Craig Kimbrel: 17 SV
Kimbrel was expected to be the season's best closer from beginning to end, so I guess this counts as a disappointment. I'll say now that if his owner really is disappointed in his performance, you should jump on that with a trade offer. His 12.34 K/9 and 1.93 ERA put him with the game's elite. His 3.02 FIP isn't terribly optimistic, but his 2.39 xFIP looks plenty good. Expect him to continue in greatness as the season goes on, but his high draft position and name value will probably give him a high price tag.

 You'll Never Settle Any of Your Scores

Sergio Romo: 16 SV
Romo has been almost definitively serviceable this season. None of his stats are with the elite, but none show cracks in his armor either: 9.25 K/9, 1.11, BB/9, 2.59/2.45/2.97 ERA/FIP/xFIP. He rather epitomizes great-but-not-the-best. To me, that means Romo might make a high-quality trade target, as he may not be the best closer on his own fantasy team--or at least not the one who's seemed the best so far.

Aroldis Chapman: 15 SV
Like Kimbrel, Chapman has been a big disappointment so far. This is mostly because of the unreasonable expectations put on him (by his own incredible 2012 season). Chapman leads all closers with a 15.92 K/9, and he's doing it without walking people at rates like Carlos Marmol or Ernesto Frieri. Not that his 4.15 BB/9 is particularly good. His FIP (2.41) is a dead-on match for his ERA (2.42), while his xFIP is a tad better, at 2.29. Having underperformed huge expectations, Chapman might make a good trade target--but his owners are probably still able to enjoy the saves and strikeouts, so he'll probably come at a high price in most leagues.

Rafael Soriano: 15 SV
The Nationals were expected to be one of baseball's top teams, and Soriano one of the top closers. Though Sori has 15 saves, neither expectation has come to pass. Though Soriano has a solid 2.74 ERA, it comes with a mediocre 3.24 FIP, and a downright bad 4.16 xFIP. With just a 6.65 K/9, something seems to be wrong. Either trouble is coming, or Soriano will find his strikeout pitch again. For now, his solid saves and ERA stats make him a very good trade candidate...if you're dealing him away.

Tom Wilhelmsen: 14 SV
Wilhelmsen burst onto the scene from obscurity last season (a pretty common closer story, actually), and was highly regarded by many going into this year. Part of the reason he was so well-liked was the fact that he struck batters out in bunches last year. This season, not so much; he's got just a 6.49 K/9 rate. That alone is enough for me to shop him, but a 4.44 BB/9 and 4.24 xFIP should be enough to convince most everyone else. Sell him while you can, because he won't hold onto that 2.05 ERA much longer.

Well, that's what we get for having a slow news week. Hopefully your opponents don't look terribly far into the numbers when evaluating your upcoming trade offers. We'll look at some of the lower-level performers next time no closers manage to lose their jobs or endanger their careers with injury. Until then, don't forget to check out our Closer Depth Chart and follow @CloserNews on Twitter for up-to-the-minute information.



Closer Updates: Indians, Brewers, Rockies, Mets, Cubs, Dodgers, Rays

It was a more eventful week in the ninth inning than last week, as two teams lost their closers to the DL (and another nearly joined them). There was good news, however, and more of it, as several more closers around the league stregthened their footing as stopper. Or, at least they watched their competitors falter....

Indians

Chris Perez hit the DL with "mild tendonitis" and will be replaced by Vinnie Pestano for the time being. Fantasy pundits have been recommending for the last couple years that Cleveland make this move, though Perez might actually have been outpitching his understudy this season. While Pestano claims to have found the mechanical flaw that has kept his velocity down (and his ERA over 5.00), Perez doesn't have a timetable yet. There's nothing to indicate that it will be a long DL stay...but nothing to assure us it will be short, either. Pestano is a good option, even as a short-termer, so he's well worth picking up.

Brewers

Just when Milwaukee fans thought they finally had their ninth innings locked down with Jim Henderson's sub-1.00 ERA he goes on the DL. Ouch. Literally, as he's got a pulled hamstring. So far, word is that it isn't serious and that the DL stint is mostly so that the team can't give into the temptation to rush him back. I don't blame them: their fill-in options don't inspire much confidence, unless you believe John Axford's got the magic back from 2011 or Francisco Rodriguez does from 2006. The Brewers say they'll do the committee thing in Henderson's absence, but I'm betting that K-Rod gets the majority of the opportunities.

Rockies

We had a bit of a frenzy to add Rex Brothers last week, when it looked like Rafael Betancourt was going on the DL, but that ended up not being much of a thing. Of course, Betancourt immediately went and blew a save, but that doesn't change anything in the Colorado bullpen hierarchy, so don't get worried.

Update: Betancourt just hit the DL and Brothers will be taking care of the closer's duties. So pick him up if you still can.

Mets

Bobby Parnell didn't have much to worry about in the Mets' closing job, but now he has even less, as Frank Francisco is now on the 60-day DL. If you had stashed him in the hope that he'd come back and steal the job, it's time to let that dream die.

Cubs

Kevin Gregg should never be considered "one of the most secure closers," but he really is at this point. Not only has he been lights-out (weird), but Kyuji Fujikawa will be having Tommy John surgery, so there goes basically his whole Cubs contract. When manager Dale Sveum was asked what he thought about Carlos Marmol closing again, he responded, "I hope not." So he's not likely to threaten Gregg's job.

Dodgers

Brandon League looked just about ready to cede his job to, well, anyone else, not that long ago, but he's in better shape now. He's locked down five consecutive scoreless outings and is up to 11 saves. His overall numbers aren't awesome, but there definitely seems to be a desire to keep him in the ninth instead of Kenley Jansen--who hasn't earned a save in two weeks. So long as League is just good enough not to demote, expect him to keep his job. That probably goes for manager Don Mattingly too, which is good news if you own League. Any new manager could make an easy splash by changing closers. So hang on to League if you've got him, but Jansen is still too good and too close to the job not to be owned in all fantasy formats.

Rays

Fernando-mania 2.0 seemed ready to fizzle out for good with Fernando Rodney being so inneffective of late. He's now gone four straight scoreless outings (and three straight walkless) so things are looking up. His overall numbers are still ugly (5.40 ERA, 19 BB in 21.7 IP) but they weren't bad enough for him to lose the job before and they won't be now while he's on a hot streak. Sure, he may lose the job if he gets into trouble, but the Rays have a lot invested in keeping him installed in the ninth, as their other options are not inspiring. He'll be given the chance to right the ship, which is great news if you own him, as you've probably got a lot invested in him too. If he does falter, Joel Peralta is the most likely replacement.

Add-Vice

Vinnie Pestano is a must-add right now. While Chris Perez is probably not going to be out very long, you can never be sure. Plus, Pestano is a good enough pitcher that the Indians may decide that he's a better guy to have in the ninth anyway. Francisco Rodriguez is a good pickup too, as he's most likely to benefit from Jim Henderson's absence. Beyond those two, Joel Peralta is still a decent speculative guy if you don't believe in Rodney, and the strikeouts Rex Brothers generates make him potentially useful even if Rafael Betancourt stays healthy all season.



Closer Updates: Orioles, Rays, Dodgers, Nationals, Rockies, Red Sox, Angels

As you can see from the title, there's been a little bit of closer news this week, so we'll get right down to business. Speaking of which, check out @CloserNews for up-to-the-minute info. Also, take a look at our Closer Depth Chart for a league-wide overview of the ninth inning. But anyway, on to business.

Orioles

Jim Johnson didn't have his best week ever. Three consecutive blown saves are enough to cost many closers their job, but Johnson earned his leash last year and manager Buck Showalter trusted him enough to hand him the ball in extra innings. Johnson earned the win, and there seems to be good reason to think this rough patch was just that and not a sign of impending doom.

For one thing, while his HR/9 rate and his HR/FB rate are much higher now than last year, a reliever's sample size is so small that that includes a whopping three homers allowed, two of which came during his three blown saves in a row. Moreover, while his BB/9 rate has also increased, it was already so low that it had wiggle room. Since his K/9 has increased since last year as well, he still maintains a 3.00 K/BB and is adding value with nearly two extra strikeouts per nine. All in all, he doesn't look like someone about to go Axford on us.

Rays

Speaking of impending doom and John Axford, Fernando Rodney appears to be turning into the proverbial pumpkin. His magical season last year has rightly earned him a lot of room for error, but at some point even that will have to be considered used up. Rodney has had bad results recently: he's blown three of his last four saves and looked bad doing it. Rodney has a bad process: his 8.35 BB/9 is rough to look at, let alone experience in the ninth inning. Not only is it worse than the sparkly but unbelievable 1.81 mark he put up last year, it's worse than any of the once-and-again wildman's previous ML rates, including the one that got him demoted by the Angels in 2011. Unless he gets his control under control, Rodney is probably on the way out of the ninth inning, at least temporarily.

Setup man Joel Peralta has gotten the most mention as a possible replacement, while neither Jake McGee nor Kyle Farnsworth have been obviously better than Rodney. Don't expect the Rays to go out of the organization, but don't be shocked if they do opt for a committee.

Dodgers

 The great and tragic drama of Brandon League and Kenley Jansen continues to play itself out, as manager Don Mattingly won't commit to "annointing" a closer. I guess that's technically a demotion for League, as he had already been annointed as closer (which apparently makes you some type of king by fiat). It's mitigated good news for Jansen owners and plenty of reason to pick him up if he's still unowned. Perhaps more reason to grab Jansen is that Mattingly may well play things as close to "the book" as he can while he flails around trying to keep his job. If he is fired, expect the new manager to make the obvious choice and officially install Jansen in the ninth, if only to earn some cheap points with the masses. As this situation begins to resolve itself, you're probably safe to drop League in most (a-hem) leagues. 

Nationals

Rafael Soriano came into the year as a top closer, and his 2.14 ERA suggests he still is. Though he blew two saves in a row this week (and tossed teammate Bryce Harper under the bus after one of them), he's firmly entrenched as the Nats' closer. There's trouble under the hood, however, as Soriano's FIP is 3.41 and his xFIP an even worse 4.23--Soriano isn't really pitching all that well. Perhaps more pointedly, his K/9 is sitting at just 6.43--the worst since his rookie season in 2002. As a starter. Now, he's got plenty of time to ratchet up the K's, but it might be a good idea to sell him while his ERA still shines as well as it does. Though he's not in imminent danger of losing his job, these things can shift quickly and the Nationals have other quality options in their bullpen.

Rockies

First, the rumor was that Rafael Betancourt was going on the DL, now it's that he won't. The facts are that Betancourt is having a very nice season (albeit with too many walks) and won't be supplanted by a quick injury, DL trip or no. The other facts are that Rex Brothers is having an even better season (also with more walks than are preferable) and saved the game for Betancourt on Wednesday. While the 38-year-old Betancourt will probably be just fine, this isn't a bad time to add Brothers, just in case. It isn't every team that can replace their closer with someone pitching at least as well, but the Rockies are one of them. In the event something bad happens, Brothers would be a quality setup man. If all stays well, he's still a usable non-closer in many leagues.

Red Sox

Andrew Bailey is back from the DL and back into the closer's role. Sort of. The Red Sox won't use him on back-to-back nights for an while as they let their fragile pitcher reacclimate. That means that Junichi Tazawa (who wasn't exactly a useful pickup during Bailey's absence) may still have the chance to grab some saves--more, certainly, than most setup guys. Keep him rostered until the Sox show us that Bailey is ready for a full workload. Considering his 25:3 K:BB ratio and Bailey's tendency to get hurt, Tazawa remains one of the better setup men to keep on your team.

Angels

Bad news for Ryan Madson is good news for Ernesto Frieri. Frieri will need it, as he's issued a ton of walks (6.75 BB/9) in April and May. He strikes a lot of people out too, which is good, but his ERA (2.25) doesn't match his FIP (4.58) or his xFIP (4.71). As long as Madson keeps having setbacks, however, expect Frieri to keep getting the call in the ninth inning. At least until those walks start costing him saves....

Add-Vice

Obviously, Kenley Jansen should be owned in all leagues at this point. If you own Fernando Rodney, I'd strongly suggest picking Joel Peralta up as backup (though the Rays do unconventional things whenever given an excuse). In fact, he's the top guy out there as far as speculative closers. If Junichi Tazawa's owner dropped him when Andrew Bailey came back from the DL, pick Tazawa up as he's in a great save-vulturing position. The same is true for Rex Brothers, but less so. Everyone else seems to be staying the course for now, so there isn't any real need to gobble up Orioles, Nationals, or Angels setup guys.

 



Closer Updates: Brewers, Angels, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Red Sox

It's been a pretty good week to be a closer. Sure, we've had blown saves, injuries, and even seen one closer scurry out of the clubhouse in his street clothes, but, hey, no one lost their job. In the up and down world of closing ballgames, not losing your job counts as a win for everyone with less prestige than Mariano Rivera (and, to a lesser extent, Jonathan Papelbon and Craig Kimbrel).

With no job losses to present our favorite kind of opportunities, we can safely ignore relievers and the waiver wire for another week, right? 

Sure you can. But I won't, and neither will your leaguemates. Just because no changes have happened yet doesn't mean there couldn't be trouble brewing. With that said, let's start things off with the...

Brewers

Actually, there isn't really any "trouble" coming down the pike for Milwaukee closer Jim Henderson. There's some bad news for the few John Axford owners still out there, because the Brew Crew just added all-time single-season saves leader Francisco Rodriguez to their beleaguered bullpen. Considering how well Henderson has pitched (10.50 K/9, 5.00 K/B, 1.06 ERA, 1.37 FIP, 95mph fastball), I don't see K-Rod's rusty right arm pushing him out of the ninth any time soon. But considering how unbelievably bad Axford's been (I won't show you the numbers, in deference to his owners), Frankie Rodriguez will likely climb into the top setup slot and become the first backup in line soon. I wouldn't add Rodriguez at this point, but I would drop Ax-man.

Angels

Ryan Madson and I had thought this might be a good time to scoop him up, in case the Angels got overexuberant and handed him the closer's job they signed him for. Well, the latest word is that his rehab stint may last "several weeks." One can understand the Angels playing this one cautiously, but I wouldn't be surprised if they activated Madson earlier than that--if he's healthy and dominant in rehab. Keep an eye on what Madson does in AAA, becuase incumbent closer Ernesto Frieri has had a lot of success but will need to cut down on his 6.23 BB/9 before it catches up with him. (To be fair, that number is cut down from where it was a couple weeks ago when I suggested watching his backups.)

Diamondbacks

Remember when Heath Bell was one of the top closers drafted? Me neither. Arizona GM Kevin Towers did, though, and looked like a fool when he traded to get Bell in the offseason. Maybe we should have trusted Towers' history with relievers, because it's a pretty long track record of success. Thus far, Bell has been outstanding and his fastball velocity and frequency appear to have returned to the levels of the good ol' days in San Diego. Does that mean David Hernandez isn't looming? No. But it does mean that he managed to blow a save Sunday and had enough leash to come back for two in a row Tuesday and Wednesday. If you've got Hernandez, I hope you're counting holds, because Bell has a solid grip on the saves in the desert.

Dodgers

Brandon League is a good-but-not-great pitcher, and he's been pretty shaky so far this season. Kenley Jansen is a dominant strikeout pitcher and he's dominated this season. So why is League still the closer? There are two reasons, one more important than the other. First of all, someone decided that lots of money = infinite money and threw 30 some-odd million dollars at League to close. That's big money for a setup guy and there's some face to be lost by demoting him. That's the lesser reason, I think. The real reason, and the reason they gave all that money to Mr. League in the first place, is the reason they initially traded for him: Jansen's health.

I'm doing a little bit of speculating here, as I am neither a medical doctor nor an employee of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but I think they're giving League as much leash as his performance will allow (maybe more) so that they can keep Jansen as fresh as possible for when they really need him. Earlier this week, Jansen came in to get a big one-out save, but League was back Wednesday to preserve a two-run lead in the ninth. When did Jansen pitch? In the seventh and eighth with a one-run lead--when sabermetricians tell us the Dodgers really needed him.

Hang on to League as long as he's just good enough to justify running out there in the ninth, because I think the Dodgers are trying to maximize their bullpen value by having Jansen available for all (and only) the highest-leverage innings. If that's what they're up to, more teams should do the same.

Red Sox

Junichi Tazawa hasn't pitched since losing the game last Saturday, but, then, the Red Sox haven't brought him any save opportunities since. While the Boston decision makers have seemed confident enough in Tazawa, it looks like Bailey will be coming back no later than Monday, if all goes according to plan. Of course, things may not go according to plan, so don't drop Tazawa just yet. However, if a short-sighted owner happened to drop Bailey, go to your waiver wire and claim him, because he's pitched too good not to return to the ninth inning when he's ready. Plus, the Red Sox probably want to show off whatever stability they can.

Add-Vice

Unfortunately, this isn't a big week to find closing bargains. Bailey (and Tazawa, actually) make the best adds, on the off chance they aren't owned yet in your league. Speaking of League, if frustrated owners have dropped him, I'd pick him up, as there's a good chance he gets to snag the easier save chances in L.A. Finally, "several weeks" is a long time for a rehab assignment, but if you've got space on your DL it might be a good idea to lock up Madson. The Angels did sign him with the intent of using him to close, and they may still go that route when he comes back to the Bigs. Of course, they may not, so if you play the wait-and-see game and lose, don't beat yourself up.

And by the way, don't forget to check out @CloserNews on Twitter for up-to-the-minute information, and our up-to-date Closer Depth Chart, for each team's stopper and top backups.



Closer Updates: Diamondbacks, Cubs, Brewers, Red Sox, Angels

The past week has been a relatively quiet one on the closer front. Relatively meaning, of course, that we had an established closer return from the DL to set up for his replacement, another closer slide backwards in his climb back to the ninth inning, one guy start pulling away from the closer-by-committee pack, and another continue to push himself out of job security. So yeah, quiet week.

Diamondbacks

Last week we mentioned the trouble that J.J. Putz has gotten himself into, and now he's blown another save. The good news for owners is that he saved two successfully and earned a win in the past week, but he's still up to four blown saves, meaning he's just 5/9 in SV/OPP. He hasn't pitched horribly, but he hasn't been great, and that might not be good enough much longer.

Arizona isn't saying anything about demoting Putz, to whom they've allocated a significant contract, but they do have other options. Lucky for Putz owners, the best of those options, David Hernandez, just blew a game himself. Heath Bell "can handle the ninth" because he used to be good at it, and Matt Reynolds has shown himself to be a quality arm. If things don't get better for Putz, expect to see some combination of these three pitchers in the ninth inning for Arizona.

Cubs

Carlos Marmol (10BB/10.7 IP) is a known walk machine, but this level is bad even for him. He's supposedly still in the Cubbie committee, but for how long? Making matters worse is that six of those have come in his last four appearances, while Kevin Gregg has pitched like a hero. He's saved four games in a row without walking a batter in that span. Looking to before he was inserted into the closing picture, Gregg has struck out six batters in 5.1 IP, with just three hits and two walks allowed. Even better, his last three outings have been perfect. The question is less one of competition between Gregg and Marmol, but about whether Gregg closes when Kyuji Fujikawa returns. 

A word of caution: a few well-timed good innings shouldn't make us forget why the Cubs were able to find Gregg on the proverbial scrapheap in the first place: we're talking about a guy with a lifetime 4.04 BB/9 rate, whose last two season-long WHIP's were in the 1.60's. Proven closer does not mean proven control artist.

Brewers

John Axford was supposed to be on his way back to the closer's job, but an eighth inning loss to the Pirates pushed his ERA back over 10.00 and him just a little farther from his old line of work. The homer he allowed was his fifth in 10.7 IP this season. Yeah, he's allowed a longball every other inning. Maybe Axford's progress was real and this is just a hiccup on the road back to ninth-inning dominance. Or maybe not. For now, keep hanging on to Jim Henderson.

Red Sox

Joel Hanrahan is back off the DL, but Andrew Bailey is still closing for the Sox. Bailey has been flat-out excellent, and if that doesn't change it's hard to see Hanrahan (who came into the year sporting shaky peripherals) muscling his way back into the ninth inning. Right now, the plan is to let Hanrahan work his way into a setup role, but no farther. While that may change, Bailey is looking like one of baseball's most solid closers at the moment.

The above is what I wrote before seeing that Hanrahan came in for the save Thursday while Bailey was out with bicep soreness. So far it appears that the injury is minor and that Bailey will close when available. Hang on to Hanrahan for now, though I still expect Bailey to run with the job.

Angels

Ernesto Frieri (11BB/12.3 IP) has only blown one save, but he could be in for some seriously bad outings if he can't get his wake rate of nearly 9.00/9. The good news is that he's striking out over a batter per inning (15K's), and holding his ERA (2.19) together. There might be a reason that the Angels wanted Ryan Madson to close. I would strongly consider moving him before the blown saves start racking up. Dane de la Rosa and Scott Downs have worked a lot in the eighth inning lately, though Downs's left-handedness gives the edge to de la Rosa.

Add-Vice

Gregg (Y!: 37%/ESPN: 66.7%/CBS: 26% owned) is worth picking up in pretty much all formats. David Hernandez (Y!: 16%/ESPN: 7.8%/CBS: 16%) is the best choice for a handcuff to J.J. Putz. The nice thing about picking him up is that he's one of the most valuable setup men around, meaning he won't waste your roster spot while you wait for him to take the job. If you're desperate for saves or worried about Frieri, then de la Rosa (basically unowned) might be a good choice. Keep in mind that Frieri will probably have to blow a couple actual games before the Angels even make noise about a change.



Closer Updates: Cubs, Tigers, Brewers, Red Sox, Diamondbacks, Royals

At this point, the question on everyone's mind is this: will we go a week without the Cubs changing closers? Okay, maybe it's not on everyone's mind, but I'll bet it weighs deeply on yours if you've found yourself drawn into that particular fray. Fortunately, while there might be turmoil on the North Side, things might just be calming down a bit around the rest of the Majors.

Cubs

Quick, guess the two most recent Cubs to save a game! That's right, Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg. If this isn't a mixture for excitement, I don't know what is. Expect strikeouts and lots and lots of walks in the ninth inning while these guys tackle the job. The good news is that Marmol has been pitching well enough to drive his ERA all the way down to 4.35, having not been scored upon since April 6th. The bad news is that his WHIP still sits at 1.80, and he walked five batters and hit one in his last three appearances. I think the Cubs will take any opportunity they can get to let Marmol save games, as his trade value is a lot better if he can be passed off as a "proven closer." If he falters before Fujikawa returns or he is traded, Gregg looks like he'll be in line for most of the saves. Why? Well, why not? It's bad news for Shawn Camp and James Russell, though they aren't officially out of the saves mix.

Tigers

Speaking of pitchers out of the saves mix...Jose Valverde is back. Up in the Majors, he's already saved a game in his lone appearance and owned in 58% of Yahoo! leagues. Go ahead and snag him in just about all formats. He probably doesn't have the most job security in the world, but I imagine that the Tigers won't want to throw themselves back into closer-uncertainty-land soon after leaving it. He might get more rope than most pitchers of his skill level. On another note, Bruce Rondon is up in the Majors, though his manager seems pretty happy not to be using him in the ninth. If Rondon is lights out and Valverde gets lit up, a change is possible. Sorry, Joaquin Benoit hopefuls... 

Brewers

Nothing's wrong with Jim Henderson, who's saved the game in his last three appearances, but rumor has it that John Axford might be back in the old job soon. There hasn't been an official timetable or anything, but the Ax Man hasn't allowed a run or walked a batter since April 9th. If he's righting the ship, he'll get the job back, whether Henderson has an 0.90 ERA or not. The only good news for Henderson owners (at least, the ones who don't have Axford too) is that he's pitched well enough to be worth keeping around.

Red Sox

Joel Hanrahan is starting his rehab assignment and is eligible to come off the DL on Monday. The Sox traded for him to be their closer. Andrew Bailey has filled in and done a great job. The Sox also traded for Bailey to be their closer. Management hasn't said anything definitive, other than it might be a fight for the job. So, I guess this counts as bad news for owners of both. Bailey has pitched better this year, but it's probably fair to say than Hanrahan will have to be bad not to win his job back. That's certainly possible. Whatever ultimately happens, expect Bailey to keep the job for several days while Hanrahan is allowed to get back in the swing of things.

Diamondbacks

J.J. Putz has gotten himself in enough trouble that his manager had to reassure everyone that he was "still the closer." Things got bad enough that Matt Reynolds saved two games last week, one in relief of Putz, the other in relief of David Hernandez. This one is worth keeping an eye on, though Putz managed his fourth save on Thursday to go with the three he's blown. So far, there's no change, and Putz should have a bit more leash left; the veteran closer has proved himself over the years to the point where Arizona probably won't demote him for a bad couple weeks. If his struggles get worse, Reynolds, Hernandez, and Heath Bell may all get a crack at the job.

Royals

Nothing but good news for Greg Holland owners, as he's pitched his ERA all the way down to 5.14 with five consecutive scoreless outings. In fact, all the runs he's given up this year came in one inning, pitched across two horrific days. He's got 14 strikeouts in his seven innings pitched and seems to have gotten away from any controversy over his bullpen role. Making things easier for him, Kelvin Herrera has had two disastrous outings and actually pushed his ERA above Holland's. Why all this talk about ERA, you wonder, in this age of better statistical analysis? Closing is about results, not process, and good results keep jobs.

Add-Vice

Not as easy a week for speculative pickups, as most of the pitchers involved will be already owned. If Valverde remains available, he's by far the best pickup (unless Holland or Putz are somehow on the waiver wire). Axford is actually less owned than Valverde (just 51% of Yahoo! leagues), so it's a good time to get him. Marmol is on a hot streak and has at least a share of the closing job; he should be owned in more than just 39% of Yahoo! leagues. Leave Gregg and the others alone. Bailey is owned in three-quarters of leagues, and he's worth keeping as a setup man if he continues to pitch as he has. 



Closer Updates: Cubs, Cardinals, Red Sox, Brewers, Astros

Just when you think things are settled in the world of closers...they aren't. This week sent more injuries our way, plus flame-throwing relievers that couldn't cut it, and K-Rod's return as we know it. Here are the saves-chasing updates from around the Majors.

Cubs

If your closer's team never shows up in this column, so much the better. If your closer's team is the Cubs, well I feel bad for you son, because they've been a mainstay here on Closer Updates and I see no reason why they might leave. The latest issue is that newly anointed closer Kyuji Fujikawa has hit the DL with a strained right forearm. He'll be out until at least late this month, and could be missing more time. Rumor has it that he'd been experiencing pain for some time, so perhaps this explains why his ERA is at a Marmolian 12.46. Speaking of Carlos Marmol, he won't be closing yet (though he's strung together a couple passable outings and gotten his ERA to around half of Fujikawa's); instead, the Cubbies will be going with a committee led by Shawn Camp and James Russell. The Cubs have a lot invested in using either Marmol (for the trade value) or Fujikawa (because they signed him as a free agent) in the closer's role, so expect the committee to last no longer than necessary. I'll be staying away from this mess for now, as half a temporary closer's job on a lousy team just doesn't seem worth the roster space.

Cardinals

No, I don't have any word on Jason Motte's timetable, but that doesn't mean there weren't more changes in the St. Louis bullpen picture. Neither Mitchell Boggs nor Trevor Rosenthal managed to run with the job, despite ample opportunity and talent. If Thursday's usage was any indication, the Cards will turn to Edward Mujica for their ninth inning leads needs. This had been pondered last week, and it looks pretty likely at this point. In case Mujica falters, I wonder if Fernando Salas might get a chance to close again. This is purely speculation on my part (How smart would I feel if I'd been speculating on Mujica two weeks ago!), and he's off to a pretty horrid start, but he did notch 24 saves with a 2.28 ERA two years ago. Maybe Mike Matheny remembers that as vaguely as I do. For the moment, Mujica is definitely the add.

Red Sox

Joel Hanrahan is the latest "safe" closer to land on the DL. He's got a hamstring issue and, like Fujikawa, is tentatively expected back by the end of the month. Also like Fujikawa, he's got a four-digit ERA. Unlike the Cubs, however, the Sox have a strong bullpen, led by Andrew Bailey. Bailey has the all-important Closing Experience, not to mention 12 K's in 7.1 IP, a 1.23 ERA, and an 0.68 WHIP. Even manager John Farrell admits that Hanrahan might not return to the closer's role; it very much looks like Bailey could take the job he was traded for and run with it. He's a great add, but if he doesn't work out, Boston might turn to Koji Uehara, who is lights-out but not generally trusted with a full closer's workload.

Brewers

Like their NL central kinsfolk the Cubs, the Brew Crew seems destined to appear in this space with some frequency. No big changes here, however: Jim Henderson is holding the job down just fine. If he's on your league's waiver wire for some reason...well, probably it's because you don't count saves or you've just got eight teams or something like that. If not, pick him up already. Francisco Rodriguez is back in the fold, though it will be a month or more before he's even eligible to take the job away from Henderson. Good news if you've been holding onto John Axford (like me): he's pitched more or less capably in his last few outings. We were starting to think this was impossible. Keep the faith if you can spare the roster spot, as Axford remains a good candidate to reclaim the ninth inning at some point this season.

Astros

Jose Veras finally got a save opportunity on the woebegone Houston Astros. Naturally, he blew it. So far, however, there are no rumblings about replacing Veras. Owned in only 35% of Yahoo! leagues, he remains a good pickup for someone in dire need of saves. Well, a better pickup than trying to muddle your way through the Cubs' mess, anyways. If he does end up getting demoted, maybe we'll see Rhiner Cruz (who's pitched a lot late in games for the 'Stros) or Hector Ambriz (who's pitched pretty well lately) getting a shot in the ninth. For now, though, it's still Veras.

Add-Vice

The top closer add here should be Bailey. He's pitching extremely well and he's got a decent chance to steal his old job (that he never really had) back while Hanrahan languishes on the DL. Edward Mujica is owned in only 32% of Yahoo! leagues and deserves to be snapped up next. After that, you've got Henderson who won't be available in many leagues (so grab him if yours is in the minority). Veras is the next guy to grab, though it might be another couple weeks before he gets a save chance. I really don't recommend getting involved in the Cubs' mess, but if you have to, James Russell is probably the guy, mostly by virtue have having blown a save least recently. 



Closer Updates: Brewers, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals, Tigers

It's been a week of upheaval in the ninth inning, which means mostly bad things for fantasy owners that spent money on saves. Of course, those issues could (or already did) bring a windfall to those canny managers quicker with the waiver wire trigger than real-life managers were to call out new names in the ninth.

Brewers
As you already know, John Axford is out as closer and still pitching abominably. Jim Henderson (59% owned in Yahoo!/71% in ESPN) will be seen in the ninth for the moment. As with nearly all closer transitions, the new guy will have a short leash as the team sorts things out, though the Brew Crew has few viable options. The team (including Henderson) expects Axford to be reinstalled at some point. Seeing as they did this last year too, I think there's a good chance of that happening. There's even a good chance that he pitches well when it does, though the odds of both seem to go down every time he sets foot on the mound. Henderson is a clear own, but Axford should probably be held onto, except in very shallow leagues.

Cubs
Another NL central team made a "temporary" change in the closer role this week. Carlos Marmol is out--again, just like last year--but the Cubs hope to reinstate him. The only reason I can think of for that is so that they can trade him for a B-level prospect at the deadline. The problem with that plan (and for Marmol owners) is that this year's replacement is a lot better than the guys who tried to take over last year. Kyuji Fujikawa (ownership: 66% Yahoo!/83% ESPN) may be sporting an 8.10 ERA, but he's already notched two saves and was expected to be a future closer when Chicago signed him. There is a very good chance he keeps the closer job and Marmol gets shipped out of town for minimal return. In the few leagues where he is available, Fujikawa should be picked up immediately. If you have roster space, keep Marmol around for now, but don't hold your breath that he gets the job back.

Cardinals
Jason Motte's injury is appearing very serious, and the team is expecting to make a May 1 decision on Tommy John surgery. Even if he doesn't go under the knife, there's no way to be sure what his timetable might be. If you don't have DL slots or room on your bench, I'd seriously consider cutting him loose. The only thing that gives me pause is the fact that he'll almost certainly close whenever it is that he does return.

In other news, Mitchell Boggs (51% Yahoo!/60% ESPN) is Motte's replacement for now, but he's been more than a little shaky (to the tune of an ERA north of 11.00). Luckily for his owners, Trevor Rosenthal (17% Yahoo!/8% ESPN) earned a blown save for work in the eighth inning earlier this week. Not so luckily for Boggs owners, Rosenthal is still pitching very well and has the mark of a future closer. I would advise picking him up as a precaution. Of course, there are plenty of leagues in which Boggs is still going unowned; don't let yours be one, as he could still right the ship.

Royals
Greg Holland has been in a bit of trouble early in the season, with a 12.00 ERA and a 3.67 WHIP through his first three innings. He's managed to get a pair of saves, but that's exactly how many his top competition, Kelvin Herrera (53% Yahoo!/38% ESPN), has. Too bad for Holland's owners that Herrera's WHIP is nearly three full points better, at 0.69 and he has yet to allow a run. Clearly, Herrera should be owned as a handcuff, though Holland has the stuff to be a high-quality closer and hasn't been quite the disaster train that Axford and Marmol have been.

Tigers
Joaquin Benoit (38% Yahoo!/33% ESPN/owned in all my leagues with daily changes) should be seeing his ownership rates skyrocket. After two weeks of pitching out of the ninth, it's been confirmed that he'll be the primary guy for save chances. While he's not exactly been named "closer," there seems like a good chance that he'll get 80% or more of the Tigers' chances. The situation reminds me of Kyle Farnsworth's 2011 with the Rays, in which he was never really called a closer by the team, but he racked up saves nonetheless. Benoit should be owned in all leagues, as he's an above average reliever and should be relatively safe in the role. Just don't freak out if Octavio Dotel or Phil Coke steals some of the opportunities.

 

 



Closer Updates: Tigers, Blue Jays, Cubs, Angels, Mets, Brewers

Well, the good news is that you no longer need to worry about drafting a shaky closer. The bad news is that you may already own a shaky closer. Take me, for instance, I own John Axford and his 21.60 ERA in a couple leagues.

Speaking of shaky closers, Jose Valverde has signed a minor league contract with the Tigers, so you've got to wonder if he'll be in their bullpen mix in the future. For more up-to-the-minute updates, check out @CloserNews on the Twitternet. You better believe that's the first website I opened up to work on this article.

Brewers
Axford is the elephant in the room, with that 21.60 ERA, a WHIP of 3.60, and reports of lowered velocity. It's important to frame these things in their early-season context, though: he's allowed four runs on six hits in 1.2 IP. Of course, three of those six hits were home runs, but he's also struck out three in that time. Hiccups like these happen, and at times they are enough to scare a manager into making a change, but not on this team, or at this time. The Brew Crew isn't confident in Jim Henderson, and, really, if they demote Axford now, they're just admitting that they don't have a good bullpen. I don't expect them to do that just yet. 

Of course, Axford owners like me might want to stash Henderson just in case....

Mets
The Mets' situation thus far is one of rather happier news, as Bobby Parnell successfully put out a fire in the ninth inning of a four-run game. Fantasy owners don't care much about the results (he just recorded one out and didn't earn a save), but the fact that he was successful (and that other relievers struggled) strengthens Parnell's grip on the job just a little more. I really think Frank Francisco will have a hard time worming into save situations when he returns. Parnell is owned in just 68% of Yahoo! leagues, and 81% of ESPN leagues, so snap him up if you can.

Angels
Ryan Madson seems to be experiencing a setback (surprise!), while Ernesto Frieri locked down a save in the 13th inning of the Angels' opener. Neither fact is big news, or unexpected, but I'd say that Frieri's job security inched up just a little more over the week. He's owned in just 79% of Yahoo! leagues, so pick him up if you're among the 21%. No such luck for ESPN leagues, as he's owned in over 99% of leagues.

Cubs
You know what's worse than having your closer blow the lead in spectacular fashion? Having the lead rescued by his setup man. That's exactly what happened to Carlos Marmol on Monday, who threw just nine of nineteen pitches for strikes, getting one out before James Russell and Kyuji Fujikawa. It was Fujikawa (51% owned in Y!/40% in ESPN) who got the save, and the writing is on the wall for him to take over the job. The Cubbies really want to ship Marmol out for something, but it sounds like won't have any patience with him at all.

The above--unadulterated--is what I wrote before the results of Thursday's game. I leave it this way for instructive purposes, because Fujikawa came on in the eighth yesterday and earned the hold. Maybe that's why Marmol was allowed to give up two runs in the ninth before hanging on for the save. He got some trust--which is good news, of course--but he didn't inspire any real confidence. I'd say Marmol's closing days don't last long at this rate. Maybe the Cubs should have taken their chances with Dan Haren....

Blue Jays
At some point in the middle of the spring, I was sure that Sergio Santos was going to close for Toronto. Fortunately, I didn't have any drafts until late spring, when it seemed like Casey Janssen would be closing. I think he'll be great value for owners that got him with a late pick, and that thought has been reinforced in the last week. Janssen pitched a scoreless 10th on Wednesday, while Santos blew the game the very next inning. The situation was the opposite of the Cubs', as Janssen was leading the closer race, and Santos managed to widen the gap. Making things better for Janssen and his owners, he nailed down a clean save with two strikeouts on Thursday. Owned in most ESPN leagues, but in only 76% of Yahoo! leagues, Janssen is a great add if he's actually available.

Tigers
Just when you think things are starting to clear up, they get muddier. Valverde is back in the fold, though it remains to be seen how long it will take him to be MLB ready; Bruce Rondon is in the minors; and Phil Coke has pitched twice in the ninth inning. He saved a game he entered with one out, and he blew the save for a loss after that. Al Alburquerque has pitched in the seventh and eighth, and Joaquin Benoit has started the eighth twice. Is Coke (41%Y!/24%ESPN) the closer? I don't know. You'd think so, based on usage, but his split success and handedness don't suggest it. The way I figure, if they run him out to start the ninth, in a save situation, against a righty, then add him. But really, the Tigers don't have a lot of need to avoid a closer committee here.

Add-vice

Technically, the week isn't over, but I think I might be able to say comfortably that none of my closers has lost his job yet. This time last year, I think two of them had. So, I guess Marmol might have an even longer leash than he did last April. 

If Janssen, Frieri, Parnell, or Fujikawa are available in your league, add 'em, in that order. If you can, get all four and thank yourself for not drafting closers, I guess. Coke is the next best add, while Henderson might make sense for Axford owners with space on their bench.



2013 Position Rankings: Relief Pitchers

No position comes close to relievers when it comes to unpredictability. With their value tied so intrinsically to saves, and each pitcher throwing only a tiny sample of innings, it shouldn't really be a surprise to anyone when weird things happen: like Fernando Rodney being 2012's best reliever; like John Axford pitching badly enough to lose his job; like anything that happens when Carlos Marmol is on the mound. 

So how do you rank players that come with such an intense level of inherent variance? With caution. Waiting on closers and drafting multiple smei-competent back-enders has always been my plan at this position, and I see little reason to change. Great relievers fall suddenly, and nobodies rise to prominence just as quickly. The rounds into which the closers are tiered reflect my own closer-caution--unfortunately, some drafts won't let you play it so safe if you want to compete in saves, so consider the rounds looser guidelines than usual, even though the player groups stand just fine.

We're finished with the hitters; you can find ShortstopsThird BasemenSecond BasemenFirst BasemenCatchers, and  Outfielders at these links. Today's rankings come from a team discussion, featuring Tim Dierkes and the entire RotoAuthority staff and they cover all the closers, plus some of the most draftable setup guys. They're divided into groups of similar value, and tiered by where they deserve to be drafted in a standard league. If you're bidding in an auction, consider players in the same tier to be of similar price.

3rd Round

1. Craig Kimbrel, ATL

Kimbrel is so good that even I would consider taking him in the third, and I haven't taken a closer before the 10th in about five years. Those strikeouts pile on value; my only worry is that dominant relievers before him have fallen hard.

7th Round

2. Jonathan Papelbon, PHI

After Kimbrel, there is no one I would take over Papelbon, for the simple reason that he's been good for so long that his sample isn't all that small any more: we can safely conclude that he's a good pitcher. It doesn't hurt that the Phillies are paying him big stacks of cash and won't remove him from the job unless he turns into Heath Bell.

8th-9th Round

3. Mariano Rivera, NYY
4. Joe Nathan, TEX
5. Jason Motte, STL

Rivera's been so good for so long that only his injury keeps him this low on my list. It's not that I think he'll be the best closer out there, it's that I'm very confident that he'll be good--and keep his job. Nathan proved last year that his injuries are behind him; like Rivera, so is a long history of success. Motte is a lot lower on this list than most, but don't get me wrong: he has a higher fantasy ceiling than anyone above him (except Kimbrel), but his relative inexperience also tells me that he has a lower floor. Plus, his team isn't invested in him the way Nathan's, Rivera's, and Papelbon's are.

11th-12th Rounds

6. J.J. Putz, ARI
7. Rafael Soriano, WAS
8. John Axford, MIL
9. Fernando Rodney, TBR

Putz is rock solid--when healthy. Fortunately, David Hernandez is one likely backup, and he's worth rostering in a setup role. Unfortunately, Heath Bell is the other likely backup. Soriano should be great in saves and strikeouts, but his walks will keep his WHIP up and probably lead to the occasional blowup. Axford should rebound from a tough 2012 to be the high-K stopper we'd come to expect. Rodney's last season screams fluke...but what if it wasn't? I'm willing to take that chance, albeit not as early as mock drafters are.

13th-14th

10. Jason Grilli, PIT
11. Sergio Romo, SFG
12. Greg Holland, KCR
13. Tom Wilhelmsen, SEA
14. Rafael Betancourt, COL
15. Glen Perkins, MIN 

Grilli seems like he came out of nowhere, but he's put up two excellent seasons in a row, and has four straight years of increasing strikeout rates--a number that increased to 13.81 K/9 last year. Romo has serious questions about the health of his elbow, and the best-case scenario for him seems to be that other members of his bullpen vulture more saves than average. Holland and Williamsen rake in the strikeouts but play for mediocre teams. Also, their closing tenure has been short, so their leashes will be too. Betancourt would be a tier higher if he didn't play in Colorado. Perkins was excellent last year, but how many leads will the Twins' rotation be able to deliver?

15th-16th

16. Huston Street, SDP
17. Addison Reed, CHW
18. Jonathan Broxton, CIN
19. Jim Johnson, BAL
20. Grant Balfour, OAK
21. Chris Perez, CLE
22. Steve Cishek, MIA 

Street is a very good pitcher--when healthy, which isn't much of the time. Draft him expecting a DL stint. Reed flew under the radar a little, but was quite successful. Broxton didn't impress--especially with the strikeouts, but the Reds should hand him plenty of leads. Johnson was dynamite last year...but he doesn't get many strikeouts and this Orioles fan expects a bit of team regression. Balfour's overall numbers are pretty good, but he bounced in and out of the closer role. Oakland is an organization that isn't afraid to make changes or defy convention, which is great for them, but less than ideal for a fantasy closer. Perez was surprisingly competent last year, but his shaky history keeps our enthusiasm low. Cishek pitched well, but it probably wouldn't take much for the mercurial Marlins to make a change. Also, they might not be too good next year.

17th-18th

23. Joel Hanrahan, BOS
24. Bobby Parnell, NYM

Hanrahan's underlying numbers were pretty shaky last year, and I don't think Boston will hesitate to make a change if one is needed. They proved with Andrew Bailey that trading for someone doesn't mean he'll get a long leash. Parnell is looking more and more like the Mets' closer in camp. If he starts the season with the job, he'll have to really blow up to lose it to Frank Francisco.

19th-20th

25. Brandon League, LAD
26. Ernesto Frieri, LAA
27. Kenley Jansen, LAD
28. Jose Veras, HOU
29. Sergio Santos, TOR

League and Frieri are both slated to start the season closing for their Los Angeles teams. Both teams are expected to switch closers at some point in the year. For the Angels, that's the plan: switch to Ryan Madson. For the Dodgers, it's what you expect when Jansen is that much better than League. As far as what will really happen...I couldn't say at all. I can say, however, that I prefer to take the guy with the job in hand, because sometimes they don't let it go. Speaking of jobs in hand, that's what Veras has in Houston, and what Santos appears to be grabbing--to start the season--in Toronto.

Should any of these messy closer situations get fully straightened out by Opening Day, Frieri and Jansen would belong in the 13-14th tier, Santos and League in the 15th-16th tier.

21st-22nd

30. Casey Janssen, TOR
31. Ryan Madson, LAA
32. Carlos Marmol, CHC
33. Kyuji Fujikawa, CHC

Janssen and Madson haven't healed as expected and could be seeing their jobs slip away. Should they manage to gain a certain hold on their jobs before Opening Day, both would be worth taking among the 15th-16th tier.

Marmol will have the job as long as he's a Cub--how else to keep his trade value up? The bad news for anyone who drafts him is that the Cubbies might have him traded by Opening Day. If that happens, bump Fujikawa way up this list, as he won't have much competition for saves. I would take him around the 15th or 16th round.

23rd and Beyond

34. Joaquin Benoit, DET
35. Al Alburquerque, DET
36. Bruce Rondon, DET
37. Frank Francisco, NYM 

I don't know what will happen in Detroit's bullpen, but all three of these guys have a chance to close, and a chance to keep the job if they get it. Maybe Francisco will keep his job.

Quality Non-Closers 

38. Vinnie Pestano, CLE
39. David Hernandez, ARI
40. David Robertson, NYY
41. Luke Gregerson, SDP
42. Sean Marshall, CIN
43. Santiago Casilla, SFG
44. Ryan Cook, OAK
45. Andrew Bailey, BOS
46. Drew Storen, WAS
47. Johnny Venters, ATL
48. Mike Adams, PHI
49. Antonio Bastardo, PHI
50. Tyler Clippard, WAS
51. Jacob McGee, TBR
52. Trevor Rosenthal, STL
53. Koji Uehara, BOS 

Some of these guys have a decent shot to close, thanks to a shaky or injury-prone incumbent (Pestano, Hernandez, Robertson, Gregerson, Cook, Bailey, Uehara), while others might vulture some saves along the way (Casilla, Marshall). Some are just worth rostering on their skills alone (Bastardo, Storen). All of these guys are probably best left for deeper leagues.

This year's closer picture is murkier than it has usually been in the recent past. More teams have unresolved questions surrounding the back end of their bullpens: the Angels, Dodgers, Tigers, Mets, Blue Jays, and Cubs are all without a certain closer. Expect to get quite a few saves off the waiver wire, and in the meantime, draft a few backup closers. Your relievers don't have to be the best to get the most saves.





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