Baring an injury or complete meltdown of one of the current closers, the landscape isn’t going to change much from here on out. If you don’t have a closer or only have 1 or 2 low-end options, you’re left with 3 choices. 1. You deal with the guys you have and keep your fingers cross that someone gets hurt and you are first to the waiver wire. 2. You roster a few RP eligible starting pitchers, but most of the ones worth using are gone (short of a few potential minor league call ups that might qualify). 3. You add 2 or 3 middle relief pitchers. Option 3 is one that many owners fail to utilize as middle men don’t get you saves and the wins are few and far in between. They fail to see the value these men can have in stabilizing your teams ERA and WHIP while contributing a few strikeouts and occasional vulture win. In leagues that use Saves+Holds, this is a problem you don’t have to worry about, there is enough talent to go around and all of these players are gone. For leagues that use just saves (something I hope to change), those middlemen can be an invaluable asset (more so in rotisserie and points leagues, but still useful in H2H formats). If you are struggling with saves or have abandoned the category all together, these men could make a valuable addition to your roster.
Dellin Betances: I’ve mentioned Betances several times this year, and yet his ownership is still below 50% on CBS and Yahoo (Fantrax is up to 62%). I’m not one to beat a dead horse, but if he’s available in your league, just stop reading this and go pick him up. His 67.2 innings pitched tops all relief pitchers out there that haven’t started a game (like Carlos Martinez and Jenrry Mejia). He has 100 strikeouts. In comparison to RP eligible starters (Alex Wood-107, Tanner Roark-106, Drew Smyly-95, Jacob deGrom-94), he just as good as most of those lower end options filling in the back-end of your rotation. His win total (4), ERA (1.46) and WHIP (0.72) are almost identical to those of Koji Uehara, but because he doesn’t get saves, he’s owned in only half as many leagues as he should be. Betances can contribute to Every other pitching category you have, take advantage of it if he is somehow available. Even if you don’t need a closer, he makes a great insurance policy if one of your guys should crumble and fall.
Pat Neshek: He hasn’t had the best career, but he is having a career year in St. Louis. His 47 innings puts him on par with most of the closers out there. His strikeouts are not in the same neighborhood as the top-tier closers, but it’s close to those men in the middle of the pack. His ERA & WHIP is where the money’s at as those sit at 0.76 and 0.59 respectively. Huston Street is the best comparison as far as numbers go, and he is owned in over 70% more leagues on CBS and Yahoo (60% more on Fantrax). Unless you own Garrett Richards, Tyson Ross or Tanner Roark, there really aren’t that many RP eligible starting pitchers worth owning over Neshek. If you can get Neshek & Betances, combined you’ve got a starting pitcher that is better than Anyone out there.
Wade Davis: Here’s another name I’ve mentioned several times in the past and someone who is available in around 70% of Yahoo and CBS leagues (and 55% of Fantrax). Davis gives you something most relief pitchers don’t, the ability to start one extra middle man because he’s eligible at SP. In 48 innings, Davis has amassed 74 strikeouts with a 0.93 ERA and 0.87 WHIP. For a player comparison, look no further than the best in the business, Mr. Craig Kimbrel. Both men are virtually identical when it comes to innings pitched, strikeouts and WHIP. The only difference is, Davis has an ERA a full point below Kimbrel and 6 wins.
Tony Watson: Available in 80% of Yahoo and CBS leagues and 60% of leagues run on Fantrax, Watson is a relative unknown and under owned commodity. He has improved each year since his debut and could eventually be the successor to Mark Melancon in Pittsburgh. He doesn’t have big strikeout potential, but somehow manages to get a punch-out an inning. Watson currently has a 1.49 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP. What’s impressive about him is the fact that he has 8 wins on the season. That puts him in second on the Pirates, only 1 behind the team leader Edinson Volquez. While the Pirates staff may not be the greatest, its offence keeps them in games and affords Watson the opportunity to get the W’s. His numbers this year compare nicely to Rafael Soriano with a slightly lower ERA and higher WHIP.
Darren O’Day: Zach Britton got all the love when he was named closer. O’Day and Britton are close in their numbers, with O’Day getting the edge in ERA along with a handful of strikeouts. Despite and ERA of 1.06, 0.88 WHIP and a strikeout an inning, O’Day’s ownership is under 12% on Yahoo and CBS. Fantrax owners (just like everyone else listed here) are higher on relief pitchers as his ownership is 32%. O’Day is a 3 category player, if here were a hitter, that would be more than enough for a roster spot.
Tyler Clippard: Once Rafael Soriano is gone, Clippard should step into the closer role. This year his strikeout rate is the highest it has ever been (11.63 K/9) and his ERA is at an all time low (1.69). He’s also had some luck in the vulture win department with 6 late inning W’s. Clippard receives a little more attention due to his name and track record which is why his ownership is 20% on CBS, 27% on Yahoo and 45% of Fantrax. Clippard has more strikeouts than Jonathan Papelbon: other than that, their numbers compare rather nicely this year. Being even with a guy who is ranked right outside the top 10 for closers is a nice complement, a bigger complement would be a higher ownership rate. See what you can do about that.
Brad Boxberger: If he had started the year in the majors, there is a good chance I would be mentioning his name along side Dellin Betances. The 2.0 ERA is better than average and an 0.82 WHIP plays anywhere, what stands out here are the strikeouts. Boxberger has a K/9 of 17.36, that’s just ridiculously sick. Between Boxberger and Betances, you’ve got 171 strikeouts. I’d rather have that than some average RP eligible starting pitcher. Unlike Betances, Boxberger is available in 85% of Yahoo and CBS leagues and 75% of Fantrax leagues. Guys like this could be a difference maker in the playoffs.
Andrew Miller: Miller and Boxberger are interchangeable in the fact that their innings, ERA, WHIP, strikeouts, walks and BAA are so close it’s scary. The funny thing is, Boxberger is owned in more leagues than Miller, which means both guys are under owned. Owners are always on the lookout for high volume strikeout guys, and yet players like Miller are passed over because they don’t get saves. Don’t you go and do the same. If you’re done with saves then save Miller from the waiver wire, I’m sure he will reward you nicely.
If by some chance all these guys are rostered in your league, there could still be a few other options out there that could do the job just as well.
Ryan Cook: From the beginning of the year, Cook went from potential new closer to setup man for Jim Johnson to DL stash to afterthought. Over the past 30 days (10 innings), Cook has a 0.0 ERA, 0.28 WHIP and 10 strikeouts. He’s good at limiting the number of home runs allowed and that combined with a low BAA negates any damage from his high walk total. If the above pitchers are not available, this should be one of the first places to turn.
Shawn Kelley: Before the emergence of Betances, Kelley was the man to look to after David Robertson. Over the past 30 days (10 innings), Kelley has a 0.90 ERA, 0.50 WHIP and 14 strikeouts. For the season, he has an 11.64 K/9 and a 1.10 WHIP. The ERA is slightly above 3.0 which isn’t the best for a relief pitcher, but his FIP & SIERA say he’s better than that.
David Carpenter: He broke out last year with an ERA of 1.78 and a 0.99 WHIP. This year he has had some struggles, but over the past 30 days he seems to have found himself. In his last 10.2 innings, Carpenter has a 1.69 ERA, 0.66 WHIP and 14 K’s. (11.16 K/9 for the season). Both his FIP and SIERA are more than a point lower than his current 3.79 ERA so don’t let that scare you off from rolling with Carpenter.
Below are the current closer rankings for the remainder of the 2014 season, job security is based upon their current and past performance. Some teams have one clear-cut choice when it comes to who is next in line for saves, but for teams with several options I’ve listed the alternative player who may play a role in the saves game.
Job security (1 = All Clear, 2 = solid ground, 3 = shaky ground, 4 = rocky ground, 5 = Avalanche…RUN
|Closer||Security||Team||Next in Line||Alternative Options|
|1||Craig Kimbrel||1||Braves||Jordan Walden||David Carpenter|
|2||Aroldis Chapman||1||Reds||Jonathan Broxton|
|3||Kenley Jansen||1||Dodgers||Brian Wilson||Brandon League|
|4||Greg Holland||1||Royals||Wade Davis|
|5||Trevor Rosenthal||1||Cardinals||Pat Neshek|
|6||David Robertson||1||Yankees||Dellin Betances||Shawn Kelley|
|7||Koji Uehara||1||RedSox||Junichi Tazawa||Edward Mujica|
|8||Sean Doolittle||1||Athletics||Luke Gregerson||Ryan Cook|
|9||Huston Street||2||Angels||Joe Smith||Jason Grilli|
|10||Zach Britton||2||Orioles||Darren O’Day||Andrew Miller|
|11||Francisco Rodriguez||1||Brewers||Will Smith|
|12||Glen Perkins||1||Twins||Casey Fien|
|13||Rafael Soriano||1||Nationals||Tyler Clippard||Drew Storen|
|14||Mark Melancon||2||Pirates||Tony Watson|
|15||Joaquin Benoit||2||Padres||Kevin Quackenbush||Dale Thayer|
If you own any of the closers in the top 10, you should feel confident in the fact that short of an injury their jobs are secure. You should have the same confidence for those ranked 11-15 as well. None of them have done anything that would constitute a change anytime soon, but a few of them have struggled a little as of late. Don’t sweat the rough patch, it will pass.
|Closer||Security||Team||Next in Line||Alternative Options|
|16||Cody Allen||3||Indians||Bryan Shaw||John Axford|
|17||Jonathan Papelbon||2||Phillies||Antonio Bastardo||Ken Giles|
|18||Jake McGee||3.5||Rays||Brad Boxberger||Joel Peralta|
|19||Steve Cishek||2||Marlins||A.J. Ramos||Byran Morris|
|20||Casey Janssen||2||Blue Jays||Aaron Loop||Brett Cecil|
|21||Fernando Rodney||2||Mariners||Danny Farquhar|
|22||Joe Nathan||2.5||Tigers||Joakim Soria|
|23||Addison Reed||2||Diamondbacks||Brad Ziegler|
|24||Santiago Casilla||2||Giants||Sergio Romo||Jean Machi|
|25||Neftali Feliz||3||Rangers||Neal Cotts||Shawn Tolleson|
|26||Hector Rondon||2.5||Cubs||Pedro Strop||Neil Ramirez (DL)|
|27||Jenrry Mejia||3||Mets||Jeurys Familia||Vic Black|
|28||LaTroy Hawkins||2.5||Rockies||Adam Ottavino||Rex Brothers|
|29||Chad Qualls||4||Astros||Tony Sipp||Jose Veres|
|30||Jacob Petricka||5||White Sox||Javy Guerra||Daniel Webb|
Of this group, only Cody Allen, Jake McGee, Jonathan Papelbon and Addison Reed should be trusted right now. CaseyJanssen, Fernando Rodney & Steve Cishek were trusted names but have hit a rough patch. Joe Nathan is in between that rough patch and trusted player, he could go either way from here on out. Santiago Casilla is looking more and more like a name to trust, with every outing Sergio Romo becomes more of a memory. The jury is still out on Neftali Feliz, but so far so good. He should join the trust group soon, but until that time consider him on probation. If you own any of the final 5 closers, I might just throw them back and take a shot at one of the middle relief pitchers above. Sometimes the saves just aren’t worth the trouble.