The CLOSER

The Closer Logo 1Not much has changed in the ninth inning this week. A couple of small hiccups and Fernando Rodney still stinks and still has a job. I can probably cover most of that news when I give my comments after the grid. I thought I’d use this week to take a peek at some middle relievers who may be more worthy of a roster spot than that struggling seventh starter that has been a drag on your ratios. I’m focusing on players who are only owned in one or two percent of leagues; I assume you know that Carson Smith is worth a grab right now. These guys are not as well-known and may not even be next in line for saves but if they are out there in your only-leagues or holds leagues, think about scooping them up.

Hunter Strickland – I figured I would test your patience and loyalty right away by starting with Strickland. You might recognize his name, but it’s certainly not from any draft prep or waiver wire research you’ve done. You probably remember Strickland cursing and being all surly as he was giving up moonshot home runs to Bryce Harper and others in the 2015 postseason. I encourage you put that out of your mind (well, you might keep it there for your amusement) and take a look at what Strickland has done since his return to the majors on May 24. He gave up just one hit in his first five appearances before finally giving up a couple runs against the Pirates on Wednesday. Nevertheless the big right-hander from Georgia still boasts a high-90s fastball and is complimenting it with a good-looking curveball, something we haven’t seen much of before. If this secondary offering develops, opposing hitters will have a hard time taking Strickland deep in the future.

Carter Capps – I’ve tried to give you names that are under the radar when I discuss these middle relievers but Capps has received a good bit of attention in recent weeks. First of all, you won’t believe his delivery until you see it. That has to be a balk or something right? Well apparently, the Marlins have made sure that it is legal. Second of all, he has been filthy. Capps spent most of April and the early part of May in the minors, but since his return he’s recorded 18 strikeouts in 10 innings. He also totes an ERA and WHIP well under 1. That can play in any league, especially one with an innings limit. Capps offers a 97 mph fastball and a nasty slider; I don’t expect A.J. Ramos to falter, but I can tell pundits are already wondering about what Capps could do in the closer role. We know that these situations don’t play out like we expect. As it is, be happy with who Capps is. He is looking like a worthy add.

Brandon Maurer – This is a middle reliever on a hot streak. You should note he has given up only 1 run since the beginning of May. Granted, this is over a limited number of innings, but I like what I see. His control is improving as the season goes on and he has improved his strikeout rate recently as well. With Craig Kimbrel handling the ninth (he’s still rock solid, don’t worry) and Joaquin Benoit a proven commodity behind him, Maurer will not be lucking into saves any time soon. However, he used to start for the Mariners and could be an option if injury or ineffectiveness creeps into the Padres rotation. (It tends to creep into every rotation actually.) As it is, Maurer has the stuff to keep his roll going for some time.  Best of all, he is a SP eligible reliever so you can play one more relief pitcher than your opponent; every point counts.

The Closer LogoThe Closer Grid

Time to look at the closer grid. Be sure to check out the notes as well. For first-timers, closers are ranked from best to worst and we’ve included ratings for job security:
1 = solid, 2 = secure for now, 3 = shaky, and 4 = worrisome.

  Team Security Closer Set Up Lurker
1 Reds 1 Aroldis Chapman Jumbo Diaz Tony Cingrani
2 Padres 1 Craig Kimbrel Joaquin Benoit Dale Thayer
3 Dodgers 1 Kenley Jansen Yimi Garcia Chris Hatcher
4 Yankees 1 Andrew Miller Dellin Betances Esmil Rogers
5 Tigers 1 Joakim Soria Joba Chamberlain Angel Nesbitt
6 White Sox 1 David Robertson Zach Duke Zack Putnam
7 Royals 1 Greg Holland Wade Davis Kelvin Herrera
8 Cardinals 1 Trevor Rosenthal Seth Maness Jordan Walden-(DL)
9 Twins 1 Glen Perkins Blaine Boyer Casey Fein-(DL)
10 Nationals 1 Drew Storen Aaron Barrett Casey Janssen-(DL)
11 Orioles 1 Zach Britton Darren O’Day Tommy Hunter
12 Angels 1 Huston Street Joe Smith Vinnie Pestano
13 Phillies 1 Jonathan Papelbon Ken Giles Luis Garcia
14 Red Sox 1 Koji Uehara Junichi Tazawa Alexi Ogando
15 Cubs 1 Hector Rendon Pedro Strop Jason Motte
16 Mets 2 Jeurys Familia Carlos Torres Bobby Parnell-(DL)
17 Braves 2 Jason Grilli Jim Johnson Brandon Cunniff
18 Rockies 2 John Axford Rafael Betancourt Latroy Hawkins-(DL)
19 Astros 2 Luke Gregerson Chad Qualls Pat Neshek
20 Pirates 2 Mark Melancon Tony Watson Arquimedes Caminero
21 Brewers 2 Francisco Rodriguez Jonathan Broxton Will Smith
22 Marlins 2 A. J. Ramos Carter Capps Sam Dyson
23 Blue Jays 2 Brett Cecil Roberto Osuna Steve Delabar
24 Giants 2 Santiago Casilla Sergio Romo Jeremy Affeldt
25 Indians 2 Cody Allen Bryan Shaw Zach McAllister
26 Rangers 2 Shawn Tolleson Ross Ohlendorf Keone Kela
27 Rays 3 Brad Boxberger Kevin Jepsen Jake McGee
28 Athletics 3 Tyler Clippard Evan Scribner Sean Doolittle-(DL)
29 Mariners 4 Fernando Rodney Carson Smith Charlie Furbush
30 DiamondBacks 4 Brad Ziegler Addison Reed Enrique Burgos-(DL)

The Dodgers had a save opportunity in Coors Field on Wednesday, and who was on the field but Yimi Garcia. You can guess what happened: a win for the Rockies. Kenley Jansen was unavailable and irresponsible speculation about his heart condition recurring was spreading across the Twitterverse. It seems this was just a case of dehydration thanks to the altitude and conditions in Colorado. I expect Jansen to be fine and did not adjust his ranking.

It was a rough week in general for the Giants pen. I never fully trusted closer Santiago Casilla this season and he had some lousy outings this week. Maybe this is a blip, but spotty control and just ok stuff (at least for a closer) is a tough combination for me to get behind. Sergio Romo had a poor showing himself this week, but I still feel like he could present himself as an option for saves this season.

Believe it or not, some in Arizona believe that Addison Reed could be closing again for the DBacks. They prefer to use Brad Ziegler in a setup role since he is effective at getting righties out in a big spot. Reed gets slapped around by righties and lefties alike! In all seriousness, this hints at why I thought Reed was worth a late round pick in leagues this year. The team wants him to close and some teams will look for any excuse to keep their favored child in the role no matter how ineffective he is. While brings us to…

Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon standing by his man Fernando Rodney. We’ve all joked about the “vote of confidence” being a sign that someone is going to be removed from his role,  but McClendon went way past that. Check it out here, I’ll be waiting when you get back…Come, McClendon, man muscles? That’s just insulting. Carson Smith should have this job already. If you don’t like him, go somewhere else, but Rodney is costing Seattle games and they can’t afford to keep losing the games they are supposed to win. They have enough problems as it is.

Fantasy Rundown BannerNeed more closer news, waiver wire picks, 2-start pitchers, prospects and general fantasy baseball goodness, head on over to Fantasy Rundown.

Michael Zakhar

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Michael lives in New Jersey with his beautiful wife Virginia and his adorable son Johnny. We enjoy going to see the Lakewood BlueClaws, who play 20 minutes from home. In addition to baseball, Mike loves reading, music and professional wrestling.