Greetings one and all. It’s been a while since I’ve been in touch, as the Closer Report was on hiatus for a while as I was on a trip to Poland. Unfortunately, I haven’t had kielbasa in nearly a week. However, I am happy to be back for all your bullpen needs.
I haven’t had much of an opportunity to pat myself on the back this fantasy baseball season, what with my heavy investment in Robinson Cano, Adrian Beltre, and Yasiel Puig on draft day. I have not gone over my bullpen touts over the course of the season, but I’m sure they are hit or miss as well. However, before I left you high and dry for a time, I suggested that even though we are in the dog days of August, there was still going to be chances for you to find saves on the waiver wire. And that really has come to pass in the past couple of weeks. Maybe some of you have rallied to gain a couple of points in the standings in that time.
Since I’ve been gone for so long (2 weeks is a long time in closer years), I think it’s best to take a look at what has happened in the most uncertain bullpen situations and see if we can find some safe bets (for now) and find who might emerge in the last weeks of the season.
Even if it’s raining in Seattle, Mariners fans must have been sunny inside when they heard the news that Fernando Rodney was designated for assignment. I can’t believe this happened while I was away. While I had fun bashing Rodney every week, the Mariners will be much better off without him. Carson Smith has been tiring and was never a McClendon favorite, so someone from the past has emerged to snag some saves. That is Tom Wilhelmsen who closed for Seattle in 2012-2013. After a rough start to 2015, he has gotten his act together in a big way and has not had a hiccup since taking over in the ninth. I expect him to hold down the role from here on out.
Al Wilson seemed to have things well in hand a while back, but it was noted that Bruce Rondon had “closer stuff” and apparently Brad Ausmus agrees, as the Detroit manager put Rondon in the ninth inning. He converted his first two save chances but then he gave up four runs in his next six outings and has been ineffective. Ausmus seems to be sticking with Rondon, but this is trouble waiting to happen. He seems like a Billy Koch-type, throwing hard but being hittable with suspect control as well. However the alternatives are not appealing. Wilson already lost the role and the other options like Al Albuerquerque are not worth your time.
Coming into the year Greg Holland was a top 3 option at closer, behind Chapman and Kimbrel but ahead of anyone else you’d consider drafting. Readers of this column know that Holland has not been his elite self all year; his control has declines, he has not been dominant, and he’s dealt with nagging injuries. As of Thursday evening Holland hasn’t pitched in about a week, and while he notched a save in his last outing, he took an ugly loss the night before while Wade Davis got the save the next night. It will be interesting to see what Ned Yost does this month as the Royals gear up for the playoffs. (Speaking of Ned Yost, whatever happened to “Yosted”?)
I’m thinking Yost is a loyal guy and will try to get Holland right for the playoffs. Does this mean letting him close to build confidence or letting him rest so that he’s more healthy? We’ll see what happens, but I’d certainly prefer Davis to Holland right now. Davis will probably grab a couple of saves (no matter what happens) and deliver great peripherals. Anything can happen with Holland, but I might consider dropping him depending on how he is used.
While he was not as highly touted as Holland, Glen Perkins had been dependable for a number of years and was perfect in save chances deep into the season. However, like last year, Perkins is dealing with nagging injuries when we (and the Twins) need him most. Fortunately for the Minnesota, Kevin Jepsen, who they acquired from the Rays, has flourished. He racked up five quick saves when Perkins went down and hasn’t allowed a run in over a month. Manager Paul Molitor has said that Perkins is back in the ninth, but it looks like he is not healthy enough to go out there on back-to-back days yet so both of these guys are worth owning. If Perkins struggles or injuries continue to hamper him, don’t be afraid to make a tough drop.
Man alive, who is Billy Beane’s publicist? This isn’t even a comment on quality; I only ask because I have no idea who the manager is. And you know I love making fun of managers. Then when I looked it up I typed “Billy Beane” into my search bar instead of “Oakland manager.” I don’t remember any Oakland manager after Ken Macha, and I only remember him because everyone said he was hired because he would basically be a puppet for the front office. Anyway, the Oakland manager is Bob Melvin! And he said that Sean Doolittle had a chance to regain his closer role in short order once he was activated from the DL. I was feeling smart for touting Doolittle in this space a while back. However, he gave up a couple of runs in his first appearance and looks far removed from the form that made fantasy owners smile last season. If you grabbed him, whether on your own or because I suggested it, you can drop him. Drew Pomeranz has been inconsistent but decent lately, and he’s the guy to own for saves.
I think we talked about Jean Machi in this space last time out, and though the Red Sox tried Tazawa in the closer’s role first, Machi has prevailed for now. As I mentioned a few week back, the numbers this year are ugly, but he has been better than this throughout most of his career. If your league mates are lazy and Machi is out there, you might get a handful of saves in your basket. I don’t even know who’s next in line, which strengthens the argument for adding Machi.
Brad Ziegler has struggled lately and may be tiring. Daniel Hudson got a save while Ziegler took a breather and would be the guy to own. If he is available and a save or two makes a difference in your standing, grab Hudson as he has pitched well and is clearly next in line.
This is old news but John Axford is back in the ninth inning in Colorado and is probably gone from all waiver wires in competitive leagues. Hey, it’s your team but I wouldn’t have Axford on any of mine. He can implode at any time and it is ugly when it happens (especially during playoff time).
The Closer Grid
In addition to the shifts described above, there has been a whole lot of movement within the grid. Some new closers in waiting and lurkers have been added as well, so be sure to check out the news and notes as well. 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.
- While I’ve had plenty of uncertainly to write about, two bullpen situations that have been unclear all season seem to have settled down. Hector Rondon has re-emerged and is in the midst of a dominant stretch for the Cubs. Joe Maddon has been leaving Rondon alone and he has been getting saves. Pedro Strop has been setting things up in the eighth and is a good option in holds leagues.
- Meanwhile in Tampa, Brad Boxberger has been solid and with Jake McGee on the shelf, there isn’t much competition for saves. You never know what will happen here, but it seems like there is finally some stability to be found.
- It looks like the Braves will be sticking with Arodys Vizcaino and he could be a big help to fantasy teams down the stretch. If Vizcaino goes down, I honestly don’t know who would step in. Brandon Cunniff looks ok, but after that it’s a wasteland.
- This article where Matt Williams explains the “intricacies” of bullpen management is a real beaut. I can’t find the link where I saw this tidbit, but the Nats have suffered 6 walk-off (a term I hate, but it’s coming in handy here) losses this season, and Drew Storen and Jonathan Papelbon did not pitch in any of them. You can’t assume the Nats would have won all of them, but they’d certainly have had a better chance if they’d have used their better pitchers.
- Nate Jones was a popular sleeper choice for saves last year, but never really got out of the blocks and missed most of the season due to injury. He finally returned to the White Sox this month and has looked very solid. If something were to happen to David Robertson, I think Chicago would take a look at Jones. Jones makes an interesting sleeper candidate next year for those in holds leagues.
Need more closer news, waiver wire picks, 2-start pitchers, prospects and general fantasy baseball goodness, head on over to Fantasy Rundown.