is Chasing saves is a dangerous game. It’s fantasy baseball’s version of playing the lottery. A few owners in your league may even roster a closer before they’ve selected a first baseman. Most owners will have selected their first closer before their first catcher. Fantasy team owners will drain their FAAB budget and utilize premium waiver position to take a shot on the newest speculation for saves.
2015 produced 37 pitchers who tallied at least 10 saves. Of those 37 pitchers, 11 were buried behind the closer who broke camp with the ninth inning gig for his respective team. This write-up a season ago produced 5 of those 11 shots in the dark. Those names were Brad Boxberger, Ken Giles, Jason Grilli, AJ Ramos, and Joakim Soria. In putting the 2016 list together I will focus on names being drafted after the first relief pitcher from their respective teams is off the draft board based on ADP data. Let’s see who we can speculate on for 2016:
Jon Edwards: There’s plenty of potential saves earners in the Padres’ pen. At the top of the list is good ol’ Crooked Bill, AKA Fernando Rodney. Rodney’s BB% is so terrible that I sometimes wonder if his tweaked hat has the same impact as someone staring down the barrel of a shotgun with a bent sight. Drew Pomeranz and Kevin Quackenbush may be options for the 9th at some point too. That said, the Padres already started to turnover their roster this winter with an eye on the future, and Edwards should get a crack at racking up saves at some point this season. His sub-1.50 ERA and 12+K% at AAA last year certainly says he deserves a shot.
Keone Kela: Every time I read his name I get this sudden urge to book a trip to Hawaii. The Rangers current closer, Shawn Tolleson, started losing his grip on the ninth inning role at the end of the 2015 season. He wasn’t even in line to finish games in the playoffs. Kela isn’t the only name to keep an eye on in the Rangers’ pen, but he’s quite possibly the most talented.
Jason Grilli: Arodys Vizcaino gets drafted ahead of Grilli. I certainly feel there’s a chance Vizcaino will get his shot at some saves in 2016 but it makes sense for the Braves to boost Grilli’s value for a mid-summer trade by inserting him back in the closer role he thrived in last season before tearing his Achilles tendon.
Alex Colome: While I am proud to have had AL saves leader Brad Boxberger on my 2015 list, he is on shaky ground entering 2016. Put simply, Boxberger has a penchant for allowing too many walks and homers. That’s a recipe for disappointment, and he will need to make some progress towards finding his 2014 form if he wants to remain the Rays’ closer for all of 2016. Waiting in the wings will be Alex Colome who might benefit most from the trade of Jake McGee to the Rockies. Colome doesn’t have quite the K-upside of Boxberger, but he did limit walks and homers at a far better rate and options are limited in the Rays’ pen entering the 2016 season.
Tyler Clippard: Clippard seems like he’s been considered for saves forever, but has only actually surpassed 10 saves in just two seasons. It’s hard to imagine Brad Ziegler lasting the whole season in the ninth inning coming off a season where he only managed a 4.76 K/9.
Silvino Bracho: To hedge on the Arizona bullpen situation, I’ll also suggest keeping an eye on Silvino Bracho as a deeper sleeper for saves.
Shawn Kelley: Like him or hate him, Jonathan Papelbon has had a stellar career as an MLB closer. He has a manager in Dusty Baker who favors veterans which should help supplant his name in the ninth inning. Still, he’s Jonathan Papelbon, and the more he ages the greater chance he has of popping off with the wrong comment and going full John Rocker on all of us, or just simply losing his edge as he enters his age 35 season. Should something happen Shawn Kelley looks ready to assume the role, and he comes armed with a 4.2 K/BB ratio and the ability to suppress homers at 0.70 HR/9.
Kevin Jepsen: Glen Perkins is quietly one of the more reliable closers in the game and has been for years. Perkins did start to have some arm issues in 2015 and Jepsen should be ready to step in coming off 15 saves of his own in 2015.
Ryan Madson: Sean Doolittle is no stranger to injury in case the off-season has wiped that from your memory. Madson has been there, done that and should be next in line for saves in Oakland.
Liam Hendriks: John Axford is around too, but Liam Hendriks is the real dark horse candidate to look out for if Ryan Madson is passed over.
Zack Weiss: The Reds are in full rebuild mode, and even JJ Hoover’s mom knows he should be closing games for any MLB team. The Reds are going to have a trial and error season all over their roster and it would only make sense to give Zack Weiss a go coming off his 4.86 K/BB from his 2015 AA stat line.
Joe Smith: Smith could easily become the 2016 version of Brad Ziegler should Huston Street succumb to injury. If comparing Smith to Ziegler didn’t get you excited, I completely understand.
Joaquin Benoit: How Benoit has only had two seasons of more than 10 saves is crazy to me. He’s old, sure, but he’s also posted a sub-3.0 ERA in five of the past six seasons. Steve Cishek is about as shaky a closer option as there is in the game. Benoit is bound to get his shot at some point in 2016.
Adam Ottavino: Ottavino would have been another solid call from this write-up a season ago, but he succumbed to a UCL tear and only made it to 3 saves. Ottavino should be back in plenty of time to supplant Jake McGee once the Rockies ship him off for prospects, giving him a shot at 10+ saves over the final couple months.
There’s still going to be plenty of value in guys like Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, Roberto Osuna and a host of other solid 7th and 8th inning guys. In fact, with Chapman being suspended for the first 30 days, Miller has a chance to amass 5 to 10 saves on the season to go along with an impressive stat line otherwise. In formats with deep rosters I would rather take a shot on any two of these 14 guys listed above than WHIP and ERA killers such as Fernando Rodney or Steve Cishek. Whether a decent handful of saves are in the future for these middle relievers or not, each of them could be decent WHIP and ERA scrubbers for your roster and there’s plenty of hidden value in that.
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