Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening — whichever is applicable to you. In day-to-day life we all strive to execute 100% of the time. Perfection may be unrealistic, so the 80’s taught us that 66.666667 ain’t bad. What if you were to fail just as likely as you were to succeed? It wouldn’t take long for most to say the hell with this.
From Day 1 of the season until the final out, most estimation have the Fantasy Closer being successful at 50% off the time. So each year fantasy owners must extract value from the dumpster fire that lies ahead. Looking back at last draft season, only 15 of the 30 Closers (based on ADP) finished the season as Closers. Of those 15; both Familia and Sam Dyson went 4 months or more without the role, while Chapman, Giles, and Diaz were all temporarily removed. We are now looking at just 30% of Closers who provided their owners with security, and somehow Fernando Rodney was one of them.
While all this movement isn’t performance related; the fact that 9 of these players were traded last year isn’t likely to change. The fact is the perception of a good RP is in large part based on their success in the 9th inning. So again, non-contending teams will move their 9th inning arms and those 9th inning arms will become 7th inning options without value. This only adds to the volatility of this role, and it is the volatility that makes RP the most unpredictable market in fantasy baseball
Over the last half decade I’ve noticed a big change in draft day values among the elite. Kenley Jansen is the universal top closer; his ADP is 36th Overall, having been selected as high as 18th overall and has yet to make it out of the 5th round of 12-Team drafts. Personally I don’t have a problem with Jansen in the 5th round range. However, his price has created a domino effect on the remaining top end targets. So while the perception of top targets is that of security, just last season 3 of the Top 5 Closing options completely bombed out. Britton (3rd) had an injury shortened season, Melancon (4th) wasn’t far behind him, while Oh’s (5th) production ousted him out of the role as injuries and ineffectiveness caused owners bouts of nausea.
This season, once Jansen’s name is called, soon after you’ll hear Kimbrel’s (44th) followed by Knebel 62nd, Chapman 65th, and Osuna 77th. How quickly one forgets the question marks surrounding Kimbrel heading into 2017. What about the big work increase and walk concerns of Knebel? I’ve already mentioned Chapman’s woes last season with the decline in K metrics. Osuna seems really safe, but yet I said the same thing about Britton just last season. So my overall point would be just because you pay more for something doesn’t make it a more secure option.
Once you get to the second tier of Closers the pricing is more in line with what I’m accustomed to. The problem is what once was 20-25 options to choose from is now more like 10-15. This grouping is your usual suspects: solid skill set with what appears to be a defined role on paper. This grouping extends from Rivero at 87th overall all the way to Hector Neris around 144th. The fewer options can make the navigation of this area quite difficult to be honest. Other position pitfalls or preferences may put your focus elsewhere, and before you know it you’re once again short when it comes to Saves.
After the second tier you enter into more of the grey area for Closers. The development of Super Bullpens have effectively eaten away at the quality of pens around the league. Add in a hesitance to promote younger arms into roles because of arbitration and you’ll find that more teams have uncertainty than ever before. Combine those jobs without clarity with those Closers with a perceived decline in skill and this tier becomes farther reaching than I care to remember.
Sadly more and more often I find myself living in this tier of Closers. On one hand it is extremely maddening to miss out time and time again on less stressful options, but it can be so rewarding if you’re able to nab a 40 SV option among this grouping. This grouping also affords me the opportunity to be more aggressive with my positional rostering prior to the season. While seeking out 3-4 options for Closer isn’t exactly maximizing your Roster, it increases your chances of getting two Closers and makes for an easy roster cut when needed. Should they all hit, you’ve added some nice trade value from the latter stages of the draft.
Miscast Value Options
Mark Melancon (18th Closer) – The K totals will never be elite, but a track record of success suggest they are good enough. Good Starting Pitching and middle of the road offense is the perfect recipe for SV opportunities. The void of a can’t miss Closer waiting in the wings and the contract of one gives Melancon a rare long leash from this Tier.
Kelvin Herrera (23rd Closer) – His K totals aren’t at the level of the elite, but they’re very respectable. Like Melancon, those waiting in the wings don’t exactly demand a second look. The Royals could be really bad, so if a formula was used to project Saves then Herrera would likely not fare well. If history is any indication, however, 40 SV Closers can be found on 70 Win teams.
Shane Greene (27th) – His K totals won’t be among the elite, but they can play in the role. Walks will pave the way to his failure or success. Last season 4.52 BB/9 will result in a quick removal from the role. His MLB track record would suggest a big decrease is a reasonable expectation as 3.32 BB/9 had been his career high. The lack of additional options gives Greene a rare long-leash for a Closer at this stage in the draft. Joe Jimenez is the only reputable arm at this point. At 23 it makes no sense to build up arbitration dollars in future years to close out 20 games for a 65 Win club.
Elite Potential Usage Questions
Jeurys Familia (19th Closer) – Has displayed a Top 5 skill set over an extended period of time. The distance between that point and now is concerning, however, it’s still fresh in everyone’s mind. Callaway had mentioned prior to Spring Training that he would manage the 9th inning situationally. With Ramos and Swarzak in the fold the ability to do so certainly exist. If Familia had more multi-inning workload potential I would by it. I think more often than not managers talk the talk, but when push comes to shove they like having a routine from game to game.
Brandon Morrow (20th Closer) – Morrow is among the fastest ADP risers over the last 2 weeks having gained over 20 spots in ADP during that span. I haven’t seen anything to refute his status as a Closer, but for some reason I’m not 100% sold on the idea. Morrow’s experience as a SP makes him a great candidate to maximize his usage by volume rather than number of appearances. Having him as more of a multi innings option could also make it easier to not overwork him as injuries have been a major problem throughout his career.
The Cubs also feature plenty of arms who would be able to handle closing out a game: Steve Cishek (525th) has had a nice run of success of late and has closing experience, while Carl Edwards Jr. (345th) has shown the skill set to make big outs (2017 Playoffs not included).
Archie Bradley (21st) – The loss of Rodney naturally promoted Bradley to the roll. That is the same logic we all used a half-decade ago that feels like a lifetime. Bradley was excellent in his role last season, his experience a SP makes him the perfect fit for it. His departure into the Closer role could leave the Diamondbacks with a bigger hole to fill than the current Closer vacancy. Is Brad Boxberger incapable of closing out games in the 9th inning? His career track record would leave me to believe the answer to that is a big fat NO. Boxberger is currently 325th in ADP – at the very least he currently makes for must have Bradley insurance.
Blake Parker (25th) – Parker pitched well in the role to finish last season so a reasonable expectation would be it’s his to lose this season. Plus K rate, good control and a ground ball lean all offers validation in support as to why Parker will hold onto the job. I’ve found myself to be hesitant on first year breakouts; so while Parker was solid in 2013, 2017 can easily be defined as his christening.
With the Closer position as a whole, track record is a value in itself. Three months on the job isn’t a given to survive 3 bad outings the next year. Cam Bedrosian was favored over Parker just last season, and let’s not sleep on Jim Johnson; last season was a dumpster fire but he’s been a solid option since 2012, and Scioscia strikes me as a veteran loyalist.
Blake Treinen (22nd) – Treinen has been given the job to begin the season, but I’m less enthralled of the potential outcome. His K rate isn’t elite for an end game option, and last season was his first with a BB/9 less than 3.00 (2.97) since his Rookie campaign of 2.31. To compound the concern, Treinen hasn’t exactly been successful in the job to begin with. He had multiple failed casting calls for the Nationals last season and did enough to be shipped out as the Nationals prepared for a playoff run.
The A’s bullpen has some depth to it. Chris Hatcher is on a one-year deal so a cameo in the role could prop his value. Emilio Pagan seems to have the pedigree for the role. Liam Hendricks had a disappointing season last year, but prior to it he was viewed as a possible end game option.
Fernando Rodney (26th) – There’s nothing I can write that hasn’t been written a 100 times over describing Rodney. Somehow through it all he has defined odds and reinvented himself over the last few seasons. Yes the Rodney we all know will appear from time to time, but overall the body of work has been solid. What Rodney hasn’t been subject to is real competition. Bradley was excellent last season, but managements preference for him in as a setup man was evident. Addison Reed, on the other hand, is clearly the better option of the two. Will Molitor take a more modern approach to Bullpen handling or will Rodney be given a quick hook in favor of the superior arm in the 9th?
Up In the Air
Cardinals – This should be a solid club who in theory could provide some solid Save totals. I still believe Greg Holland will surface here. In house options feature Tyler Lyons, Luke Gregerson, Dominic Leone and Bud Norris. Lyons is generating late steam, but I can’t shake his HR issues throughout his career aside from last season. Leone had a really good 2016, but his previous 42 innings were nothing short of disastrous. Gregerson has experience in the job, but he’s been better as a setup man throughout his career. A hamstring injury doesn’t help Bud Norris’s case, but assuming a speedy recovery it’s not impossible to think Norris couldn’t be adequate. Good K totals help mask the walk issues, cutting down the HR’s allowed would be the biggest key.
Rangers – Much is being made about this potential circus, but quite frankly I’m not sure where the mystery is. Clearly ownership or management despises Keone Kela, Tim Lincecum is nothing more than a dart throw in hopes of getting any value at all – the job belongs to Alex Claudio until the ticking time bomb explodes.
White Sox – Juan Minaya ended the season as the Closer, but the ground was shaky. The signing of Joakim Soria almost felt as if it was a cheap solution to the problem. Either way the White Sox go, Nate Jones will be closing out games once he’s proven healthy. If I were drafting a White Sox RP without question it would be Jones.
Miami – There’s few desirable fantasy options in Miami, and the Closer position would be no different. Barraclough and Steckenrider have the most appeal, but old boring Brad Ziegler would seem to be the logical choice. This is a 60 Win team who needs to extract value from somewhere. I’m not sure there’s an easier way to produce perceived value than a veteran earning saves. Give Ziegler the role, allow him to do what he does, ship him out at the first hint of interest – rince, repeat.
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