Closers with Higher Risk

When we’re talking dynasty rankings, closers don’t often get considered as keepers unless it’s a full-roster keeper league, or you have well over 12 keeper slots. Therefore a lot of closers end up available in the draft, and they’re often one of the first positions to go quickly. Given that it’s unlikely more than the top-5 closers will be retained in most keeper formats, I decided to focus on names you’re likely to find in the draft pool — and whom you should stay away from.

Brad Boxberger

Tampa Bay Rays LogoI’ll admit that I was one of the many teams who picked him up and happily collected some saves. His first half ERA of 2.64 and his strong strikeout rate certainly balanced out the higher WHIP and walk rate, plus those 20 saves helped my team. Then the second half arrived, and he fell apart with a sharp drop in K/9, a ballooning ERA and an increase in BB/9. He stopped throwing strikes (60% first pitch strike in first half, 51% in second half), and his strand rate went from lucky to a little unlucky. The good news is that his velocity, swinging strike rate and HR/FB didn’t really change much. That’s also the bad news, because it wasn’t bad luck or fatigue that hurt him — it was primarily the wildness and dropping K/9. He’s certainly a wild card for 2016, and if Jake McGee is healthy, I’d expect Tampa to hand McGee the closer role. Add in the fact that either one could be traded, and at this point it’s better to steer clear of Boxberger.

Santiago Casilla

San Francisco Giants LogoYou’d think that someone who reaches 40 saves should have decent job security, both in real life and on a fantasy roster. However, I’m not a fan and can’t bring myself to trust him. He’s a bit older, but again, we aren’t talking about prime keepers when it comes to closers anyway. He did put up a career best in K/9, so why am I picking on him? For starters, he has a variable walk rate, and it was up in 2015. A 9.6 K/9 looks good at first, but when paired with a 3.6 BB/9, it results in a poor K/BB for a closer. Another red flag is the sudden drop in GB%, which had been a strong point for him: after six years of 50% or higher, it was down to 46% in 2015. Pair that with his third highest HR/FB ratio, and it makes for some shaky ground. It’s a good thing he’s in the NL West with more pitcher’s parks. Add in the fact that the Giants have decent RP options in Sergio Romo and Hunter Strickland, and I’m not sure Casilla will get much of a leash in 2016.

Trevor Rosenthal

St Louis Cardinals LogoHere’s another name that some may wonder why I’m criticizing him. It’s not because I’m a Cub fan (Or at least, that’s not only why). He improved his scary walk rate from 2014, which is good. His K/9 dropped just slightly, but it’s still over 10.0 and elite. He improved his GB% from 2014, getting it to 46%. So what’s the problem? He managed to post a very high strand rate of 85% — and it was even higher in the first half, at 97%. Needless to say, that isn’t sustainable, even for high-strikeout closers. After posting a 61% first pitch strike rate in the first half, he dropped back to his career level, prompting more walks, higher LD%, and a higher oBA. That being said, he suffered from an unlucky BABIP in the second half, and he did post a better K/9. All told, he’s useable, but he’s not a reliable top-10 closer to me because he’s not consistent.

Huston Street

Los Angeles Angels LogoHe’s remained mostly healthy for a few years, which is impressive for him. The Angels should continue competing, which should keep his save total high. However, warts are starting to show, and they’re not due to injury bugs. First, his K/9 was down from 2014, and though it didn’t drop to as low as 2013, the fact is he’ is not a strikeout machine. Next, he posted his highest BB/9 in seven years, which combines with his worst velocity and first pitch strike of his career. He still gets hitters to swing and miss, but these are worrisome trends. Finally, his 2015 is likely a new career norm. In 2013-14 he needed strand rates of 89-90% to keep that ERA so low. In 2012 he managed to keep it low with an average strand rate, but that was due to an elite K/9 (that is now long gone) and a career low BABIP. Even if you can argue that some of strand rate and BABIP are controlled by good closers, the fact is when he’s near league average, he is far less impressive.


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Kevin Jebens

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Fantasy baseball player since 2000; winning leagues ranging from 12-team H2H to 18-team experts 5x5. Has written for various baseball blogs, including the 2013 Bleed Cubbie Blue Annual.