Often nicknamed the “closer carousel,” chess may be a simpler game to predict than choosing the best closers in fantasy baseball. Injuries, performance, right or left pitching arm, manager’s closer philosophy and even salary can all be contributing factors to account for in accumulating saves. If your closer is already blowing multiple saves or not healthy this early in the season, it may be time to identify who may be next in line for the closer role.
Right-handers are more commonly chosen as closers, but there are always exceptions to this rule. Some managers prefer to use a committee approach rather than assign the job to one pitcher, which can make predicting save opportunities more difficult than solving a Rubik’s cube and often worth avoiding altogether. To make matters more confusing, a highly compensated closer may be awarded a “longer leash” if they struggle early on, especially if he has a proven track record in the closer’s role.
With two months of the regular season behind us, 49 relief pitchers currently have at least two saves, 32 of whom have five or more. If you drafted a few closers before the season, odds favor that at least one of your closers are no longer capturing saves for your fantasy team.
Let’s take a brief look at the situation in three different categorizations.
Francisco Rodriguez, Sergio Romo, Kenley Jansen, Trevor Rosenthal, Huston Street, Aroldis Chapman, Glen Perkins, Greg Holland, Jonathan Papelbon, Addison Reed, Craig Kimbrel, Fernando Rodney, Joe Nathan, LaTroy Hawkins, Rafael Soriano, Steve Cishek, Koji Uehara, Chad Qualls, Casey Janssen, David Robertson
Detroit’s Joe Nathan has struggled mightily against Oakland this week, but his role seems secure for now. Both St. Louis’ Trevor Rosenthal and Los Angeles Dodger Kenley Jansen had a rough April, but seem to have recovered nicely. Except for one blown save, Cincinnati’s Aroldis Chapman has been dominant since returning from the disabled list and has 14 strikeouts in only 8 innings. The remainder of these closers have been relatively consistent and not in immediate danger of demotion.
Grant Balfour, Jason Grilli, Hector Rondon, Ernesto Frieri
Tampa Bay’s Grant Balfour has struggled in both save and non-save situations and is sporting an earned run average approaching 6.0. Watch for Joel Peralta in your rear view mirror. With three blown saves and backup closer Mark Melancon nipping at his heels, keep an eye on Jason Grilli in case the Pittsburgh Pirates make any changes. Continue to monitor Chicago Cub Hector Rondon as well as Los Angeles Angel Ernesto Frieri/Joe Smith as well.
Zach Britton, Cody Allen/Bryan Shaw/Scott Atchison, Jerry Mejia, Sean Doolittle, Matt Lindstrom/Ronald Belisario
Oakland may be one of the hottest teams in baseball, but closing games has been its kryptonite as the Athletics lead the league in blown saves. After Jim Johnson and Luke Gregerson failed to shut the door on several occasions, southpaw Sean Doolittle has now stepped up with four saves in five opportunities. Although Baltimore’s Tommy Hunter started the year well, his inconsistency, groin injury and earned run average above 6.00 led to a demotion. Zach Britton has taken the reins and is 3-for-4 in save opportunities with an earned run average less than 1.00. With Bobby Parnell out for the season and Kyle Farnsworth sent packing, former starter Jenrry Mejia is now receiving the bulk of save opportunities for the New York Mets. Thus far, Mejia has converted all of his opportunities and should remain in the role for the time being. Cleveland’s situation has been difficult to predict. Since John Axford was removed from the closer role, Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen and Scott Atchison have all received opportunities, but none have been deemed closer duties. With Chicago White Sox closer Matt Lindstrom now expected to miss three months, Ronald Belisario certainly did not impress with three blown saves in six attempts. Daniel Webb, Scott Downs and Javy Guerra may be in the mix, so watch this competition closely.
Saves can be frustrating to predict, but continue to do your homework and review closer charts regularly. Good luck as we head into the third month of the season!