The fantasy season is officially back, and that means it’s also time for the return of everyone’s favorite part of fantasy baseball: the closer carousel. If you were here for The Closer Report, it’s mostly staying the same this year. I’ll tackle a few of the week’s biggest stories, and finish up with a few quick hits I find interesting. One change I’m implementing is sharing my closer grid, which I’ll be updating on something close to a daily basis. I’ll share it every week, but you can check up on it whenever you’d like and I’ll highlight any recent changes I’ve made. One quick note: The Watchlist isn’t necessarily the next man in line, but rather someone to keep an eye on as the season progresses. Now, let’s get on with the show.
Astros Snub Ken Giles
When Houston traded a relatively massive package of prospects to the Phillies for Giles, it was assumed he’d be the Astros’ closer. It was such a foregone conclusion that he’d get the job that he went ninth among RPs according to NFBC data. Instead, after a long buildup, A.J. Hinch announced that Luke Gregerson (39th RP on NFBC) would handle the ninth. Obviously, that makes him a must-own in all leagues as the closer for a presumed contender. On the other side of things, Giles absolutely should not be dropped. He’s good enough to be one of the top non-closer relievers in fantasy, and should get more save chances than your typical setup man. Plus, Gregerson’s leash should be a bit shorter than one would expect for someone with his solid track record. While this is a blow for those that spent significant resources on the former Phillie, Giles has enough of a baseline to provide some value now and has a decent chance at earning saves at some point in 2016.
The Phillies Closer Situation Makes Me Sad
Nobody blames Philadelphia for taking advantage of Giles’ value, given their lack of use for a star reliever. However, the move left them with a rough group of pitchers vying for the closer title. After a spring training in which no one separated from the pack, they are starting the year with a crowded committee. Heading into the season, David Hernandez is the favorite to earn the early save chances, though he didn’t help his chances with a rough outing on Opening Day. Either way, he’s likely owned already. Honestly, avoiding this situation entirely is probably your best bet. With that being said, if you’re in a deep mixed or NL-only league and are desperate for saves, Dallier Hinojosa and Jeanmar Gomez should get some early save chances as well. Of those two, I’d opt for Gomez over Hinojosa despite the fact that the latter is higher on the depth chart at the moment. Looking a bit farther down the road, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see Andrew Bailey or James Russell take the job within the first six weeks of the season. Every word I just typed made me sad.
Colomé or Farquhar?
The Rays suffered one of the more important (for fantasy, at least) injuries of spring training when Brad Boxberger hurt his core; the righty will miss at least the first month of the season. In his absence, it is appears that Kevin Cash will go with a committee to handle the save opportunities. Ideally, you'd find a way to avoid this situation, but it’s a good team that leans on its rotation, meaning it could be home to many saves. The two favorites to receive those chances at this point are Alex Colomé and Danny Farquhar. The latter has the closer experience and is just a year removed from a two-season run in which he struck out more than 11 batters per nine innings and posted a FIP of 2.42. However, he struggled to the tune of a 4.58 FIP and 5.23 DRA in 2015. Colomé is my preference here. Although his overall numbers leave a lot to be desired, he’s been much better when pitching in short stints. In relief, he strikes out more than a batter per inning and has a K/BB close to 5.0. The save chances will likely be close to equal while Boxberger is out, so talent wins out in this battle. I’m more confident in Colomé’s.
Roberto Osuna won the closer job in Toronto. Given their offense, they may not get as many save chances as a typical contender. That’s not enough to stop me from ranking Osuna as a borderline top-10 closer, though.
A lot of people are high on Hunter Strickland this year. While I like the talent as much as anyone, he’s more of a long-term league play for me. Santiago Casilla is no sure thing to lose the closer job, and Sergio Romo is coming off a fantastic season. I’d rather pay a lesser price for someone like Tony Watson or Darren O’Day.
Or Keone Kela for that matter. I’ve mentioned him in a few other places this winter, but Shawn Tolleson’s home run problems lead me to believe he will hit a rough patch at some point. Kela has the talent to take quick advantage of any opportunity he’s handed.
Jason Grilli is going to start the year as the Braves’ closer, which means Arodys Vizcaino could be a cheap, high-reward pick up in deeper leagues. He’ll give you strikeouts for now, and the probability that Grilli will underperform, get hurt or get traded at some point to open up the ninth inning is relatively high.
My guess is Fernando Rodney and J.J. Hoover will both be out of a closer job within the next four weeks. However, there are very few situations in which I could see myself taking up a roster spot to stash either Kevin Quackenbush or Jumbo Diaz. If I were forced to pick one, I’d go with Diaz. As I’ve said before, though, Brandon Maurer is my favorite to eventually lead the Padres in saves.