Welcome back to the Closer Report. There’s finally a little bit of action happening on the Closer Carousel, which you can see in a semi-active Closer Grid. As always, the changes since last week’s posting are in yellow.
The Reds Replaced J.J. Hoover with… Someone?
Even before the season started, everyone knew that J.J. Hoover wasn’t long for the Reds closer job. He was removed from his job on Wednesday, and the numbers more than back up that decision. Hoover has a 15.26 ERA and a 10.66 FIP on the year. Over the weekend, his troubles were blamed on tipped pitches, but that seems to me to be more of a convenient excuse. The issue here for fantasy owners is there is a lack of clear replacement options. Even just a couple weeks ago, Jumbo Diaz would’ve been the obvious choice. Unfortunately, he struggled mightily to start the season and was demoted the day before Hoover lost his job. As of this writing, I have Tony Cingrani as the man to own in this bullpen, though I’m not confident it stays that way very long. While he has the stuff to generate plenty of strikeouts, he also walks far too many batters to pitch in high-leverage situations on a regular basis and has had home run issues in the past. The fact that he’s a lefty doesn’t help matters either. After him is Caleb Cotham, who has become the flavor of the week since we last spoke. He does appear to be a more sustainable option than Cingrani, but in the more boring mold of someone like Jeanmar Gomez. While Cotham is the best long-term option as of this moment, Blake Wood and Ross Ohlendorf are worth keeping an eye on as well. I’m not as high on Wood as some, but I could very well see Ohlendorf getting some chances if both Cotham and Cingrani have a rough week. Hell, even Hoover could work his way back into the picture. As can likely be implied, one should avoid this entire situation if at all possible.
Kevin Jepsen Struggles in First Full Week as Closer
Kevin Jepsen took over for Glen Perkins after the latter hit the disabled list, and appeared in two games. In the first, he took the loss after coming in to a tie game (the run he allowed was unearned, but he was also hit quite hard in the outing), and in the second he blew the save and allowed the game to go into extra innings. As I said last week, Jepsen got this job despite pitching in the same bullpen as Trevor May, who is likely the better pitcher. However, those hoping this means May will take over the ninth inning will be disappointed. For one thing, May also appeared in Jepsen’s second outing last week and allowed two runs himself. The good news is the ratios still make May worth owning, and Jepsen’s rough week at least made it more plausible that May could start earning some saves in the next couple weeks before Perkins comes back.
Sometimes, you have a strong opinion of how something is going to work out, and when it doesn’t go that way you refuse to acknowledge it. That was me with Sean Doolittle, who I was extremely high on coming into the season. Through his first ten appearances, the former star has a 4.50 ERA with a crashing strikeout rate and a climbing walk rate. He’s blown one of his three save chances, added another loss on top of that and has allowed two of his three inherited runs to score. Meanwhile, Ryan Madson has run with his opportunity. He has converted all seven of his save chances to go with his 1.86 ERA. Additionally, while his strikeout rate has fallen a bit, his rising swinging strike rate suggests the strikeout rate will be just fine. Somehow, he’s still available in 24 percent of Yahoo leagues and 29 percent of CBS leagues, so rectify that if you’re in one of those leagues. Doolittle, meanwhile, is droppable in shallow leagues, but since this is still something of a committee, he should be owned in leagues that own at least 30 relievers.
Francisco Rodriguez will miss the next few games, at least, after being placed on the family medical emergency leave list. Obviously, we hope everything is all right with him and his family. In the meantime, Mark Lowe and Justin Wilson will get some save chances. I’d prefer them in that order, but given that Lowe is a righty and Wilson is a lefty, which one gets the ninth will be dependent on match ups.
It was a rough week for Craig Kimbrel, who blew a save and allowed an inherited runner to score the winning run. The start to his Red Sox career has been tough, but he’s got too much of a track record to worry about too much. In other Red Sox news, Carson Smith will be back soon and could be a good waiver target for those in deep and/or holds leagues.
Steve Cishek has been terrific to start the year despite many assuming he’d lose the job by this point. He’s converted all four of his save chances and is striking out a batter per inning through his first eight appearances. Even more encouraging is the fact that he’s generating more whiffs than ever, particularly on pitches in the zone.
Keone Kela is going to miss the next few months, which puts to rest any chance at him providing significant fantasy value in 2016. Another miss for me.
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now