Welcome back to the Closer Report. We’re a month into the season, and there hasn’t been a ton of major movement in bullpens thus far. Without doing any research on this matter, it feels as if there should be a lot of movement over the next few weeks, as bad performances start to look more permanent. Here is the updated closer grid. As always, changes since last week are highlighted. To the news!
Huston Street Hits the DL
The Angels lost their closer this week when Street went down with an oblique strain. I was prepared to be a lot more worried about it until I realized that he is only 32, and not almost 40 as I always assume. Either way, he will be on the shelf for at least a month, and likely longer. The obvious move is to pick up Joe Smith, who immediately slides into the L.A. closer role. Of course, since this injury occurred over a week ago, he’s likely already been picked up in your league. Fear not, however, as Smith is no guarantee to hold this job for very long. Typically a safe bet for solid production, he’s struggled mightily to start 2016, pitching to a 4.15 ERA and a 5.12 FIP thus far. He’s suffered from a decrease in strikeouts—his rate is half of what it’s been over the last three years—and an increase in home runs. His swinging-strike rate is only down slightly, but he’s missing the zone much more than he ever has. Meanwhile, Smith is carrying a groundball rate below 50 percent for the first time in his career. He also allowed three runs in his only appearance since Street went down. In short, I expect him to lose the job at some point in the next couple of weeks. I originally had Mike Morin as the man to replace Smith, and while he remains my favorite arm in that bullpen, unfortunately it doesn’t appear the Angels agree. Based on usage, Fernando Salas looks to be the next man in line. Playing for prospective saves is always a risky bet, but if you need to go down that road, Salas looks like one of the better bets currently on the board.
Another Reds Bullpen Board
Before the season, I expected the Phillies to be the team to occupy this space every week. Instead, the Reds have decided to become the saddest relief corps in the league. When we last spoke, J.J. Hoover was finally removed from the closer role with Caleb Cotham and Tony Cingrani looking like the most likely names to take his spot. Since then, Cotham has allowed runs in three of five appearances with one blown save and a .972 opponents’ OPS. Cingrani has allowed runs in three of his fine appearances with one blown save, one loss, and a 1.066 opponents’ OPS. Hoover, by the way, has allowed runs in two of his three opponents with a 1.500 opponents’ OPS. A shorter version: Everything is bad and also not good. As I said last week, and will likely continue to say, it is best to avoid this team entirely. If you must target someone from this group, I’m officially onboard the Ross Ohlendorf train. His ERA is ugly, but he’s striking a ton of batters out and has been their best pitcher lately. He’s allowed one hit (which was a home run, for what it’s worth) since Hoover lost his job with five strikeouts and no walks in 5 1/3 innings. He’s no safe bet to keep the closer job long term, but I expect him to get the next chance to take the job.
Time to Start Preparing for Brad Boxberger’s Return
Aroldis Chapman is the most notable closer returning to the field soon, but everyone is already prepared for that. If you want to get ahead of people, Boxberger might be the guy to target soon. Over the weekend, he started throwing bullpen sessions and it appears he’s trying to get back for mid-May. He’s much more likely to be available than Chapman, and while he’s not going to be as good, there is still value there. While he can help some save-needy fantasy owners moving forward, the real value might be for those who’ve managed to hold him in a DL slot. If you are one of those people and are looking good in saves, I’d be shopping him while he makes his way back. With the Rays, there is no guarantee anyone will be a full-time closer. If his replacements struggled in his absence, Boxberger would be safer. However, Alex Colomé has been just fine to start the year, striking out 10 batters per nine innings. As such, I’d expect the two to split closer duties moving forward. Being able to flip Boxberger’s name value to address another need could be the most beneficial play here.
Zach Britton suffered a scare with his ankle over the weekend. Fortunately, it does not appear to be serious and he hopes to return this week. Keep an eye on this situation, as Darren O’Day could jump in value soon, but right now it looks like nothing.
The Blue Jays set-up situation has been a mess with Drew Storen and Brett Cecil struggling. Roberto Osuna is in no danger of losing his job, but Jesse Chavez and Gavin Floyd could become much more valuable in holds leagues very soon.
Speaking of holds leagues, Carson Smith is coming today. The Red Sox want to ease him into MLB action, but he should be a good source of holds for the rest of the year.
Cody Allen was one of my favorite RPs coming in to the year, but he just came off a rough April. The good news is he had a rough April last year, too, and ended up being just fine. The bad news is his strikeouts are way down this year, as is his swinging strike rate. He’s earned enough of a leash to not worry just yet, but keep an eye on this situation. With Bryan Shaw struggling as well, Zach McAllister is my favorite to replace him if it comes down to that.
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