Somehow it’s already June, and it seems there is finally some actual action coming our way on the closer front. It still seems like a relatively quiet year in this regard, but there has been some moving and shaking this week. As always, you can check out the closer grid here, and the changes since last week are highlighted. Let’s get to it.
Luke Gregerson Is Officially Unofficially Out of the Closer Role
After another rough week closing games for the Astros, Gregerson is (in A.J. Hinch’s words) “being eased out of the closer role,” whatever that means. I’m assuming that is roughly translated as, “he’s pitched poorly and I can no longer trust him as my closer but I also don’t want to be super mean about it.” I put Will Harris as the no. 1 option on my closer grid, and he’s the guy you should add if you can. He’s been incredible this season and converted the first save in the post-Gregerson era. Of course, Ken Giles also pitched two innings in the previous game, and could’ve simply been unavailable. Giles has been much better after his horrid start, and it looks like both will be getting save chances. As such, both should be owned. Michael Feliz should be rostered in deeper leagues, too. He’s been getting a ton of strikeouts, and there’s a good chance he’ll be thrown into the saves mix as well. Right now, I’d assume it will be something close to a 60/35/5 split between Harris, Giles and Feliz. It’s a fluid situation, and if someone separates himself from the pack, he could be a very valuable pickup as the Astros are beginning to show signs of life.
Brad Boxberger Hit the DL Again
We don’t need to spend too much time on this one, as things more or less stay the same as they’ve been all year. Many assumed Boxberger was primed to take the closer role back in Tampa Bay when he returned last week, but instead he got hurt in his first appearance and went back to the disabled list for at least a month and likely longer. I really hope you Alex Colomé owners didn’t do anything rash. Colomé has been one of the most impressive relievers in the game this season, and now it looks like he should hold his job for the rest of the season, making him one of the more quietly valuable closers in fantasy for the next few months.
We Have to Talk About the Reds Again
I tried to take a week off from Reds talk last week, and you guys weren’t having it. Things haven’t gotten too much better in Cincinnati, but they have changed. That is, at least in my eyes. I’ve been stubborn for most of the season and have had Ross Ohelndorf as the man to own in this unit. It seemed pretty clear to me that he was the best option for the role, but they keep going with Tony Cingrani and his walks and I can’t ignore it anymore. Cingrani is now no. 1 on my grid, though my advice to avoid this situation at all costs remains the same. However, some more interesting news came out this week as it was announced that Raisel Iglesias would come back from injury as a reliever. This may be disappointing for Iglesias owners, but I would continue to stash him if you can. He won’t be thrown into the closer role immediately, but this bullpen is so bad that it’s hard to imagine him not at least getting a chance at some point later in the year. In the meantime, his ratios and Ks in a relief role would be a boon considering what he’s done as a starter. Don’t hold him if you absolutely need a roster spot, but if you were planning on keeping him for when he returns as a starter, I wouldn’t change anything.
The Twins Are Lucky the Reds Exist
While the Reds have been unmatched in terribleness, Minnesota’s bullpen has been pretty atrocious in its own right. Current closer Kevin Jepsen blew another save on Sunday, and now has an ERA above 6.00 with peripherals that offer little hope. No move has been made yet, but it’s hard to see him lasting much longer. Fernando Abad is my favorite to take over the job after him, but he’s not a very exciting proposition. He doesn’t get the big strikeout numbers one looks for in a fantasy reliever. Saves are saves, though, so if he gets the job he obviously needs to be owned. Brandon Kintzler is also someone to keep an eye on. This is not because Brandon Kintzler is good—he’s not—but he has pitched the eighth in each of Jepsen’s last two save opportunities. That’s not nothing. Michael Tonkin is the name people should be hoping for, at least while Trevor May continues to struggle, because he is racking up over 10 Ks per nine innings thanks to improved swinging-strike and zone rates. There is also Glen Perkins, who has started throwing bullpens and could be back in a few weeks. Of course, setbacks are always possible and no one should be counting on his imminent return just yet.
Jonathan Papelbon appears to be a ticking time bomb. His overall numbers are fine, but both DRA and cFIP are down on him this season. His strikeouts are down to a career low, and he’s giving up a career-low in home runs despite his lowest ground ball rate since 2007. Shawn Kelley is worth an add for speculative saves, and don’t be surprised if they trade for another late-inning arm. I’d look to sell Papelbon if he puts together a solid two or three game stretch.
Darren O’Day hit the disabled list. This isn’t too fantasy relevant, as Zach Britton has been incredible again and isn’t going to lose his job. Brad Brach moves up on the grid, despite how much I wish it was Givens.
Tony Watson has been weirdly horrible this season. These things happen to relievers, but it’s still distressing to see this happen to one of the better holds options in the game. I haven’t made a change yet, but Neftali Feliz might move up to the second spot in Pittsburgh’s bullpen soon.