We’re now a little more than a third of the way through the season, and the closer action is finally starting to pick up. There were multiple changes over the last week, and as always you can keep up with these shifts on the closer grid. Now, on to the news.
Not Charlie Sheen is Now a Closer
A few weeks ago, I quickly mentioned that Carlos Estevez was quickly becoming one of my favorite young relievers to watch. Sure enough, he is now the closer in Colorado after Jake McGee hit the disabled list with knee inflammation. Estevez is an interesting pitcher who relies on a high-90s fastball along with a slider. The repertoire has worked well in his rookie year, as he’s striking out a shade over a batter per inning and inducing an above-average swinging-strike rate. It’s not all rosy for the 23-year-old, though, as he’s had problems with control (4.4 BB/9) as well as home runs (1.3 HR/9). Obviously, anyone in Coors is expected to have home-run trouble, but a 38 percent ground-ball rate doesn’t help much. The WHIP and ERA will be far from elite, but he’s the closer and thus needs to be owned. Expect Jason Motte to get a handful of chances, too, particularly when Estevez needs a day off. As for McGee, there is no word on exactly how much time he’ll miss but this could be the status quo for at least a month.
More Trouble in Minnesota
Things have been rough for the Twins’ bullpen this year, and it didn’t get any better last week. Kevin Jepsen struggled mightily after taking over for an injured Glen Perkins, and enough was finally enough. It was announced in the middle of last week that the ninth inning would become a shared job between Brandon Kintzler and Fernando Abad. Kintzler got the first chance, and based on his eighth inning appearances before the change was made, he’d be my choice to own for immediate saves. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been all that great this year, relying on low walk and ground ball rates to mask subpar strikeout and home-run rates. We’ve seen that skill set work before (looking at you, Brad Ziegler) but there’s little margin for error. Abad has been the better performer this year, but he hasn’t been close to elite and is also left-handed. Both should get opportunities, and should be owned in both leagues, but for now I’d peg it as something close to a 75/25 split in Kintzler’s favor. Perkins, by the way, suffered another set back last week. It’s becoming harder and harder to count on him coming back this year. Also, former favorite Trevor May was also placed on the disabled list, and his chances of earning late-season saves are getting slimmer by the day. Rough week, and season, for the Twinkies.
Let’s Check in on Houston
Most of the situations we talk about in this space involve groups of bad relievers. Houston is a very interesting bullpen because there are a lot of questions about roles, but the relievers are mostly good. We talked about Luke Gregerson being kicked out of the closer role last week, and I surmised that Will Harris was the man to own. Nothing has changed since then, as he got both saves of the week, though he did give up a run in one of them. Until further notice, he’s the best fantasy asset in Houston’s bullpen. Ken Giles is still valuable in most leagues, though, as he should earn more save chances than your average set-up man and has turned it around after a rough start. It is worth noting that he’s still giving up a ton of flyballs, so the lack of home runs lately may be something of a fluke.
What’s up with Santiago Casilla?
Santiago Casilla is nobody’s favorite closer, but he’s been a steady asset for a couple of years now. Things started to change last week, however, as he blew two saves and was taken out of a save situation in another matchup. Now, Bruce Bochy hasn’t made any official changes and Casilla did grab a save on Sunday. The leash is undeniably short right now, though. Hunter Strickland is everyone’s favorite arm in that bullpen, but despite the talent he’s not the one I’d add for speculative saves. Cory Gearrin has been quietly effective this year, and should get the first chance after excelling in an eight inning role. That doesn’t make Strickland irrelevant, though, as Gearrin is the Kintzler of this unit, relying on groundballs and soft contact rather than overpowering stuff. Both should be owned in NL-only formats, and should at least be on a watch list for mid-sized to deeper mixed leagues.
Steve Cishek’s magic may be running out, as he gave up runs in two straight outings last week. He’s earned himself enough of a leash to this point, but it’s worth keeping an eye on this situation as things could change with a couple more rough outings. Prospect Edwin Diaz has opened some eyes since his call-up, and could earn some second-half save chances.
Roberto Osuna is in no trouble, as he’s been fantastic this year. As I’ve mentioned before, though, things are much more muddled behind him. With Jason Grilli now aboard after a trade, he’s emerged as the new setup man. Grilli isn’t great, but he’s an asset in holds leagues now.
I am contractually obligated to mention the Reds every week, so here’s that blurb. Cingrani blew a save last week, but has pretty clearly taken a relatively strong hold on the job for now. Obviously, things can change with this unit quickly, and Raisel Iglesias is still my favorite to take over once he returns from injury.
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