After a handful of exciting weeks in a row on the closer front, we’re coming off a seven-day stretch in which next to nothing happened. The bad news is that there aren’t many options on the waiver wire that are all that much attractive as they were last week. The good news is that this gives me a little time to talk about some guys I haven’t had a chance to this year. As always, you can keep up with changes on the closer grid. Now, on to the news…
Are the Twins the New Reds?
For most of the season to this point, the Reds have been thee go-to example of terribleness in the bullpen. While they’re still decidedly not good, they’ve been solid of late (more on this later), and the Twins may be taking the mantle no one wants to take. Everything has gone downhill since Glen Perkins went down, and there was at least some hope that his return would make everything go back to normal. So much for that. His rehab had been going horribly, and now it looks like he’ll have surgery on the injured shoulder and subsequently miss the rest of the year. So, for now we’re all stuck with Brandon Kintzler: Closer. To his credit, he has a shiny ERA and has converted both of his save chances. Unfortunately, his peripherals are uninspiring to say the least and he’s allowed runs in four of his nine appearances this month. Fernando Abad’s peripherals are certainly better, but he’s had some recent struggles of his own. It’s impossible to know who will be getting saves in Minnesota a month from now, but I’d keep an eye on Michael Tonkin and Trevor May. The former has been the best arm in the bullpen this year, and the latter has the most talent.
Shawn Kelley Is Officially the Closer in Washington
So, there’s not too much to say here, but it’s A Thing and is certainly worth mentioning. We talked about Jonathan Papelbon hitting the disabled list last week, and at the time it looked like the Nationals might go with a committee in the ninth inning. Of course, Kelley was always the favorite to get the bulk of the chances. Dusty Baker decided he didn’t like committees and just named Kelley as the full-time closer. The good news is Kelley has done well with the job, and should be in no danger of losing it due to poor performance. The bad news is it doesn’t appear Papelbon’s absence will be too extended, so Kelley might not be long for saves. He can still be useful for ratios in deeper leagues, but in standard leagues he won’t provide too much value after the next couple of weeks.
Trevor Rosenthal is Struggling
As of this writing, there is no reason to believe the Cardinals’ closer is in imminent danger of losing his job. That is the nicest thing I can say about Trevor Rosenthal right now. Two years ago, he showed some control issues that threatened to prevent him from becoming a long-term closer. He appeared to have fixed the problem last year, but now his control is worth than ever. Through Sunday’s action, he is the not-so-proud owner of a 7.8 BB/9, the highest mark among all pitchers with at least 20 innings. The walks have finally started to catch up to him — he has a 14.40 ERA in his last eight outings — and it’s not hard to see a couple more bad outings this month costing him his job. Things get interesting from there, as there isn’t a clear-cut replacement. I have Kevin Siegrist next in line right now, as he’s been quite good for two straight years and has pitched in the eighth inning in most save situations. However, Seung-hwan Oh has been phenomenal in his first major-league season, and also has an advantage by being a righty. This is a solid team to look to for prospective saves down the road, it’s just a matter of keeping a close eye on their usage to determine who to add.
There has been a seemingly endless stream of rumors involving Yankees relievers and the Cubs. This obviously has an effect on both ends. For the Yankee arms, this would move Andrew Miller into a closer role regardless of whether he was traded or Chapman. He may have to split duties if he were to move to Chicago, but that’s better than what he has now. On the other end, Hector Rondon’s value would take a huge hit despite being one of the better relievers in the game this year.
I haven’t talked much about Craig Kimbrel this year, but it’s worth noting he has both rewarded and disappointed those who drafted him this spring. On the one hand, he’s been phenomenal, ranking in the top-ten by both cFIP and DRA- among all pitchers with at least 20 innings. On the other hand, he hasn’t racked up elite save totals thanks to a mostly explosive Red Sox lineup. He ranks only 11th in saves this year. I would expect him to finish in the top five, though, as Boston’s lineup is slowing down a bit.
Most of the same can be said about Kenley Jansen, except he’s also gotten a few more saves. It feels like he doesn’t get the credit he deserves sometimes, but he’s in the conversation for best reliever in the league.
My biggest regret from the offseason was not being more vocal about my support for A.J. Ramos. I thought the talk of Carter Capps was too aggressive, and Ramos was outstanding in 2015. The walks are certainly concerning, and they keep him out of the top tier of closers, but he’s now in his fourth straight season with a strong ERA, FIP, and DRA, while also carrying a better-than-average cFIP for the first time in his career. Even better for fantasy owners, he’s tied for the league lead in saves.