Welcome to the final regular season edition of the Closer Report for the 2016 season. Once again, it was a fun year for relievers, albeit incredibly frustrating at times. I’ll try to do a recap of the year in closers soon, but there are still some fantasy teams fighting for their season, whether it be in the playoffs or in roto. This one is for all of you, because even with just a week to go in the regular season there is still somehow some news. The Closer Carousel never ends.
Raisel Iglesias Finally Taking Over in Cincinnati
For a big chunk of this season, the Reds had the saddest bullpen situation is recent memory. J.J. Hoover started the year in the role, and saying he was bad would be the kindest way to describe his season. Then, it was a mixture of guys like Blake Wood and J.C. Ramirez. Finally, Tony Cingrani took over full time and improbably held onto the job for most of the second half. Of course, his underlying peripherals never supported his surprising success to continue, and he finally faltered late in the year. After allowing runs in four straight outings this month then blowing a save on Friday, Cingrani has been removed from the ninth inning. Taking his place is Raisel Iglesias, who is the most talented arm in the bullpen. The former starter converted a save over the weekend, and could provide one or two more over the final week. On top of that, he’ll help with a few extra strikeouts without hurting your ratios. Iglesias is even more interesting as a long-term play. It’s unclear whether or not he’ll be put back in the rotation next year, but if they decide to keep him in a reliever to keep him healthy, Iglesias has the stuff to be a dominant closer. He’s someone I’d try to target this offseason before Cincinnati makes an official announcement either way.
Sergio Romo Emerges In San Francisco
Well, I should’ve stuck to my guns. Two weeks ago, when this situation was first starting to really heat up, I suggested Romo as the top pitcher to add in the Giants bullpen. He didn’t do greatly in his first crack at the opening, so last week I changed my answer. It appeared that Derek Law would be the next guy to get a chance, and the rookie had been phenomenal all season. Instead, he allowed earned runs in two straight outings and blew a save in his next by allowing an inherited run. That blew his chance, and it was back to Romo. The latter went three for three in save opportunities over the last week while allowing two baserunners. While there’s no guarantee for saves with this little time left in the year, the Giants are in a tight playoff race and figure to lean on their best pitchers. That means Romo should at least get a few appearances, raising his floor quite a bit. Unlike Iglesias, he’s not as attractive of a piece in long term leagues. He’s about to hit free agency, and figures to end up as a setup man somewhere. Santiago Casilla, the closer for most of the year, is also a free agent. If you’re looking to the future on this roster, Law and Hunter Strickland are the odds-on favorites to win the job next year if they stay in-house. I’d probably lean towards Law.
Jeanmar Gomez is Out In Philly
The Phillies were the preseason favorites for the saddest bullpen in baseball, as David Hernandez started the year as their closer. That experiment ended quickly, but Gomez quickly stepped in and filled the role in admirable fashion for most of the year. Something of an out-of-nowhere story, his numbers suggested regression but also made him look like a decent reliever. At least in the first half that was true. Since the All-Star break, it’s been a rough go for the Phillies closer. Now, to be fair, they haven’t officially taken Gomez out of the role. Rather, they’re giving him a small break. Of course, with a week left in the season that’s an odd decision. Michael Mariot has gotten the saves since the decision came down, but they haven’t exactly been smooth. I’d look for some combination of Mariot, Hector Neris ,Gomez, or even Hernandez to get whatever saves come up this week, making this situation one to ignore as the upside just isn’t there. As for a long-term outlook, unless they do something in free agency or via trade they could have another scary bullpen for fantasy owners heading into 2017. Eudbray Ramos is the closest thing to an intriguing option.
It was a rough week for Ken Giles, who imploded on Friday and was hit by a line drive in batting practice over the weekend. He bounced back with a strong performance on Sunday, though it’s been a weirdly inconsistent year for the Astros closer. He’s still one of my favorite targets looking ahead to next year, though.
The Cubs, Nationals, Rangers and Dodgers have clinched their divisions. The Indians are just about there, as are the Red Sox. This means we could see these teams rest their closers in what would typically be obvious save situations for them. It’s sound strategy for the teams, but a bummer for fantasy players.
David Robertson was the brunt of some criticism this year, but he’s been quite good over the last couple of months. The walks are still concerning, but he could be another high-value target as a bounce-back candidate in 2017.
Jim Johnson almost certainly won’t be worth anything in 2017 for fantasy owners, but he’s been quietly fantastic in 2016. The Braves were a much better team down the stretch, and Johnson has solidified the back of the bullpen while converting 17 saves on the season.