Well, the regular season is over and with it goes the fantasy season. Hopefully you were able to take home a championship or two, and hopefully my advice didn’t cost you too badly in the standings. Like last year, I’m finishing things up with a review of all things closer. I’ll hand out a handful of totally subjective awards that are voted on by a one-man panel.
Most Unheralded Closer
Winner: Alex Colome
This is the award that goes to the closer whose achievements went unappreciated during most of the season. With the amount of coverage that surrounds the sport in modern times, it’s hard for anyone to be truly unappreciated. Colome is as close as that gets. He was unfortunate enough to play for a bad team outside of a major media market with one of the smallest fan bases in the league. Despite being on a last-place finisher — something that should hurt a reliever’s fantasy value — he finished tied for eighth in saves. Furthermore, he finished ninth on the ESPN player rater among strict relievers. In addition to the saves, he racked up more than eleven strikeouts per nine innings while inducing grounders on roughly half the balls put in play against him. This helped lead to a 2.46 DRA and 72 cFIP. Arguably most important, at least for fantasy purposes, is that he was incredibly consistent. He didn’t finish a single month with an ERA above 3.52.
Honorable Mentions: Seung-Hwan Oh, Francisco Rodriguez
Most Frustrating Closer
Winner: Santiago Casilla
We all have those seasons when we roster a reliever who we constantly flirt with dropping but can never bring ourselves to do this. Casilla is the personification of the feeling. As I’ve said about the Giants’ former closer many times this year, he’s not a bad reliever. The issue is that he’s not dominant enough to put together long enough stretches of effective outings. He’s seemingly always due for a rough outing, and that didn’t change this year despite the numbers showing it was arguably the best year of his career. Matters were made even worse for fantasy owners with the consistent rumors that he was on the verge of losing his closer job. It ended up happening at the end of the year, but we had to suffer through the maddeningly decent performance all year.
Best Midseason Closer
Winner: Seung-Hwan Oh
This one is pretty self-explanatory, as it goes to the best closer who earned his job in the middle of the year. Oh was brought in to take over set-up duties for the Cardinals, though no one really knew what to expect. He quickly showed that he was equipped to take down major-league lineups, and when Trevor Rosenthal faltered he stepped right in to the role. With a 2.79 DRA and a 71 cFIP while striking out over eleven batters per nine innings, Oh showed enough that I’d anticipate him being one of the more popular draft-day targets next spring. I suspect most would opt for Edwin Diaz in this category, and it’s fair. I was torn, and gave the edge to Oh since he took over the role a month earlier and was likely rostered in more leagues for that extra time.
Honorable Mentions: Edwin Diaz, Sam Dyson
Most Inexplicable Closer
Winner: Tony Cingrani
This is a new category I’m adding this year, and it goes to the closer who held a job for long enough that we’ll look back in two years and just scratch our heads. Tony Cingrani was the obvious winner here, though the honorable mentions deserve some attention, too. Still, the Reds lefty took things to another level. Combining lackluster expectations with bad numbers, he was the embodiment of this award. He struck out just seven batters per nine innings while walking more than five. He had a 5.30 DRA and a 113 cFIP. Despite this clear lack of skill, he managed 17 saves for one of the worst teams in the league. Part of that is the fact that Cincinnati’s bullpen was a dumpster fire, but another part is that it worked for much of the year. Here’s to you, Tony Cingrani.
Winner: Trevor Rosenthal
This was the easiest one to decide. I’ve included Oh in two sections already, and he never would’ve gotten the chance if Rosenthal met expectations. After being drafted as the sixth reliever according to NFBC ADP, he totally imploded before losing is job in the end of June. The issue for Rosenthal was his control, as he walked nearly 15 percent of his opponents on the season. It’s worth noting that he’s bounced back from control issues before, but between this performance and Oh’s emergence, there’s no reason to currently be excited about his fantasy value for 2017.
Winner: Roberto Osuna
Quick note on this one before we get into Osuna’s season: This only goes to players who were drafted in a 15-team, 23-man roster league. So, guys like Diaz and Oh and many more were not eligible. This actually wasn’t a great year for this category, although Osuna is obviously no slouch. Drafted as the 26th reliever in the 14th round of a 15-team league, the Blue Jays closer proved that his rookie season was no fluke. Still in just his age-21 season, he improved both his strikeout and his walk rate, both of which were already superb. He did allow a couple more home runs, but his 1.1 home runs per nine innings is perfect acceptable in a hitter-friendly park in the AL East. You won’t be able to get him so late next year.
Winner: Zach Britton
This is the MVP of all relievers, ADP be damned. Britton was the mostly obvious choice, as his performance this year has been the talk of the league. I will say that Kenley Jansen made it closer than some may expect, and I think one could make a reasonable argument to give him the award. At the end of the day, though, Britton helped in all categories and was otherworldly in ERA. Any time a closer creeps his way into Cy Young conversation (even if he shouldn’t win) he has to take home this completely made up award. Looking ahead to next year, Britton’s elite strikeout/ground ball combination will keep him valuable in 2017, though Jansen should and will be the first closer taken by fantasy owners.
Honorable Mentions: Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman
Thanks for reading along with me all year, everyone. It was as fun to write every week as it was frustrating.
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