We’ve only had one week of baseball in 2017, but there already is plenty of news on the closer front. We’ve had one change to date, with more intrigue on the horizon. As always, you can keep up with the changes with my Closer Grid, which I update as quickly as I possibly can. Just a quick reminder: the grid's third column is not the third person in line for the closer gig. Rather, it’s an intriguing name to watch for in the short- and/or long-term future. With that housekeeping out of the way, let’s get on with the news.
Jeanmar Gomez out in Philly
Many were surprised during the offseason when the Phillies declared that Gomez would be their closer again. He mostly held down the job last year, but it wasn’t always pretty, and he’s not exactly a dominant force in the bullpen. As it turns out, it didn’t take long for him to prove that was so in 2017; he allowed multiple runs in two of his three outings to start the year. Joaquin Benoit will be taking over the ninth for the Phillies, not Hector Neris. It’s a decision that makes sense from the team’s point of view for a few reasons. For one, delaying his ascent to closer keeps Neris’ arbitration prices down. Furthermore, he is more capable of going multiple innings, so keeping that kind of arm in a set-up role makes more sense. He’s still worth keeping in most leagues, as his ratios still figure to be quite good. Plus, Benoit is no guarantee to keep the job. He’s been good over most of his career, but he’s in his age-39 season, and is a fly ball pitcher who struggles with control at times. That’s a recipe for a few meltdowns in a short span at some point, which would presumably open up the role for Neris. For now, though, it goes without saying that Benoit is must-own.
What’s going on in Washington?
One of the bigger storylines of the offseason was how the Nationals would rebuild their bullpen. They were linked to all of the big names, but never pulled the trigger. Instead, they stuck with their internal options and, right before the opener, Dusty Baker named Blake Treinen as his closer. As I mentioned last week, I was a little disappointed, as I had invested in Shawn Kelley in a few leagues. Treinen hasn’t been great to start the year, allowing runs in two of his four outings, and blowing one save. Luckily for him, neither Kelley nor Koda Glover have been all that great, either. The former allowed a home run in each of his first two outings, while the latter allowed a run in just one of his three outings—but also doesn’t have a strikeout yet. I still have Kelley as the second in line here, but I’m not super-confident about it. In one league in which I own Kelley, I also grabbed Glover. I’ll keep both until I have a better feel for the situation, although it’s also a league in which I am mostly punting saves for the start of the season.
How long can Fernando Rodney hang on?
Since baseball started in the 1800s, Fernando Rodney has been hanging around as a closer who is always on the verge of losing his job. This year, that dance is happening in Arizona. On the plus side, he has converted two saves without blowing one. With that being said, he has allowed runs in two of his three outings, although in one outing the only run he allowed was unearned. Still, he’s an erratic presence in the ninth inning and it’s always easy to envision him losing his job. The issue in Arizona is that there is no clear replacement. I have Tom Wilhelmsen in the second spot for now, although I don’t foresee him being the one to eventually take over for the Diamondbacks. Jake Barrett is on the disabled list right now, but he’s expected back soon and I’d think he’ll be the primary set-up guy at that point. There’s also Archie Bradley, who’s been phenomenal in his new role as a reliever. He’s probably my favorite on this roster for fantasy purposes, but I’m not so sure he’ll get many saves. He can still fill a multi-inning role, and as I said above those guys generally aren’t named closers.
Keep an eye on Texas
It seems like Sam Dyson is always flirting with losing his closer job before he goes on a month-long run in which he solidifies his role. The start of his season was rough, as he allowed eight runs over his first two appearances. He did follow that up with a scoreless outing in a non-save opportunity, but it’s worth watching if this is the time he finally unleashes the job. The good news for Dyson is that he’s being pushed by Matt Bush, who also has allowed runs in two of his three outings. Still, Bush has the better stuff and is worth stashing as a speculative add. For those in deep and/or AL-only leagues, it’s also worth keeping an eye on Jeremy Jeffress. I’d be surprised if he got the gig over Bush in the event of an opening, but he does have experience as a closer.
• The Athletics continue to have a frustrating closer situation, with Santiago Casilla and Sean Doolittle both getting saves, and Ryan Madson getting plenty of work himself. I’d try to avoid this situation if I could, although I still believe Doolittle is the best of this group and when I’m in doubt I just grab the best arm.
• The Angels, meanwhile, said they were going with a committee but it’s abundantly clear that Cam Bedrosian is the team’s closer. Andrew Bailey could get a few more saves than your typical set-up man, but Bedrosian is the man to own. That is, at least until Huston Street returns from the disabled list. He’s throwing again, but there’s no timetable at this point.
• The Tigers called up Joe Jimenez, who was one of the more exciting minor-league relievers in the game. Francisco Rodriguez should be safe, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Jimenez makes his way to the second spot in the pecking order within the next month or two. At that point, he’d just be an injury away from saves.
• Roberto Osuna is expected to return to the Blue Jays on Tuesday. Joe Biagini and Jason Grilli each allowed one run in three outings in Osuna’s absence, and I’d expect Grilli to remain next in line for Toronto for now.
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