It was something of a quiet week in reliever land, which has been a rarity in 2017. There were still a few notable happenings, of course, and the quiet does give me a chance to highlight some situations that would otherwise be put on the back burner. Before we get to that, though, another reminder that you can keep up with bullpen changes at the Closer Grid. As always, recent changes are highlighted in yellow. Now, on to the fun stuff.
Koda Glover emerging in Washington
I was on the Shawn Kelley bandwagon as soon as the offseason started. I never thought the Nationals were going to spend big resources on a closer after Kelley’s great 2016, and I never thought anyone else in their current bullpen had a real chance at consistently closing games. Clearly, I’ve been very wrong. Kelley has struggled mightily with command this season, walking over five per nine and allowing six (six!) home runs in just 13 1/3 innings. It seems Dusty Baker, too, has had enough, almost fully committing to Koda Glover in the ninth inning. Some of that has to do with Glover’s ability to pitch on consecutive days, something with which Kelley has struggled in the past. Of course, Glover also has just been better. Obviously, he is a must-own right now, but the question becomes what to do with Kelley. I’m still holding him in deeper leagues because I’m a stubborn bastard, but the smart move, likely, is to drop him if there’s anything interesting on the wire. Even if Glover doesn’t hold the job with a firm grip, it’s looking more and more likely the Nationals will add a closer from outside the organization at some point this summer. As such, this gig is only up for grabs for the next six weeks or so.
What’s the deal in Seattle?
Shortly after the previous Closer Report was published, the Mariners announced they were taking a break from Edwin Diaz in the ninth inning. This caught me by surprise, given the talent in Diaz’s arm. Sure, he’s struggled some this year but the stuff is still there. That left a group of relievers including Tony Zych, James Pazos, Steve Cishek and Nick Vincent fighting for saves. The latter is still my favorite of the group based on usage, and he’s been the front-runner in the short time since Diaz’s demotion. If you missed out, though, don’t feel too bad. Mariners manager Scott Servais has liked what he’s seen from Diaz lately, and thinks the young righty is almost ready to regain the closer job. Hopefully, you didn’t drop him last week, and if someone in your league did, hurry up and add him while you still can.
Brandon Maurer still is closing games in San Diego
Kelley isn’t the only closer I’ve been wrong on this year. I’ve been a big Brandon Maurer fan for a couple of years now, thinking he’s been underrated thanks to underwhelming stats as a starter. He hasn’t rewarded that faith recently, allowing runs in four of his past five outings and skyrocketing his ERA to 6.88. Despite the recent struggles, the Padres haven’t made any indication that they are looking to make a change in the ninth. While Brad Hand has been phenomenal this season, Maurer hasn’t been as bad as his ERA would indicate, either. In fact, I might look to buy low on him if you want some help at the reliever position. Of course, there aren’t a ton of saves to be had in San Diego, but Maurer still has been able to get strikeouts while also limiting walks. Don’t be surprised to see a run of success from the righty in the coming weeks.
• A week ago, I highlighted how great Greg Holland has been in Colorado, and he’s continued that success in the seven days since. Keeping with that theme of success stories, Craig Kimbrel is looking like his formerly elite self, and is showing no signs of slowing down.
• Kelvin Herrera, meanwhile, has struggled of late. Don’t be worried, though. The Royals certainly want to keep his trade value as high as possible, and he’s too good to keep struggling like this. At some point in the next month or two, he will be closing for a contender.
• Back to success stories for a minute. Jim Johnson has quietly been phenomenal in Atlanta this year and could be another interesting trade chip this summer. This could end up being a bad thing for fantasy owners, however, as I could see him landing on a team that would use him as a set-up man. If you can afford to lose a few saves in the short-term, he might be someone for whom I’d be looking to gauge his value.