Welcome back to another edition of the Closer Report. We again are coming off a relatively quiet week on the closer front, which makes me afraid for the pile of news that will be released immediately after this publishes. As always, you can follow any such changes with the Closer Grid. Without further ado, let’s get on to the fun stuff.
Changes in San Diego
A week ago, I mentioned that Padres closer Brandon Maurer was coming off a string of rough outings, but also that he would turn it around. Paired with the lack of speculation about someone else stepping into the ninth inning, I was confident that Maurer was still the man to own in that bullpen. Well, that didn’t last long. Shortly after the previous Closer Report was published, the Padres opted to give Brad Hand a shot in the ninth inning. The lefty has been phenomenal since the start of the 2016 season and has certainly earned the chance, and made the most of his opportunities. As such, he is clearly a must-own right now. With that being said, don’t go dropping Maurer just yet. He earned a save Sunday with Hand working the eighth. It looks like it’s going to be a true committee in San Diego, with matchups dictating who gets the save on any given night. Obviously, the Padres are not an attractive situation for save-splitting, but in most leagues, both of these guys should still be owned.
Checking in on the Angels
Bud Norris inexplicably has held onto the Angels closing job without much of an outside threat. He’s been truly impressive in the relief role and has been a huge short-term boon for those who were willing to take a chance on him when he first got his chance in the ninth inning. Unfortunately, that run could be ending soon. The Angels’ ailing relievers are working their way back, with Huston Street looking like he could be back as soon as this week. I’m not sure I’d go out of my way to target Street, though. He hasn’t looked the same in the last couple of years and I’m not even sure he’ll get the ninth right away. It’s entirely possible, maybe even likely, that the Angels will give him a few outings to work his way back up to the closer gig. By that point, Cam Bedrosian should be knocking on the door, and he’s the long-term closer here. He’s owned in only 25 percent of ESPN leagues, and as he’s getting ready to start his rehab we’re getting close to the time to snag him off the wire.
Edwin Diaz is back in Seattle
The Mariners went away from Diaz for a while after the young righty struggled in the ninth. With his dominant peripherals and the lack of a standout replacement among the many possibilities, it never seemed like he was long for middle relief. Just a couple of weeks after being given a break, Diaz was placed back in the ninth inning. It was no surprise to see his performance get better, as he’s just too talented to struggle like he was earlier. I hope you didn’t rashly drop him when he was first lifted from the role.
What to think of Tony Watson?
For the past few years, Tony Watson has been one of the most underrated setup men in all of baseball. He finally got his chance to close late last season after Mark Melancon was traded to Washington. The lefty retained the role coming into 2017, but he hasn’t been quite the same. While his ERA is still solid enough, his strikeouts are down, his walks are up and he’s not allowing as many grounders as he had in the past. Over his past eight outings he has a 7.00 ERA and is allowing a .993 OPS. There are some reasons for confidence with Watson, specifically his career-high swinging strike and O_Swing rates. On the other hand, he’s missing the zone more than ever. In the end, Watson isn’t as bad as he’s been lately, but he’s probably a lower-tier closer for fantasy purposes.
• Remember when Roberto Osuna was struggling and injured to start the year? Yeah, that didn’t last long. Over his past 14 outings he’s allowed a 0.71 ERA and a .341 OPS.
• Brandon Kintzler had another rough weekend, allowing runs in two outings. No one else has stepped up to challenge him in Minnesota, so I wouldn’t worry about him losing his job, but he’s not the most exciting fantasy option.
• Fernando Rodney is still pitching well after his disastrous start. I am officially done trying to figure out who Fernando Rodney is.