Welcome back to the Closer Report. This past week was a little more eventful than the previous few, with a couple changes atop depth charts and some injuries further down. Before we jump into the movement, just a reminder you can keep up with the changes with the Closer Grid. Now, let’s get to some of that content.
Changes Finally Come in Pittsburgh
Tony Watson, who was once among the most underrated setup men in all of baseball, has not done well in his first full season as a major-league closer. Or, you know, what was supposed to be his first full season as a major-league closer. The lefty’s struggles finally became too much for manager Clint Hurdle to handle, and he made a change. According to the manager, the Pirates are going to play the ninth inning based on matchups, with lefty Felipe Rivero and righty Juan Nicasio splitting duties. That sounds great in theory, but it’s not how I see things playing out. While I don’t doubt that Nicasio will get a few more save chances than your typical second reliever, Rivero seems like the obvious play for fantasy owners. The southpaw had been handling the eighth inning prior to Watson’s demotion regardless of matchup, and he’s gotten the first two save chances the Pirates have accrued since the change was made. There’s some hesitation to put lefties in the closer role, but that’s not a worry with Rivero. He’s outstanding against any hitter put in front of him. He’s probably owned in all leagues by this point, but if not, jump on him immediately. On the other side of things, Nicasio could be attractive in deeper and/or NL-Only leagues.
Koda Glover hits the disabled list
Washington’s closer situation has been a strange one to follow all season. It’s been a strange one since the end of last season. They were linked to big-name closers all winter long, but they opted to stay with their in-house options. After Shawn Kelley’s struggles this season, they finally decided on a full-time closer recently by handing the job to Koda Glover. Now, Glover has been placed on the 10-day disabled list with a back injury. The injury actually occurred in the shower before his horrible outing Saturday, but he didn’t disclose the injury until after his blowup. Now that he’s out, it seems that Matt Albers has jumped into the ninth inning, as he has been the most consistent Nationals reliever that is available. He should be owned for now, particularly with the extent of Glover’s injury still unknown, but don’t expect him to get all of the save chances. I suspect Dusty Baker will go back to playing matchups in Glover’s absence, and Kelley could get some save chances as well. Either way, it’s only a matter of time before the Nationals make a big trade for a reliever.
The Phillies situation is not great
Speaking of rough closer situations in the NL East, the Phillies is not a fun one. It hasn’t really been great at any point this season, but it seemed like it was starting to gain some stability with Hector Neris grabbing a relatively firm grasp of the role. Instead, Neris has struggled of late and Pat Neshek was called upon to take over to finish a save at one point last week. That doesn’t mean he’s officially the closer for now, but I’d tentatively moved him to the top of my closer grid for the time being. My thought was the Phillies would want to trade him, and could build value by getting saves. But they brought him in prior to the ninth inning in the last two games. I’m putting Neris in the top spot for now with Neshek behind him. Joaquin Benoit could possibly get some save chances, too. This situation is a mess for the time being.
A bad week for the Padres
While most of the league had been quiet for the last few weeks in terms of bullpen news, the Padres have been continuously keeping us on our toes. They moved away from Brandon Maurer in favor of Brad Hand, then went right back to Maurer after saying they were going to play matchups. At this point, he is still the guy to own, but both arms are coming off rough weeks. They are still worth owning since the Padres can still move in either direction at this point, but Maurer is still the more valuable piece at this point.
• Sean Doolittle was activated from the disabled list last week for the A’s. Santiago Casilla did well enough to hold on to the closer job fully upon Doolittle’s return, but not well enough to give himself a long leash. This is a situation to watch over the next few weeks.
• In Baltimore, Darren O’Day was placed on the disabled list, joining Zach Britton, further hurting the Orioles’ once enviable bullpen depth. Brad Brach is still atop the depth chart, but now if something happens to him expect Mychal Givens to take over the ninth.
• Kelvin Herrera had another tough week in what has been a weirdly tough season for the Royals. It’s not enough to want to drop him, but it is frustrating. With that being said, it’s probably getting close to time to pick up Joakim Soria, who will likely take the ninth inning in Kansas City if/when Herrera is dealt.