Welcome back to one of the final editions of the Closer Report of the year. Though the season is winding down, we are actually coming off one of our busier weeks of the second half. There were some high-profile changes in some contending bullpens, as well as some injury news to keep an eye on. Before we get there, just a reminder to check up on the Closer Grid for new pecking orders around the league. Now, let’s get to the news.
Aroldis Chapman back in the ninth in New York
Last month, after a poor showing against the Red Sox that really put a bow on a what was a bad stretch of pitching for the hard-throwing lefty, Chapman was removed from the closer role. Since I didn’t believe he was truly as bad as his numbers, he wasn’t someone I was actively looking to drop, but that was more because I felt he could provide strong ratios rather than the idea that he’d get his job back. However, the latter appears to be happening, even if New York isn’t committing to Chapman as a full-time closer just yet. Dellin Betances, who took over the ninth, hasn’t been pitching well lately and rather than moving to David Robertson, the Yankees are going to try Chapman out again. My guess is that he’ll be able to hold on to this job for the rest of the year, so those of you who decided to hold on to the lefty after his demotion will be rewarded with some big saves in the most important stretch of the season.
Kelvin Herrera removed from closer role in Kansas City
The Yankees aren’t the only team in the giant, muddled mess that is the American League wild-card race that is making a change in the ninth inning. After spending most of the season as one of the best and most consistent relievers in the league, Kelvin Herrera has taken a massive step back over the past couple of months. Much of this can probably be blamed on injury, but the cause isn’t as important as the results at this point. After yet another rough week of baseball, Kansas City had finally seen enough and they officially made the change. Things are bad enough for Herrera right now that I’d be comfortable dropping him in redraft leagues at this point if you have another area to upgrade on your roster. As for who will replace him, the Royals won’t commit to any one name right now, but will rather roll with a committee. That being said, Brandon Maurer still seems to me to be the most obvious pick-up for fantasy purposes. He might not get every save chance, and he’s been inconsistent since coming to Kansas City, but Maurer has closer experience and has gotten the save chances since the change was made. If Maurer is already owned in your league and you want another option, Scott Alexander is the next in line and he’s been outstanding lately. He’ll certainly get some chances, even if he doesn’t get the majority.
Juan Nicasio is immediately the new closer in St. Louis
Ever since Trevor Rosenthal went down with a season-ending injury in the middle of August, the Cardinals haven’t really been able to figure out their bullpen. Seung-hwan Oh, who already had been removed from the ninth inning after inconsistent performance earlier in the year, was given the first chance to regain control as the Cardinals closer. Although he wasn’t horrible in that stretch, and has only blown one save since Rosenthal’s injury, he didn’t exactly show that he needed to keep the job. As such, St. Louis never committed to him as their full-time closer and now a new name has emerged. Juan Nicasio was just sent from Philadelphia to St. Louis after a storied two-game career with the Phillies, and he’s immediately been thrust into the ninth inning. The righty has gotten saves in his first two appearances with his new team and has only allowed one baserunner in that process. He’s a must-own at this point as the Cardinals aren’t going to be messing around in their quest for a playoff spot. As for handcuffs, Tyler Lyons has jumped over Oh as well and has served as Nicasio’s eighth-inning counterpart in these two saves.
• Nobody wants to close in Miami. Brad Ziegler is still the man in Miami as I type this, but he’s been struggling lately and it seems like it’s only a matter of time before the Marlins move on. In fact, it looked as if that point may have been reached after he blew a save Thursday, but Kyle Barraclough blew a save Saturday. Time is running out for Barraclough to make a real impact in fantasy for this season.
• Roberto Osuna wasn’t used much last week, and Ryan Tepera picked up a save over the weekend. That is due to an apparent neck injury to Toronto’s closer. They are hoping this is just a short-term issue, but with the Blue Jays being out of the race there’s no use for them to take a chance. Tepera could be a nice desperation pick up.
• Matt Belisle is coming off a fantastic week and has been generally great since taking over the ninth in Minnesota.
• Archie Bradley got the save for the Diamondbacks on Sunday after Fernando Rodney blew one Saturday. Rodney’s certainly been inconsistent, but I would be surprised if this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I imagine his leash will be short, but I can’t see Bradley being the preferable own right now. That being said, if you are looking for possible saves, Bradley could be a good option.