April 18, 2017
Welcome to Week Three of the Closer Report, and while there hasn’t been too much baseball played this year there already is plenty of news to cover. Before we do, though, allow me to direct you back to my Closer Grid, where I update any and all changes as soon as possible. With that out of the way, let’s get right to the news.
Zach Britton hits the disabled list
Some bad news out of Baltimore, as one of the elite closers in the game is on the shelf with some soreness in his forearm. That kind of injury is always worrisome, but the good news is Buck Showalter is hoping that Britton will be back within 10 days. In the meantime, Brad Brach should be picked up by anyone looking for short-term saves. The Orioles are playing well and figure to have plenty of save chances ahead of them in the near future. Britton deservedly gets a ton of attention for his performance over the past couple of years, but Brach has quietly been outstanding since 2015 as well. His control isn’t as fine-tuned as Britton, but he strikes out over 10 batters per nine innings and has posted a DRA- below 60 each of the past two years. He’s someone who can get you ratios if Britton is indeed back in the minimum 10 days, and he’s nice insurance in case the forearm issue ends up being worse than it seems at this moment. Darren O’Day moves into the backup slot in Baltimore for the time being.
Sam Dyson injured too
Dyson was awful again Sunday, and it seems like the Rangers don’t have a choice besides moving on from the righty in the ninth inning. Of course, it looked like that was their only option before, and Jeff Banister has continued going back to him. This time, he won’t have a choice, with Dyson being placed on the disabled list. While Jeremy Jeffress does have a chance at getting save chances, I’m buying all of the Matt Bush stock I can. He was someone I targeted quite a bit late in drafts this spring, and he hasn’t done much to make me any less confident in his abilities. Although he has allowed runs in two of his four outings, and has missed some time with a minor injury, he has eight strikeouts to just one walk in 4 2/3 innings. Bush has ideal closer stuff, coming back Sunday and striking out the side before Dyson blew the save. Perhaps the Rangers won’t want to pin him to the ninth inning, but I haven’t seen anything to suggest that yet. If you can, add Bush. Meanwhile, Keone Kela came back up and he is one of my favorite non-top-two relievers in all of baseball.
A little bit of clarity in Oakland
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve mentioned that the A’s closer situation is one of the more frustrating in the league and was one that I wanted to avoid. I pegged Ryan Madson as the early favorite for save chances but mentioned that I’ve targeted Sean Doolittle simply because I think he’s the more-talented pitcher. Well, it turns out that Madson probably won’t figure into a ton of save situations this year, at least to start. Bob Melvin is going to play matchups, but only Doolittle and Santiago Casilla are going to be part of the equation. That means Casilla should be owned in all leagues as the righty in this closer platoon, and Doolittle should be owned in most leagues as one of the most valuable non-closers in the league. I still think Doolittle will eventually pitch well enough to take the bulk of the save chances regardless of handedness, but in the meantime you have to take advantage of Casilla’s situation.
Who’s behind Fernando Rodney?
The one situation I’ve thought about the most this season has been Arizona’s. Rodney is currently their closer, and while he’s made a habit of holding on to closer roles for longer than he should, I can’t see it happening too much longer this year. He hasn’t been able to throw strikes, has allowed runs in three of his six outings and has a 10.13 ERA. The question is: Who is behind him on the depth chart? Last week, I bumped Tom Wilhelmsen to that spot, but based on usage I’ve since changed it to Jorge De La Rosa. The former Colorado starter has looked pretty good in his new role as a reliever, striking out six batters in 5 1/3 innings. He’s not someone I’d speculate on just yet, but it’s worth keeping in the back of your mind. In the slightly longer-term, I still believe the currently injured Jake Barrett will eventually take the second spot on the depth chart, and Archie Bradley could work his way into the ninth by the second half.
• Jeurys Familia is slated to return from his suspension Thursday. However, it appears he might not be put in the closer role right away. That’s not something I’d be too worried about, though, as he should be back closing for the Mets within a week or so of returning.
• The Reds are playing surprisingly well to start the year, but their closer situation is still incredibly frustrating for fantasy owners. Raisel Iglesias, Drew Storen and Michael Lorenzen all had good and bad outings last week. The first name on that list is still my preferred option, but all three have value in deeper leagues—and none have big value in shallow leagues.
• Ken Giles had a weird week, allowing runs in two outings, with one of them being an appearance in the eighth. He hasn’t lost the closer job, and I’m still a huge believer in the talent, but Luke Gregerson could be a decent speculative add if Giles has another poor outing.
• Speaking of speculative adds, Justin Wilson has been phenomenal in Detroit, and Francisco Rodriguez struggled this past week. As with Houston, I don’t think a change is happening within the next day or two, but it wouldn’t surprise me if something happens eventually.