This is going to be a semi-regular update on all things related to Closers in fantasy baseball. I’m going to go over all relevant information and explain my rankings and prospective saves in detail, while also talking about the different risks some Closers face and who potential pick-ups are for speculative saves as well.
AL CENTRAL State of Closers
Cleveland Indians/Chicago White Sox – Cody Allen and David Robertson are both among the best closers in baseball and aren’t going anywhere. Don’t worry about the next guy in line on either team unless one of them gets injured.
Kansas City Royals – On the surface, Wade Davis looks like the same dominant reliever he’s been since 2014 – but he’s most certainly not. His K rate and velocity are down, and his walk rate is up. He has a 0.89 ERA but his SIERA is 3.71, and his xFIP is 4.25 (SIERA and xFIP are predictive ERA statistics used to take the luck factor out of a pitcher’s ERA to show how they’re really doing)! What this means is that he hasn’t been pitching nearly as well as his ERA would seem to indicate. Compounding this issue is the fact that the next guy in line, Kelvin Herrera, is a top 5 reliever in all of baseball – so a change in roles would be pretty easy to see. Still, until Davis starts giving up runs, the fact that he’s been an elite reliever (though he’s never closed for an entire season yet) the last 2 seasons and that he’s only given up 2 earned runs so far this year keeps him pretty safe for now. Just be aware – this is a situation that you should keep an eye on. Herrera would be a top 5 closer if given the role, but no need to stash him unless Davis blows several games.
Detroit Tigers – I feel like the perception is that K-Rod is on the hot seat and could lose his job. The fact is, however, that he’s one of the safest bets to keep his job in all of baseball. Rodriguez started the season battling the Zika virus, which sapped his strength – leading to decreased velocity. He has recently proclaimed himself 100% over the illness, though, as his velocity is back up and he’s pitching well again. The only guy in that pen pitching better is Justin Wilson – an elite lefty. However, the Tigers do not want to make a change, don’t want Wilson closing, and K-Rod will pitch well enough that they shouldn’t have to consider it at any point. If K-Rod has prolonged struggles from here on out, feel free to stash Wilson, but I wouldn’t bother until then.
Minnesota Twins – Now THIS is an ugly situation…almost as ugly as the Reds’ pen. The Twins really want Perkins at closer – and they will give him every chance to reclaim the role once he’s healthy – if and when that ever happens. Honestly, I’m skeptical he’ll ever be healthy enough to pitch effectively this season. He’s still out indefinitely. Kevin Jepsen was given the opportunity to close when Perkins went on the DL, but I think we can all see Jepsen is awful – or at least miscast as a closer (he’s an ok middle reliever). Many people might mistakenly think lefty Fernando Abad is next in line, but if you look at his usage, he very rarely goes a full inning. They prefer to use him in lefty specialist situations. I don’t think the Twins will use him as a closer. Brandon Kintzler has been pretty steady for them, but he doesn’t strike out nearly enough guys to be an effective closer, and he has a history of allowing too many HRs (and is this year as well), so I don’t see him as a likely candidate either. Michael Tonkin is a decent candidate with a good K rate and BB rate, but he also gives up too many HRs and way too many fly balls as well (51% fly ball rate!) – not what you want in a closer. Still, with a 3.29 ERA backed up by a 3.23 SIERA, you should keep an eye on Tonkin. My only problem with stashing him is his usage – they don’t seem to have faith in the guy as he only has 1 hold all year so they don’t seem to want to use him in high leverage situations. So… who’s left? Trevor May. May looked like a shoe-in to close sooner than later, but then he imploded in 5 straight relief appearances in mid May – giving up 10 runs on 4 HRs in just 3 innings. However, he hasn’t given up a hit in 5 appearances since then. While his ERA is at 5.13, his SIERA sits at 2.59 – showing it’s mostly bad luck to blame for that unsightly ERA. May’s BABIP is .355 with a 1.7 HR/9 rate – he’s giving up lots of hits and HRs, but both rates should come down. He’s still very dominant – striking out 13.7 batters per 9 innings (6th highest among qualified relievers!) supported by a 15% swinging strike rate, and conceding only 3.4 walks per 9 (good considering the high strikeout rate). Once May gets a bunch of scoreless/good appearances in a row, I expect him to eventually claim the closer’s role. I think he ends up with the most saves on the Twins this season (though it won’t be a high number with how many games they lose). Assuming he doesn’t have any blow-ups this week, you could get ahead of the game by picking him up for $1 ASAP.