Fantasy owners are always on the lookout for the next source of saves. Who is at risk of losing their job? Who are the best options to step up and help fantasy owners in the future? For this column, we try not to include those in a committee, since these pitchers already have a share of the job. However, we’ll have notes on them at the end of this column, with the names to target in each situation. With all that said, let’s get to our power rankings:
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Closer in Waiting Power Rankings
1) Jhoan Duran – Minnesota Twins
Current Closer – Jorge Lopez
Is this already a committee? Possibly, but Duran has far too much upside not to include on this list. Having transitioned to the bullpen in ’22 he showed elite upside, with a 1.86 ERA while displaying all of the skills we look for:
- Strikeouts – 11.84 K/9 (courtesy of a 17.9% SwStr%)
- Control – 2.13 BB/9
- Groundballs – 61.0%
His curveball is a wipeout pitch (24.68% Whiff%) while his fastball averaged 100.9 mph. It’s an impressive skill set, one that far exceeds Lopez’. That’s not to say that Lopez, who also transitioned to the bullpen, can’t replicate his ’22 success (9.13 K/9, 2.93 BB/9, 57.8% GB%). You just can’t keep down the talent of Duran, who has the upside of one of the elites in the game.
2) Andres Munoz – Seattle Mariners
Current Closer – Paul Sewald
While Sewald has 31 SV over the past two seasons, he’s also proven to consistently be prone to the long ball (HR/9 of 1.39 and 1.41 in ’21 and ’22). Enter Munoz, who is working his way back from bone fusion surgery on his foot. Luckily the issue wasn’t with his arm, which showed off the elite stuff that we’ve heard about:
- Strikeouts – 13.29 K/9 (courtesy of a 21.4% SwStr%)
- Control – 2.08 BB/9
- Groundballs – 52.6%
Like Duran, Munoz averaged over 100 mph on his fastball (100.2 to be exact). With that type of blow away stuff, as well as a slider that seems untouchable, the sky is the limit. If he was a certainty to be healthy, he’d likely take the top spot here.
3) Bryan Baker – Baltimore Orioles
Current Closer – Felix Bautista
Cionel Perez is also a candidate to step in, but as a left-handed pitcher, Baltimore may opt to keep Perez in a setup role. As it is Bautista is banged up, and if he’s not ready for Opening Day, Baker’s time could come sooner than expected. If the opportunity comes, would it be surprising to see Baker grab hold of the job and not relinquish it?
Baker showed enough in terms of strikeouts (9.82 K/9), control (3.36 BB/9) and groundballs (42.4%) to have sustained success. There are questions about his pure stuff, with just a 10.6% SwStr% and 27.0% O-Swing% last season and none of his three pitches proved to be an out-pitch (Whiff%):
- Fourseam Fastball – 14.03%
- Changeup – 11.17%
- Slider – 9.29%
In other words, his inclusion is more due to potential opportunity early as opposed to his pure upside.
4) Brock Burke – Texas Rangers
Current Closer – Jose Leclerc
Is Burke the next man up, or is it Jonathan Hernandez? Burke arguably has the higher upside of the potential replacements, and not because he posted a 1.97 ERA over 82.1 IP last season.
Burke showed strikeouts (9.84 K/9) and control (2.62 BB/9). We’d love to see a better groundball rate (39.6%), and him trusting another pitch. Last season he threw his four-seam fastball 62.63% of the time. How long can he be successful doing that? He’s a name to watch for early in the season, but it’s hard to envision him thriving for very long.
5) Aroldis Chapman – Kansas City Royals
Current Closer – Scott Barlow
Chapman’s inclusion on this list is purely due to his pedigree and the potential for Barlow to struggle. It’s likely the Royals are looking to rebuild Chapman’s value to trade him to a contender around the Trade Deadline. What better way to extract the highest return possible than to prove that he can once again rack up some saves? The key is obviously rediscovering his control, at least somewhat, and maybe a change in scenery gets him there.
Five Others Considered:
- Rafael Montero (Houston Astros) – If he was more likely to take over early in the season, he’d already be included on this list. Ryan Pressly looks locked in, but with Houston a World Series contender once again, one or two slip-ups will place Montero on radars.
- Giovanny Gallegos (St. Louis Cardinals) – Like Montero, he’s on the outside looking in solely due to likely opportunity. Ryan Helsley was simply too good in ’22, but if he shows signs of struggling Gallegos will fly up the rankings.
- Joe Kelly (Chicago White Sox) – Kelly is coming off a year where he posted a 6.08 ERA, so it may take time before he emerges.
- Carl Edwards Jr. / Hunter Harvey (Washington Nationals) – Kyle Finnegan is no lock, so keep an eye on both this spring. Whoever emerges as the primary setup man will likely jump into the Top 5.
- Zach Jackson (Oakland A’s) – Does anyone really believe in Trevor May? Unfortunately, Jackson has too many questions to find his way on this list today.
Battles Excluded from this List:
- Arizona Diamondbacks – Kevin Ginkel is the name I’d keep a very close eye on.
- Chicago Cubs – Here’s a sleeper to consider, but former starting pitcher prospect Adbert Alzolay may have the highest upside. If he doesn’t win the job this spring he could find his way onto this list before long.
- Los Angeles Angels – Carlos Estevez may have the inside track, however, Jimmy Herget is the name I’d keep a close eye on.
- Los Angeles Dodgers – Daniel Hudson may be the bigger name today, but having discovered his control could Evan Phillips be the next great closer?
- Miami Marlins – Having been just acquired A.J. Puk may not be the favorite coming out of Spring Training, but he has the highest upside and should emerge before long.
- Philadelphia Phillies – There are too many options, with Craig Kimbrel, Gregory Soto, Jose Alvarado, and Seranthony Dominguez all in the mix. Whoever emerges may not have a long leash, given the options, and this could be a revolving door all season long.
- Tampa Bay Rays – Does anyone believe that they will really pick one closer to handle the role?
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
Who are your favorite closers in waiting? Drop some names in the comments below. For more great analysis check out the 2023 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit!