Closing Time: Vazquez vs. Rivero and an Imminent Closer Change
Welcome to the Week 10 Closing Time report! Here I will update the closer rankings and break them into tiers, making some notes along the way where necessary. I will also break down several recent happenings that can affect the landscape of many of the closers involved. Each closer tier represents their current value, which is subject to constant change.
MLB Closer Rankings and Tiers
TIER 1: BEST OF THE BEST
|Closer||Team||Next In Line|
|Craig Kimbrel||Boston Red Sox||Joe Kelly|
|Aroldis Chapman||New York Yankees||David Robertson|
|Edwin Diaz||Seattle Mariners||Alex Colome|
|Kenley Jansen||Los Angeles Dodgers||Josh Fields|
|Sean Doolittle||Washington Nationals||Ryan Madson|
Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman are as solid as ever and sit atop the closer rankings. However, Chapman has not received as many save chances (14) as one would expect from a team with the best record in baseball. I still expect him to exceed 40 saves when all is said and done… Kenley Jansen seems to have left his early-season woes behind him… Edwin Diaz may replace Eddie Guardado as the new “Everyday Eddie.” Diaz has pitched in a whopping 32 games already, leading all relievers with 21 saves and trailing only Milwaukee’s Josh Hader in strikeouts… Sean Doolittle leads all relievers with at least 20 innings pitched in WHIP and is tied for fifth in saves.
TIER 2: BEST OF THE REST
|Closer||Team||Next In Line|
|Wade Davis||Colorado Rockies||Bryan Shaw|
|Brad Hand||San Diego Padres||Kirby Yates|
|Brandon Morrow||Chicago Cubs||Pedro Strop|
|Brad Boxberger||Arizona Diamondbacks||Archie Bradley|
|Jeurys Familia||New York Mets||Robert Gsellman|
|Cody Allen||Cleveland Indians||Dan Otero|
|Blake Treinen||Oakland Athletics||Yusmeiro Petit|
Wade Davis suffered a loss on Sunday against the Dodgers, and unfortunately, blowups are part of the deal on occasion at Coors Field. Davis is still third in all of baseball with 18 saves… Brad Hand has saves in 17 of San Diego’s 27 victories. For reference, Cody Allen has just nine saves in 30 Cleveland wins. Sometimes you just cannot predict these things. I’d sell high on Hand before the well runs dry and before he is traded… Kirby Yates got the save on Sunday, and he makes for a good stash… Brandon Morrow and Brad Boxberger have been great so far and appear to be on safe ground… Jeurys Familia and Cody Allen are solid, though there are times their managers use them in key situations that don’t enhance their save totals… I’m probably too low on Blake Treinen. He has been outstanding thus far.
TIER 3: ABOVE AVERAGE, BUT NOT BY MUCH
|Team||Closer||Next In Line|
|Milwaukee Brewers||Corey Knebel||Jeremy Jeffress|
|Kansas City Royals||Kelvin Herrera||Kevin McCarthy|
|Cincinnati Reds||Raisel Iglesias||Jared Hughes|
|Detroit Tigers||Shane Greene||Joe Jimenez|
|St. Louis Cardinals||Bud Norris||Jordan Hicks|
Corey Knebel has stumbled at times following his return from injury. Milwaukee has no shortage of relief pitchers, meaning Knebel’s footing as closer may be shakier than it appears… Kelvin Herrera joins Treinen and Morrow as the only closers who have posted an ERA and WHIP under 1.00. However, he is a likely trade candidate and his value will be sapped if he ends up setting up for another team… Raisel Iglesias and Shane Greene are on bad teams, but they have been serviceable. Iglesias recently returned from injury, while Greene continues to walk the tightrope and rack up saves… Bud Norris appears to be the Cardinals’ best option, but he has allowed home runs in back-to-back outings.
TIER 4: SITUATIONS WORTH MONITORING
|Closer||Team||Next In Line|
|Felipe Vazquez||Pittsburgh Pirates||Kyle Crick|
|Keone Kela||Texas Rangers||Jake Diekman|
|Hunter Strickland||San Francisco Giants||Mark Melancon|
|Fernando Rodney||Minnesota Twins||Addison Reed|
Felipe Vazquez has been a mess lately and may be dealing with a forearm injury… Perhaps a simple name change is in order… Keone Kela is Hawaiian for “meh.” OK, that’s not true, but Kela has posted pedestrian numbers on a bad Texas team. You’re fine if he is your second closer, but don’t expect much more than what he is currently giving you… Hunter Strickland is still the San Francisco Giants’ closer for the time being, but Mark Melancon returned and struck out all three batters he faced on Sunday. Strickland should continue to close for now, but it’s a situation worth monitoring… Fernando Rodney is still finishing games for Minnesota, but he is another trade candidate.
TIER 5: HIT OR MISS
|Closer||Team||Next In Line|
|Ken Giles||Houston Astros||Chris Devenski|
|Arodys Vizcaino||Atlanta Braves||A.J. Minter|
|Seranthony Dominguez||Philadelphia Phillies||Edubray Ramos|
|Ryan Tepera||Toronto Blue Jays||Tyler Clippard|
Ken Giles has not inspired much confidence in fantasy owners or the Houston Astros, but he is still the man for now. Chris Devenski has been solid, but perhaps Houston likes him better in a setup role. Either way, I think Houston will look to improve the closer position prior to the trading deadline… Arodys Vizcaino has had problems with control this season, but would-be replacement A.J. Minter has even worse control… Seranthony Dominguez not only has an incredible name, but he has been elite since being called up last month… Ryan Tepera appears to be Toronto’s preferred ninth-inning option following the loss of Roberto Osuna and the demotion of Tyler Clippard.
TIER 6: OPEN ONLY IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
|Closer||Team||Next In Line|
|Kyle Barraclough||Miami Marlins||Drew Steckenrider|
|Nate Jones||Chicago White Sox||Joakim Soria|
|Brad Brach||Baltimore Orioles||Mychal Givens|
|Blake Parker||Los Angeles Angels||Justin Anderson|
|Sergio Romo||Tampa Bay Rays||Jose Alvarado|
Kyle Barraclough has been named the Miami Marlins’ new closer, but Miami is in rebuilding mode and Barraclough is not a safe bet for more than a save per week going forward… Nate Jones has not allowed a run since May 9, but Chicago has not generated a save opportunity since May 22… Brad Brach is in a similar situation to Jones. Brach has not allowed a run since May 1, but Baltimore has lost seven straight and has the worst record in baseball. Worse still is the impending return of Zach Britton, which could spell doom for Brach… Blake Parker blew a save on Saturday and watched as Justin Anderson picked up the save on Sunday. I cannot say with any confidence that Parker will get the next chance for the Angels… Sergio Romo leads the major leagues with five games started in the last two weeks. That makes it a little difficult to pick up the occasional save.
Seranthony Dominguez, Philadelphia Phillies
Manager Gabe Kepler has been hesitant to make a formal announcement, but the writing is on the wall for Hector Neris. Neris has a 5.06 ERA and 1.55 WHIP on the year and has given up runs in three straight. Worse yet, Neris entered Friday’s game with the Phillies down three runs in the seventh inning. That is not exactly closing time. Dominguez, meanwhile, has continued to thrive while being trusted in high-leverage situations. He pitched the final two innings and earned his second Major League save in Thursday’s 2-1 victory, retiring all six batters he faced. Since being called up on May 7, all Dominguez has done is retire 41 of 43 batters without allowing a run and striking out 15. Dominguez is still owned in just 49 percent of Fantrax leagues. He should be scooped up where available. Nobody else in Philadelphia’s bullpen has stepped up, so save opportunities may be there for the taking. The Phillies also have the tenth-best winning percentage in the majors. It’s not as if this is a hapless team going nowhere. If Seranthony Dominguez strings together a couple more clean saves, he may just take the job and run with it. Dominguez could very well enter the top-20 closer rankings going forward.
Ryan Tepera, Toronto Blue Jays
Following the placement of closer Roberto Osuna on administrative leave because of last month’s arrest, Toronto tried Tyler Clippard as their interim closer, but that experiment failed miserably. Since then, Ryan Tepera has finished games in his last four outings, picking up two saves along the way. Seung Hwan Oh, meanwhile, has not recorded a save since April 1 and has preceded Tepera in each of the four games they both pitched in from May 23 through May 30. Oh also failed to keep Saturday’s ballgame against Detroit tied, surrendering three runs in just 0.2 innings while picking up the loss. I think it’s safe to say that Tepera is Toronto’s preferred leader of their closing committee for the time being. Tepera is owned in just 37 percent of Fantrax leagues, a number that should be much higher considering his recent usage. Tepera is a must-own for as long as Toronto continues to trust him at the back end of ballgames.
Kyle Barraclough, Miami Marlins
The Miami Marlins officially announced that Brad Ziegler has been removed from the closer role. The move was long overdue. Ziegler has been terrible all year long. Among the lowlights are a 7.88 ERA, a 1.71 WHIP, and a 46.7 percent hard-hit rate. The veteran submariner can be dropped in all formats. Kyle Barraclough will be the team’s closer going forward. Many fantasy owners anticipated this change, as Barraclough is already owned in 62 percent of Fantrax leagues. Barraclough has held hitters to a paltry .108 batting average thus far this season. However, his control has been a bugaboo throughout his young career. Barraclough sports a career 5.50 BB/9 ratio which could prevent him from being a dominant closer. Also, it’s not as if Miami stands to generate a large number of save chances anytime soon. I think Barraclough should be added where available because saves are always at such a premium, but I do not consider his place in the closer rankings is not on solid ground.
Felipe Vazquez, Pittsburgh Pirates
This week’s major concern in the closer rankings is the continuing troubles of Pirates’ closer, Felipe Vazquez. Vazquez has suddenly gone from a top-10 closer to a complete train wreck. Over the last two weeks, Vazquez has converted just 1-of-5 save opportunities, allowing seven earned runs in just 3.2 innings during that time frame. There were concerns last weekend about the health of Vazquez’s forearm, but there hasn’t been much news on that front over the weekend, which seems to bode well. Still, Pittsburgh may look to give him a breather in the near future to get both his head and forearm straight. The saving grace for Vazquez owners is that manager Clint Hurdle has a notoriously long leash with struggling closers. It also helps that Michael Feliz, who seemed to be the next in line for saves, has been even worse than Vazquez recently. Vazquez appears safe for now, but owners should pay close attention to how the next few days out.
Alex Colome, Seattle Mariners
The Tampa Bay Rays recently traded closer Alex Colome to the Seattle Mariners, which essentially sapped all of his value. While closers are gold in fantasy, middle relievers are a dime a dozen, and as the setup man behind Edwin Diaz in Seattle, Colome is basically just another guy. Colome owners were holding out hope in part because Diaz has struggled since May 1, posting an ERA of 4.67. He has also had a very heavy workload, having already pitched in 32 games this season. One would think that the addition of Colome would allow Diaz the occasional day off. That still may be the case down the road, but it sure hasn’t so far. Diaz has pitched in nine of Seattle’s last 13 games. I suppose Colome owners can try to hang their hats on Diaz’s workload becoming too much of a burden and potentially leading to injury, but in the meantime, Colome is nothing more than a bench stash with high upside in the event of a Diaz injury.
Jose Alvarado, Tampa Bay Rays
The Alex Colome to Seattle trade occurred two weeks ago, but it’s still hard to say exactly what that means for the rest of the Rays’ relievers. Jose Alvarado (42 percent owned in Fantrax leagues) and Chaz Roe (10 percent) seem to be the best options at the back of the bullpen, but neither were among the three Rays’ pitchers who got saves in consecutive wins on May 27, 28, and 29. Furthermore, Sunday’s late-inning defeat in Seattle did little to clarify the pecking order. With Tampa leading 1-0 heading into the seventh inning, Roe was brought in, but faced just two batters before exiting, retiring both. Alvarado started the eighth but promptly blew the lead by giving up two runs. My guess is that Sergio Romo would have pitched the ninth if Alvarado had been able to hold the lead. However, Romo has also started five games since May 19 as manager Kevin Cash continues to experiment with dictating matchups early on in ballgames. Even if Romo is indeed “the guy,” Cash’s propensity for having Romo start makes it impossible to trust him to close out games. I would not go out of my way to pick up any Tampa reliever in any weekly or season-long format until further notice.