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Closing Time: The Champs Make a Change

Welcome to the Week 11 Closer Report. As always, there is plenty of news on the closer front. We have injuries, blowups, and closers setting up. We’ve got promotions, demotions, and emotions, so let’s get to it. Below are my current tiers where I have each closer ranked. I will make some small notes along the way and go into a little more depth on several situations around the league.

MLB Closer Rankings and Tiers

TIER 1: WORLD ELITE

CloserTeamNext In Line
Craig KimbrelBoston Red SoxJoe Kelly
Aroldis ChapmanNew York YankeesDavid Robertson
Edwin DiazSeattle MarinersAlex Colome
Kenley JansenLos Angeles DodgersJosh Fields
Sean DoolittleWashington NationalsRyan Madson

No news is good news for the Fab Five. Craig Kimbrel had not pitched all week but showed no ill effects in a clean save against the White Sox on Saturday… We knew the saves would pick up for Aroldis Chapman, and he converted on four straight last week. The Yankees are vying for the best record in baseball and have played the fewest games in the majors. That’s a good combination for Chapman’s rest-of-season outlook… Kenley Jansen has long since put his April struggles to bed… Edwin Diaz finally got a few days off this week and still got two saves. Win/win… Sean Doolittle has 16 saves this year while allowing 17 hitters to reach base. In my expert opinion, that’s pretty good.

TIER 2: THE “B” TEAM

CloserTeamNext In Line
Wade DavisColorado RockiesJake McGee
Brad HandSan Diego PadresKirby Yates
Brandon MorrowChicago Cubs Pedro Strop
Blake TreinenOakland AthleticsLou Trivino
Brad BoxbergerArizona DiamondbacksArchie Bradley
Cody AllenCleveland IndiansNeil Ramirez

Wade Davis became the second-fastest to reach 20 saves on the year and should continue to rack up the saves in Colorado. Just don’t expect pristine ratios along the way… Is it weird that I’m a little nervous about Brad Hand yet still have him ranked seventh? He has started the eighth inning in four of his last six appearances and has the same number of holds and saves (3) since Memorial Day. Manager Andy Green hinted before the year that Hand may be used in high-leverage situations prior to the ninth inning and that appears to be what’s happening. This type of usage makes sense in real life but is less than ideal for fantasy purposes.

Brandon Morrow owners had a frustrating week. Morrow gave up two runs and was pulled on Wednesday against Philadelphia, but did respond with a save on Thursday. However, Joe Maddon decided to rest Morrow Friday and Saturday. Of course, Chicago won both games by close margins as Pedro Strop and Steve Cishek vultured saves… Blake Treinen only has one save in June, but he has been outstanding all year. He and Kelvin Herrera are the only closers with sub-1.00 ERAs thus far in 2018… Brad Boxberger blew Wednesday’s save opportunity against San Francisco. However, he was pitching in his third straight game, so perhaps he was just a bit fatigued… Cody Allen picked up three saves last week but also gave up three earned runs.

TIER 3: CENTRAL DIVISION CLOSERS

CloserTeamNext In Line
Kelvin HerreraKansas City RoyalsKevin McCarthy
Corey KnebelMilwaukee BrewersJeremy Jeffress
Felipe VazquezPittsburgh PiratesKyle Crick
Raisel IglesiasCincinnati RedsJared Hughes
Shane GreeneDetroit TigersJoe Jimenez

Kelvin Herrera is first among closers in ERA and second in WHIP. In Herrera’s case, the category should be “HIP”, as he has yet to walk a batter this season. That is quite remarkable, especially for a pitcher with a career walk rate of 7.36 percent prior to this year. Of course, since I mentioned that, he’ll probably walk the next batter he faces… Corey Knebel has faced just three hitters in June, so there isn’t much news regarding him. I’m still a little skeptical that he becomes the dominant stopper we saw last season… Felipe Vazquez had three scoreless appearances last week. I wouldn’t assume he is “back” quite yet, but hopefully, he has weathered the storm… Raisel Iglesias pitched in three straight, but saved zero games and took a loss. Jared Hughes pitched two innings for the save on Sunday while Iglesias rested… Shane Greene is not a very good pitcher but sometimes having the gig is all you need. I do believe we’re coming to the end of the road with Greene though. Joe Jimenez and the MLB Trade Deadline loom.

TIER 4: KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON

CloserTeamNext In Line
Keone KelaTexas RangersChris Martin
Hunter StricklandSan Francisco GiantsTony Watson
Bud Norris St. Louis CardinalsJordan Hicks
Arodys VizcainoAtlanta BravesDan Winkler

Keone Kela looked great on Tuesday but suffered a loss on Sunday, allowing the Astros to score a run without the benefit of a hit. He remains an RP2… Hunter Strickland continues to close out games while Marc Melancon rounds into form. Strickland should continue to remain the man in the short term and it’s possible he does not relinquish the role at all… Bud Norris has blown two of three save opportunities and allowed runs in three of his last four games. Meanwhile, Jordan Hicks pitched on three straight days without allowing a run. He also struck out three while picking up a save on Saturday… Arodys Vizcaino pitched just once last week, but he earned a save in Atlanta’s win on Saturday.

TIER 5: BARGAIN BIN

CloserTeamNext In Line
Blake ParkerLos Angeles AngelsJustin Anderson
Ryan TeperaToronto Blue JaysSeung Hwan Oh
Hector RondonHouston AstrosKen Giles
Kyle BarracloughMiami MarlinsDrew Steckenrider

Blake Parker had a big week, racking up four saves for the Angels. His status may not be cemented, but his ceiling is relatively high… Ryan Tepera is the closer de jour in Toronto and has pitched five scoreless frames over three June outings…  Hector Rondon appears to have usurped the Astros’ closer gig from the enigmatic Ken Giles. Rondon won’t hurt for save opportunities with the defending World Series champions as Houston’s elite starting staff gives them a chance to win every single night… All Kyle Barraclough does is put up donuts. (Thanks. I’ll be here all week.) The newly minted Marlins closer has allowed one hit and no runs over his last twelve appearances, but will likely struggle to get consistent chances for saves in Miami.

TIER 6: NOT WORTH THE HEADACHE

CloserTeamNext In Line
Brad BrachBaltimore OriolesMychal Givens
Joakim SoriaChicago White SoxNate Jones
Robert GsellmanNew York MetsAnthony Swarzak
Sergio RomoTampa Bay RaysChaz Roe

The bad news is that Brad Brach is likely to give up the role as Orioles’ closer once Zach Britton returns. On the bright side, it is also feasible that Baltimore trades Britton once it is evident that he is back to 100 percent. Owners probably have little choice but to hold and wait… Joakim Soria is once again sitting at the bottom of Chicago’s closing seesaw while Nate Jones hangs in the air… Robert Gsellman is the de facto closer in New York while Jeurys Familia and A.J. Ramos remain sidelined. However, as was becoming the case with Familia, Gsellman was utilized in the seventh and eighth innings in Sunday’s win, rather than in the ninth when Anthony Swarzak got the call. Don’t bother… I will not pretend to know who will get Tampa’s next save chance.

THREE UP

Blake Parker, Los Angeles Angels

Blake Parker blew a June 2 save opportunity against the Texas Rangers and watched from the sidelines as Justin Anderson closed out the win the following day. Though Parker had pitched in consecutive days, I found it a bit curious considering Parker had thrown just 20 pitches over that stretch. My fears have since been eased by Parker’s response. He saved four games last week, allowing just one hit and one walk over 4.1 scoreless innings to go along with six strikeouts. The belief is that Mike Scioscia is not 100 percent sold on Parker as his everyday closer, but Parker at least seems to have gained the manager’s confidence for the moment. If Parker has indeed earned a little more leeway, he will have the opportunity to rack up a fair amount of saves for an Angels team that should contend for a playoff spot throughout the summer.

Hector Rondon, Houston Astros

There appeared to be some hope for embattled Astros’ closer Ken Giles when setup man Chris Devenski tried walking a mile in Giles’ shoes in a late-May game against the New York Yankees. Devenski was asked to close that game out and promptly blew the save, leading to an extra-inning defeat. Giles then closed out Houston’s next win and owners breathed a small sigh of relief.

However, it appears that was not enough for Giles to fully regain Hinch’s trust. Hector Rondon, not Giles, was called upon in Houston’s next victory, a 7-5 win against Seattle on Wednesday. Giles did finish Thursday’s win but allowed two hits and a run in a non-save situation. Rondon was then asked to close out back-to-back one-run victories over the weekend. He was up to the task on both occasions.

The former Cub has an effective track record as a closer. From 2014-2015, Rondon totaled 59 saves with a 2.03 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. The home run ball became a problem for Rondon, which led to his demotion from the closer’s role and ultimately to him being non-tendered by Chicago. Rondon has allowed just one big fly thus far in 2018 and has regained his excellent control, posting a 5.2 percent walk rate. Rondon has also struck out 30.2 percent of batters. He is certainly worth a speculative add and may very well lead Houston in saves going forward. He is owned in just 21 percent of Fantrax leagues. Grab him before it’s too late.

Joakim Soria, Chicago White Sox

Chicago White Sox’ manager Rick Renteria continues to flip-flop between Soria and Nate Jones as his primary closer. Prior to last week, Jones had received three of the White Sox’ last four saves and Soria had not closed out a game since April. But that pendulum now seems to have shifted once again towards Soria following Chicago’s June 5 doubleheader in Minnesota.

In the first game of the twin bill, Jones was asked to pitch the eighth inning with Chicago up by two runs. Personally, I was under the impression that Renteria was trying to max out Jones in the first game with a potential two-inning save rather than have him potentially pitch twice in the same day. However, Jones promptly blew the lead, giving up four runs as Chicago fell 4-2. Soria saved the nightcap, and Renteria made the switch right then and there.

Jones has since set up Soria in three other games this week, signifying a change in the pecking order in Chicago. Even with Soria’s monster week, I would temper expectations. The White Sox are one of the worst teams in baseball, and it is possible that they are simply showcasing Soria for a trade. Either way, Jones may find himself back in the closer’s role at some point later in the year.

THREE DOWN

Jeurys Familia, New York Mets

Jeurys Familia was placed on the 10-day Disabled List retroactive to June 7 with discomfort in his right shoulder. That is never a good sign, though Familia’s MRI allegedly came back clean. Familia is out through at least next weekend.

The injury is not the only reason he finds himself on this list, however. Even when he returns, I am a bit worried about the would-be closer’s outlook. Manager Mickey Callaway has used Familia a little differently recently than most managers typically use their closers. Familia was used to set up Robert Gsellman in a May 30 victory and was once again used in the eighth inning on June 6 against Baltimore, this time in a tie game. If he is going to continue to be used in such a manner, his value obviously takes a huge hit.

Save opportunities are few and far between these days as it is for the Mets, who have won just four of 19 ballgames. After posting seven saves in New York’s first twelve contests, Familia has saved just seven more since. I am not convinced that the Mets are suddenly going to generate a ton of save opportunities going forward, nor am I that Familia will necessarily be the one asked to close the door upon his return. He is also an impending free agent, so there is always the possibility that he is moved prior to the trade deadline.

Ken Giles, Houston Astros

We touched on the Houston Astros’ and Chicago White Sox’ closer situations above, but it should be pointed out that Ken Giles was drafted as the overall RP9 and is owned in 91 percent of Fantrax leagues. If you are relying on him for saves, particularly as your RP1, you need to seek out other options as soon as possible.

Seranthony Dominguez, Philadelphia Phillies

It appears as though my optimism on Seranthony Dominguez last week may have been a tad hasty. Maybe I was just excited to type Seranthony Dominguez a bunch of times. Either way, Dominguez blinked this week and has not yet earned a lot of rope. The rookie pitched a scoreless eighth inning in a tie game Wednesday but failed to hold the lead in the ninth after Philadelphia scored twice. He came in with the lead in Sunday’s contest, but this time it was in the seventh inning.

Perhaps manager Gabe Kapler views Dominguez as a Josh Hader type, someone who can pitch multiple innings and may be better served as a bridge to the ninth inning. I would not rush to drop him just yet. He still sports elite ratios and may very well see Philadelphia’s next save opportunity. However, this is pretty clearly a committee at this juncture, which means that Seranthony Dominguez (sorry, had to throw one more in there) should not be counted on for a lot of saves in the immediate future.

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