Player Stock Ticker
Wolf's Big Board:     Thursday, July 20, 2017   We'll be back soon!

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Closer Depth Chart Week 5

Welcome back to the Wednesday Weekly Closer Report where I will break down and rate each team’s bullpen situation. Even as the calendar turns to May, many teams still cannot figure out which arm to turn to in the ninth inning. So we must focus on these key situations and see if we can get a head start on our opponents by correctly assessing the bullpen pecking order. As always, do not forget to check out the rankings of the ‘Immediate Waiver Pickups’ at the end of the article to see who has the most upside going forward for his team’s closer job. Here’s the closer Depth Chart Week 5:

American League East

RSJ RatingTeamCurrent CloserHandcuffImmediate Waiver Pickup
ConfidentBOSCraig Kimbrel Matt Barnes
ConfidentNYYAroldis ChapmanDellin Betances
ConfidentBALZach BrittonBrad Brach
ConfidentTORRoberto OsunaJoe Smith
ConfidentTBAlexander ColomeDanny Farquhar

Before all you Roberto Osuna owners have a conniption, let’s take a deep breath and relax. Yes, it has been quite the rocky start for the young superstar Blue Jays closer, who currently owns a 5.63 ERA to go along with 3 saves and 3 blown saves on the year (a 50% conversion percentage, which may be good for a batter but is NOT good for a closer). However, his FIP (2.65) and xFIP (3.09) tell a different tale, portraying a solid (but not lights out) reliever, which we can mostly attribute to his 9.00 K/9 and 0 walks allowed in his 8 innings pitched. In addition, his .360 BABIP is well above his career average of .255, which should regress as the season progress. Once Osuna shakes off the early season cob webs caused by his injury and his luck normalizes, Osuna will regain the flair that led to his early promotion a few years ago and he will confidently lead the way out of the Blue Jays bullpen, as he should for many years to come.

American League Central

RSJ RatingTeamCurrent CloserHandcuffImmediate Waiver Pickup
ConfidentCWSDavid RobertsonNate Jones
ConfidentKCKelvin HerreraJoakim Soria
ConfidentMINBrandon KintzlerRyan Pressly
UnstableDETFrancisco RodriguezJustin WilsonJustin Wilson
ConfidentCLECody AllenAndrew Miller

Recently, Detroit Tigers Manager Brad Ausmus (mistakenly) gave incumbent closer Francisco Rodriguez a vote of confidence, claiming that people have short memories and he performed well for them last year. Well Brad, if my short memory remembers correctly, he has given up a run in 5 of his last 7 appearances. Also, from a peripheral standpoint, Rodriguez had an ERA nearly equal to 4.00 last year. So let’s not make faulty excuses for this struggling veteran reliever. This is not 2006 and he no longer has the command or dynamite fastball/breaking ball combination that stymied hitters for years. Rather, his stuff no longer jumps and hitters absolutely mash his pitches to the tune of a 37.5% hard hit percentage, the second worst of his career. Question marks surround the backup role as Justin Wilson took the loss in a high-leverage situation in extra innings on April 29th and Alex Wilson pitched behind Rodriguez in a non-save situation on April 30th. Because the Justin version has pitched better this year (2 hits allowed and 17 strikeouts recorded in 10.2IP) I think he gets the Wilson nod when Ausmus finally makes the move.

American League West

RSJ RatingTeamCurrent CloserHandcuffImmediate Waiver Pickup
Comfortable LAACam Bedrosian (INJ)Bud NorrisBud Norris
ConfidentSEAEdwin DiazNick Vincent
ComfortableTEXMatt BushJeremy Jeffress
UnknownOAKSantiago CasillaSean DoolittleSean Doolittle
ConfidentHOUKen GilesLuke Gregerson

Talk about a great start to your newfound career as a closer. Bud Norris has gone 5/5 in save opportunities since taking over for the injured Cam Bedrosian, pitching 5 clean innings, allowing 2 hits and striking out 9. Who would have thought that a journeyman long-man/spot starter that had pitched for 5 different teams since 2015 would be the center of so much closer-related excitement! I know I am all revved up about it! We know how desperately Mike Scioscia wants to hand job to the hardworking veterans of Major League Baseball, so I am starting to envision a scenario where it is not Huston Street who supplants Bedrosian but rather the hot-handed Norris who keeps it going for the rest of the year. I admit, it does sound silly, but the longer Bedrosian stays sidelined and the more opportunities Norris sets up and knocks down, the looser Bedrosian’s grip on the Closer job becomes. Also, Scioscia could easily spin the decision to keep Bedrosian out of the role as a desire to protect his young, fragile rockstar arm and to ease him into his long-term job. For us Bedrosian owners, we would sleep a lot better at night if  Bedrosian came back sooner than later or Norris began faltering in a few upcoming save opportunities. None of the Oakland pitchers did themselves any favors the past week, each of whom struggled in their various spots. Ryan Madson took an extra innings loss, Sean Doolittle recorded a hold but gave up a run in his .2 innings of action, and Santiago Casilla blew one of his two save opportunities. However, we worry about saves only here and the current snapshot of the team’s closer situation. Casilla, right now, seems to be the only Oakland Athletic pitcher getting save opportunities, but this still has the feeling of a true committee and none of these players are enjoyable to roster at this point. I would cut bait with Madson as he does not seem to be a viable option long term and hold onto Doolittle as I think he eventually replaces Casilla.

National League East

RSJ RatingTeamCurrent CloserHandcuffImmediate Waiver Pickup
ComfortableWSHShawn KelleyKoda Glover (INJ)
UnknownPHIHector NerisJoaquin BenoitJoaquin Benoit
ConfidentATLJim JohnsonArodys Vizcaino
ComfortableMIAA.J. RamosBrad Ziegler
ConfidentNYMJeryus FamiliaAddison Reed

If anyone wants the Philadelphia Phillies closing job please raise their hand! Right now. Seriously. I am sure the Phillies would not mind trying any one of us out right now for the closer job. After the failed Jeanmar Gomez experiment, the Phillies turned to veteran plug-and-play bullpen arm Joaquin Benoit, who could not hold onto the prestigious honor for more than a few days. Thus, Phillies management finally gave us what we all wanted: Hector Neris atop the closing throne in Philadelphia. And how does our new king repay us? By giving up runs in 4 of his last 5 appearances, most recently an absolute debacle of a performance where Neris not only earned the loss but also gave up, with a 5-2 lead in the ninth inning, back-to back-to back home runs to officially blow the save opportunity. That’s about as ugly as it gets for a reliever. Of note, Benoit recorded 3 holds last week in 3 clean innings, backing up Neris in the 8th inning of each of his appearances. I think Neris has a decently long leash here, but this could end up being a true committee before long, so neither seems all that appealing right now.

National League Central

RSJ RatingTeamCurrent CloserHandcuffImmediate Waiver Pickup
ConfidentCHCWade DavisHector Rondon
ComfortableCINRasiel IglesiasDrew Storen
UnstableMILNeftali FelizCorey KnebelCorey Knebel
ConfidentSTLSeung-Hwan OhTrevor Rosenthal
ConfidentPITTony WatsonDaniel Hudson

We have a befuddling situation brewing (pun intended) in Milwaukee. Neftali Feliz took his third loss of the season last week, only to bounce back a few days later to shut the door on two save opportunities (although he did struggle in the second appearance). On the year, Feliz has not shown great command (3.09 BB/9), can’t keep the ball in the park (an absurd 22.2% HR/FB percentage) and does not have the peripheral stats to override his early season struggles (6.43FIP and 4.54 xFIP). In actuality, Fleiz has been lucky this year as displayed by his ridiculously low .167 BABIP. So let’s get this straight: Feliz has been very lucky on batted balls this year with a .167 BABIP, yet still owns a 6.17 ERA? Yup. How is this possible you ask? Ultimately, batters are teeing off on him when they put the ball in play. Also, when the ball is put in play, they are consistently putting it in the air at an eye popping 64.3% clip and hitting it with plenty of oomph (over 82% of the balls against him have been hit with either medium or hard contact). Considering his extended struggles, the Brewers could elect to make a change at closer soon, so the ordering of relievers will be important to keep an eye on. Of late, it seems as though Corey Knebel is backing up Feliz in the eighth inning, so he should receive the first look at closer when the Brewers make a change, especially after Jacob Barnes participated in a bullpen implosion last week, allowing 3 runs and recording only one out.

National League West

RSJ RatingTeamCurrent CloserHandcuffImmediate Waiver Pickup
ConfidentLADKenley JansenPedro Baez
ConfidentSFMark MelanconHunter Strickland
ComfortableSDBrandon MaurerCarter Capps (INJ)Carter Capps (INJ)
UnstableARIFernando RodneyArchie BradleyArchie Bradley
ConfidentCOLGreg HollandAdam Ottavino

Since last week’s article where I, once again, vehemently recommended that Arizona Diamondbacks Manager Torey Lovullo remove Fernando Rodney from the closer role, Rodney predictably blew both his save opportunities, taking losses in both games, and giving up 8 runs in 1.2IP. Hmmmmm, seems like they should be calling me into a team meeting sometime soon. To date, Rodney boasts an impressive 12.60 ERA, 2.30 WHIP, .364 batting average against and a 1.066 OPS. To put that into perspective, Mike Trout is currently batting .364 with a 1.151 OPS. In summation, Rodney basically faces Mike Trout every single at bat due to his absolutely abysmal pitching. However, the problem Arizona faces is who to replace him with. J.J. Hoover typifies the normal closer as a career one-inning reliever, but he only has 6 saves (compared to 14 blown saves) in his career. Career journeyman starter Jorge De La Rosa is off to an impressive 2017 campaign striking out 10.13 batters per nine, but he is a career 4.63 pitcher. That brings me back to my original choice from day one when I knew Rodney would have these troubles: Archie Bradley. I understand he has no experience as a closer and this is his first season in a relief role but Bradley has excelled so far and has the peripheral stats that indicate a solid closer. First, he strikes out well over a batter per inning (10.69 K/9). Second, and maybe more importantly, he does not issue free passes (1.69 BB/9). Since the beginning of the season, Bradley has undoubtedly been the best and most reliable Diamondbacks arm in their bullpen, with 4 holds and 16 innings pitched, the most of any non-starter on the team. This may be a long shot, but bold predictions and zigging when everyone else zags can help win you a championship, and this could be your final chance to snag him.

Ranking of the Immediate Waiver Pickups

  1. Archie Bradley (ARI, 16% Yahoo ownership)
  2. Bud Norris (LAA, 56% Yahoo ownership)
  3. Sean Doolittle (OAK, 14% Yahoo ownership)
  4. Carter Capps (SD, 11% Yahoo ownership)
  5. Corey Knebel (MIL, 8% Yahoo ownership)
  6. Justin Wilson (DET, 24% Yahoo ownership)
  7. Joaquin Benoit (PHI, 28% Yahoo ownership)

And that’s a wrap for the Closer Depth Chart Week 5. Be sure to scour the waiver wire for all these relievers and check back every Wednesday for the latest updates regarding the closer jobs around the league. Until we meet again, keep your eyes open and your nose to the ground.

To contact me with any questions or general fantasy baseball discussion, please email me at redsocker45@gmail.com or tweet me @AJGamballer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.