Hey peoples. The season is three weeks away. I listened to my first Spring Training game on the radio Friday, Yanks vs Tigers, and all I needed was to hear one ball popping into a glove, one strike call, and the sound of a ball smacking off a bat heading for the seats. I’m ready now. But I still have a lot of work to do before I’m ready for fantasy baseball drafts.
The first 60 or so relievers are off the board. There can’t be much left worth drafting in other than very deep leagues, can there be. Sure there is. There are still closers on 10 more teams that we haven’t covered, great in leagues where the save is supreme. There are the CLEWS (Closers en Waiting) who did not make my top 31. This may be where the real value is, and likely why you bothered to read this article. I’ll tell you who my favorite CLEWS are. Finally, there are the specialists, mostly lefties, often righties who may only face a batter or two, but nearly always come in with ducks on the pond. In leagues that reward Holds and IRS (Inherited Runners Stranded) the best of these are must owns. They don’t pitch a lot of innings, but usually have good ratios, even if not the K’s you’d like.
First I’ll list the probable closers that are still left. They will all be drafted, some for their skills, others just because we need to accumulate saves. Next I’ll list the remaining CLEWS, again where the value lies, lastly I’ll list the best of the IRS guys, the best of the specialists. The write ups on each pitcher will be shorter than my other two articles. Maybe you’ll like that better. I’m also positive you will find more pitchers that I missed, and I welcome comments on those guys to complete the list. If nothing else, this makes for a great cheat sheet of relievers so you won’t forget your favorites late in the draft. I’m purposely leaving out minor league prospects who could make an impact in 2019. I just don’t have the room for that, nor the requisite knowledge.
Have fun drafting in the next few weeks and don’t forget to get a CLEW or two.
This week’s Trivia Question: What pitcher led all of baseball in 2018 in Holds Plus Inherited Runners Stranded? Who was 2nd?:
The rest of the CLOSERS: Draft them if saves are the most important stat relievers give you in your league.
Jordan Hicks, RP/CL, STL, 22 – With a 243 average ADP this guy is a draft day steel waiting to happen. He was the 29th best reliever in baseball in 2018 if you include Holds and IRS . Now he has to battle for or at least share the closer role with Andrew Miller.
Pedro Strop, RP/CL, CHC, 34 – The new Chicago closer by default. But if he claims the role, as i think he will, hell be at least a mid tier closer based on his career numbers and abilities.
Alex Colome, CL/RP, CHW, 30 – Someone has to close for the SOX, and Colome has done it before. He’ll have some competition from Nate Jones and Kelvin Herrera but I bet he holds the job all season.
Archie Bradley, RP/CL, AZ, 26 – While Bradley might have Closer Stuff, he has always served behind someone more accomplished. He was 2nd in all of baseball in 2018 in Holds + IRS with 58 but in 2019 he has a clear shot at the closer’s role. Then Archie’s wife (below right) will have a reason to come to the ballpark more often, and he’ll be able to afford to get her a shirt.
Trevor May, CL, MIN: May had a near 14 K/9 Rate in 2018. This season he could take the closers role as his own. He is an elite strikeout pitcher and could take the Min role and run with it. He has top 10 reliever potential. He also has to S— or get off the pot, as he will turn 30 in 2019 and only has three saves on his MLB resume. He did just recover from major surgery, so we will cut him a break there, but don’t draft him as your #1 or #2 closer even though he has that kind of potential.
Shane Greene, CL, DET, 30 – 32 Saves in 2018. But he didn’t have double digit K/9 rates and had a 5.12 ERA and 1.374 WHIP. But hey, you need saves, take what you can get. I would not own him.
Mychal Givens, RP/CL, BAL 29 -Givens took the closers role in Baltimore after Brad Brach was traded to the Braves and logged nine saves over the rest of 2018. Givens had a pretty poor 1st half with an ERA over 4 and a dip in velocity and K-rates, but then came on in the 2nd especially after getting the closer gig. Even though his final ERA was 3.99, his FIP was 3.09, or roughly his career average. Givens could be trade bait for the rebuilding O’s in 2019, and if traded would likely go back to a set-up role. Till then, though, he is the Baltimore closer.
Matt Barnes, RP, BOS, 29 – Barnes is listed as the Boston Closer on their depth chart in the absence of Craig Kimbrel though he’s only gotten two saves in his career. I think the Sox will eventually re-sign Kimbrel. If not, hand the guy with the 14.01 K/9 (3rd in MLB) the ball. He did nail 26 Holds caddying for Kimbrel in 2018. But he also had his best season in the Bigs at the age of 28, lowering his hit and homers per nine to career lows. He also logged his lowest FIP at 2.71, making his 3.65 ERA look inflated. He had a 1.86 GB/FB ratio but he does give up a lot of walks, 4.5 BB/9. Barnes should be drafted no matter what his role is just for the K’s alone.
Hunter Strickland, CL, SEA, 30 – Strickland had arguably his worst season statistically in 2018. But he also saved double digit games (14) for the first time in his career with Mark Melancon hurt. Now on the post Diaz Mariners he has a legit shot at the closers role in Seattle. To keep the role though, he’ll have to reverse the trends of 2018 such as his lowest K-Rate, and highest hit rates of his career. If you draft Strickland, you may want to invest in his CLEW, Anthony Swarzak as well.
Drew Steckenrider,CL MIA, 28 – Someone has to close for the Marlins. Right? I’m staying away from this bullpen. Steckenrider may get the gig by default, although Sergio Romo is on hand now too as a veteran presence with closing experience. (And opening experience too, haha) He’s always been a good strikeout pitcher but his K rates went down a bit in 2018. The only other real difference is that his walked rate came down as well. However, with a 3.90 ERA and 1.268 WHIP, these are not numbers to make me confident in him holding the job. The other choices, Romo, Adam Conley, and the kid with the 100 mph untamed fastball, Tayron Guerrero, who also had a walk rate near five per nine innings, don’t make me want to chase Marlins saves in 2019.
Wily Peralta, KC, CL, 30 – Sometimes players who were mediocre as starters become good closers. Sometimes they become mediocre closers. A 3.67 ERA, backed by a 4.73 FIP and a 1.45 WHIP and a 6.00 BB/9 don’t inspire confidence. He sdoes have the immortal Brad Boxberger looking over his shoulder though. I have never owned Peralta, and likely never will. He does have a cool first name though.
The CLEWS: These guys are most likely to get you saves or even take over the closer role. Even if not, they are quality pitchers none the less, and will get you K’s and ratios as well as Holds and IRS, plus vulture Wins and Saves. They could be the difference between you and the other contenders in your leagues.
Zack Britton, CLEW, NYY, 31 – No, he likely won’t get a lot of saves unless Chapman goes down, and he’ll have a lot of competition anyway, though he is the guy with the most closing experience in that pen. I won’t be targeting him.
Brandon Morrow, Injured, CHC, 34 – Chasing the potential of Brandon Morrow is like hoping that girl who likes you as a friend will suddenly change her mind and fall in love with you. Now he is 34 believe it or not. He couldn’t stay on the mound as a starter, so lets make him a reliever. He did have 22 Saves in 2018, but then got hurt again. He will miss at least the first month of the 2019 season, and I doubt Strop or Brach will let him take back the closer role. There is nothing to see here.
Greg Holland, CLEW, AZ, 33 – One of my favorite sayings in Fantasy Baseball is “Closers Close”. Holland is a closer, saving over 40 games as recently as 2017 for the 3rd time in his career. He’s had some injuries and is now 33, but the only thing standing in his way for the role in Arizona is Archie Bradley who has never closed. This is a spec pick that could pay other dividends as well, even if he never does wrestle the job from Bradley.
Fernando Rodney, CLEW, OAK, 142: 25 Saves in 2018. He won’t have a closer role in OAK unless Treinen gets hurt. But, he could be traded. We all know Rodney’s warts. But, Closers close, and that is all he has ever done. Now 142 years old, we’ll see what he has left in the tank.
Mark Melancon, CLEW, SFG, 34: – Closers Close. Will he regain his former health and skill set? That is a the big question. He only has Will Harris in front of him in SF. I’ll take a chance on him in the late rounds. If it doesn’t pan out I can just drop him and grab someone else.
Kelvin Herrera, CLEW, CHW, 29 – He’s been far better in the post season than the regular season, and did have 17 Saves for KC in 2018 after a year as their closer. His peripherals aren’t great, but he may be able to sneak in a few saves in Chicago.
Brad Boxberger, CLEW, KC, 31 – Had 32 Saves for AZ before they decided to move on. While he did have a K/9 of about 12.0 (BB/9 an ungodly 5.4), his 4.39 ERA and 1.425 WHIP did not help your ratios. For years I’ve been saying that Boxberger is one of the worst relievers in baseball. But he keeps getting saves. He might even snag a bunch from Wily Peralta, who is not exactly entrenched.
Hector Rondon, CLEW, HOU, 31 – Rondon is a quality pitcher no matter what role he has, and should be drafted either way. He’ll get you k’s and help your ratios, not to mention H and IRS if your league counts them. He did snag 15 Saves in 2018, but the Stros went out and got Roberto Osuna to close games. I’ll draft him any way.
Scott Oberg, RP, COL, 29 – Now that Adam Ottavino is gone, Oberg is next in line for saves in Colorado. He logged 36 H + IRS in 2018 and as an extreme ground ball pitcher, 3.07 GB/FB rate in 2018, he is well suited for Colorado. He just does not have Ottovino’s strikeout potential.
Hector Neris, CLEW, PHI, 30 – Neris lost his job as closer in 2018 mostly because of a ERA that jumped up over 5.00. He did have some value otherwise as he logged a14.35 K/9, 2nd in MLB. He could be worth a spec pick but is likely 3rd in line for the closer role now.
Brad Brach, CLEW, CHC, 33-Hard to believe Brach is 33 now. He was a quality set up man in Baltimore and had a brief run as a closer. Now with the Cubs, he could get into the mix for saves with Morrow hurt and Strop not exactly an established closer. No matter what though, he gets to go home to his wife, country singer Janae Cherry.
Steve Cishek, CLEW, CHC, 33 – Answer to this week’s trivia question: Cishek, no matter what you think of him, led all of MLB baseball in Holds + IRS. He had 25 Holds and 42 IRS, good for 67 H + IRS in 2018. His nearest challenger was Archie Bradley, AZ with 58. Don’t draft him for any other reason, Not much else in his profile is elite, but he gets to pitch in pressure situations. Always has. He usual snags a handful or two of saves, having been a former closer.
Trevor Rosenthal, CLEW, WAS, 29 – Default CLEW here. No reason to draft him otherwise. However, Closers Close, and he has been a good one in the recent past. Sean Doolittle is not exactly an Iron Man.
Jared Hughes, 32 & Amir Garrett, 26, CLEWS, CIN – Ok, no one is unseating Raisel Iglesias unless he gets hurt. But these two guys have value beyond that. Garrett, with 57 H + IRS was tied for 3rd in the MLB and Hughes not far behind at 47 H + IRS. The Reds have a deep bullpen, but these two guys are worth owning.
Joe Kelly, CLEW, LAD, 31 – Stuck behind a pretty good closer, Kelly likely won’t have many save chances. And, with his crappy ratios, he may not even be worth owning at all. I’ve never been a fan, but he is next in line in LA.
Taylor Rogers, CLEW, MIN, 28 – With 47 IRS + H and a near 10 K/9, with good ratios, Rogers is a must own no matter what. There is also not an established closer ahead of him.
Ryan Tepera, CLEW, TOR, 31 – With 38 IRS + H and a near 10 K/9, with good ratios, Tepera is a must own no matter what. There is also not an established closer ahead of him. He also logged 7 Saves in 2018, and with Ken Giles ahead of you, anything can happen.
Sam Dyson, CLEW, SFG, 31 – Dyson had a pretty good year pitching in a set-up role in SF. He logged 38 S + H and has closed before with Texas (38 Saves in 2016). While he may not have closer stuff, I would not count him out for saves if anything happens to Smith or Melancon.
Joakim Soria, RP, OAK, 35 – It seems like a century ago that Soria was a top AL closer with the Royals. He still has good velocity and nice K rates and carved out 16 Saves with the White Sox in 2018. He also chipped in 29 IRS + H when he was not closing. If something happened to Blake Treinen however, Soria would have to fight Fernando Rodney for Save chances.
The Specialists: Likely only have value in leagues that count Holds and/or IRS, Leaders from 2018 in Holds and IRS:
Yoshihisa Hirano, RP, AZ, 35 – 57 H + IRS, good for 3rd in the MLB.
Chaz Roe, RP, TB, 32 – 54 IRS + H good for 4th in the MLB. Did you know he has been a major league pitcher since 2013?
Oliver Perez, RP, CLE, 38 – Sorry Mets fans. Ollie P has had a pretty good career. 54 H + IRS in 2018.
Brad Ziegler, RP, FA, 39 – 53 H + IRS. Remember when he saved 30 games for Arizona in 2015? He announced his retirement after last season, but you never know.
Justin Wilson, RP, NYM, 31 – 50 H+ IRS. 12.0 K/9.
Tony Watson, RP, SF, 34 – 50 H+ IRS. Major League reliever here.
There are so many more. I could easily do a 4th article on relievers. Do your homework and have a list in front of you on draft day. When the last few rounds come you want to know who you are looking for.
Don’t forget about us:
Addison Reed, RP, MIN
Sergio Romo, RP, MIA – Saved 25 Games in 2018 for Tampa while also serving as the occasional “opener”. Could steal the Closer role out from under Steckenrider.
Pat Neshek, RP, PHI
Tommy Hunter, RP, PHI
Bud Norris, RP, TOR : Saved 28 games in 2018.
Craig Stammen, RP, SD
Seunghwan Oh, RP, COL – 42 IRS + H.
Alex Reyes, SP/RP, STL – I know, both Reyes and Martinez have been mostly SP in their careers. I think both are worth drafting just based on skills alone. If they are unable to start, the Cards have talked about letting them compete for the closer or other high leverage late inning work.
Carlos Martinez, SP/RP, STL – See Above.
Yoshihisa Hirano, RP, AZ – Yeah, I better put him on here. Hirano finished tied for third in the MLB in H + IRS with 57 in 2018. His GB/FB rate was a nice 1.6
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore on Thursday March 7th, 2019 from 8pm – 9:30pm EST for the Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show. Call in number is 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. You can listen live on blogtalk, majorleaguefantasysports.com, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. This week we will discuss Starting Pitching for fantasy purposes.
Be sure to check out our Sunday night show March 10th from 8pm to 9:30pm EST. They will cover the Outfield.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Cole Freel live on Sunday March 10th, 2019 from 8-9:45pm EST for episode #144 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. You can listen live on blogtalk, majorleaguefantasysports.com, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. Our topic this week is the Outfield for fantasy purposes.
Our guests this week are Joe Iannone and Bilal Chaudry. Joe is a writer for majorleaguefantasysports.com and his articles publish every Sunday. Bilal is the 2-time defending MLFBC champion and a frequent radio guest.