More Fantasy Baseball:| |
And it ain't over. Not by a long shot.
I count eight situations for which I can honestly say I don't know how the ninth inning looks a week from now. That's nearly one-third of the league.
But I've followed it pretty closely -- I dare say closer (see what I did there?) than you have -- which means I can offer educated guesses to help you prioritize your prospective save sources.
For each of these eight bullpens, I've provided a pecking order, which reflects not who's in line for the next save, but who's most worthy of rostering in Fantasy Baseball. Oftentimes, they're one and the same, but not always.
Just when it looked like Jacob Barnes and Matt Albers had frittered away the opportunity for a replacement closer with Corey Knebel sidelined by a strained hamstring, the Brewers have suddenly found their groove. Basically, if Josh Hader enters the game, he's finishing the game, no matter how many outs it takes. He's their best reliever, after all -- maybe the best in baseball considering his 19.5 strikeouts per nine innings and outrageous 0.39 FIP -- and his four saves are twice as many as anyone else has recorded in Knebel's absence.
But the Brewers' two most recent saves belong to Jeremy Jeffress, a former closer in his second stay with the club. He recorded them Tuesday and Wednesday with Hader still recovering from a 37-pitch outing Monday in which he struck out eight consecutive Reds.
I don't know that you'll want to make a heavy investment in Jeffress with Knebel already beginning a rehab assignment. Hader, though, is worth rostering for the strikeouts, the multi-inning relief appearances (not to mention the wins potential therein) and the possibility of his pitch-to-completion outings continuing even after Knebel returns.
After securing what had been the least securable of ninth-inning roles under the fickle eye of Mike Scioscia the last couple years, Keynan Middleton landed on the DL Monday with elbow inflammation, which is among the vaguest of diagnoses. But while it's sometimes a precursor for a significant elbow problem, Middleton expects his stay to be somewhere closer to the 10-day minimum.
"Not concerned at all," he told The Orange County Register Tuesday.
Which could mean the pursuit of the next Angels closer is nothing more than a wild goose chase. Cam Bedrosian, the Fantasy darling at this time a year ago, got the first crack Tuesday and blew it. Blake Parker, the Fantasy darling during draft prep season, has been a disaster since the bell rang. OC Register beat writer Jeff Fletcher speculated has speculated that rookie Justin Anderson, owner of a 100-mph fastball, could get chance, but he's unproven as a major-leaguer (and looking at his minor-league track record, as a reliever as well).
It's true. After serving up a three-run homer to Gary Sanchez onTuesday (as well as a single to the next batter), Ken Giles punched himself in the face.
The man is under a lot of stress right now.
But while he lost the closer role during the Astros' march to a World Series championship last October and came close to losing it the third week of the season, ceding a couple save chances to Chris Devenski, he had gone seven appearances without allowing a baserunner prior to Tuesday's meltdown. He had a perfect game going through 6 1/3, basically.
But that's the rub on Giles, whose final numbers often suggest he's a dominant, even borderline elite, closer. He takes a winding road to those numbers, and a forward-thinking organization like the Astros with a bunch of closer capable arms in their bullpen may not go along for the ride this time.
I suspect they won't have just one guy if that guy isn't Giles, though. They tried Will Harris on Thursday, and we see how that went.
The Orioles haven't addressed their closer situation in weeks. With an 8-22 record, they haven't had much reason.
But I don't know how you can look at their usage patterns and conclude it's anyone other than Darren O'Day, the 35-year-old side-armer perpetually stuck in a setup role. He has recorded the Orioles' last two saves (albeit nine days apart), and Brad Brach, the presumed closer at the start of the year, has worked the ninth inning in only two of his last five appearances. And while it's not terribly relevant since neither was a save situation, Brach allowed a combined four earned runs on seven hits between those two appearance, which gives you some idea how his season has gone so far.
Brach is so removed from closing, I think, that Zach Britton, who isn't even eligible to return from a ruptured Achilles until May 28, is more rosterable in Fantasy right now.
Greg Holland, the $14-million man who has rushed to become game-ready after signing with the Cardinals on opening day, kept inching his way toward claiming that role and then failed colossally when given the opportunity Friday.
Which brings us to this place:
It doesn't sound like a forever-and-ever situation, but it does sound like the Cardinals won't be going to that well again anytime soon.
And in fact, Bud Norris may have to fail before they do. The guy held down the closer role in Anaheim for four months last year before faltering down the stretch, and has flat-out dominated this year, recording 20 strikeouts while issuing just two walks in 14 1/3 innings.
I said in the intro to this column that I can't be sure who'll be closing for any of these teams at this time next week, but I might be most sure about Norris.
Turns out Ziegler was just under the weather that day. He pitched a scoreless inning for his third save the next day and followed it up with a perfect inning Monday.
He still has a 7.11 ERA, though, and seeing as he had a 4.79 ERA last year, the 38-year-old can't hide behind his track record and funky delivery forever. If nothing else, the Marlins revealed who their fallback option is by turning to Barraclough (as opposed to, say, Drew Steckenrider), and it's a big-time bat-misser who'd be a welcome addition to the role.
Only a matter of time, I say.
With a bunch of lefties coming up and no time to warm up Arodys Vizcaino after taking a late lead, the Braves turned to rookie lefty A.J. Minter for a save April 25, and afterward, manager Brian Snitker said it might not be the last time.
But it hasn't happened since. Instead, Vizcaino, the presumed closer coming into the year, has recorded back-to-back saves.
Minter is one of those relievers who gets hyped as the closer of the future before he even debuts in the majors, so I'm betting on it happening at some point. But he'll need to outclass Vizcaino first. You could argue he has been the worse of the two this year, his 12-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio a far cry from last year's 26-to-2 mark in limited action.
Meanwhile, Vizcaino has a 2.66 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings since the start of 2017, so no rush.
He's bad. He's just bad.
Nobody's doubting it, right? Fernando Rodney is bad.
He has blown three of his past four save chances. He has allowed more baserunners than he has innings and strikeouts combined. He's bad.
Of course, that's also what we said last April, when he had an even more horrendous 12.60 ERA for the Diamondbacks. He turned in a 2.38 ERA the rest of the way.
The difference here is the Twins have a proven and equally high-dollar -- higher than Rodney, actually -- setup man in Addison Reed, but manager Paul Molitor is standing by his first choice. For how much longer, I can't say, but at 41, Rodney still has peak velocity and a reputation for navigating these storms. Reed is among the clearest of handcuff options in Fantasy, but there's still a good chance he never gets a chance.