Fantasy Baseball Bullpen Report: Ranking suspect saves sources with more than half the league's closer roles in flux
What's eating Wade Davis? Are we done with Corey Knebel? How much longer for Hector Rondon? Scott White answers some of the biggest questions surrounding the shakiest closer situations.
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The last three weeks have done a number on the closer landscape.
From the tumult of the trade deadline to the August deals involving Jeurys Familia and Fernando Rodney to the injuries to Sean Doolittle and Brandon Morrow to the meltdowns for Wade Davis and Corey Knebel, we don't have a great sense right now of who's closing where.
In fact, I'd say that's the case for more than half the league. A full 16 teams, by my count, have instability in the ninth inning, offering little assurance who's getting the save from one week to the next — or even one day to the next.
I'm here to make sense of it. Following are my assessments of each of those 16 situations, listed by how likely I am to roster the current front-runner for saves.
Be forewarned: It gets ugly fast.
Jose Leclerc Texas Rangers RP
|Manager Jeff Banister did mention Chris Martin and Cory Gearrin as other options for saves after the Rangers traded Keone Kela to the Pirates , but their numbers pale in comparison to those of Jose Leclerc , who has handled both of the team's save chances since the trade with aplomb. With sizzling stuff and a strong claim to the role, he's a higher priority than his saves total would have you believe.|
Cody Allen Cleveland Indians RP
|Just when it looked like the Indians were about to hand the job to Brad Hand , giving him two save chances at the start of the month, they turned back to Cody Allen on back-to-back days this weekend, with Hand working the seventh and eighth in one and not at all in the other. Still, with an ERA over 4.00, you have to think Allen is on thin ice, and once the Indians are convinced Andrew Miller is back up to speed, creating a redundancy of high-powered lefties, they may decide Allen's righty arm is best employed situationally.|
Will Smith San Francisco Giants RP
|Will Smith is 8 for 9 in save chances since taking over as closer and ranks behind only Edwin Diaz , Josh Hader and Blake Treinen in FIP. He probably deserves to keep the job over Hunter Strickland , who handled it sufficiently over the first 2 1/2 months but with a strikeout-to-walk ratio that leaves much to be desired. Now that Strickland is on the verge of returning from a broken finger he suffered punching a wall, we'll see if Bruce Bochy agrees.|
Hector Rondon Houston Astros RP
|Hector Rondon was supposed to cede the job quietly to newly acquired Roberto Osuna when Osuna returned from his suspension, but now a week in, it hasn't happened. Instead, Rondon has gotten both of the team's saves and would have gotten a third Sunday if he hadn't allowed a solo home run. Osuna followed by blowing the tie in the 10th, so no ground was lost. Osuna is the more decorated reliever and was the bigger acquisition, but Rondon himself has a 2.40 FIP. It's a real toss-up which way this one goes.|
Wade Davis Colorado Rockies RP
|Wade Davis has allowed multiple runs in three of his five August appearances, but he most recently got a chance to work the ninth in a tie game and came out of it unscathed. Adam Ottavino , who has a 1.73 ERA to Davis' 5.40 mark (and with much better peripherals), did fill in for a save Friday, the day after a particularly taxing outing for Davis, but there are no clear indications that a change is imminent. Still, you can bet the Rockies aren't going to give up a shot at a postseason bid just to save face with a three-year deal, especially when the alternative is so promising.|
Seranthony Dominguez Philadelphia Phillies RP
|Stop if you've heard this one before, but Seranthony Dominguez really did seem to be settling in as the Phillies closer both before and after the All-Star break, not always working the ninth inning but clearly being the team's preferred option for that ever-important frame. So far in August, though, he has one save to one each for Tommy Hunter and Pat Neshek . Granted, Hunter's came on one of those days when Dominguez was asked to pitch earlier than the ninth, and Neshek's came on a day after Dominguez had worked two straight. Dominguez is probably still is in the driver's seat, but manager Gabe Kapler will never let him settle into anything.|
Pedro Strop Chicago Cubs RP
|Pedro Strop has put to rest any ideas of a committee with Brandon Morrow sidelined by a strained biceps, piling up seven saves in about three weeks' time. And the 33-year-old has long offered the ratios of a closer even if the opportunity for a ninth-inning role never presented itself. His biggest issue is that Morrow is already on the road to recovery, having played catch for more than a week and nearing a return to mound work. It'll be week to week at this point.|
Jeremy Jeffress Milwaukee Brewers RP
|After seeing Corey Knebel compile a 7.20 ERA in a span of 15 appearances dating back to July 4, manager Craig Counsell finally admitted he needs to find an "easier spot" to use his intended closer ... and then watched him allow a run on two hits in the fifth inning Sunday. Josh Hader is of course the Brewers ' best reliever and got the first save after Knebel's "demotion," but he's so valuable in a multi-inning role that you have to think the majority will go to Jeffress, with his 1.29 ERA. Thing is Counsell has also said he ultimately wants Knebel back in the role.|
Ken Giles Toronto Blue Jays RP
|Looks like the Blue Jays are going to give Ken Giles his chance, for better or worse. So far, it's been "worse" — he allowed seven earned runs in his first four appearances with the team. But he converted his first actual save opportunity with a perfect ninth inning Sunday, furthering one of the most under-the-radar amazing stats of 2018: Despite Giles' 6.11 ERA on the year, he has yet to allow a run in a save opportunity. So maybe he's just really, really role sensitive? Unlikely, but there are other reasons to suspect he'll turn out OK, namely his 3.27 FIP.|
Drew Steckenrider Miami Marlins RP
|We still don't know that the Marlins intend to use Drew Steckenrider in the closer role now that Kyle Barraclough has been ousted — our best evidence is that he struck out the side in the ninth inning of a game Saturday, a spot where the home team would typically use a closer — but he's certainly the best suited of their options, striking out 10.4 per nine innings with a 2.96 FIP. He has had a couple of particularly rough stretches this season, though — one in the middle of April and one in the middle of July — that could turn the Marlins right back to Barraclough. And that's assuming either gets enough save chances to bother.|
Mychal Givens Baltimore Orioles RP
|Mychal Givens ' first two appearances after the Orioles shipped out Brad Brach (who followed Zach Britton out the door) came in the eighth inning, which had everyone questioning whether he was really the leading choice for saves. He has gotten the team's only two save chances since then, though. While the numbers aren't good this year, the track record is, and since there really isn't anyone better suited in that bullpen anymore, you'll hold your nose and use him. Of course, the fact any Orioles closer is only halfway down this list, as awful as that team is, says something about the rest of the list.|
Scott Alexander Los Angeles Dodgers RP
|Scott Alexander was looking like a pretty good choice to fill in for Kenley Jansen until the Dodgers removed him when he allowed a double with one out in the ninth inning Saturday. Granted, the pitcher who came in after him, J.T. Chargois, served up a three-run homer to cost the Dodgers the game, but then Alexander had his own epic meltdown Monday against the Giants. Now that Kenta Maeda is moving to the bullpen, this one has committee written all over it, and seeing as Jansen threw a bullpen session Monday, he may not end up missing much time with his latest heart issue.|
Ryan Madson Washington Nationals RP
|Ryan Madson 's ERA was on the wrong side of 4.00 before he served up a walk-off grand slam — a mess of his own making — Sunday. He then made reference to a back issue that's causing pain in his legs and I'm guessing would put him on the DL if the Nationals ' first two choices for saves, Sean Doolittle and Kelvin Herrera , weren't already there. Both are still worth stashing, of course, since they're both likely back by the end of the month, but Madson's stay in the role figures to be short regardless. (Manager Dave Martinez deliberately avoided Madson, to the Nationals detriment, Monday night.)|
Trevor May Minnesota Twins RP
|But wait, didn't Trevor Hildenberger get the Twins ' first save sans Fernando Rodney on Saturday? He did indeed, allowing two earned runs in the process to give him nine in his past four appearances. Trevor May , meanwhile, worked a scoreless eighth in that contest. He throws hard, has a swing-and-miss arsenal and has a better chance of convincing the Twins with this late-season audition that he's a long-term option. Of course, it's no more than speculation on my part, but I dare say intelligent speculation.|
Robert Gsellman New York Mets RP
|The Mets turned to Robert Gsellman for a conventional, one-inning save Monday, which is the direction we thought they'd go after losing Jeurys Familia to a trade and Anthony Swarzak to shoulder inflammation. But their previous save chances went to Seth Lugo and Jerry Blevins , with Gsellman working the eighth each time, which suggests it's a true committee — one comprised of bad pitchers on a bad team. And there's always a chance Swarzak returns to muddle things more.|
Jace Fry Chicago White Sox RP
|We still don't have a great sense who's closing for the White Sox with Joakim Soria out of the picture because they've had so few save chances since the deal that sent the right-hander to Milwaukee. Luis Avilan recorded two outs for a save Aug. 2. Hector Santiago got one in extra innings the next day. Thyago Vieira delivered one in more conventional fashion the following day. So are any of them it? Well, Vieira's usage was most indicative, but he has allowed five earned runs in all of six innings in the majors. Jace Fry has the best peripherals and is tied for the team lead in saves ... with one. I'll go with him in an I-have-to-go-with-someone sort of way.|
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