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Last week in this space, I mentioned 11 closer situations that were shaky -- at best -- entering the season. Since then, Jason Grilli has locked down the Braves job, Luke Gregerson has continued mowing through hitters for the Astros, Tyler Clippard has filled in ably for the A's and Francisco Rodriguez has done his usual thing in Milwaukee.
That about does it for the good news. The Mets and Tigers' Opening Day starters hit the DL, the Rockies and Blue Jays have pulled their incumbents out after shaky starts, and the Dodgers and Rays have had five different players pick up saves between them.
So, in the second week of the season, there are still plenty of unresolved ninth-inning situations to deal with. After introducing you to the closers last week, I'll be taking stock of them from here on out, looking at who is moving up and down based on their recent work.
Andrew Miller, Yankees
Miller was probably considered the less likely of the two candidates to come up with saves for the Yankees, but you were still drafting him in the hopes that he would snag the job, because he had top-five Fantasy closer potential if he did. Through Tuesday's games, the Yankees have had two save opportunities, and Miller has been called on for both of them; his only other appearance came with the Yankees tied at home in the top of the 10th following a 9th-inning rally, a usual closer spot. Miller was second among all relievers in K/9 last season, while posting a 1.51 ERA and 0.80 WHIP. If he can keep Dellin Betances at bay, Miller could be on the Craig Kimbrel/Greg Holland tier. And he's still available in 31 percent of CBSSports.com leagues right now. His grip on the closer job isn't quite as strong as you would hope, but he should be extremely useful as long as he has it, and is a must-add in all category-based leagues.
Season stats: 3 2/3 IP, 6 K, 0 H, 2 BB, 0 R, 2 S
Dellin Betances, Yankees
Betances was arguably better than Miller a year ago, and was widely considered the presumptive favorite to close games for the Yankees entering the spring. However, he walked six batters in 8 1/3 innings in Grapefruit League play and was never quite able to take the job that seemed to belong to him. He has been even worse since the start of the regular season, walking six batters in 4 1/3 innings. Betances has thrown just 36 of his 81 pitches for strikes, and his mechanics are just a mess right now, with a release point he can rarely repeat on multiple pitches in a row. Betances might have even more upside than Miller, but he is all over the place right now, and is droppable in H2H leagues with shallower benches..
Last week's stats: 4 1/3 IP, 5 K, 4 H, 6 BB, 1 R (unearned), 0 S
Brett Cecil, Blue Jays
Cecil earned the closer's job in spring training almost by default, but he clearly didn't have a strong grip on the job. In last week's column, I noted that he might face pressure for the role if he isn't sharp out of the gate, but I didn't think his grip was this weak; manager John Gibbons removed him from the role after just one poor outing. Cecil dealt with a shoulder issue in the spring that has caused his fastball velocity to drop more than 3 miles per hour on average from a year ago, and he is throwing just 55.8 percent of his pitches for strikes as well. Cecil could get the job back, but he was never an elite option anyways, so there's no reason to wait on him while he fights his way out of the eighth inning.
Last week's stats: 2 1/2 IP, 4 K, 1 H, 2 BB, 0 R, 0 S, 1 BS
Miguel Castro, Blue Jays
Castro was a long-shot to even make the roster out of the spring, seeing as he hadn't even pitched above High-A before this season. However, the 20-year-old has the kind of stuff you want to see in the ninth inning role, with a fastball that sits at 98, a killer changeup and a slider that comes in at 80-82 MPH and gives opposing hitters three different pitch speeds to account for. He doesn't have much of a track record at all, but the moment hasn't seemed to big for him, as he has finished off both of his saves without allowing a run. This is a pretty shaky situation, but Castro has the stuff and upside to be worth a flier, at the very least in Roto leagues.
Last week's stats: 5 1/3 IP, 4 K, 3 H, 2 BB, 1 R (unearned) 2 S
Adam Ottavino, Rockies
LaTroy Hawkins' stock was never particularly high, so I'm not sure he's even worth mentioning here. Hawkins was removed from the closer's role after a miserable start to the season, and was pitching in the sixth inning Tuesday, as Ottavino got his first opportunity to close out a win for the surprisingly competitive Rockies. Ottavino matched his career total with his save Tuesday, and he is probably the best option for the role for the Rockies, given Hawkins and Rafael Betancourt's age. It helps that he's actually been pretty good in recent years, posting a 3.08 ERA and 3.13 FIP in 2013 and 2014, with 9.3 K/9 over 143 1/3 innings. His home park and WHIP (1.31) will probably keep him from ever being more than a mid-tier closer, but those guys are gold on the waiver wire after the start of the season.
Last week's stats: 5 1/3 IP, 10 K, 1 H, 1 BB, 0 R, 1 S
Koji Uehara, Red Sox
The only question with Uehara at this point is his health. He was absolutely dominant until August last season, when he ran out of gas and allowed 10 runs in his final 15 2/3 innings of work. He came off the disabled list Tuesday and immediately stepped into the closer's role, striking out two and picking up five swinging strikes on 12 splitters in an inning of work. He consistently picked up swinging strikes on more than one-quarter of his splitters until mid-August last season, a number that fell to 16.5 percent in his final 10 appearances. With his health intact and his splitter diving, expectations should be high yet again for Uehara, as long as his arm is right.
Last week's stats: 1 IP, 2 K, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 R, 1 S