Well, the calendar has officially turned to July. That means we're only a couple of weeks away from the all-star break and just a few weeks away from the trade deadline. The rumors are starting to heat up around the league and as usual, we're likely to see some relievers on the move after the dust settles. Knowing this, managing relievers on the waiver wire during the FAAB periods over the next month will arguably be the most important weeks of the year for closers in fantasy baseball. Now isn't the time to "wait until next week" to grab the handcuffs you want. Be aggressive, take some risks and you will be the one with the highest upside in your league.
Around the Legaue:
-The Washington Nationals bullpen is an absolute, unmitigated disaster. Dusty Baker went back to who started this mess in the first place when he turned to original closer Blake Treinen in the 9th inning on Thursday night. The result was 3 runs allowed and a 5-4 loss to the Chicago Cubs. Ironically, the Nationals actually don't lead all MLB teams in blown saves. In fact, Seattle, New York (AL), Tampa Bay, Texas and Detroit all have more blown saves. Nonetheless, the right answer for this bullpen is clearly not currently on the roster. The Nats did pick up Francisco Rodriguez earlier this week after being released by the Tigers, and while he may eventually see saves, I do expect the Nats to make a bigger move and it will be that player who finishes the year as closer. This is important because it means that the team who Washington does deal with will crown a new closer after making the trade. It's my job to help you identify those players who may slide into the closing job and it's your job to execute.
-The other closing situation that has been giving us fits all season is in Philadelphia where Hector Neris seems to finally be righting the ship. He saved just 3 games in the month of June, but he has 3 straight scoreless appearances without allowing any walks or hits and striking out 5 batters. Pat Neshek remains the best arm in the bullpen, but manager Pete McKanin appears committed to developing Neris as the team's future closer. We still like Neris for the strikeout upside, especially since it looks like he has figured out the issues with his splitter over that same stretch.
-After all the mean things we said about Matt Bush last week, the Rangers closer came back this week with back-to-back clean outings to notch a couple saves this week. He likely bought himself a little more leash, but owning Keone Kela remains a smart play for anyone seeking saves.
-Mark Melancon landed on the disabled list with a reaggravation of the elbow sprain he suffered earlier this season. Alex Pavlovic of the NBC Sports Bay Area reports that Sam Dyson will likely assume the role as closer, despite the fact that Hunter Strickland actual got the first save chance. Dyson may indeed see the save chances in the short-term, but does anyone honestly think he's going to be any better than he performed in Texas earlier this year? Yes, he's been moderately better for the Giants than he was with the Rangers (4.91 ERA, 12.27 K/9, 3.68 BB/9), but he certainly hasn't been a lockdown reliever by any stretch of the imagination. His most attractive asset was and continues to be his high 63% groundball rate. If he can maintain the 11% swinging strike rate that he has flashed this month, he may prove me wrong. Nonetheless, I'd still personally rather own Hunter Strickland, if you're making a long-term play. As for Melancon, his continued elbow issues have me questioning whether he will even be able to make it back this season to pitch at the level we invested in him.
-Zach Britton remains on track to return on July 5th. Brad Brach owners should continue to hold him, even after Britton returns, just in case Britton suffers a setback.
-David Robertson and his wife are expecting their second child any day, so it's likely that Tommy Kahnle will see the save chances while Robertson is on the paternity list. It will be a nice audition for the actual closing role for Kahnle since David Robertson is expected to be traded within the next few weeks. Kahnle is likely already owned in your league, but if by chance he has slipped through the cracks, he's worth owning in most formats even without an official closing job since he racks up so many strikeouts (53 in 31.1 innings pitched this season).
-Edwin Diaz has been terrible over each of his last 4 outings, giving up homeruns in 3 of his last 4 and a total of 7 hits and 3 earned runs. As we saw earlier this year, Seattle doesn't have any better options to close games, so Diaz appears to be safe, but he's not doing your ratios any favors. On the brightside, walks haven't really been much of an issue lately, so at least he's making progress in that area despite an ugly 4.35 BB/9 on the season.
-Bud Norris has a successful rehab outing on Thursday and is expected to be activated from the disabled list on Saturday. He will likely regain the closing job as soon as he rejoins the team, especially since Cam Bedrosian blew a 1-run lead on Thursday night. Norris has been quite effective in the closing role for the Angels, posting an impressive 31% strikeout rate and just a 27.5% hard hit rate allowed.
-Cardinals manager Mike Matheny hinted that he may make a change in the 9th inning earlier this week and sure enough, Trevor Rosenthal got the save chance and converted it on Thursday night. Unfortunately, it wasn't exactly pretty, as he allowed 2 walks and a run to score. Rosenthal remains the lead candidate for saves, but Oh could eventually work his way back into the mix.
-After dealing with anxiety issues, it was nice to see Roberto Osuna strike out the side in a non-save situation on Wednesday night. We're optimistic that he will be able to overcome his mental issues and remain a top-15 closing option in fantasy.
Kyle Barraclough (MIA) - The Marlins are going to be sellers at the trade deadline and that means AJ Ramos and David Phelps could be on the move. After being drafted in many fantasy drafts this spring for his strikeout upside, Kyle Barraclough suffered through a terrible first two months of the regular season. He lost all command of the strike zone and consequently, his walk rate skyrocketed and his strikeout rate sunk. Since June, however, Barraclough has posted a 2.77 ERA and 1.08 WHIP with a 30% strikeout rate. His 12% walk rate seems to remain elevated, but in all actuality, he has only walked 3 over his last 10 appearances. The groundball rate remains well below the 53% mark he posted last season, but luckily his hard hit rate allowed has stayed at 27% and his overall contact rate allowed is still just 71%. The best part is that he's probably available on most waiver wires right now and his overall cost of acquisition this week will likely be close to nothing. Look for Barraclough to post overall strikeout numbers at a rate of 30% or better the rest of the season, but his lower groundball rate and higher walk rate will lead to inflated ERA and WHIPs in comparison to his stellar 2016 season. Nonetheless, he will be a very valuable closer for two months, if he gets the job at the trade deadline.
Closer Rankings & Tiers:
Click on the following link for the rest of the closer report (including more "Around The League" notes, our closer rankings & statistics, as well as handcuff grades) in the member area: http://www.fantistics.com/baseball00/M-Closer.htm.
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