After today, we'll enter the final month of the fantasy baseball season! Saves are up across baseball and we're in the midst of the most parity at the position that we've seen in years. Perhaps it's the change in development and valuation of relievers at the minor league level, or perhaps it's merely coincidence, but there's no denying the fact that the position is deeper in 2019 than it has been for several years. In 2018, there were 18 closers with 20 or more saves, while here on August 31st, there are already 17. The implications from this depth will undoubtedly be discussed ad nauseum next draft season, but this is simply just one more indication of the seismic transformations the game is experiencing. It's up to the fantasy analysts like myself to break down this data and serve it to you, the fantasy baseball researchers, in a way that's consumable and desirable.
But that's enough focus on 2020, let's focus on winning you a championship! The closer position did have some headlines over the last we and there are some headwinds to watch over the next couple of weeks.
Around the League:
-Andres Munozrecorded the first save of his career on Thursday, pitching on a night that normal closer Kirby Yates had off. Munoz has electric stuff, but his control is still a problem from time-to-time (12.7% walk rate). He's able to overcome it because is 100 MPH fastball and 86 MPH slider combination is so lethal, it results in a 16% swinging strike rate and 30% strikeout rate.
-Kenley Jansenblew his seventh save of the season earlier this week, forcing manager Dave Roberts to publicly give a vote of confidence to his closer. Jansen saved just two games in the month of August, but did manage to blow three saves over the last two weeks. Jansen's velocity has stayed around 92MPH this season, which is where he was in 2018 and is roughly 2 MPH slower than his best seasons as a closer. With a safe job and pitching for a great team, Jansen's value remains very high and we're not overly concerned with a bump or two in the road.
-Another prospect making an impact for his club is rookie Hunter Harvey. Harvey was a starter in Double-A to begin this season, but he's been used in high leverage situations for the Orioles. Long-term, he still profiles as a starting pitcher option, but he could be useful for your fantasy team down the stretch. His 41% strikeout rate is probably substantially overstated given his 11% swinging strike rate, but also keep in mind it's only been four innings of work so wild fluctuations are expected. Still, he worked 16 innings as a reliever at Triple-A this season and posted a solid 31% strikeout rate. There's definite intrigue here.
-Liam Hendriks leads all relievers in WAR this season, which is incredible since he wasn't even drafted in most leagues. In fact, of the 230 total Draft Champions leagues hosted by the NFBC this spring, Hendricks was drafted in just 2. Looking forward to next season, he should have just as much momentum and hype as Blake Treinen did a year before. The difference is that Hendricks is supporting his breakout in a much more sustainable way. His 36% strikeout rate is propped up by a 16% swinging strike rate and 33% chase rate and while his 86% LOB is a big jump from his career 70% rate, consider that his strikeout rate is also 14% higher.
-Edwin Diaz is on the up and up, potentially because he adopted Jacob deGrom's slider according to Justin Toscano, Mets beat writer. Diaz struck out the side upon his return from nursing back tightness. He's probably worth owning in all leagues since he seems to be on the ascent back to saves.
-Craig Kimbrel is back on track for the Cubs. The former top closer has 6 strikeouts with just 2 hits and 2 walks and 4 saves over his last 5 appearances. With the Cubs finding for their playoff lives and Kimbrel firing on all cylinders, Kimbrel an opportunity to be one of the most valuable closers in baseball the rest of the way.
-Jose LeClerctook the loss in a tie game on Thursday, giving up two runs on a pair of walks and hits. For the most part, LeClerc has been very good since taking over as closer after the Rangers shook up their bullpen at the trade deadline. Looking ahead, Leclerc has an excellent shot at holding the job through the off-season and into 2020. The biggest problem LeClerc has to manage before he can once again be considered a top relief option is his tendency to walk opposing batters.
-Ryne Stanek,the flavor the week in Miami, took the blown save and loss against Washington on Friday night. Stanek recorded a save earlier this week, but with Friday's performance and Jose Urena'sreturn looming, it's probably unlikely he see many save chances moving forward.
Closer Tiers and Handcuff Rankings
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