In most years, slow news weeks for closers is usually seen as a good thing. Unfortunately, in years where there are more bullpens in committee than concrete closers, slow news weeks are both frustrating and unsettling. As far as 2019, this season has ultimately fallen into the latter category.
Just because there's uncertainty around many of the situations, that doesn't mean you have to focus all of your attention on those teams. In fact, it may actually be more lucrative to be proactive on situations where there's already an established closer, albeit one that is struggling (looking at you, Jose LeClerc). Stay vigilant on the wire and don't be afraid to be aggressive. Many times you're going to swing and miss, but the cost of acquisition is much lower on these pitchers before they appear in the mix for saves.
Around the League:
-The Seattle Mariners have yet to name Anthony Swarzak as the official closer, but it seems his role is getting cemented by subtraction. On Wednesday, Swarzak was forced to pitch in he 8th inning as the team allowed Roenis Elias to get the save. He did manage to convert, but not before loading the bases. On Thursday, both Elias and Swarzak got the day off while rookie Conner Sadzeck got the call. As long as the Mariners are winning, there's no reason for the team to be rushed to make a firm decision in the 9th inning, but the important thing to remember is Swarzak has consistently been the pitcher used in the most critical situations, so he remains the best best for saves from the bullpen.
-Raisel Iglesias finally recorded his first save of the season and given the poor performance of the rest of the pitchers in that bullpen, it's possible Iglesias could see more save chances moving forward. With that said, former top prospect Robert Stephenson is off to a nice start with a 35% strikeout rate and 5% walk rate, while converted starting pitcher Amir Garrett has yet to allow a run while striking out 40% of the batters he has faced with an 18% SwStr% and a 62% contact rate.
-The Phillies bullpen carousel is in full rotation with Seranthony Dominguez, Hector Neris and Edubray Ramos all getting save opportunities over the last week. Neris has been the most effective pitcher, recently, and certainly appears like he's ready to try to reclaim the job that was his at the beginning of last season. Neris was sent down on June 30th last season, but dating back to his call-up on August 15th, Neris has posted a 46% strikeout rate and 8% walk rate, supported by his 19% SwStr% and 63% f-strike%. Those aren't just numbers that are good enough to close in Philadephia, they're good enough to make Neris one of the best closers in the league, if he won a job outright. If he's still available on your waiver wire, he's a smart add.
-Up until Thursday, it was a relatively smooth season for Ken Giles as he locked down 3 saves with relative ease before allowing 2 runs on 3 walks and 2 hits in his first blown save. There's no reason for Giles owners to panic, especially with only Joe Biagnini and Tim Mayza behind him. The control shouldn't be an on-going concern for Giles as his 67% f-strike% and 35% chase rate aren't usually in a profile of a pitcher that struggles with control.
-Brad Boxberger got another save opportunity after Ian Kennedy pitched in 2 of the last 3 games and proceeded to blow the save. Boxberger can safely be dropped in most leagues, but with the Royals sitting at 3-10, there's little reason for optimism for any pitcher in this bullpen.
-Ryan Brasier saved his third game on Friday with Matt Barnes pitching in the 7th. It looks like Brasier is pulling away with the job at the same time the Red Sox seem to be getting back on track. Prepare for take-off, ladies and gentleman! Brasier is an interesting small-sample case study because his 15% swinging strike rate and 36% chase rate are elite, yet they haven't translated to strikeouts (just a 22% strikeout rate). Brasier is a must-add.
-Jose LeClerc hit a pair of speed bumps this week after blowing a save on Tuesday and getting pulled from the game on Wednesday after loading the bases. In 5 innings of work, LeClerc is sporting a 3:2 strikeout-to-walk rate after posting a 38% strikeout rate in 2018. LeClerc's Swtr% is down all the way to below 5%. It's only been 23 battrs faced, but pair it with his struggles and it's definitely a concern. Chris Martin and Jake Diekman remain the best handcuffs here.
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