Week one of the fantasy baseball season certainly brough a lot of closer news. As of this writing, roughly one-third of the teams have some level of uncertainty in their closer pecking order. That's great news if you waited on saves this year, but even if you didn't, most of the pricey top-line closers are still healthy and in their roles. Nonetheless, more managers than ever appear content to let their 9th inning plans be handled by a committee. We'll touch on all of these uncertain situations below.
Around The League:
-The Rays placed right-hander Peter Fairbanks on the injured list on Friday with a rotator cuff strain and could miss up to a month. Tampa's bullpen is in a bit of disarray right now outside of closer Diego Castillo, but the silver lining is at least the job is clearly Castillo's now.
-It's also bad news for Oakland closer Trevor Rosenthal, who underwent thoracic outlet surgery on his injured shoulder, a procedure with a typical recovery time of about 3 months. Oakland manager Bob Melvin hinted that both Jake Diekman and Lou Trivino could see saves depending on the situation with Diekman seeing his work in innings with left-handed batting threats and Trivino filling in the gaps. In other words - bullpen by committee with Diekman facing the tough lefties regardless if that's the 8th inning or the 9th inning. These comments suggest that Lou Trivino might actually have the heavier share of work in a committee situation. Both players are worth picking up until the dust settles and both have enticing skillsets to provide some upside, especially since the Rosenthal will most likely be out until at least the second half.
-The Diamondbacks' bullpen is reeling - one day after closer Joakim Soria landed on the disabled list with a calf injury, Chris Devenski (who ironically got the first save chance in Soria's absence but blew it after giving up a 2-run home run) was placed on the "restricted list" with personal reasons listed as the cause. Stefan Crichton is the current favorite for saves in the desert, but his low strikeout rates, extremely high contact rates and the high number of hard hit balls allowed all raise caution flags. Tread carefully here - Devenski may still be the best speculative add despite the uncertainty of his activation from the restricted list.
-Ian Kennedy looks like the preferred closer in Texas, which makes sense since he was always the safe yet unexciting option. In the case of the Rangers, safe and unexciting is exactly what the bullpen needs after getting hit hard by the injury bug across several of its top arms. Kennedy is likely already owned in your league, but if he's still hanging around, scoop him up. Matt Bush seems like he will be the regular set-up man and should see plenty of volume for holds given the lack of depth, but in non-holds leagues, he can be dropped.
-The Cleveland Indians seem to be in fully engrossed in the close-by-committee approach after James Karinchak was called upon in the 7th inning during a high leverage situation on Thursday with Emmanuel Clase setting up and Nick Wittgren getting the save, but on Friday, it was Emmanuel Clase who converted the save in the ninth. Karinchak still has the best upside, but Clase's arm is also mighty intriguing, while Wittgren seems to have Francona's trust despite being a step below the other two in terms of talent (which also equates to him being less volatile). Put an emphasis on adding Clase this week, but if Karinchak is dropped, certainly scoop him up. Wittgren is a hold.
Castillo, but the silver lining is at least the job is clearly Castillo's now.
-Well, it might not be Jordan Romano's closing job after all. After picking up what seemed like a fluke first save of the season, Julian Merryweather was called upon to get the second straight save for the Blue Jays earlier this week. The 29 year old right-hander made his major league debut last season and so far this year, he has been electric.
-Nationals closer Brad Hand was one of several Washington players placed on the COVID list to start their season earlier this week. Daniel Hudson is the most likely candidate to see any saves until Hand is able to be activated.
-As we documented last week, it's been a rocky start for Greg Holland, who followed up his opening day failure with yet another ugly performance on Wednesday, this time leading to a Royals loss. Holland allowed a walk, 2 runs and three hits, including a home run when coming in to a tie game in the 8th inning. On the season, he has now walked 3 of the 10 batters he has faced, while striking out just 2. Jesse Hahn picked up the Royals save earlier this week, but he also gave up a 2-run home run earlier in this game. Hahn, Wade Davis, and Scott Barlow all could play a role in the 9th inning. Despite getting 3 saves last year and a save this season, Hahn's history of walks are concerning for a closer and a similar thing could be said about Wade Davis. Barlow, on the other hand, is a really exciting arm mixing a 95 MPH fastball with an 85 MPH slider and a 79 MPH curveball. He uses his fastball to set up his devastating breaking pitches, which are his bread and butter. His career swinging strike rate is 14.4%, and his called plus swinging strike rate so far this season is an impressive 36%. He's a great add, where available, regardless if he wins the closer job outright.
-It might be time to stash Yimi Garcia. Anthony Bass has now tallied two blown saves and losses, struggling with his control and giving up hard contact. Meanwhile, Garcia has been efficient and effective as the primary set-up man. He's a nice add right now in anticipation of the Marlins giving the next save opportunity to someone other than Bass.
-Kenley Jansen is off to a rough start. He blew his first save on Wednesday and he has now walked 4 batters while striking out just one. Both Blake Treinen and Corey Knebel have closing experience and both could jump in as closer as any moment. Jansen probably has enough leash to get another shot, but scooping up Treinen and Knebel now could save you a lot of FAAB money if/when a change is made. It goes without saying, but the everyday closer role for the LA Dodgers is arguably the most valuable role in fantasy baseball.
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