It seemed like justification awaited those who drafted Hector Neris ahead of embattled Jeanmar Gomez when rumors surfaced about the Phillies potentially making a change at the closer position. However, the team not only made fantasy owners run to the waiver wire during the afternoon on Monday, but they also needed to target another wily veteran with closer experience rather than the perceived high upside of Neris. This will be covered in more detail below.
While most cringe when they see their closer pitching in a non-save outing due to the lack of high leverage which closers need to succeed, two more succumbed to a rough inning at Coors Field. Kenley Jansen entered Sunday’s game in which the Dodgers led by six runs and proceeded to give up 2 runs on 3 hits with a strikeout. On Monday, the Padres trotted out Brandon Maurer with a 5-1 lead only to watch Maurer give up a two-run home run to Mark Reynolds.
Just a note to managers, please stop. Thanks, the fantasy community.
Now to the relevant closer situations to monitor along with a couple of relievers to stash for future returns.
- A change was Neris….
All puns aside, most speculated on Hector Neris being named the closer, but there’s more to Joaquin Benoit being named closer than appears on the surface. First, Neris’ value as a reliever who can record outs in multiple innings may keep him from the closer role this year, not his pending future arbitration value. As for Benoit, who will turn 40 in July, fantasy owners will hope the Blue Jays version and not the Mariners one shows up for the Phillies in the near-term.
Benoit battled a shoulder injury in Seattle and never seemed to find his stride. During a fresh start with Toronto and in the throes of playoff contention, he finished with a 0.38 ERA in 24.1 innings to salvage his season totals last year. Fantasy owners would be wise to plan on his 2.81 FIP with the Blue Jays along with his 1.10 WHIP as a baseline for future results as the Phillies closer. Hope lies in the veteran’s increased strikeout percentage over the last three seasons, but be cognizant of his average workload during these years of 55-plus innings.
Whether its a trade or another change in the future, fantasy owners may want to stash Edubray Ramos or Joely Rodriguez as potential replacements when Benoit’s time as the closer ends. With this being said, if Jeanmar Gomez can finish with 37 saves for the team a year ago, getting a cheap 30 from Benoit does not seem out of the realm of possibility; just note his career-best of 24 in 2013 with the Tigers.
- More tea leaves with Bob Melvin….
This will be brief as the Oakland bullpen seems to be settling in. Sean Doolittle and Santiago Casilla struck out the side to preserve the win for the A’s in Kansas City on Monday night. Due to the Royals lining up Mike Moustakas along with Eric Hosmer in the ninth inning, Doolittle pitched the ninth inning to offset the Royals left-handed hitters.
Those who invested in Casilla need to be encouraged by his strong start and the strikeouts on Monday night reinforce he’s throwing the baseball well. But this will be a timeshare as advertised; having Casilla or Doolittle will not kill a fantasy team deploying either reliever as a third option for saves. It’s also worth noting Doolittle’s struck out seven of the 11 batters he’s faced to start the year. Impressive.
- Epic meltdown in Seattle….
When a team leads by six runs or more since 2011, their record sat at 2529-1 — until Sunday. Seattle’s back slide started with Casey Fien giving up 2 hits, 2 walks and 4 earned run before ceding to Edwin Diaz. But Diaz, whose lights-out 2016 did come with some bumps in the road in September, only put fuel on the fire with a lack of command and walked 2 hitters along with giving up 3 hits, including the eventual game-winner to Kole Calhoun.
While Edwin Diaz should be given plenty of rope by the Mariners, his owners may need to add a handcuff in the event things trend badly moving forward. Keep Dan Altavilla in mind with his 8 strikeouts in 18 total batters faced. He does own a 1.50 WHIP right now but pitched well during his promotion last season. Keeper-league players may need to monitor the pending return of Tony Zych, whose profile would be more suited for high -everage innings as the season progresses. There’s nothing imminent, but be aware. Diaz needs to rein in his control. Through 3.2 innings this year, he’s already issued 3 walks. Traffic does not equal effective closing.
- Two potential stashes…..
It’s difficult not to notice how well Archie Bradley’s transitioning to the bullpen. Through two appearances, Bradley’s recorded 8 strikeouts in 5.1 innings of work with only 1 walk allowed. It remains to be seen if the Diamondbacks will continue to use him in high-leverage situations, but Bradley entered Sunday’s game with two runners on base and zero outs. He not only quelled the rally, but looked very good in the process. His strikeout-minus-walk percentage this season sits at 33.3 percent in the small sample — impressive once again. Also, take a look at his velocity spike as a reliever, in this chart courtesy of BrooksBaseball.net:
In the American League, fantasy owners should keep an eye or stash Joe Jimenez of the Tigers where applicable. Although Jimenez will be a work in progress, his strong showing in the WBC along with excellent numbers in the minors point to his upside. In 143.1 career innings in the minor leagues, Jimenez recorded a 1.57 ERA with 53 saves in 58 chances, a 0.87 WHIP and 207:42 K:BB rate. While the team maintains he will be eased into high-leverage, there’s room for him to ascend to the 7th inning quickly and to team with Justin Wilson as the top set-up tandem for the team moving forward.
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Statistical Credits: BaseballSavant.com, BrooksBaseball.net, MLB.com, Fangraphs.com, Baseball-Reference.com