With Spring Training winding down and opening day just two days away, we will be here every week updating our relief pitcher rankings, starting with closers on Tuesdays.
Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a ton of clarity in regards to closer competitions around the league since the initial February release, but there was still enough news in the past weeks to lead to some changes to the list.
For the most part, the top half of the group stays intact, with one exception. Corey Knebel is going to begin the year on the IL and there’s a very good chance he is going to miss the entire year with a UCL sprain. With Jeremy Jeffress also starting the year on the IL, that leaves Josh Hader as the primary beneficiary for saves, because who else can they really trust in that bullpen right now? It might be short-lived, as the team’s rumored to be talking to Craig Kimbrel, but for now, this bumps Hader’s stock up a tick and still leaves Jeffress as an interesting stash if you have an IL spot available.
Moving further down the list, the Giants have yet to announce who their closer will be, but I have to believe it’s going to be Will Smith. Mark Melancon doesn’t seem to have much left in the tank at this point, while Smith out-pitched him this spring.
Alex Colome has been announced as the closer for the White Sox, which shouldn’t come as much surprise. He should be a solid source of saves while not completely destroying your ratios until he gets moved at the trade deadline.
Jordan Hicks is the favorite to see the bulk of the save chances in St. Louis, but despite the unlimited upside, we should still temper expectations. He has the job, he has elite stuff and velocity and he’s working on a new changeup which really isn’t fair. However, I still worry about whether he can fully command any of these pitches. He still has to prove last year’s K rate wasn’t a fluke and he has plenty of competition if he should falter early on. I want to believe in the skills, I’m just not ready to fully commit to a breakout just yet.
With AJ Minter beginning the season on the IL, Arodys Vizcaino is the only closer option left on the opening day roster for the Braves. I’m not a big Vizcaino backer and think Minter can steal the job away from him when he returns, but the real question here is why hasn’t Craig Kimbrel signed yet? A reunion makes too much sense.
Owning a Phillies reliever in a saves only league will likely be a huge headache throughout the year. I could see no one topping 25 saves, as Kapler mixes and matches nine relievers in the ninth all season. I still think David Robertson and Seranthony Dominguez carry mixed league value, but the timeshare will limit either from reaching their true upside.
Greg Holland will, somewhat surprisingly, be the Diamondbacks closer on opening day. He’s worth a look for now if you’re desperate for saves, but don’t be afraid to drop early on in the season if he continues to struggle.
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire.