With Spring Training winding down and opening day just 2 days away, we will be here every week updating our relief pitcher rankings, starting with closers on Tuesdays.
There haven’t been too many changes since the initial February release, but there are some new names to the closer market which led to a few movers around the list.
- No changes in the top 3, with that grouping separating from the rest of the pack in my mind. I’m expecting a big bounce-back season from Aroldis Chapman. After a shaky spring debut, he has been dominant in his last 4 appearances and should build off his September turn around.
- While both Roberto Osuna and Ken Giles were good this spring, and have as much upside as anyone else from spots 4-30, but I’m leaning more towards Osuna being the safer option after AJ Hinch suggested he wouldn’t shy away from using Giles in some non-save, high leverage situations if they were to arise. I think that may just be coach speak and don’t see it playing out, but it’s still something to remember.
- Cody Allen deserved a bump up, as I was admittedly sleeping on him a little in my earlier ranks. He is probably the safest bet in this second tier, which runs from Osuna (4) to Edwin Diaz (9).
- Similar to the Giles situation, I moved Hector Neris down a spot not because I’m all of a sudden down on him, but because Gabe Kapler hasn’t exactly sounded too committed to using him as the team’s strict 9th inning guy. He’s still one of my favorite mid-late round targets and has a safe spot in tier 3, which goes from Sean Doolittle (10) to Brandon Morrow (16).
- I’ve liked Dominic Leone a lot for some time now, and while I had a feeling he’d get save chances this year, I was not expecting them to come this early in the season. With Luke Gregerson on the DL for an uncertain amount of time, Leone should see the bulk of the save opportunities for the Cardinals to begin the year and I think there is a high probability he hangs on to the job. Tyler Lyons may get some chances, but it looks like it’s still going to be Leone’s job to lose. Tier 4 runs from Jeurys Familia (17) to Arodys Vizcaino (21).
- Brad Brach, Shane Greene, and Brad Ziegler all get a nice 4 spot bump in the ranks, strictly because they have secured their respective jobs for the start of the season. They are less than ideal RP candidates but should be able to help you out in the save category if you are desperate. Consider Tier 5 Kelvin Herrera (22) to Ziegler (26).
- Tier 6 represents the 4 teams that refuse to name a closer or have named co-closers (that’s still a thing?). Blake Parker (he has the job again…?) and Keone Kela have some nice upside with their strikeout ability, but it’s become impossible to trust anything Mike Scioscia says, even when he does name someone to the role, and the only thing we really know in Texas is that Alex Claudio probably won’t be used in the 9th inning. Brad Boxberger may (probably?) get the first chance at saves in Arizona, as the team likely prefers Archie Bradley in that “fireman” role. If Fernando Rodney could provide solid value last year, I don’t see why Boxberger can’t, especially given the fact he is basically a free add right now in most leagues. Nate Jones and Joakim Soria are co-closing for a team projected to win 68 games. If you need to choose one, I’d go with Jones.