Closing Time 6/22: Ranking the Top 30 Closers Every Tuesday

Rick Graham ranks baseball's closers for the 2021 season.

Brad Hand’s seven saves in the month of June and twelve since May 15 are good for second in all of baseball, only trailing Craig Kimbrel, but there’s still reason to have concerns about Hand. He was in the “closers to eventually be traded” tier for some time, but the Nationals have played well as of late and might consider making a run with so many veterans on the roster. It’s also nice to see his velocity is back up this year, and the slider has proven to still be an effective pitch but can we continue to count on him to provide low ratios to go with a high save count? I’m still leaning towards we can’t, as his 4.33 xFIP (highest since 2011), .330 xwOBA (highest as a reliever), and career-low .237 BABIP indicate tough times may be ahead.

His 13.8% K-BB rate is the worst mark of his career as a reliever and is “good” for 107th out of 175 qualified relievers. His 21.4% whiff rate is also his lowest as a reliever, as hitters are not chasing his stuff anymore (21.3%). While the SwStr% rate is super low at 7.8% (ranks 170 out of 175 RP’s), he does make up for it a bit with a high CStr% (20.5%) which makes you wonder if hitters have just been too passive against Hand, especially as his Edge% is down and Meatball% is up. He’s not someone you should be looking to drop, but if you can manage to deal him while his value is this high for someone with more upside, I’d strongly consider it. We’ve also seen relievers have great seasons despite poor xStats before, so perhaps Hand will do the same.




  • Lucas Sims has become the Reds closer by default, and while Tejay Antone is expected back this week, I highly doubt Sims is in any jeopardy of losing his job, as Antone should slide back into his multi-inning setup role. Sims has allowed just one run over the past month and his 18/4 K-BB rate over those 12 innings is fantastic, but he is still allowing over a hit per inning. That number should decrease, as his .393 BABIP during that timespan is way above expected.
  • The Blue Jays still continue to proceed as if Jordan Romano is the team’s closer, however, I don’t think that’s the role they really want him in. They came into the season determined to use him in more of a fireman, versatile reliever role, however, injuries to Julian Merryweather and Rafael Dolis, plus Tyler Chatwood’s ineffectiveness have forced their hand. That should mean the job is Romano’s as long as Merryweather is still on the IL, and perhaps even longer if he continues to pitch well.


  • It’s been an interesting and confusing week in Cleveland when it comes to predicting who that team’s closer may be. Over the past week, both Emmanuel Clase and James Karinchak have pitched in five of the same contests. For the first three, Karinchak worked the eighth with Clase finishing off the game. However, the roles were swapped once again for the most recent two games, with Karinchak finishing the games in the ninth and Clase pitching in front of him. Despite the headache this may induce, I still think both pitchers will be valuable in standard mixed leagues and would list them as closer 17A and 17B, respectively.
  • Lucas Sims wasn’t the only closer to deal with a super high BABIP over the past month, as Diego Castillo’s (.409) led to a pair of losses and a 4.15 ERA. Castillo’s worst outing of the year came this past Sunday as he allowed a walk-off grand slam to Shed Long, and it marks the third home run he’s allowed since returning from the IL in mid-May. Since the start of the 2020 season, Castillo ranks fifth amongst all relievers with more than 25 IP in HR/FB rate with a 21.6% mark. Typically a groundball pitcher, this number is only slightly concerning, and besides the HR rate, Castillo has been and should continue to be one of the more dominant late-inning relievers in all of baseball.


  • Jake McGee seems to be back as the Giants top closing option, bumping Tyler Rogers into a setup/alternate closer role. McGee has only allowed one earned run over his past 11.2 innings, and while the whiff rate is down significantly from last season (34.2% to 23.4%), he’s still been able to strike out over a batter per inning. As long as he continues to limit walks and miss barrels, McGee should be a steady closer option.
  • In Minnesota, Tyler’s brother Taylor Rogers remains in a committee with Hansel Robles, however, it looks like Rogers is the favorite for saves, at least on days where both of them are available to pitch. This is probably the best option, as Rogers is and has been the team’s most valuable reliever and provides the highest floor as well as ceiling.


  • Kendall Graveman finally returned from the COVID-19 IL last week, but he doesn’t look like the same dominant reliever we saw earlier in the season. Graveman’s velocity has been down since returning from the IL, which may explain some of the issues he’s been having. He only has a total of three whiffs over the past four games, none of which were produced by his slider.
  • Everyone in tier five is expected to be moved by the trade deadline with the exception of Paul Fry who may be out as the Orioles closer anyway following Saturday’s disaster. Ian Kennedy returned to the Rangers last week and has looked fine in his first three games back, despite not picking up any saves. Greg Holland was the last Royals reliever to record a save so he is on the list this week, but it’s really a situation to best avoid.


Rank Pitcher Change
1Josh HaderT1-
2Liam Hendriks-
3Aroldis Chapman-
4Edwin Díaz
5Ryan Pressly-
6Craig Kimbrel-
7Matt Barnes-
8Kenley Jansen-
9Raisel Iglesias
10Will Smith-
11Héctor Neris-
12Alex Reyes-
13Lucas Sims+2
14Mark Melancon-1
15Brad Hand+6
16Jordan Romano
17James Karinchak-
18Diego Castillo-2
19Jake McGee+UR
20Taylor Rogers+UR
21Kendall Graveman-3
22Lou Trivino+1
23Daniel Bard
24Ian Kennedy+UR
25Yimi García-5
26Richard Rodríguez-4
27Michael Fulmer+1
28Paul Fry-3
30Stefan Crichton


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Photo by All-Pro Reels (https://www.flickr.com/photos/joeglo/) | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

Rick Graham

Rick resides in the Boston area and has experience as a player and coach at the collegiate level. He has been covering relievers for Pitcher List since 2017.

6 responses to “Closing Time 6/22: Ranking the Top 30 Closers Every Tuesday”

  1. Simsbad says:

    you think Detroit is wanting to move Fulmer? also I think Romano is used whenever they want him and not specifically in the 9th. but either way I think Blue Jays trade for a closer Merryweather retakes the role.

    • Rick Graham says:

      He has one year of arbitration left but Detroit may try to sell next month when his value is high given his injury history. I’d agree with you on Toronto but I don’t think they are definitely going to be buyers.

  2. theKraken says:

    I never understand why Kenley isn’t tier 1. Only Hader and Aroldis even compete with him over a long enough timeline. Kenley is the only value at the position – the rest is either an overpay or speculation.

  3. PitcherList Superfan says:

    Hi Rick, with the news that Jose Alvarado is now the closer for the Phillies, where would he slide into these rankings? Thanks!

    • Rick Graham says:

      Around the mid-20’s I think

      • Hitter List SuperFan says:

        Thank you for such a quick reply kind sir, you da real mvp. My worst closer by ranking is Bard (Diaz, Smith, Graveman, Bard), so now I’m not sweating and stressing over if I should drop Bard for Alvarado.

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