The closer carousel is wild. Already, this early in the season, many closers have lost their jobs or faced injuries. In fantasy baseball, saves are typically hard to come by. In many leagues, every closer is owned. In this article, I’m going to highlight some of the more intriguing closer situations looming throughout baseball, and name a few players that should see some save opportunities.
The Chicago Cubs bullpen is a complete mess. Jose Veras, the team’s newly acquired closer, has looked absolutely terrible. It took Veras just four appearances to lose his job, as well as post two blown saves and a 12.27 ERA. However, he hasn’t been serving up pitches to batters. In fact, it’s the opposite. In his four appearances, Veras has only given up two hits, but he has had displayed no control; he has already walked seven hitters.
Chicago’s north siders have decided to go to a closer-by-committee system – these usually do not pan out well. I expect Pedro Strop to get the majority of save chances, and after him, they will probably fall to Hector Rondon.
The Cincinnati Reds have had a rough start to their season. Besides starting the season with a 4-8 record, they lost their All-Star closer in spring training. Lucky for them, Aroldis Chapman should be back from injury in around three to four weeks, which is remarkable considering he took a line drive to the face which required him to have a metal plate inserted into his head. Chapman threw a 25-pitch bullpen session on April 14. This is a huge step in the right direction.
Jonathan Broxton has just returned from his own DL stint; he will serve as the team’s closer until Chapman is ready. Broxton is available in most ESPN Fantasy Baseball leagues and could help a team in the save category while Chapman heals.
On Opening Day, the Milwaukee Brewers surprised most fantasy owners by bringing in Francisco Rodriguez in the ninth inning instead of the expected closer, Jim Henderson. Since being given the job, Rodriguez has been lights out. He has only given up one hit and one walk all year.
Originally, it looked as if Henderson would get his job back in a week or two, but with the stellar performance of Rodriguez, Henderson may not see a save chance until Rodriguez begins to struggle. Henderson is now owned in just 54.6% of ESPN Fantasy Baseball leagues, and may be worth a stash, especially in deeper leagues.
During the offseason, the Oakland Athletics changed closers. The team brought in Jim Johnson, an established closer who had back-to-back seasons with over 50 saves in 2012 and 2013. Johnson has struggled mightily this season; he has already posted two losses, a blown save, and an 11.81 ERA. For the time being, Johnson has been removed as the A’s closer in favor of a committee.
Over this past weekend, both Luke Gregerson and Sean Doolittle saved a game. Gregerson and Doolittle are both available in most leagues, but for now, they will most likely be sharing the role. I believe Johnson will get the closer position back, but over the next week or two, Gregerson and Doolittle are worth a look.
Boston Red Sox
Koji Uehara was dominant in the 2013 World Series for the Boston Red Sox. He’s looked good so far this season, but has faced some injuries; his most recent appearance was April 9. Luckily, the Red Sox signed former Cardinal, Edward Mujica in the offseason. Mujica spent most of last season in the closer role and was dominant, but he eventually lost his job toward the end of the year. With Uehara currently ailing, Mujica will be seeing every save opportunity that the Red Sox get.
In most fantasy baseball leagues, Mujica should be available and will serve as a good source of saves until Uehara returns. It should be noted that Uehara is 39 years old and has seen his fair share of injuries throughout his career. Fantasy owners in deep leagues should keep their eyes on Mujica throughout the season.