RotoWire Partners

Collette Calls: NL Closers in Waiting

Jason Collette

Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999 at RotoJunkie, Fanball, Baseball Prospectus and now here at RotoWire. He covers the Tampa Bay Rays at You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Towers of Power Baseball Hour Podcast on iTunes. He was selected as the Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year by FSWA in 2013.

We mostly know the closers in the National League. We also know that closers lose their role 30-35 percent of the time year after year, so speculating on who might be next in line helps in-season, especially if you roster those guys in the end game or even the reserve rounds. Let's look at each of the team bullpens in the National League (AL was last week) to see who may be the guy based on skills. We'll include the current closer in the numbers for context.

These were the league totals for relief pitchers in 2015 for the statistics below:

K-BB%K%BB%FB%HR/FB%Z-Contact%Swinging-Strike%First-Pitch Strike%


Jim Johnson29110177211190861
Jason Grilli14025327475791561
Arodys Vizcaino13917279373871258
Ian Krol12972013321591856
Andrew McKirahan1299178221088958
Bud Norris1231626103316841160
Matt Marksberry1085191541790956
Daniel Burawa5411209272089963
Jose Ramirez52-10101944081862

Jason Grilli is the safest statistical skillset of the bunch, but he's also very old and is coming back from a torn Achilles' tendon. He has also likely been Wally Pipp'd because Vizcaino looked good in the role once Grilli went down. That said, a low first-strike percentage and a HR/FB ratio that is bound to regress to a norm with just an average walk rate is concerning. There is no third option because Johnson is way too hittable these days to work in those situations and nobody else in the bullpen misses enough bats.


Jeremy Jeffress285162481815841156
Will Smith26425359399841560
Michael Blazek22213218346881163
Corey Knebel209202883120881058
Tyler Thornburg15115238411788961
David Goforth111142272819871363
Tyler Cravy5014241032087852

There are two clear choices in Milwaukee: Jeffress and Smith. In Jeffress, you have a pitcher who generates a ton of groundballs and misses bats while struggling with consistency within the strikezone. On the other side, you have Smith who misses even more bats, but puts more balls in play in the air. Back in the day, righties tended to get the job over lefties, but those days are over. Smith is the safest play, but with Milwaukee projecting to be rebuilding this season, the team could move one for future needs. Teams don't rebuild around bullpens.


Kevin Siegrist312182911485821064
Trevor Rosenthal28720299355821257
Seth Maness27012175251489967
Jonathan Broxton257162592816851260
Miguel Socolovich12514228353781167
Mitchell Harris12221211411190970
Tyler Lyons7222253392089961
Samuel Tuivailala651931123217831160

The incumbent has nearly everything we want out of closers. He misses bats, has a good K-BB%, has a good swinging-strike rate, but falls behind early in counts and his walk rate is right at league average. If he slips, the Cardinals do have other options. Broxton has experience and it is unlikely he allows as many homers in 2016 and still misses bats at a good rate. Siegrist has shown some potential for high-leverage situations and misses more bats than fellow lefty Lyons does.


Hector Rondon28119255278881164
Pedro Strop2701930112911811758
Travis Wood235193012404831160
Justin Grimm2042033133012861459
Adam Warren14120266288811065
Trevor Cahill127172471919881061
Zac Rosscup1181425114017861358
Spencer Patton1091526114020811152
Clayton Richard108813514888764
Neil Ramirez60152510446861252

Rondon has a lock on this job. While the skills are not elite, they're good, especially his ability to throw strikes. There's a lot of swing-and-miss talent in this bullpen, so a few guys could step up if needed. The pitcher I want to have on my roster in NL leagues for swing/vulture value is Warren. Those skills are really nice, and he could end up producing some good value as a pitcher who could both relieve and spot start.


Andrew Chafin3069191023692854
Randall Delgado293142411419811362
Daniel Hudson276162483610801357
Brad Ziegler2637147141190859
Josh Collmenter208814742889758
Enrique Burgos121203212398821555
Dominic Leone74012123311831162
Matt Reynolds621829114735741661
Evan Marshall6131282227841361
Keith Hessler57142174422831063
Silvino Bracho50263485713731552

Ziegler is the closer, but the skills do not back it up. He does keep the ball on the ground, but batters make a lot of contact against him and he doesn't miss many bats. Groundballs become base hits at a higher rather than flyballs, but he limits the hard contact and has held batters to a sub-.240 batting average for four consecutive seasons. The guy that intrigues me in this pen is Hudson. The skills looked good coming off multiple surgeries, and the stuff looked better out of the pen than it did the rotation. He's a safer play than Burgos who has a lot of swing and miss, but also has a lot of missing the strike zone.


Joe Blanton23022275309851464
Luis Avilan220162273113831464
Yimi Garcia21526315569771564
Pedro Baez20824295447761566
Kenley Jansen200364045410751770
J.P. Howell19013217249921059
Chris Hatcher166192783910801360
Adam Liberatore122162473710811065
Ian Thomas81922142814811265

In my best Derek Zoolander voice, this is a really, really, really good bullpen. For seriously. Just imagine if they had landed Aroldis Chapman! Jansen has the closer job on lock down with his stuff, but there are plenty of skills to go around this bullpen with both Garcia and Baez posting strong rates as well. Blanton is the shocker, as he was decent with Kansas City but then was blessed with the Searge Sauce in Pittsburgh and looked even better. A "$1 Joe Blanton" bid in a NL league may draw chuckles in the auction, but it may also turn a profit by season's end as he stands to vulture some wins in middle relief or as a spot starter.


George Kontos284111643511891059
Santiago Casilla244162593013891057
Sergio Romo23027314327761770
Hunter Strickland19121265408781465
Javier Lopez1477181118588960
Josh Osich120162374211821757
Mike Broadway778179405861165

The best, or even second-best statistical option in this pen does not have the closer role. The role belongs to Casilla, but the Giants have two less-hittable options in Romo and Strickland who could do the job. Romo has done it before, and had a bounceback year last year where he dominated in the second half of the season after stinking for a lot of the first half. In fact, you can take those stats above, remove the name, and he's likely one of the most attractive relievers in the National League. For that reason, I'm throwing a buck or two on him at the end of an auction because Casilla is the type of skillset that loses the job in-season when management gets antsy.


A.J. Ramos27722319409821659
Bryan Morris2778179227881264
Mike Dunn2351528123911801358
Edwin Jackson2288189377891154
Brad Hand1511319727388960
Carter Capps118434963911682566
Brian Ellington1055171244385853
Kyle Barraclough98123118425761548
Jose Urena73010103610841056

There are two names to focus on here: Ramos and Capps. Ramos has everything you want in a closer and should not be in any danger of losing his job. That said, he has a dominating shadow looming over in the form of the dominating Capps, who misses bats like no other pitcher in baseball. The Marlins are anything but predictable and could decide to move Ramos at peak value for some art work and a picture to be named later to Loria's collection. Capps needs to be rostered because of his potential if an opportunity arises. Think of him as this year's Ken Giles.


Jeurys Familia308222862214851661
Addison Reed2411321839588957
Antonio Bastardo239162711516751562
Hansel Robles217202884912781260
Sean Gilmartin21616248342841263
Erik Goeddel13219267393841352
Logan Verrett102122083811871270

We all know about Familia, and Reed's name is familiar to us, but we should be worshiping Hansel Robles, man. The HR/FB issue was there last year, but he misses bats with regularity and is tough to square up within the strike zone. If you're looking for a dirt-cheap option for value out of this pen, Robles is your model. The rest can be put on the clearance rack.


Yusmeiro Petit289152054710871062
Blake Treinen2801223111515901159
Jonathan Papelbon260172253511831266
Shawn Kelley20523317389811573
Trevor Gott202613826591656
Felipe Rivero18917236335831162
Tanner Roark18812186271391859
Oliver Perez18320288409841366
Aaron Barrett12323296334871468
Sammy Solis9414184348821054
Matt Grace847171018095652
Rafael Martin56364594040751771

Papelbon has apparently survived the offseason as Drew Storen was the one traded. That said, it is not as if Papelbon doesn't have to look over his shoulder. You can cross off Barrett as he will be rehabbing from Tommy John Surgery, but Kelley's numbers at least deserve the first crack at the closer role should the Nationals do something with Papelbon. Even without saves, he has some value in deeper NL Only leagues.


Fernando Rodney2771121113216801060
Carlos Villanueva25014228399861263
Kevin Quackenbush24316248361084960
Brandon Maurer20612197307851262
Drew Pomeranz16719288329781362
Nick Vincent100122210400861063
Jon Edwards75829216816791255
Cory Mazzoni536159153393677

This is not going to be a pretty situation this season. Rodney was acquired to be the closer, but he didn't last all 2015 and is unlikely to last all 2016 either as he is too charitable with baserunners. The issue is, he doesn't have a clear replacement. Quackenbush isn't without his own flaws and if anything, Pomeranz has the best case for the job based on skills. He's better against lefties, but he's still not bad against righties either. There's some potential hidden profit there as his K/9 has increased four consecutive seasons.


Jeanmar Gomez3191016529689862
Luis Garcia304921121513871252
Hector Neris170182464715821452
Elvis Araujo151102313313841256
David Hernandez144152384215871055
Dalier Hinojosa102122311404841055
Vincent Velasquez75172793911801259

So, um, yeaaaa, this is going to be a tough one to figure out, mkay. If the Phillies could figure out one option and stick with it, that would be great. David Hernandez would be the assumed favorite out of the gate, but the home-run risks are real and always have been with him. Good luck figuring this one out, but there's profit here because someone is going to get these saves even though it looks rather bleak on paper.


Arquimedes Caminero318142392912821362
Tony Watson29315216325831266
Mark Melancon29316215238871263
Jared Hughes2846137198871061
Juan Nicasio251132613332821162
Neftali Feliz21210189379871058
Rob Scahill14261711191689963
Ryan Vogelsong921120932592760

Focus on the top three names on the list. Note how very little differentiates their skills. While Melancon has been a save closer for nearly three seasons and is coming off a 51-save season, It's tough to overlook the numbers Waton and Caminero have put up, especially Watson. His fastball grades out one of the better ones in the league in terms of pitch values and Melancon is getting into that financial area where Pittsburgh tends to move a pitcher. Watson is a solid end-game investment who can turn a profit while Caminero is the reserve-round stash in deep NL leagues who could be the vulture.


J.J. Hoover264820124010821153
Jumbo Diaz255202873516781460
Tony Cingrani138926173412821251
Carlos Contreras125-11516468891149
Brandon Finnegan1081023132121861055
Caleb Cotham45222423436901069

Many have anointed Hoover as the new closer in Cincy, and I simply ask -- why? That skillset is not one of a good closer, but the big-man Diaz has the best skills on paper. He has a longball problem and issues against lefties, but does miss bats better than anyone else in that pen and throws strikes. This, like Philly, is going to be messy so steal saves where you can because they're highly unlikely to come from a single source.


Scott Oberg25951712282188955
Christian Bergman2119145371189767
Jason Motte2061117547691668
Chad Qualls202182352517901265
Boone Logan168162610388801561
Jake McGee14727335467771262
Justin Miller12921309397791462
Miguel Castro831022124317901158
Jairo Diaz78152382614911158

Adam Ottavino is coming back around mid-year, so he could take back the job that was given to him just before he was shut down for the season. McGee likely has the job to start the season, but the Rockies would be wise to move him at peak value as Ottavino comes back and not fall into the trap the Reds did with Aroldis Chapman last season. Trading a player the winter before their free-agent year is tough because the team loses a lot of leverage and there's not much chance the team signs him to a long-term deal even though Denver puts him closer to his home near Reno. In an ideal world, Ottavino is ready to come back prior to the trade deadline and the job. If he isn't, in a small sample size, Justin Miller's numbers looked really good across the board and is the pitcher who intrigues me as the sleeper value in this bullpen over the more well-known Motte.