by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
We are over two months into the season so there have obviously been changes to our rankings (and no position has proven more volatile than closers in ’17). Who has shown signs of improving? Who has struggled and thus has a cloudier outlook? Let’s take a look at how things currently stand (the number in parenthesis is their ranking and previous tier):
Tier 1 – The Elite
1. Kenley Jansen – Los Angeles Dodgers (1 – 1)
2. Craig Kimbrel – Boston Red Sox (2 – 1)
- When Aroldis Chapman returns he will rejoin this tier, but until then it remains a two-man battle for the best closer in baseball. Amazingly you can argue Kimbrel for the top spot (55 K vs. 5 BB), so consider this more of a 1 and 1a ranking.
Tier 2 – The Nearly Elite
3. Roberto Osuna – Toronto Blue Jays (6 -3)
4. Greg Holland – Colorado Rockies (3 – 2)
5. Wade Davis – Chicago Cubs (4 – 2)
- Roberto Osuna got off to a slow start, but after opening the season on the DL and shaking off the rust he’s been making a push to be considered an elite closer. As it is he has 33 K vs. 2 BB and he posted an impressive 1.42 ERA and 0.71 WHIP in May (he’s opened June with a 2.08 ERA and 0.46 WHIP). While he may not have as many saves as Greg Holland, it’s easy to argue that he’s the better reliever.
Tier 3 – Knocking On The Elite Door
6. Edwin Diaz – Seattle Mariners (NR)
7. Alex Colome – Tampa Bay Rays (9 – 3)
8. Corey Knebel – Milwaukee Brewers (14 – 4)
9. Raisel Iglesias – Cincinnati Reds (15 – 4)
10. Delin Betances – New York Yankees (11 – 3)
11. David Robertson – Chicago White Sox (7 – 3)
12. Cody Allen – Cleveland Indians (5 – 2)
13. Ken Giles – Houston Astros (8 – 3)
- Colome is worth monitoring, as he is going to be mentioned in trade speculation and he also has been a little bit more hittable in recent appearances. There’s no cause for concern and he continues to establish himself among the best relievers in the league, just keep an eye on him just in case.
- Both Raisel Igleasias and Corey Knebel are quickly emerging as Top 10 options and closers who may never relinquish their roles (there shouldn’t be a concern over Iglesias’ recent poor performance). The biggest question facing Knebel is his control (4.60 BB/9), though it’s amazing what elite strikeout stuff can do to overcome that issue. With a 16.37 K/9 and no signs of slowing down, he’s easily emerging as a borderline elite reliever.
- Allen has had some issues in terms of base runners, currently sporting a 1.42 WHIP. That’s going to drop him in the rankings, though there’s reason to believe in a rebound given his .400 BABIP (18.0% line drive rate). Don’t be surprised to see him rising back towards Tier 2 by the time the next set of rankings are released, though he does need to start posting some clean innings to get there.
Tier 4 – Solid Option, With Significant Upside
14. Mark Melancon – San Francisco Giants (10 – 3)
15. Kelvin Herrera – Kansas City Royals (12 – 4)
16. Seung Hwan Oh – St. Louis Cardinals (19 – 4)
17. Addison Reed – New York Mets (16 – 4)
18. Justin Wilson – Detroit Tigers (18 – 4)
19. Bud Norris – Los Angeles Angels (17 – 4)
20. Matt Bush – Texas Rangers (13 – 4)
- While Kelvin Herrera has had his issues of late, he still owns a 9.95 K/9 and 1.78 BB/9. He also has been plagued by home runs (2.49 HR/9), something that’s not been characteristic for his career (0.75 HR/9 for his career). While he remains suppressed a little bit on the rankings, he has Tier 3 written all over him once he gets things going.
- Would anyone have predicted Bud Norris would pitch this well in the closer’s role? Even if Cam Bedrosian had returned without a setback, it would’ve been hard for the Angels to pull Norris from the role. That’s what happens when you are showing strikeouts (11.53 K/9) and enough groundballs (44.1%). He’s not going to be elite, but he’s going to remain a solid option for now.
Tier 5 – Solid, Though Unspectacular
21. Felipe Rivero – Pittsburgh Pirates (NR)
22. Jim Johnson – Atlanta Braves (21 – 5)
23. Brandon Kintzler – Minnesota Twins (24 – 5)
24. Hector Neris – Philadelphia Phillies (23 – 5)
25. Brad Brach – Baltimore Orioles (25 – 6)
26. Fernando Rodney – Arizona Diamondbacks (28 – 6)
27. A.J. Ramos – Miami Marlins (20 – 4)
- Felipe Rivero has the makings of a tremendous option, as he’s thrived in a setup role and picked up a pair of four out saves since Tony Watson has been removed as closer. We’ll have to wait and see if he can maintain it, but don’t be surprised to see Rivero jump two tiers once he proves he can handle the role.
- We all want to dislike Fernando Rodney, but it’s hard to argue with how well he’s been pitching of late. In fact he hasn’t allowed an earned run since the calendar turned to May (12.2 IP), though his control continues to be unspectacular (6 BB) and his fly ball rate has been rising (43.5% in May, 50.0% to open June). It’s been a nice run, but don’t be surprised when the numbers go south in a hurry.
- J. Ramos has name appeal, but he’s struggled with his control (5.66 BB/9) and home runs allowed (1.31 HR/9). That’s not a good combination, and if the Marlins had a suitable replacement there would be speculation about a change. For now he’s safe, but there are obvious concerns.
Tier 6 – Closers In Name, But Hard To Trust
28. Santiago Casilla – Oakland A’s (26 – 6)
29. Brandon Maurer – San Diego Padres (27 – 6)
Committees Currently Excluded
Sources – Fangraphs, ESPN
Make sure to check out all of our updated rankings:
|First Base||June 3|
|Second Base||June 5|