2021 Closer Tiers

Closers are a mess this year. Sure, that was probably last year’s intro (well, I didn’t do this article, but I definitely commented about how 2020’s pool was a mess, too) and 2019’s and perhaps even 2018’s as managers have become smarter with reliever usage meaning they will use their best guys in the highest leverage situations more often as opposed to just saving them for the ninth. This presents an interesting conundrum wherein I appreciate the usage on a baseball level because it is absolutely the right way to manage a bullpen, but I hate it from a fantasy perspective because it adds more uncertainty to an already volatile part of our game.

The Tampa Bay Rays are obviously the gold standard here. Is “gold standard” the right phrase for this? Do you want to be the gold standard for pissing off fantasy managers? Let’s be honest, they don’t care and they definitely shouldn’t, they are just trying to get wins. Anyway, the Rays have set the bar here and other teams are following suit because frankly it works. I don’t subscribe to the idea that literally anyone can close, but I also realize that many more relievers are cut out for it than the consensus believed 5+ years ago when many more teams had a locked in 9th-inning guy.

Nick Anderson has a case as the very best reliever in baseball and yet he notched just six saves in 2020 with Diego Castillo getting four and 10 other relievers getting 1-2. In 11 of his 19 appearances, the Rays deployed Anderson in the 7th or 8th inning with the remaining eight being in the 9th or later (didn’t pitch until the 10th in one game and actually took the loss). No other team is as extreme as Tampa Bay, but there are a few assumed closers heading into 2021 who could get the Anderson treatment and their ranking will reflect that.

Jump to any Tier:

TIER 1 – THE STUDS

The ever-dwindling list of bona fide locked in stud closers who you expect to hold the job all year and be among the leaders in saves and reliever strikeouts while also offering tremendous ratios.

Liam Hendriks (RH) | CWS

I gave him the top spot over a certain long-haired lefty because he has markedly better walk and home run rates in 12 more innings since 2019. The only reason he is behind in saves is because Blake Treinen started the 2019 season in the role for Oakland before Hendriks took over. The added velo at the start of 2019 has turned the 32-year righty into a bona fide stud and the White Sox agreed when they paid him handsomely this offseason.

Next Up: Aaron Bummer (LH), Garrett Crochet (LH), Matt Foster (RH), Codi Heuer (RH)

Any of these four could be a monster if anything were to happen to Hendriks, but it would likely require an injury as his leash will be very long barring a complete meltdown.

Josh Hader (LH) | MIL

Moving him from the top spot may seem like an overreaction to the 19 innings in 2020, but I am more concerned about the home runs than the walks (13% in ’20) as his 1.4 HR/9 in 2020 was actually an improvement from the 1.8 mark in 2019. The crazy thing about Hader is that he is so good at missing bats and limiting hits (well, when they aren’t connecting for a homer) that he only falls the #2.

Next Up: Devin Williams (RH)

It is hard to see Hader losing the job outright unless he developed a hit issue out of nowhere (career 4.4 H/9) so despite having one of the best “Next Ups” behind him, he is still super secure. Williams is still all formats viable because of his excellent strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP plus the occasional save when matchups merit a righty over the lefty.

Aroldis Chapman (LH) | NYY

The slow evaporation of his velo hasn’t really hurt him. After four straight seasons averaging 100+ on his heater (2014-17), he dipped to 98.9 in 2018 and has lost a smidge more in the next two seasons (98.4, 98.1), but you wouldn’t know it with the performance: 2.40 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 41% K in 120 IP. Compare that to 2.05 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 42% K in 229 IP from 2014-17.

Next Up: Zack Britton (LH)

This is very niche but could help you squeeze out an extra save or two. Chapman is suspended for the first two games of the season so Britton will likely be the go-to guy to start the season against Toronto. Obviously, the games would have to create some save opportunities for this to payoff, but it is something to consider with your last reserve pick especially because you can then cut Britton on that Sunday (the season starts on Thursday) and pick up someone else for the first full week of the season.

TIER 2 – THE STANDOUT GEMS

These guys are just cut below the top tier. A few of them will perform like their Tier 1 colleagues, but for one reason or another they fall just short of instilling that same confidence. Confidence in them being unchallenged in the role, health, and/or performance at some point recently fuels the minor trepidation, but you still feel pretty good about locking them in.

Ryan Pressly (RH) | HOU

Houston gets a lot of credit for Pressly’s breakout and while they no doubt aided it, he started turning the corner into a dominant reliever in the first half of 2018 with Minnesota prior to his trade. The departure of Roberto Osuna gives Pressly a clear shot at his first full season in the closer’s role and the Houston bullpen doesn’t exactly have anyone knocking on the door behind Pressly. He doesn’t even have to be at his best to maintain the role.

Next Up: Pedro Baez (RH)

The 33-year-old came over from the Dodgers this offseason and seems like the next man up especially since Josh James requires 6-8 mos. recovery from his late-October hip surgery. Enoli Paredes and Luis Garcia are darkhorse candidates to emerge if anything were to happen with Pressly.

Edwin Díaz (RH) | NYM

I feel like there’s this perception that Diaz continued to struggle in 2020 after the disastrous 2019, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It isn’t the prevailing notion, but there are enough people out there who believe it that it depresses his fantasy price a bit even though he was truly excellent in his second season as a Met.

He did start out a bit shaky, blowing his second save chance via the home run and getting beat up again the very next outing (1 ER in 0.3 IP on 1 H and 2 BB). However, from that point on he put up a 1.16 ERA and WHIP with a 46% K rate and 11% BB rate in 23.3 IP. You don’t even need to lop off those first few outings to be impressed by his 2020 numbers, I just think the bumpy start created a faulty perception for some. His 2019 was a clear outlier and he is back to being a premium closer.

Next Up: Trevor May (RH)

Despite closer-esque skills, May has just seven saves in the last three seasons as the Twins seemed to prefer him in more of a fireman role which is where the Mets will have him, too. If Dellin Betances regains his pre-2019 form, he would be a candidate to takeover if something happened to Diaz, but for now May is the handcuff.

Brad Hand (LH) | WAS

Hand is also dealing with a skewed perception from reality. His declining velo is definitely worth paying attention to but given that it hasn’t really cut into his production, I’m not sure why there is such apprehension with him from a decent chunk of the fantasy community. Even with a second straight 1 mph dip in velo, he only lost 1 point on his strikeout rate (34%) and set a career best walk rate (5%).

Next Up: Tanner Rainey (RH)

Rainey broke out in 2020 by dropping 10 points off his fastball usage and funneling it into his slider en route to 2.66 ERA/0.74 WHIP combo with a 43% K rate. If anything happens with Hand, Rainey seems like a viable replacement.

Trevor Rosenthal (RH) | OAK

Many believed that Rosenthal was toast after his 2019 recovery from Tommy John produced horrid results in 15 innings. Of course, he was recovering from a massive surgery and it was a tiny sample to judge him. Kansas City took a shot on him for 2020 and struck gold as he regained command of his stuff and went back to previous K and BB rates. They turned him into Edward Olivares in midseason deal to San Diego where he hit another level in a brilliant 10-inning run (0.00 ERA, 0.40 WHIP, 49% K, 3% BB). He parlayed that into an $11 million dollar deal from Oakland where he will be the primary closer.

Next Up: Jake Diekman (LH)

Diekman will likely scoop a few matchup based saves or if a situation comes up and Rosenthal is being rested.

Raisel Iglesias (RH) | LAA

Keeping up with the theme of the last two names, Iglesias is also being judged a bit more harshly in the market than he should be based given his 2020. Yes, he was brutal in 2019 as a 2018 home run issue (1.5 HR/9) continued on (1.6 in ’19) and was joined by a surge in BABIP to a career-worst .316 that added nearly two hits per nine to his rate (8.2 H/9). However, he bounced back in 2020 with career bests in his strikeout (34%) and home run (0.4) rates. I expect him to excel with the Angels.

Next Up: Mike Mayers (RH)

Mayers had a Rainey-esque breakout in 2020 by getting away from his fastball (-20 points to 34% usage) and funneling it into a new 90 mph cutter to pair with his slider. All of a sudden he was a strikeout machine (36% K, 15% SwStr) and damn near untouchable (5.4 H/9, 0.6 HR/9). He could be a great weapon for the Angels as Iglesias’ setup man.

Kenley Jansen (RH) | LAD

A rough playoff run had the Dodgers turning elsewhere in critical game 5 and 6 wins (Blake Treinen and Julio Urias got the saves), but he seems to still have a firm lock on the role heading into the regular season. The concerns about Jansen aren’t particularly invalid, though I’m just not sure anything is going to be done about it with regards to removing him from the role. He still has great skills, strong ratios, and the closer’s role on the best team in baseball.

Next Up: Brusdar Graterol (RH)

Treinen would probably fill in on a short-term basis, but Graterol is being groomed to eventually take over for Jansen. He has triple digit heat and surprisingly strong control with that velocity. He hasn’t quite tapped into his strikeout potential with a paltry 7% SwStr rate, but he is still just 22 years old.

TIER 3 – THE FIREMEN WHO CAN CLOSE

All of these guys have the stuff to be Tier 1 studs, but their teams are unlikely to use them as unquestioned closers and as such we cannot rely on them for 30+ saves on our fantasy teams. They are still absolutely worth drafting and at least one of them probably will spike a huge saves season, but identifying which one is a fool’s errand so supplement them with two other closers (or maybe one from the first two tiers and a late spec).

Nick Anderson (RH) | TBR

He was essentially covered in the intro. He’s amazing and in another era, he’d be a lockdown closer with a chance at 50 saves, but in today’s game he is a hybrid fireman/closer who might not even reach 20 saves despite amazing ratios and gobs of strikeouts.

Next Up: Diego Castillo (RH)

While not quite as good as Anderson, Castillo is also a stud with great ratios and plenty of strikeouts. There is a good chance he will get double-digit saves so he is a worthy investment as a third closer in deeper mixed leagues and second closer in AL-Only formats.

James Karinchak (RH) | CLE

Karinchak has just 32 major league innings under his belt, but many think he is ready to take on the closer’s role after Hand left for Washington. He has a 2.51 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and obscene 47% K rate in that time, though just a single save to his name. I understand why the fantasy community is ready to anoint him as the next big closer given his talent, but it feels like the Anderson hype before 2020 showed that the Rays just aren’t going to use him as we want.

Next Up: Emmanuel Clase (RH)

Clase missed 2020 after a 60-game PED suspension. He is very driven to be the team’s closer while Karinchak isn’t concerned so much role as long as he’s in high leverage situations (kind of reminds me of peak Andrew Miller and how he felt about closing). Clase has nasty stuff and misses a ton of bats so he would be a great fit in the ninth, too. Both he and Karinchak are a bit inexperience, though, so keep an eye on Nick Wittgren, too. The 30-year-old righty has emerged as a force with Cleveland (27% K, 2.99 ERA) and could adequately fill the role while Karinchak and Clase dominate the middle innings a premium firemen.

Jordan Hicks (RH) | STL

Hicks had Tommy John surgery in late-June of 2019 and could have returned for at least some of the shortened season but opted out due in part to his being a Type 1 diabetic. Hicks has some of the nastiest stuff in the league and he was really starting to come into his own before the TJ surgery. We just don’t know if the Cards will trust him with the role from the jump or ease him back into it (tied for 10th most saves when he went down).

Next Up: Giovanny Gallegos (RH)

I’m so torn on the St. Louis situation because I really like both Hicks and Gallegos. If one was anointed the closer from the jump, they could get 35+ saves with relative ease, but I worry it will be another committee situation which will be great for the Cardinals and annoying for us in the fantasy realm.

Amir Garrett (LH) | CIN

If you ask Garrett, the role is his. That isn’t exactly confirmation of the role, though. The 29-year-old lefty has the chops to close and the addition of Sean Doolittle gives Cincinnati a second viable lefty so Garrett should avoid the lefty bias that often keeps capable southpaws from the role. The abundance of potential options also complicates things for Garrett so we will see how spring plays out for the Reds and hopefully we get some clarity sooner than later.

Next Up: Lucas Sims (RH)

This competition might be fiercer if Sims was fully healthy, but a balky elbow will delay him in spring and could open the door for Garrett to run with it. Keep an eye on the aforementioned Doolittle, who has extensive closing experience, and Tejay Antone, who could start, close, or fill any role in between.

Alex Colomé (RH) | MIN

Only four relievers have more saves than Colome’s 42 since 2019 and only seven can top Rogers’ 39 so the Twins are in a great spot with two bona fide options with the bonus of one being a righty and the other a lefty. Hell, even Tyler Duffey has emerged into a badass the last two years and could likely handle the role with aplomb.

Despite the strong save count from Rogers over the last two years, manager Rocco Baldelli hasn’t been afraid to dole out opportunities around the pen with Sergio Romo getting five to Rogers’ nine this past season and Blake Parker nabbing 10 in 2019 (though eight of them came before Rogers took over the role).

Next Up: Taylor Rogers (LH)

A .400 BABIP fueled his poor 2020 and if he bounces back he should have good enough ratios and strikeouts to roster him for the 12-15 saves I think he will get while Colome racks up 24-27. The duo is good enough to roster both and just lock in the Twins closer.

Will Smith (LH) | ATL

Smith is more of a traditional closer than the rest of the guys in this tier and the bounty of lefties in the Atlanta bullpen means they won’t keep him from the role specifically because of his left-handedness, but I just think there’s a level of uncertainty here keeps him out of tier 2 and a level of quality that makes tier 4 feel too low. He is just a year removed from a 34 SV season, too.

Next Up: Chris Martin (RH)

I’m drafting Martin over Smith… or rather I’m waiting the 100+ picks after Smith goes to take Martin. It’s not even that he is inherently more skilled – in fact, they are damn near equal since 2019 – it’s just the discount. The Braves should probably just play the matchups and create another uncertain situation for us.

TIER 4 – THE LOCKED IN GUY… FOR NOW

This group is filled with guys who should definitely have the job heading into Opening Day but might not make it all six months due to possible trade (though they could be traded into another closing role), age and health concerns, and/or recent performance issues.

Greg Holland (RH) | KCR

Holland’s closing days seemed behind him after disastrous 2018-19 seasons (4.61 ERA/1.51 WHIP) before a rebirth with the team that developed him into one of league’s best closers back in 2013-15. He regained a tick of velo, followed the league wide trend of fewer fastballs (-10 pts to 37%), and posted a career-best 6% walk rate. Now entering his age-35 season, Holland has the job despite a bevy of capable candidates behind him, though it seems like if he continued to excel, he will rightly be given the Trevor Rosenthal treatment wherein he is flipped at the deadline. Unless they surprise the league and find themselves in fringe wildcard contention, there is no reason for the Royals to keep an aging closer on a one-year deal.

Next Up: Scott Barlow (RH)

I favor Barlow over perceived next-in-line Josh Staumont until Staumont can curb some of his Marmolian ways. Barlow isn’t exactly devoid of walks himself, but he showed substantial improvement by shaving five points off his walk rate to 7% in 2020. By the time Holland would be dealt, we should have some clarity on the next man up so don’t worry about drafting either of them now.

Kirby Yates (RH) | TOR

After two years as one of the best relievers in baseball, Yates lost the bulk 2020 to elbow surgery after an ugly 4.3 innings. He slated to debut in the Grapefruit League later this week and we will get a look at him for the first time since mid-August. Health is the primary concern so barring any trouble in spring, he’s the guy and Toronto and should be drafted with a modicum of confidence.

Next Up: Jordan Romano (RH)

There is a chance that Yates just doesn’t rebound from his elbow issues and loses the job to performance as opposed to injury in which case Romano feels like the obvious pickup. He’s another “ditch the fastball” guy who broke out in 2020 by shaving 14 points off his fastball usage (down to 40%) and pumping it into an excellent slider that netted him a 19% SwStr rate. He’s good enough to roster in a lot of leagues even with a closer’s role.

Rafael Montero (RH) | SEA

Montero has really taken to relieving with a 3.09 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in 46.7 IP. He has a 29% K in that time, too. The only reason I don’t have more confidence in the 30-year-old is because he seems like a sure bet to get traded. The Mariners signed Ken Giles to a 2-year deal as he recovers from Tommy John surgery with the idea being that he will close for them in 2022. Montero could stick around if they exceed expectations and compete ahead of schedule, but I’d pay for a half season of saves and go from there.

Next Up: Keynan Middleton (RH)

Sure… I don’t know. Maybe Andres Muñoz will be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery by then (he had it in late-March of 2020).

Richard Rodriguez (RH) | PIT

Rodriguez is an even bigger lock to be traded as there is no chance the Pirates unexpectedly find themselves in fringe contention. At least there is a core of talent in Seattle that could feasibly overperform. I do really like Rodriguez, though. He has been really good over the last three seasons, setting career-bests in both his strikeout (37%) and walk (5%) rates, albeit in just 23 innings. If the 31-year-old righty continues to pitch like that, he might find himself traded into another closer’s role.

Next Up: Kyle Crick (RH)

Crick definitely walks too many guys, but so does Michael Feliz. The fact is, you don’t want Pittsburgh’s closer if it’s not Rich-Rod.

Joakim Soria (RH) | ARI

I’m a long time Soria fan… like a really long time as he’s now entering his age-37 season. He isn’t locked in as the Arizona brass is leaving it a bit open, but I feel like Soria will get the first shot. At worst, it could be done to increase his trade value as the D’Backs will struggle to compete in that division even with a core of solid talent.

Next Up: Stefan Crichton (RH)

He has some sleeper buzz in the fantasy community and while he has pitched well the last two seasons, I just don’t see a ton of upside for the 29-year-old. Kevin Ginkel, Chris Devenski, Yoan López, and Taylor Widener could be in the mix, too.

Craig Kimbrel (RH) | CHC

Speaking of Marmolian ways, holy smokes Craig! In fairness, the small sample season of just 15.3 innings made things look a bit worse. His 17% BB rate was inflated by two nightmare outings where he walked four in just a third of an inning (that was his season debut during which he hilariously got a Hold) and three more in two-thirds of an inning – both against Cincinnati. Those seven walks were 58% of his season total (12). He had a 9% mark in his other 14.3 IP. Even with that very generous outlook on his season, I just can’t muster up any real confidence in the one-time superstar.

Next Up: Rowan Wick (RH)

Wick opened the season as the Cubs closer before Kimbrel got it back and Brandon Workman has some closing experience, too, though I’d actually favor Ryan Tepera over Workman and on par with Wick. Hey, he’s an MVP-caliber pitcher! Wick’s 2.66 ERA/1.22 WHIP combo since 2019 is best among the primary candidates to close for the Cubs.

TIER 5 – THE COMMITTES THAT COULD PRODUCE A GEM

Archie Bradley (RH) | PHI

Bradley quietly pitched really well in 2020 and might finally get his first unencumbered opportunity at a closer’s role. Limiting walks his best asset as his strikeout rate is just OK and he doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but he could notch 30+ saves with the Phillies.

Next Up: Héctor Neris (RH)

The incumbent has shown plenty of flashes over the last few years with 70 saves since 2017, but homers and walks have been issues, undercutting confidence in him. They recently brought on Brandon Kintzler to muddy up things a bit more.

Mark Melancon (RH) | SDP

It seems like San Diego understands the idea that your closer doesn’t have to be your best reliever. You don’t want some hack and Melancon is plenty solid, but they have several guys who are definitely better. Their thinking seems to be that using the better relievers in the run up to the ninth along with their lineup will put Melancon in a lot of 3-run lead situations that he should be able to capably hold. We need that 15% K rate to get back up, but it’s worth noting that he’s been under 20% in two of the last three seasons.

Next Up: Drew Pomeranz (LH)

I really want him to get this job because he has been awesome in the pen since 2019 with 1.71 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 44% K rate in 47.3 innings. I just think he has too much value in that fireman role for San Diego lock him into the ninth. Emilio Pagán gives up too many homers to close so I have him third behind Melancon and Pomeranz… and maybe even fourth behind recently acquired Keone Kela.

Anthony Bass (RH) | MIA

Bass is a bit Melancony on a markedly worse team. The journeyman reliever is joining his fifth team in as many years and has just 15 saves to his name, but 12 of those came in the last two years as the Mariners and Jays saw fit to let him handle the ninth a bit. Bass is a slightly better version of their last closer, Brandon Kintzler, as a groundball-heavy guy but with more velo and more swing-and-miss in his game. I don’t expect the Marlins to make the playoffs again, but I think they’ll be solid and Bass should have a chance at 22-25 saves if he holds the gig all year. He is 33, though, so they could flip him at some point, especially if they don’t do well this year.

Next Up: Dylan Floro (RH)

I know most outlets see Yimi García as the next in line. Our own Roster Resource has it that way, but I just don’t agree. While he did make it through the two-month season without allowing a home run, that only brought his career mark down to 1.7 HR/9. That’s what happens when you carry a 2.3 mark for 84.7 IP in 2018-19. Floro isn’t overpowering but has gotten the job done the last three years (3.00 ERA/1.24 WHIP in 135 IP).

If not Floro, maybe a young arm who emerges in-season like Zach Pop, Jorge Guzman, or Jordan Holloway orrrrr maybe a certain starter who has some early draft buzz despite being just a two-pitch guy finds his way into the bullpen after Edward Cabrera takes his job and that would be Elieser Hernandez! Although he shares a home run issue similar to Garcia so to be consistent I’d have to say that it’s unlikely. Guzman is my darkhorse to keep a close eye on here.

José Leclerc (RH) | TEX

A shoulder injury limited him to just 2 innings in 2020, but the incumbent (Montero) was traded to Seattle which opens the role back up for Leclerc. That said, they haven’t committed to him at the outset of Spring Training. His $4.5 million dollar salary probably gives him a leg up as saves pay well in arbitration so they may prefer to get their money’s worth – or at least try to – with Leclerc while keeping their other and potentially better options cheaper. Leclerc has excellent strikeout ability, he’s tough to square up, and keeps the ball in the yard, but he is a walk machine. He’s not a bad third closer, but don’t overrate his hold on the job.

Next Up: Jonathan Hernández (RH)

I’m a huge Hernandez fan and if the Rangers were a bit better, they would likely turn to him and let the money be damned as he is the best guy for the job on pure talent. He has the velo (98 mph FB), the whiffs (13% SwStr), and he greatly improved his walk (-11 pts to 6%) and home run (-1.0 to 0.6 HR/9) rates in 2020 with twice the workload of his 2019 cup of coffee – albeit jumping from 16.7 IP to 31.

Compare him and Leclerc since ’19 and it’s really close, but I do think Leclerc’s contract earns him first crack at it. That said, Hernandez can be good enough to be your last pitcher in a deep mixer or a great supplemental multi-inning (47.7 IP in 36 app.) middle reliever in AL-Only leagues. He also pitches in leveraged situations which helped him notch 5 wins in 2020 and could help sneak a handful again in this year.

Edit: About 30 minutes before this went up, we got the news that Hernandez is hurt and shut down for at least a month. I’d remove him from your draft lists everywhere except probably AL Only leagues.

TIER 6 – THE COMMITTEES YOU’D RATHER AVOID

If you’re desperate, you might have to dip into one of these pens, but you should do your best to avoid it because while there will be saves to get, they often come with a cost of poor ratios, weak strikeouts, and/or severe job uncertainty.

Daniel Bard (RH) | COL

The comeback story is one of the best the league has seen in a while and I buy into a lot of the improvements that he made, even as he enters his age-36 season, but I just can’t trust a Coors closer enough to make him more than my third option.

Up Next: Mychal Givens (RH)

Scott Oberg showed closer-worthy stuff in 2018-19, but then lost 2020 to thoracic outlet surgery and until we see him back and looking like himself again, Givens is the next man up. He has some closing experience and has pitched quite well throughout his career save the awful 9-inning stint he had with the Rockies after the trade last year (6.75 ERA/1.39 WHIP, 5% K-BB rate).

Matt Barnes (RH) | BOS

I could’ve put this one in a different tier as it seems manager Alex Cora wants to name a set closer for 2021, but I ended up leaving it here based on the fact that most drafts could be done before we know exactly who that is so it will be a headache at the draft table. Barnes appears to be the frontrunner, but he is far from locked in. He misses bats, but nothing else really instills confidence for me to suggest he can hold down the gig all year.

Next Up: Adam Ottavino (RH)

His results stunk in 2020, but a .375 BABIP was doing a lot of the work there as SIERA actually suggested he was better than 2019 (3.62 in ’20; 4.09 in ’19). Persistent platoon issues (177-pt platoon split favoring lefty hitters) makes me wonder if he’s really cut out for the ninth, though. Hirokazu Sawamura was mentioned as a possibility in the article I linked as was my darkhorse favorite, Darwinzon Hernandez. I can’t pretend to know a thing about Sawamura just yet so I will direct you to his stats from Japan.

Hernandez could face the traditional lefty bias, but Josh Taylor gives them a viable southpaw for the middle innings allowing them to save Hernandez for the ninth. He misses a ton of bats with a fastball-slider combo, but rarely knows where either is going, something he will need to improve upon to get the ninth inning call. He has always been brilliant at limiting homers and he doesn’t give up many hits so the raw components are there for a high leverage late-inning reliever.

Hunter Harvey (RH) | BAL

The one-time top prospect has battled a bevy of injuries on his way up to the majors but is still just 26 years old and could become the closer for the foreseeable future in Baltimore. His stints the last two seasons show the volatility of tiny samples: 2019 – 42% K and 15% BB rate in 6.3 IP; 2020 – 16% K and 5% BB in 8.7 IP despite the core skills remaining pretty similar. Major heat (98 mph FB) drives his success while his curve garnered solid strikeout rates in the minors (28%), primarily as a starter.

Up Next: Tanner Scott (LH)

The nasty lefty brings the gas similar to Harvey (97 mph), though career-long control issues hold him back a bit and could make Baltimore reluctant to put him in the ninth. He, too, is just 26 years old and he wouldn’t need to cut the walks that much to make it palatable. He has a career 13% BB rate so knocking 2-4 points off of that could work as long as he was preventing hits similar to his 2020 rate of 5.2 H/9.

Jake McGee (LH) | SFG

If McGee was locked in, I’d have him in Tier 4. I think there is viability to his renaissance last year as he rode his fastball to a remarkably 42% K rate and 4% BB rate in 20.3 IP. Unlike so many other pitchers in baseball, McGee embraced his heater throwing it an insane 97% of the time. This is in line with his work as a Ray, though the K and BB numbers were career bests as was his filthy 18% SwStr rate. I just don’t know if he will be given the job outright, though.

Up Next: Matt Wisler (RH)

Roster Resource has four guys with the CL tag as Wisler, Reyes Moronta, and Tyler Rogers join McGee. I don’t really have a specific reason for listing Wisler in the Up Next slot over Moronta as the bottom line is that manager Gabe Kapler will almost certainly mix and match making this a situation we don’t want to mess with if we can avoid it.

Gregory Soto (LH) | DET

It had been so long since the Tigers saw an interesting pop-up reliever that I just had to jinx the hell out of it:

From that point forward, he posted a 7.07 ERA and 1.86 WHIP in 14 IP, though in fairness 9 of the 11 ER came in three outings and he still had a healthy 27% K rate. My excitement was dampened, but not all hope is lost for the 26-year-old lefty with a 97-mph fastball. At the very least, it seems like he can be the go-to lefty for the Tigers as they start to turn the corner back upward into contention. If I’m drafting anyone in their pen, it’s him but it has to be a 50-round Draft & Hold or a deep AL-Only league.

Up Next: Bryan Garcia (RH)

He’s the listed favorite at many outlets. His 2020 was really strange, though. He managed a 1.66 ERA despite comically low 2% K-BB rate in 21.7 IP. He was doing something right to earn that .220 AVG against. Garcia has a usable three-pitch mix that earned him a 32% K rate and 9% BB rate in the minors (115 IP) so I certainly think he’s better than the painfully low 13% K rate we saw in 2020, but I’m still not drafting him unless manager A.J. Hinch locks him as the guy.





Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

newest oldest most voted
FRL
Member
Member
FRL

Enoli Paredes is next up in Houston. He served as the featured set up guy during last year’s playoff run as a rookie.