Late Round Closers To Watch

Acquiring saves in fantasy baseball is becoming more and more of a headache. The Tampa Bay Rays had 12 different pitchers notch a save in 2020. Imagine if it was a season of normal length? With the league trending towards using their best pitchers in high leverage positions instead of the conventional only ninth inning role, it seems like grabbing saves are only going to get more complicated. Below you will see four closers that likely won’t be too popular but could help you in the long run. A quick side note, there are a lot of free-agent relief pitchers (ie. Brad Hand) so things can definitely change.

Jordan Romano
#2EarlyMocks ADP: 299

If you are a fan of Jeff Zimmerman’s mining the news you would have seen that Jordan Romano looks to be the leading closer candidate for the Toronto Blue Jays. If you aren’t a fan of Jeff Zimmerman’s mining the news make sure to check it out because they are probably the most useful articles around.

In 2020 Romano decided to switch things up and started to throw his slider more than his four-seam. Between that and his increase in velocity, raising his fastball from 94.6 MPH to 96.5 MPH, he completely transformed as a pitcher. Check out these differences in pitch performance.

Jordan Romano’s Pitch Breakdown
Pitch Year Usage wOBAcon SwStr% xBA
Four-Seam 2019 63% 0.614 13.2% 0.328
Four-Seam 2020 41% 0.126 22.9% 0.090
Slider 2019 36% 0.232 15.9% 0.154
Slider 2020 59% 0.364 19.1% 0.230

The four-seam was insanely better in 2020 compared to 2019. Not only did it go up in velocity but it also had a lot more vertical movement. The slider definitely let up more/harder contact but it also created a lot more whiffs. Plus the slider numbers are still good overall. Both of these pitches worked really well together and if he can throw the slider outside of the zone a little more to create additional swings outside of the zone he could take a bigger step forward.

Romano is going late for a reason though. His 2020 1.23 ERA came with a 98.0 LOB% and .207 BABIP. Regression is certainly coming but grabbing a reliever with two elite pitches this late in a draft makes him well worth a pick.

Tanner Rainey
#2EarlyMocks ADP: 413

Taking Rainey is slightly based on gut here. The Nationals bullpen has been a disaster and they relied on Daniel Hudson last year who had a 6.10 ERA in 20.2 innings pitched. Their best reliever in 2020 was no doubt, Tanner Rainey.

Rainey was filthy in 2020 and pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.78 FIP, and 2.30 SIERA. Overall his 36.8 O-Swing%, 42.7 K%, and 23.7 SwStr% are all at elite levels making him extremely enticing. His most lethal pitch is his slider, a slider that had the highest SwStr% (34.2%) amongst all other pitches in the MLB.

His season was cut short due to forearm tightness, likely leading to his high ADP since that’s never a great sign for a pitcher. Plus he has some work to do with command because a 9.3% walk rate with a high home run rate usually isn’t a good thing. But if healthy how could the Nationals not use him in high leverage situations? Meaning that while he will get some seventh and eighth inning work he will likely grab save opportunities as well. Roster Resource currently has him locked in as the closer as well.

Stefan Crichton
#2EarlyMocks ADP: 448

Crichton’s ADP comes as a slight surprise since he clearly took over the closer job in 2020 and should have it in 2021. Grabbing five saves (all in September) and pairing it with a 2.42 ERA is no easy feat. The backlash on him probably has to do with his 21.1% strikeout rate. Of course you want strikeouts from your closer but with Crichton you get a reliever who excels at suppressing hard contact.

Crichton doesn’t give up the long ball, something that kills so many closers. In 2020 he had an elite 0.35 HR/9 and 1.4 Barrel% against which was tenth best in the league. All season he allowed one homerun which was off his curveball and that home run wasn’t even a barrel. Both his curveball and sinker have above-average to elite vertical movement. Vertical movement that he uses to consistently paint the bottom corners of the zone. With both pitches dropping in on hitters it’s no wonder they aren’t able to make quality contact.

With the closer job being Crichton’s for the taking he holds a lot of value at this ADP.

Hunter Harvey
#2EarlyMocks ADP: 540

Hunter Harvey seemed destined for the closer position until injuries halted his season and limited him to just 8.2 innings. Harvey is a 25-year-old pitcher who throws his four-seam fastball in the high 90’s and sometimes tops out at 100 MPH. The fastball has the makings of becoming an elite pitch. In 2019 (although a small sample size) his fastball only had a .118 batting average against while also striking out hitters at a consistent rate. He pairs it with a changeup that is 10 MPH slower than the fastball and has the potential to grow into a solid secondary pitch. Right now the results aren’t there but if one of his pitches could become a good complement to his four-seam it would be this one. He also has a curveball that he messes with but lacks in movement.

The elbow injury and overall injury history are slightly worrisome but at pick 540 the upside is well worth it. It makes nothing but sense taking a shot on someone who can grab saves and who had a 42.3% strikeout rate in 2019. Harvey looks like a steal here.

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2 years ago

Tanner Scott is the person I’m gonna be watching for the Orioles. He has made a big leap in controlling and limiting contact quality. Lowering his walks into the 3 per inning should be huge for his prospects to land the job as there is usually some forgiveness as a GB pitcher. And he can keep it if he improves his conversion rate to closer to 80%. Harvey, despite the stuff, has failed to show he can stay healthy and dominate hitters with any regularity.

2 years ago

yup, agreed that he is the best choice to be the closer.