Mixing Fantasy & Reality: Nationals Closer, Signings, & Notes

Note: I didn’t write much during the Holiday season and am now just catching up on fantasy relevant news. I didn’t get through all my information and will continue tomorrow.

Nationals Bullpen Situation

I figured Shawn Kelley would be the Nationals closer if they didn’t trade for or sign a proven closer. Last season, his K-BB% was the sixth best among qualified relievers to go with his 2.64 ERA. Simply, he’s a stud. But people are thinking Blake Treinen will get the job. Paul and Eno discussed the option during The Sleeper and the Bust (Episode 412 at 1:20:17). Treinen was also discussed as an option in a James Collier article.

They have numerous in-house options with the arsenal and the perceived “makeup” to pitch the ninth inning, even if they lack experience in that role. Shawn Kelley has the profile with his strikeout ability. Blake Treinen has the ability to induce ground outs, and did so often last season in significant spots with inherited runners.

Treinen induces a ton of groundballs. His 66% GB% is ranks only behind Zach Britton. I can see why people Treinen’s groundball rate could make him a closer since similar pitchers are Sam Dyson and Brad Ziegler. These two closers are serviceable but not elite. The pitchers similar to Kelley’s K-BB% are Aroldis Chapman and Seung Hwan Oh.

Now, with Dusty Baker managing the Nationals, there will always be a human element besides the numbers. Here is another classic from him.

Perhaps the biggest question about Treinen as a closer, however, is his constitution. Treinen is one of the most pleasant, polite and friendly people one can find in a major league clubhouse. A demeanor like that is nothing to apologize for, of course, but general consensus holds closers to an angrier standard.

“Most of the great closers I know are a little on the crazy side, or at least they’re different,” Baker said. “I played with some good ones, and they’re all different, because to try to get the last three outs of a team is very difficult.”

I don’t know where to start blasting apart the quote so I won’t. It’s time to return from Cloud Cuckoo Land and figure out how to value the pair.

Kelley has the chance to be elite. And he is currently cheap. Heck, they are both cheap. At Fantrax, Kelley is the 39th reliever off the board and Treinen is the 100th. At NFBC, it is 29th and 69th. I would try to buy the pair. The owner will either end up with top 10 closer in Kelley or a top 20 closer with Treinen (Dyson is going 19th). Either way, I feel they will be great values considering their cost.

Minor Moves

• I feel the A’s signing of Rajai Davis is under-reported. The A’s didn’t have a regular center fielder and Davis fits the role. Last season, he was the 83th rated position player with all his $10 value coming from stolen bases. With stolen bases so hard to accumulate, I will try to get Davis cheaply in every league since he has been a stable stolen base source over the years.

Rubby de la Rosa signed a minor league deal with the Diamondbacks. They hope to turn him into a reliever to keep him healthy. Arizona’s bullpen is horrible and I could see De La Rosa and his 2016 9.6 K/9, as a starter, eventually take over Rodney’s closer role. Several factors need to fall into place for this move to happen. But if De La Rosa stays healthy and productive, it might be time to buy him deeper leagues.

• The A’s signed Cuba’s best arm, Norge Ruiz. MLB.com wrote the following on him:

Ruiz has a fastball that has been clocked at 94 mph and he often works in 90-92 mph range. He throws a “heavy fastball,” and his repertoire also features a slider, a cut-fastball, a changeup and a split-fastball thrown at various arm angles. He’s a groundball pitcher with the ability to change speeds and keep hitters off balance in the batter’s box. He’s not physically intimidating, but he knows how to pitch and evaluators like how he handles himself on the mound. That said, Ruiz’s command has been described as “scattered at times.”

Additionally, here are his comps for his pitch grades.

Comparable Pitching Prospects to the A’s Norge Ruiz
Name Year Report Publication Fastball Slider Changeup/splitter Control/Command
Norge Ruiz 2016 MLB-International 55 55 50 60
Zach Lee 2012 BA 60 55 50 60
Andrew Heaney 2015 MLB 55 55 55 60
A.J. Cole 2015 BA 55 50 50 55
Jake Odorizzi 2014 BA 55 50 55 60
Erick Fedde 2016 MLB 60 55 50 55
Erick Fedde 2016 BA 60 55 50 55
Kyle Freeland 2015 BA 60 60 50 60
Hyun-Jin 2013 BA 60 55 55 57.5
Rafael Montero 2014 MLB 60 50 55 60
Matt Esparza 2016 2080 55 50 45 55
Erick Fedde 2016 2080 60 55 55 55
Anthony Desclafani 2014 MLB 60 55 45 55
Drew Harrington 2016 2080 55 55 50 50
Bubba Derby 2016 2080 55 55 50 50
Michael Fulmer 2016 BA 60 60 45 55

Some decent names with some potential are listed. He’s a potential pickup in deeper leagues and could move up significantly depending on his spring training performance. In the meantime, here are some pitches of his to enjoy thanks to Baseball America.

• The Royals picked up Peter O’Brien from the Diamondbacks for Sam Lewis. O’Brien’s resume consists of just striking out or hitting long flyballs. The problem is that he has struck out over 40% of the time in the majors. Until he starts making contact, he will remain fantasy irrelevant.


• MLB.com’s Mike Petriello picked five pitchers (Robbie Ray, James Paxton, Jonathan Gray, Marcus Stroman, and Blake Snell), he thinks will breakout.

Paxton doubled his innings pitched, cut his walk rate in half and increased his strikeout rate. Paxton was one of just three lefties to touch 100 mph last year, and really, anyone who manages to whiff Mike Trout four times in one game deserves a little respect. He did land on the disabled list again, but at least this one was more of a fluke incident, having been hit by a line drive.

Petriello writes in detail on each pitcher and I don’t have a much to add. Just go read the article.

• Jane Lee discussed the mess the A’s have at first base.

The A’s opted to hang on to Yonder Alonso and sign the 29-year-old to a one-year, $4 million deal for the 2017 season. That lines Alonso up to return as Oakland’s everyday first baseman, though several other names remain in play as options to spell him — including Mark Canha.

Then there’s Matt Olson, ranked by MLB.com as the club’s No. 16 prospect.

I want nothing to do with this situation. I see a platoon with the month’s hot hand getting more starts. I do like the current value on Canha in deep or AL-only leagues as a low buy.

• The Marlins are considering using Justin Bour against left handed pitchers.

In Bour’s first couple of seasons in the big leagues, Miami has always had a right-handed-hitting alternative to face tough left-handers.

Last year, it was Chris Johnson, but the veteran is a free agent. If he does return, it may be on a Minor League deal with a Spring Training invitation, which is not a guarantee to make the squad.

Bour has displayed quite a platoon split. In 740 PA against right-handers, he hit .271/.345/.494 and in just 110 PA against lefties, he hit .223/.273/.291. If Bour has to play first base full time, his overall fantasy value should remain constant but his contribution mix will change. He will likely have move more counting stats, but his AVG will sink.

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR once, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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6 years ago

Do you like Kelley as a keeper in an NL Only league? Take a shot on him for $4 over other middling options like $7 Inciarte or $6 Desclafani? Or should i cut him loose and try to buy Kelley back in the auction?

6 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Zimmerman

Thanks! Freeman and Story (at higher but still good prices) are the other two. Trying to decide on the third.