My Favorite Closer Sleepers – NL Edition by Brad Johnson March 17, 2016 When your leaguemates start paying too much for closers, there’s only one thing to do – queue up your closer sleepers. The following is quick analysis of my favorite closers-in-waiting. You can use these guys as elite sources for holds or handcuffs to unstable closers. We’ll do the NL today and the AL tomorrow. NL East In Miami, it’s A.J. Ramos or bust. The Phillies ‘pen is ugly too, but I’ve plucked an old friend from the scrap heap. Jason Grilli This one’s backwards. At this point in the spring, we have every reason to believe Grilli will be the Braves Opening Day closer. Enter a draft room and you’ll undoubtedly find Arodys Vizcaino going well before Grilli. I like Vizcaino. He’ll give you every ratio and hold you could ever hope for from a non-closer. He’ll probably still pick up a good 15 saves later in the season, and there’s a sliver of a chance he’ll win the job outright. But Grilli is going after the likes of Steve Cishek and Fernando Rodney. That’s crazy. Keep an eye on Grilli’s spring performances. He’s set to make his debut today. Hansel Robles Robles debuted last season and worked his way into a fairly prominent role. Owner of a 96 mph fastball and a plus slider, he checks all the boxes for a relief ace. The fly ball pitcher was a little too homer prone for my liking, but we’re talking about a small sample. With an expectation of 10.00 K/9 and 3.00 BB/9, Robles is a better backup closer than Addison Reed or Antonio Bastardo. Jeurys Familia probably won’t be going anywhere barring injury. Blake Treinen, Shawn Kelley, and Felipe Rivero The Nationals have three guys who could eventually supplant Papelbon. Kelley is probably the most likely to do so even though he’s the least physically talented. He’s a slider specialist who uses his bender more often than his fastball. More importantly, he’s good enough to stand in as a closer, and he’s under a fixed contract. If Treinen or Rivero were to get a chance to close, it would substantially increase their future pay rates. Treinen throws an upper-90s sinker with a plus-plus slider. Unfortunately, he pitches to contact a little too often to be a reliable fantasy property. Rivero, a southpaw, also throws in the upper-90s with a plus slider and changeup. He has breakout potential this season, but his talent is not entirely actualized yet. Andrew Bailey Let’s not exaggerate this one. Bailey has pitched well this spring. I have no reports on his velocity or quality of stuff. I’m just looking at some tiny sample results in meaningless games. I’m also looking at a dumpster fire bullpen led by a guy with a possible bum elbow (David Hernandez). Bailey isn’t even in the Yahoo player pool, so he’s not stashable in every league. NL Central The Cardinals and Cubs have entire bullpens of potential backup closers. If you’re looking for the sleepiest, Sam Tuivailala and Neil Ramirez are my preferred off-the-radar guys. Jumbo Diaz J.J. Hoover is the assumed closer in Cincinnati. Diaz has a more closer-ish skill set. With a 97 mph heater, 10.44 K/9, 2.69 BB/9, and a healthy 14.4 percent swinging strike rate, Diaz passes the basic smell test. He’s a little too homer prone – especially with a bandbox for a home. Initially, he’ll probably only help you in strikeouts and holds. As such, he’s a better guy to watch than stash. Jeremy Jeffress The Brewers won’t name an Opening Day closer. The role is expected to be split between Will Smith and Jeffress. While Smith is obviously the superior pitcher, Jeffress is on the better side of the platoon matchups. As such, there’s a chance he’ll run with the job before Smith can get going. He has a borderline elite curve ball. Unfortunately, he can have some trouble getting to two strike counts. Arquimedes Caminero Tony Watson is the obvious second string closer in Pittsburgh leaving Caminero with a difficult path to saves. He throws a 99 mph fastball, 97 mph sinker, 92 mph cutter, and a 90 mph splitter. I hope to see him shift a little more away from his hardest fastball by throwing more cutters and splitters. The raw tools for a 12.00 K/9 or better pitcher are present, he just needs a breakout in pitch usage and command. NL West Like the Cubs and Cardinals, the Dodgers have plenty of backup in case Kenley Jansen hits the skids. Jansen’s also the only NL closer who I can’t imagine losing his job – if healthy. The Rockies have no serviceable backup to Jake McGee. Don’t get me started on Jason Motte or Chad Qualls… Daniel Hudson First, a shoutout to Silvino Bracho. He’s worth a closer look early in the season. Hudson’s the obvious pick to provide heaps of value out of the DBacks bullpen. With his 96 mph fastball, solid secondary stuff, and decent peripherals, he’s a small improvement from being an average closer. Only Brad Ziegler and Tyler Clippard stand in his way. Both are better used as setup men. Brandon Maurer and Drew Pomeranz The Padres are moving Maurer back into the rotation. I don’t foresee that working out. He’ll be given a couple months to put everything together before getting the boot to relief. The timing could line up perfectly with whenever Fernando Rodney has one too many implosions. Maurer would be a bottom five closer due to a low strikeout rate. Pomeranz, another former starter, is less likely to open the season in the rotation. His repertoire isn’t deep enough to start. In relief last season, he posted 10.02 K/9, 3.05 BB/9, and a 2.61 ERA. It’s time for a team to put him in a setup role. Permanently. Hunter Strickland Strickland may be last on the list, but he’s certainly not least. With elders Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo ahead of him, Strickland has a prime opportunity to become a top 15 closer. He possesses one of the best performing fastballs in baseball. It runs 98 mph with an 18 percent swinging strike rate. By way of comparison, Aroldis Chapman’s fastball carries a 20 percent swinging strike rate. Unfortunately for Strickland, his offspeed stuff is merely average. Hitters hope he’ll throw a slider – it’s easier to hit than the fastball.