Just like your favorite MLB team, your fantasy baseball team will be at a great advantage with a top-tier closer on its roster.
A good closer really helps in fantasy leagues that use the rotisserie scoring format because they contribute in all areas — saves, strikeouts, ERA, WHIP, etc.
Relief pitching often is among the hardest positions to get a read on entering the season, so we’ve you made a list of four sure things and four potential busts for your fantasy draft.
Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles
Britton was a legit American League Cy Young Award candidate last season with 47 saves, a 0.54 ERA, a 0.84 WHIP and 74 strikeouts over 67 innings. He’s the safest closer you can draft and someone worth using a high pick to select.
Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers
Jansen is a stud. He tallied 47 saves with an impressive 1.83 ERA in 2016. He’s also a strikeout machine — 104 Ks in 69 2/3 innings. Jansen should be an elite closer again barring some sort of injury.
Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees
Chapman is another strikeout machine — 90 Ks in 58 innings last season. He also posted 36 saves and a solid 1.55 ERA. The Yankees bullpen should be really good and very deep this season, and Chapman will be its shutdown arm in the ninth inning.
Mark Melancon, San Francisco Giants
Melancon was one of the elite closers last season, and he used it to cash in as a high-priced free-agent acquisition for the Giants. His 47 saves ranked tied for second in the majors, and he also tallied a 0.90 ERA and a 1.63 WHIP. Melancon is one of the safest closer options available, and he’s playing for a quality Giants team that should present him with plenty of save opportunities.
Jeanmar Gomez, Philadelphia Phillies
Gomez did tally 37 saves in 2016, but his 4.85 ERA and 1.46 WHIP both were concerns for fantasy owners. His post-All-Star break numbers — 8.33 ERA and four blown saves — weren’t very reassuring, either. Gomez will need a strong start, or Hector Neris, who struck out 102 batters over 80 1/3 innings last year, could get a look as the Phillies closer.
Ryan Madson, Oakland Athletics
Madson is 36 years old and not a sure bet to be the A’s closer for the entire season. The Athletics are rebuilding and would be wise to try some younger guys in that role and see who fits the bill. Madson’s value plummets if he’s not the everyday closer, as his strikeout total has declined in each of the last four years.
Fernando Rodney, Arizona Diamondbacks
Rodney’s inconsistency is worrisome, so it would be foolish to draft him as your top closer. His 3.44 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in 2016 also were concerning, and Arizona probably won’t give him many save opportunities as one of the league’s worst teams. Rodney is 40 years old, too, and an early-season slump could force the D-backs to switch to a younger reliever in the closer role.
Wade Davis, Chicago Cubs
Multiple trips to the disabled list in 2016 and the fact that he’s thrown a lot of innings since the start of 2014 season give us a little hesitation with Davis. Sure, he’s been one of the league’s top closers for the last three seasons, but the Cubs have plenty of quality arms to turn to if Davis suffers an injury or struggles. His ERA and WHIP also were worse in 2016 than they were in 2015.
Thumbnail photo via Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Sep 11, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Zach Britton (53) pitches in the ninth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. The Orioles won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports