Written by: Adam Ehrenreich (@mel_reich)
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After a short and fulfilling hiatus from the baseball world, I am happy to say I am back for another great season at prospects-365. You guys all see the great job Ray is doing on a daily basis. The effort he puts into his numerous roles and all the hats he wears, literally and figuratively. The rest of us are just coming along for the ride, and what a wonderful ride it will be.
As you may remember, I wrote a handful of waiver wire articles last year. At the trade deadline, I included Saves candidates that had the possibility of emerging when the dust settled. Besides the waiver wire content and dynasty projects I long to work on this season, I will be highlighting potential closers to jump on before your league mates do. Not to toot my own horn, but I happen to be pretty good at this closer thing. As a matter of fact, this year one of my now-former league mates wrote this in an email explaining why he won’t be joining us this year. “It is with a heavy heart that I announce my retirement from fantasy baseball. To put it simply, I’m never getting that closer Ehrenreich hounds twitter for.” Yes, I hound twitter, doesn’t every faithful fantasy baseball player? Anyways, without further ado, go grab some saves.
Dominic Leone (STL): The Cardinals have experienced an incredible amount of turnover since the beginning of last season in the closer department. Seung-hwan Oh was supposed to be the closer of the “future”, although that is hard to believe when talking about a 33 year old pitcher. In the end, Oh completely flamed out last season. Trevor Rosenthal and his 100 MPH heat eventually became the closer, but the 27 year old blew out his elbow and was released. Juan Nicasio ended the 2017 season as the closer, but he’s not closer material. Brett Cecil? No thanks. In comes 2018, and the motley crew of Luke Gregerson and Bud Norris serve as the heir-apparent to the dysfunctional throne. I know, Bud Norris was a league winner last year, until he wasn’t. Luke Gregerson was Houston’s closer for part of two seasons when he amassed 46 saves, but his reign was short-lived and he’s not a 34-year-old breaking baller. In stands Dominic Leone, dark horse candidate for the role. The Cardinals are great at creating closers, and Leone may be the next pitcher in the never-ending line of successors. After some really tumultuous seasons in the pros (including a 3.2 innings, 6 runs allowed stint in 2015 with Arizona), Leone had an impressive 2017 season with the Blue Jays (81 Ks in 70.1 innings (10.4 K/9), a 2.56 ERA and 1.05 WHIP to be exact). The type of season he had last year could translate to major success in the closer role. The fact that Alex Reyes is in the rear view mirror and has been rumored for the role scares me a little, but I like Leone’s chances of winning the role out the gate.
Jimmie Sherfy (ARI): The Diamondbacks rolled out Fernando Rodney for way-too long last year. The save numbers were nice, but the 4.23 ERA was not. Archie Bradley appeared to be the closer of the future for the DBacks, but his value in middle relief and long relief was way too valuable. I still can see Bradley being the closer this year after his absurd season that actually netted him a single MVP vote (which is more than can be said for me, and most of the major leagues). Now, the team signed Yoshihisa Hirano, a 33-year-old career closer from Japan, who should gain a spot in high-leverage situations, but I still think Bradley wins the job out of camp. It’s only a matter of time before Bradley’s worth in relief is recognized and the keys are handed over to Jimmie Sherfy. In 10.2 innings of relief at the end of last year, Shefry threw 10.2 scoreless innings with 9 strikeouts. No, he does not possess a blow-away arsenal, but he is a great pitcher with great command for a reliever. In AAA last year, Sherfy had 20 saves and 61 Ks in 49 innings pitched. His 3.12 ERA and 0.95 WHIP are closer material, and I can’t wait for this guy to eventually hold the role in the desert for years to come.
Josh Hader (MIL): It seems like the whole industry is drinking the Hader-ade, but as a middle reliever and primarily for his K/9 impact (and not a closer). What if he became the closer by midseason? Would you be shocked? The Brewers are in win-now mode, which means the odds of Hader entering the rotation on a trial basis is simply not in the cards. Corey Knebel has a history of injuries, and it would not shock me if he spends time on the DL this year, or at any time in any season. Hader needs to be the next man-up for the Brewers. A 2.08 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 12.8 K/9 over 47 innings is such a sweet stat-line. Knebel had some very bad years before his impressive 2017; if he regresses to the mean in any way and the Brewers are losing games at his expense (or the injury bug pokes its head out) I can see Hader getting his shot.
C.J. Edwards (CHC): Two words: Brandon Morrow. There is a common theme amongst the names I’m listing in this article: Closers (who are not listed) who may not be closer-material getting gigs and running out of luck. Morrow is Exhibit A. Morrow was the oft-injured pitching sensation for the Blue Jays before his time came and passed. He has only started 20 or more games three times in his 11-year career and is now considered to be a prized possession in the relief game. I don’t buy it for one second. For starters, he’s made of glass. Secondly, he’s simply not that good of a pitcher. Joe Maddon has said that Edwards could be the closer of the future on numerous occasions. I think it will be before (or shortly after) first pitch of Opening Day.
Jimmy Herget (CIN): Herget logged one Major League inning last year, but over the last three years and four levels, he has logged 64 saves with a 2.74 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 11 K/9. Now, Raisel Iglesias is going nowhere, but in the event of another bad Reds season and the potential haul of prospects in return, Iglesias, the subject of many rumors, could be sporting a new uniform by midseason. Herget should be on the major league roster, and there is no reason why he shouldn’t get a shot at the closer role if contention isn’t an option and Iglesias gets moved to a contender before the deadline.
Mychal Givens (BAL): Zach Britton’s injury may spell Brad Brach and Darren O’Day, but I say give a shot to Givens. Mychal Givens has been terrific in each of his three seasons with Baltimore with a 10.9 K/9 and 1.10 WHIP. Buck Showalter is on-record saying that Givens is an option no matter who is at the plate, so doesn’t that sound like a closer to you? I don’t think this is a closed-competition, and I think a good spring from Givens could force them to hand him the ball in the 9th inning until Zach Britton returns to full-health.
Drew Steckenrider (MIA): Steckenrider is an interesting case. We’re talking about a team that’s fielding a AAA roster, but their closer is 38-year-old Brad Ziegler? Explain that one. Steckenrider, a 27-year-old second year MLB-player, had a tantalizing season last year. The 2.34 ERA over 34.2 innings with a 14 K/9 (yes, 14) is very nice, but the 1.38 WHIP is pretty scary. If Steckenrider can relatively-fix the WHIP issue, why wouldn’t they see what they have in this potential-K monster? With a fastball that averages out at 95 MPH coupled with a changeup at 89 MPH, the towering 6’5 righty could be closing in Miami before you know it. The Marlins should be in player-development mode (which I believe they are) so they might as well attempt to catch lightning in a bottle.
Tim Lincecum (TEX): News broke on Tuesday that newly minted and ripped Timmy Linecum might be signed by the Rangers and compete for the closer’s role. Truth be told, in 13 career relief appearances, Lincecum has been insanely filthy. Short spurts might be his thing at this point, who knows? I am intrigued by the story line and if you’re drafting soon, this may be the golden ticket if things break your way.
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