March 2, 2023, 4:24 pm
Closers, and relievers in general, are fun to speculate on throughout draft season. Some teams are very clearly going with one guy (Mets, Guardians, Padres), while some managers are likely still figuring out who they will turn to in the 9th (Diamondbacks, Phillies, Cubs).
Personally, I try to take one elite closer, one in the middle of the pack, and then speculate on a name or two at the end of my drafts. Of course, this will vary by league type and size, but across all formats I’d like to have at least one name in the top-10. In H2H leagues, you likely need an extra closer compared to a standard roto league, ad saves are one of the most volatile week-to-week stats.
Let’s get into the Top 25!
1 Josh Hader 2 Edwin Diaz 3 Emmanuel Clase 4 Ryan Pressly 5 Raisel Iglesias 6 Jordan Romano 7 Ryan Helsley 8 Devin Williams 9 Kenley Jansen 10 David Bednar 11 Felix Bautista 12 Pete Fairbanks 13 Andres Munoz 14 Paul Sewald 15 Camilo Doval 16 Clay Holmes 17 Jhoan Duran 18 Alexis Diaz 19 Jose Leclerc 20 Alex Lange 21 Scott Barlow 22 Kendall Graveman 23 Carlos Estevez 24 Daniel Bard 25 Kyle Finnegan
It was a little tricky to decide between Hader and Diaz, as both play for elite teams and provide some of the best strikeout upside out of the pen. I went with Hader because he has been the more consistent arm over his career, and yes, I know that 2022 was awful for Hader and excellent for Diaz. It’s been talked about already (but probably not enough) that Hader’s wife had multiple pregnancy complications last season, and Hader was also traded mid-season before finding his form again in September. I have full confidence that he will bounce back in a big way this year.
Clase is really just about as good as the top two names, you just trade off some strikeouts in exchange for incredibly low ratios. The Guardians aren’t as strong as the Mets or the Padres, so there’s a chance he has fewer opportunities than Hader and Diaz to close, but at the end of the day, he’s still a very safe option.
Pressly, Iglesias, and Romano make up the second tier for me. All pitch for great teams, have above-average strikeout numbers and are projected for 30+ saves. Pressly and Iglesias could be flipped based on personal preference, but in my opinion, Romano is just a touch behind them because of his higher walk rate.
Felix Bautista was previously a few spots higher on this list, but going into spring training with both shoulder and knee issues couldn’t be a bigger red flag for me. He has been throwing bullpen sessions which is a good sign, but he still has yet to throw against live hitters. It seems doubtful that he will be ready for opening day at this point. When he’s healthy, Baltimore will give him every opportunity to close, but there are rather significant questions as to when that will happen at this point.
Camilo Doval is a name I’ve been staying away from all draft season. The Giants actively wanted to add another late-inning reliever to their pen, and they went out and got Taylor Rogers, who has two 30-save seasons under his belt. I think that Doval will still get the majority of the save opportunities, but we have to listen to what San Fran told us by getting Rogers, and that is they are not comfortable having Doval take on the entire job on his own. When you also consider his control issues, it’s impossible for me to spend a top-100 pick on him this year.
Alexis Diaz was a very fun, game-changing pickup last year for fantasy managers. 10 saves, 1.84 ERA, .96 WHIP, and a 33% strikeout rate will certainly play. However, he was walking nearly 13% of batters and he outperformed his fielding independent pitching indicators by a LOT (3.32 FIP, 3.97 xFIP). He’s never had a HR problem in the minors or last year in the bigs, but pitching in Cincinnati will lead to more balls leaving the yard than normal. Lots of red flags for Diaz and I personally am not very interested at his ADP (~130).
Alex Lange is getting more expensive, but as of right now, he’s very affordable and a huge target of mine later on in drafts. This will remain the case as long as he continues to go outside the top -200 in drafts. The Tigers quite literally don’t have anybody else who is capable of closing games, so Lange should get the vast majority of the save opportunities there. Pounce while you can.
Carlos Estevez (and fantasy managers) should be very happy that he is out of Colorado. His numbers there have been atrocious, and you just need to look at last year to see the difference between Coors Field and anywhere else.
Home – 16.8 K%, 14.3 BB%, 4.51 FIP, 5.51 xFIP
Away – 29.3 K%, 5.2 BB%, 3.64 FIP, 3.02 xFIP
He should be given a shot as the Angels’ closer, and his most recent ADP was in the 240 range (although the minimum pick is inside the top-200 so people are starting to realize his potential value). I think he really has a shot to return ~25 saves with solid ratios and strikeout numbers. He’s not an elite arm, but he should be well worth taking a shot on at the price. His upside is a top-15 closer, if not even slightly better than that.