As always, the chase for saves has been a wild one in 2015. We’ve already lost multiple closers for the year, had a few lose their jobs, and had some virtual unknowns step up and lock down the job. We know who the established guys are at this point – Soria, Kimbrel, Miller, Perkins, and Familia come to mind – but today we’re going to go over a few teams where the saves are still totally up in the air, and the opportunity is ripe to grab the next man in line. For we who play this game know that the next man up is often just a single bad outing away from a demotion – luck definitely favors the prepared mind.
Tampa Bay Rays
Brad Boxberger, Jake McGee, Kevin Jepsen
Wanted to start this off with the Rays for a couple of reasons, the first one being the fact that Boxberger has been totally lights-out dominant, and he’s somehow only about 75% owned. Get it together people – he’s nasty. If you wanted to speculate on why he’s not 100% owned, the only reason that might make sense could be the impending return of iterant closer Jake McGee. McGee is working his way back from offseason surgery at this time, and is expected to regain the closing duties once he’s all the way back. He makes for an excellent DL stash if you have a slot and can wait. In the unlikely event that Boxberger loses his job (or is injured), Jepsen would most likely be next man up.
Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, Jared Hughes
Coming into 2015, Melancon was pretty much a consensus top ten RP and considered a strong investment on draft day. Whelp, seeya later! Shows you what prediction models and ‘experts’ know. Melancon has been consistent only at being awful so far, pitching his way to a 4.76 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. He’s blown only one save, but he’s generally allowing opponents to square the ball up at will. If the tightrope act continues to go awry, Watson and Hughes will be the beneficiaries, Watson being the likely all-formats add if Melancon loses the job.
Toronto Blue Jays
Brett Cecil, Roberto Osuna, Aaron Loup
What a strange year it’s been already for the back end of the Blue Jays bullpen. Cecil started the year with the job, but the Blue Jays quickly turned to Miguel Castro to be their closer. He (rather predictably) didn’t fare well, and didn’t just lose the closers job, but in fact was demoted to the minors. The job was then handed back to Brett Cecil, who despite being a lefty is far from a prototypical 100 MPH flamethrower. Cecil wasn’t great before being gifted the job back, and currently stands at two saves converted versus one blown. My confidence in him lasting the year in the role is low, but there aren’t many other great candidates at the moment. I feel that Osuna eventually gets the job – He’s got 15 K’s in 13 IP so far, ERA of 1.38 and WHIP of 1.00. He’s about 5% owned at this time and would make a good deeper league stash.
Steve Cishek, A.J. Ramos, Sam Dyson
After a dominant 2014, Cishek has totally flipped the script in 2015 and is in danger of losing his stranglehold on the closers job. He currently sits on a 7.71 ERA and 1.39 WHIP, and has already blown two saves. There aren’t really any strong rumors of injury, so we just have to assume he simply hasn’t been effective. Cishek would do well to get his act together – A.J. Ramos is breathing down his neck with 20 K in 15 IP, 0.80 WHIP, and generally nasty stuff. He’s the obvious pickup if the side-winding Cishek continues his fall from grace.
Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Zach McAllister
If you look strictly at the numbers, Allen might be the worst closer that still has his job thus far in 2015. He’s sitting on an ERA of 10.00, WHIP of 2.44, and only four saves against a blown save. He’s also been charged with two losses, and Allen’s struggles fall in with many other reasons for the Indians’ poor start. Many industry experts feel he’s a buy-low, and I’m not sure I agree. His problem has always been his control, and his 7 BB/9 indicate this is still an issue. Even if you say he’s been the victim of high BABIP and bad luck, consulting his xFIP and FIP still yield number north of 4.00. He’s just been bad. Fortunately, Allen has quite a bid of job security since there’s not really anyone with closing experience behind him. The dark horse here could be McAllister, a converted SP who is now throwing 95+ MPH gas out of the bullpen, but that’s nothing but speculation by me. I’m not sure I’d roster another Cleveland RP at this time despite Allen’s struggles.
John Axford, Rafael Betancourt, Unknown Player
Anyone remember in 2014 when Rex Brothers was the clear heir to the Rockies closer gig? I sure do – he’s not even in the majors at the moment. So it goes for the back end of the Colorado bullpen, potentially one of the most volatile situations in the game. LaTroy Hawkins started the year out as the owner of the gig, but at 42 and without heavy stuff, was predictably hammered. The baton passed to Adam Ottavino, who looked great before blowing out his arm. He’s scheduled for Tommy John surgery any day now. Third in line is John Axford, ex-Brewers closer, who has been excellent so far. Through five innings, that is. We’ve seen this song and dance before – Axford always implodes on himself before too long, and the thin air in Colorado isn’t going to help his cause. I think Betancourt (1.69 ERA, 0.65 WHIP) eventually takes this job by the reins and makes it his own. He’s about 10% owned and makes a strong RP for clean innings now and closing upside in the future.
Kenley Jansen, Chris Hatcher, Yimi Garcia
Kenley Jansen should be back soon, and it couldn’t come a moment sooner for the Dodgers bullpen. Quite literally, it’s a mess. Joel Peralta started out as fill-in closer, and is now on the DL. Chris Hatcher was / is up next, and his 7.20 ERA does all the explaining as to how his performance has been. The only real standout in the bullpen has been Yimi Garcia, who has been flat-out unhittable ( 0.66 / 0.59 / 21 K) and really does deserve all save chances until Jansen returns. Garcia has some stash appeal as a strong RP option without even getting saves, but the rest of this bullpen is garbage.