It's been a wild start to the season, with bees, cats, and squirrels all already playing a part in Major League games. But what about that other strange animal that plays a much bigger part in baseball and especially in fantasy?
I'm talking about closers. It's been a wild first few games for them too.
Let's take a look at the latest moves in Major League bullpens and make some pickup recommendations while we're at it.Editor's note: Get 50% off any MLB Premium Pass. Draft guide, cheat sheets, 200 days of DFS access, and over 20 premium tools. Dominate your leagues all year long! Sign Up Now!
Usually, this early in the season, there is very little bullpen news to report unless there has been an injury. This season though, we've already had our first closer lose his ninth inning job, as Jeanmar Gomez was forced to step down in the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen. Just about everyone except maybe Jeanmar Gomez saw that one coming, with many people thinking he wouldn't even "win" the job coming out of spring training. The Phillies have given the closer role to veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit, who despite a long career as a solid relief arm has only 51 career saves. Hector Neris is easily the best reliever in the Phillies bullpen, but the team is smartly keeping him in a setup role, almost certainly in an attempt to keep arbitration costs down and make a contract extension more team-friendly down the road. Benoit is the guy to own in fantasy right now from the Phillies bullpen, but players in holds or SV+HLD leagues should take a close look at Neris as well. Benoit puts up good strikeout numbers (9.75 K/9 last season), but Neris finished 2016 at a 11.43 K/9 rate and allows much fewer base runners than Benoit. The 27-year-old Neris has the potential to be an elite closer, and he may still get that chance this season if Benoit falters.
Speaking of injuries, the Toronto Blue Jays got their closer back. Roberto Osuna returned from the disabled list and has one scoreless inning under his belt. The wait was nice and short for owners who drafted him and had to place him on their DL immediately, but he's back and he shouldn't experience any lingering issues from the cervical spasms that delayed the start of his season. There's a very small chance he's sitting on a waiver wire somewhere, so take a look just in case. He needs to be owned in all formats.
The Texas Rangers bullpen has been an absolute mess so far this season, with closer Sam Dyson in total meltdown mode, blowing all of his save opportunities so far. He's pitched three innings this season and is 0-2 with a 33.00 ERA. Has it just been a case of bad luck? Maybe, but the 13.32 FIP doesn't help make things look any better. In his three innings, he's allowed 11 hits to the 22 batters he's faced. He's walked three, only struck out two, and allowed two home runs. Setup man Matt Bush would be the logical choice to replace Dyson, but he had to head back to Texas to get tests done on the AC joint in his right (throwing) shoulder. Next in line would likely be former Milwaukee Brewers closer Jeremy Jeffress. Jeffress isn't off to a great start either though, allowing runs to score in three of his five outings so far this season. Still, he's likely to grab the job from Dyson unless Dyson puts it together really soon. Even if Bush is healthy, Jeffress may end up with the role because of experience. Bush is the better pitcher for fantasy purposes due to his strikeouts, but of course Jeffress would be the one to own if he were named for the ninth inning role. This bullpen is likely to sort itself out sooner than later, with manager Jeff Banister saying the team will "evaluate all [their] options."
Ladies and gentlemen, the league leader in saves in 2017 is...Greg Holland of the Colorado Rockies. Holland has six saves already, with Zach Britton in second place with four and nine other pitches tied for third place with three saves each. Holland has appeared in six games, pitched six innings, and earned a save in every single one. He hasn't allowed a run, and has only given up three walks, and two hits. He's recorded eight strikeouts and is, at least in a very small sample size, showing that he was the right choice to be closer out of the gate despite the presence of Adam Ottavino. Holland still isn't throwing quite as hard as he did before Tommy John Surgery, but he's obviously throwing hard enough to be effective. His fastball is averaging 93.8 mph, and his slider is showing a nice bite. The almost 50% strikeout rate won't last, but as long as Holland can stay healthy, he may end up as one of the biggest steals in fantasy baseball this season. Still, Holland staying healthy is a big "if" so Ottavino needs to stay on the watchlists of those owners currently rostering Holland.
Pickups of the Week
This early in the season, there are almost always a few closers picking up saves that many people may have never really heard of. Savvy owners can take advantage of this and either buy low or pick guys up from the wire that can help their team throughout the season. Raisel Iglesias of the Cincinnati Reds is a great example. Iglesias is a converted starter who has always had tantalizing upside. He moved to the bullpen full time last season and has been excellent since. The Reds implied throughout spring training that they would be using a closer-by-committee, but Iglesias seems to already have moved into the role on his own. He has three saves on the season and has yet to allow a run. He's on many waiver wires right now, but shouldn't be: he should be owned in all mixed leagues.
Another little-known closer is Cam Bedrosian of the Los Angeles Angels. Bedrosian started the season as the closer only because Huston Street is on the disabled list. When Street returns from the DL, which could be soon, the Halos are going to have a tough choice to make. Bedrosian is not only a better pitcher than Street, but likely the best pitcher on the Angels staff. He has the potential to be an excellent closer, and has been so far this season, recording a win and two saves in 3 2/3 innings. He's given up just two hits and no walks while striking out five in those innings. When Street returns, manager Mike Scioscia will likely give him his ninth inning job back. Bedrosian may have to work as the setup man for a few weeks, but Huston Street hasn't been healthy in a while and hasn't been good since 2014, so it shouldn't be long until Bedrosian reclaims his job. He's a great pickup right now if he's on the wire and he's an excellent buy-low candidate if Street returns and is officially installed in the ninth inning.
Best of the Week
This section will from now on be a "Best of the Week" section, but for this week only, let's take a look at the "Best of the Season So Far Even Though That's Just a Bit More Than a Week"
Greg Holland, Colorado Rockies: 6 IP, 8 K, 6 SV, 0.00 ERA, 0.83 WHIP
As mentioned earlier, Holland is off to an excellent start to the season. He's saved every game he's appeared in and struck out almost half of the batters he's faced. He'll come down to Earth soon, especially pitching home games at Coors Field, but he seems like one of the biggest steals in fantasy so far.
Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds: 6 IP, 6 K, 3 SV, 0.00 ERA, 0.71 WHIP
Reds closer (or, the "committee leader" if you still believe them) Raisel Iglesias is off to a great start as well, striking out a batter per inning and saving three games so far. Those three saves tie him for second most in the league (with eight others, but still). Hopefully, Reds manager Bryan Price realizes what he has in Iglesias and keeps him in the ninth inning, removing that pesky committee label.
Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians: 4 IP, 9 K, 2 SV, 2.45 ERA, 1.36 WHIP
The WHIP is ugly and the ERA isn't pristine, but Cleveland Indians closer Cody Allen has been on a strikeout binge, and that earns him the third spot in Best of the Week this week. Allen has nine strikeouts in just four innings, and is locked in as closer despite the presence of All-Universe relief pitcher Andrew Miller. The Indians are committed to using Miller as their bullpen Swiss Army Knife, so Allen should stay in the ninth inning all season barring injury or an extended slump.