Tony Zych/Steve Cishek/Nick Vincent (RP, SEA) - Speculating the Mariners' Closer

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Edwin Diaz looked like the best young closer in baseball down the stretch last season, mowing down opposing hitters to the tune of a 2.79 ERA and 5.87 K/BB. However, he has struggled to command his pitches in 2017, leading to a 5.28 ERA and just 2.00 K/BB. The Mariners finally made a change on Tuesday, pulling Diaz from the closer role. Tony Zych, Steve Cishek and Nick Vincent are expected to be the three main candidates to assume ninth inning duties.

The Candidates

Since making his big league debut in 2015, Zych has logged just 43 innings of work, but he has enjoyed success in the form a 2.72 ERA and a 2.81 FIP. He currently owns a measly 18.8% strikeout rate, but his swinging strike rate is actually up to 12.1% (9.5% last year to go along with a 35.0% K%), so the whiffs should start piling up soon. Zych has retired 21 of 22 hitters faced in high-leverage situations (including all 13 this year), and while that’s a tiny sample size, it is something of which fantasy owners should take note. Plus, Scott Servais turned to Zych to record the final two outs on Monday night after Diaz couldn’t get the job done, and the 26-year-old locked down his first career save.

Cishek, activated from the disabled list Monday, is the only one with extended closing experience. The 30-year-old has totaled 120 career saves, including 25 a year ago in Seattle. However, his ERA read 3.57 in save situations last season, and just 1.52 in non-save situations. Cishek held teams scoreless in 17 eighth-inning appearances in 2016, and the M’s may feel most comfortable with the veteran mostly handling that role going forward.

The Mariners have relied heavily on Vincent throughout the first month and a half of the season. He has made a team-high 18 appearances, posting a 2.84 ERA with 16 strikeouts and just three free passes in 19 frames. Across 230 innings in his career, Vincent owns a 2.93 ERA (2.95 FIP), but has amassed just four saves and may be better suited for a setup role. He has allowed a .351 wOBA to opposing hitters in high-leverage situations throughout his time in the majors, and, as a result, the 30-year-old isn’t the most appealing mixed-league option.

Marc Rzepczynski and James Pazos have also had some success for Seattle this year, but both are probably best suited for lefty specialist roles.

Outlook

Seattle’s bullpen has been one of the league’s worst through the first six and a half weeks, so fantasy owners shouldn’t expect any of these guys to serve as reliable, long-term contributors— especially considering Diaz, who remains the most talented arm of the bunch, is more than capable of recapturing his role at some point this season. Still, saves are valuable, and whoever is called upon to close out games for the Mariners should be picked up in all mixed leagues. As long as Diaz is in the doghouse, though, Zych, Cishek and Vincent can all be viewed as viable pick-ups in AL-only formats.


Check out RotoBaller's entire 2017 fantasy baseball waiver wire pickups and sleepers list, updated daily!


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