Fantasy Baseball: Ranking the top closers-in-waiting

Cons: Astros manager A.J. Hinch clearly trusts incumbent closer Luke Gregerson, and for the most part, Gregerson has not betrayed that trust. Giles has improved lately, but it could take more than a handful of appearances to counter a poor April.
6. David Phelps, Marlins (16 percent owned)
David Phelps RP / Miami Marlins (2016 STATS)
IP: 21 ERA: 1.71 K: 24 BB: 8

Pros: Phelps has thrived since being moved out of a swingman role and into the setup role. While A.J. Ramos has been a perfect 10 for 10 in save opportunities, he has had some major control issues (11 walks in 14 innings) that could cause problems down the road. Also, the Marlins showed a willingness to put Ramos in a setup role this offseason, when it appeared that Carter Capps was a viable closer candidate. Now that Capps is recovering from Tommy John surgery, Phelps would seem to be the next in line to close.

Cons: While Ramos has walked too many batters, he has been so good at avoiding contact that he may be able to overcome his control issues. Also, Phelps is relatively untested in high leverage situations, so even if he got the chance to close, it’s hard to know how well he would fare.
7. Hunter Strickland, Giants (13 percent owned)
Hunter Strickland RP / San Francisco Giants (2016 STATS)
IP: 15 ERA: 3.00 K: 16 BB: 5

Pros: Though Casilla’s stat line, which features a 1.93 ERA, is mostly impressive, he is tied with Jepsen for most blown saves among closers. If Casilla encounters more problems, Strickland profiles as a worthy replacement. He throws hard, misses bats and pitches with control.

Cons: While Casilla has had trouble converting saves, it’s easy to imagine him getting a long leash, as he has been reliable in the role over the last couple of seasons. There is every reason to think Strickland would be a good closer, but at least for now, the chances of him getting moved into the role seem remote.
8. Ryan Buchter, Padres (2 percent owned)
Ryan Buchter RP / San Diego Padres (2016 STATS)
IP: 16 2/3 ERA: 0.54 K: 23 BB: 8

Pros: Things have been going exceedingly well for Fernando Rodney, but as anyone who has owned him in Fantasy over the years knows, it’s hard to trust him to keep the job. Rodney’s downfall has been poor control, and this season, he has thrown under 61 percent of his pitches for strikes. Meanwhile, Buchter has emerged as an effective setup option, and manager Andy Green entrusted him with the save chance on Thursday, when Rodney was unavailable.

Cons: The fact remains that Rodney has succeeded, despite his wildness. It may not be any easier to have confidence in Buchter, a 29-year-old who had pitched one inning in the majors coming into 2016. He has also had some control issues of his own.

How does a team contend despite a sub-optimal rotation? The Royals last season proved it can be done, as they barged to the belt and the title despite a lacking corps of starting pitchers. For them, it was elite fielding, a lineup that didn’t strike out, and a lockdown bullpen. The 2016 Red Sox are taking a different approach, as they’re just beating the stuffing out of the ball. The Sox rank a middling eighth in the AL in rotation ERA, and their $217 million offseason addition, David Price, is presently running an ERA of 6.00. Still and yet, the Sox are playing .629 ball and neck-and-neck with Baltimore at the top of the AL East standings. As mentioned, that’s thanks largely to the offense.

Coming into Friday’s action, the Red Sox lead the AL in runs scored. Actually, they’re not merely leading the AL in runs, they’re dominating the AL on that front. The Sox are tops in the junior circuit with a whopping 5.91 runs per game. In second place are the Rangers, all the way down at 4.74 runs per game. If that pace holds up over a full season (it probably won’t, but go with it for now), then the Red Sox will outscore those second-place Rangers by 190 runs. As mentioned, they’re dominating on this front.

Bryce Harper headlines a group of sluggers whose priced have fallen. He’s $700 cheaper than Yoenis Cespedes, which makes it a fairly easy call from me. Same for Edwin Encarnacion and Lucas Duda. Coors is a big deal, but give me the much better hitter against an equally bad pitcher. Buster Posey is facing Shelby Miller at Chase Field, and he’s still $100 less than Kevin Plawecki. Francisco Lindor has a great matchup with Ricky Nolasco and he’s the same price as Asdrubal Cabrera.

Outside of the catcher example, I wouldn’t be surprised if each of the Coors examples were higher owned. At least tonight, I’d rather have the better players against the great matchups.
Starting Pitchers

With the exception of the speedy Peraza, those “things they do well” mostly boil down to “hit home runs,” but Sanchez has a chance to become a more complete hitter. He had lost much of his luster before regaining it with a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League and would be more exciting for Fantasy owners if he had a job to call his own. Early speculation, though, has him getting sent back to Triple-A once the Yankees get past the pair of tough lefties awaiting them in the White Sox series.

Then again, catcher is so weak that, at least in two-catcher leagues, you could take a flier on Sanchez and hope for the best. That’s also true for Joseph, who’s eligible at catcher in CBSSports.com leagues even though he’ll be playing first base the majors. He doesn’t walk at all, but he makes enough contact that he might just be able to hold down a regular job in the majors if not for that whole Ryan Howard thing.

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