How many of us Fantasy Baseball diehards watch the MLB Top 10 Right Now on MLB Network every year, and know we are wasting our time in terms of watching for Fantasy Baseball purposes?
Personally, I enjoy listening to Eric Byrnes, he has a great personality, but I can’t help but ask myself why I watch the series thinking it will help in my preparation for drafts. The show itself has merit, obviously, but not for this game.
Nevertheless, off the soapbox and on to the breakout Relief Pitchers. The reason I mention the show; we will not focus on superb arms with no role. This is not about the best young relief pitchers, or eighth inning relievers that could have a filthy year in 2016.
Instead, this is merely about the closers. The young up-and-comers that could truly breakout and make an argument as a Top 5 closer in next year’s draft. Or, perhaps the middling reliever that finally has an opportunity to close this year and could really take advantage.
With that said, cross off Tony Watson, Darren O’Day, Carson Smith, and Justin Wilson. Get rid of them. They have live arms, but barring injury, they will not get an opportunity to produce for Fantasy owners this season, outside of “Holds” leagues. Let’s get to the breakout relief pitchers.
Breakout Relief Pitchers
Arodys Vizcaino, Atlanta Braves
Jason Grilli reported to Spring Training stating that he plans to be the Braves’ closer on Opening Day. While that might scare away some Vizcaino believers, quite honestly, it’s music to my ears. The more Grilli looks destined to close for Atlanta in April, the cheaper Vizcaino becomes in drafts.
Vizcaino is the future, and Atlanta is looking to the future. Regardless of what Grilli wants, the Braves know they need to give Vizcaino a chance to see what he can do. Perhaps, their Craig Kimbrel replacement has fallen right into their lap.
So, if you put aside the worry of Vizcaino getting save chances and look at the numbers, Vizcaino has all the tools in the world to be a dominant closer. In about half a season last year, Vizcaino had a 1.60 ERA in 33.2 innings pitched with 37 strikeouts and only 27 hits allowed. Even closers on bad teams get saves.
If he limits his walks allowed, the WHIP shouldn’t be far behind. With Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman departing the National League, Vizcaino could easily make an argument as the second best closer in the National League as soon as 2017 (only trailing Kenley Jansen).
As for Vizcaino getting that shot, Grilli is not that far removed from a pretty terrible 2014 season. I’ll take my chances that Vizcaino secures the job by June at the latest, and racks up a minimum of 20 saves, while finishing as a Top 5 National League closer in all other counting stats.
Jake McGee, Colorado Rockies
What’s the one thing everyone says Colorado needs in order to be successful? Power pitchers.
McGee is just that, and Colorado finally listened to the callers by acquiring him from Tampa Bay for Corey Dickerson. Although it’s a steep price to pay, it makes it even clearer that McGee should get every shot to close for the Rockies in 2016.
McGee used his fastball 96 percent of the time in 2014, which shows he not only is committed to the pitch, but he’s successful with it despite the opposition knowing it is coming. In his last full year (2014), McGee recorded 19 saves with a 1.89 ERA and .90 WHIP in 73 games while recording 90 strikeouts in 71.1 innings pitched.
Assuming Colorado gives him the opportunity and a decent leash, this could be a special season for a couple new closers in the National League.
David Hernandez, Philadelphia Phillies
I really wanted to include an American League closer here, but I couldn’t ignore the “hatred” surrounding David Hernandez as a closer.
Hernandez was long considered the “future” in the back-end of Arizona’s bullpen until elbow injuries derailed the past two years of his career. If you suppose the elbow was partially the cause of his down 2013, let’s look at his 2012 in Arizona: 68.1 innings pitched, 98 strikeouts, 2.50 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 25 Holds.
While I realize I’m stretching and making an excuse for his 2013, but that kind of strikeout rate is good for Top 5 in the league. Although he’s four years older now, he’s also entering 2016 a full year removed from elbow injuries and has a golden opportunity to re-establish himself on a one-year deal with Philadelphia.
I believe the skill is still there, and the opportunity to close should as well, at least in the early going. The concern, however, will probably come around mid-June when the trade rumors start flying. More than likely, Philadelphia would prefer to establish a young reliever under team control towards the end of the season. Then again, they had that with Ken Giles, so what do I know.
Ken Giles, Houston Astros
Everyone’s on the Giles bandwagon, which is why he’s not really worth mentioning above. With that said, I would not be shocked if he’s the first closer off the board next year. His strikeout rate is very legitimate and joining the Houston Astros, if their pitching remains efficient, could allow him to push 45 saves this season.
The only question, at times, can be his control. If that remains under control, no pun intended, there’s probably no one better in the ninth inning.
As for the AL closers with some upside, the obvious choices are Sean Doolittle and Shawn Tolleson. Doolittle looks to finally be healthy, and seems like an obvious choice to take that next step towards an elite closer. I actually really believe in Doolittle as well, but the cost may outweigh the injury concerns and crowded bullpen of former closers with the additions of Ryan Madson and John Axford.
As for Tolleson, I think last season somewhat qualifies as a breakout. On top of that, what we saw last year is essentially the ceiling. There might be some more strikeout upside, however his 140-plus innings pitched over the past two seasons is a bit concerning for a reliever that had only thrown 45.1 innings the previous two seasons combined.
Don’t forget to catch up on our other 2016 breakouts, and continue following the So-Called Fantasy Experts all spring training for the latest updates.
- 2016 Fantasy Baseball Position Battles: Starting lineups beginning to take shape - March 28, 2016
- 2016 Fantasy Baseball: Breakout Relief Pitchers - March 8, 2016
- 2016 Fantasy Baseball: Breakout Second Basemen - March 3, 2016