With one full week (plus those two games in South Korea) in the books, some of the questions we had with regards to fantasy baseball closers have been answered and yet some have not. 

For instance, with a 35 to 5 run differential in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ four wins this season, there hasn’t yet been a save opportunity for one of their relievers to try to convert. We still think that Kevin Ginkel will be their closer while Paul Sewald is on the IL, but we haven’t been able to confirm that yet.

It looks as if Michael Kopech might be the Chicago White Sox’s closer. He saved their only win in a multiple inning effort. Kopech has recorded five strikeouts in 4.1 innings pitched but he’s also walked three batters and given up a home run, which is a bit concerning. 




Kansas City Royals reliever Will Smith is getting off to a rocky start to the 2024 season. He’s made three appearances and while he’s saved a game, he’s also blown a save and Smith has given up six runs in 2.2 innings pitched. James McArthur, Smith’s handcuff has given up at least one run in each of his three appearances thus far this season and he has an ERA of 12.00.

Here’s some other opening week observations to take note of regarding MLB closers:

David Bednar Is Still Not 100% Healthy

Bednar, who was dealing with a lat injury this preseason, was not available on Opening Day and has only made two appearances thus far this season. The Pirates as a team have four total saves. Aroldis Chapman, Josh Fleming, Jose Hernandez and Hunter Stratton each have one. 

The fact that Bednar is not on the IL is encouraging but if you roster him and Chapman is available on your league’s waiver wire, he might be worth an add. Stratton, whom we mentioned in last week’s column, is another sleeper to keep your eye on. He’s pitched 2.1 scoreless innings across three appearances and has four strikeouts, zero walks and he has recorded a save.

Some Managers Will Use Their Best Relievers In The Highest Leverage Situations Of A Game, And It Doesn’t Matter If It’s The Ninth Inning Or Not

Ryne Stanek, who we list as Andres Munoz’s handcuff in our Fantasy Baseball Closer Grid, worked the ninth inning of the Seattle Mariners’ win against the Guardians on Monday and picked up the fifth save of his career. Mariners manager Scott Servais used Munoz in the eighth inning against the Guardians’ three, four and five hitters, with the dangerous Jose Ramirez leading off the inning.  

We mentioned that Philadelphia Phillies manager Rob Thomson has a reputation for being flexible in the way that he uses his relievers, and it was on full display this past week. Jose Alvarado is considered the favorite to work in high leverage situations to start the season. 

Thomson used Alvarado, who’s a lefty, in the eighth inning of a 2-2 tie against the Braves last Friday matching him up against their four, five and six hitters which included lefty batters Matt Olson and Michael Harris. The move didn’t work. Alvarado walked two, gave up three hits and was charged with five earned runs and a loss against the Braves. 

However, Thomson showed Alvarado that he believes in him. Two days later, Alvarado was right back out there pitching the ninth inning, and he picked up his first save of the season.  

Twins relievers have just one save so far this season and it was recorded by Griffin Jax. There’s a good chance that he’ll close for the Twins while Jhoan Duran is on the IL, but Twins manager Rocco Baldelli has shown that he’s willing to use Jax against his opponent’s toughest outs. On Saturday, Jax was used in the eighth inning against the Royals’ number two, three and four hitters.




Abner Uribe Appears To Be The Milwaukee Brewers’ Closer 

In a previous article, we suggested that based on Brewers manager Pat Murphy’s comments he would let the situation dictate who his closer would be while Devin Williams is on the IL. Actions speak louder than words and thus far, Uribe has been the primary reliever that Murphy has used in late-inning, high-leverage situations. 

Uribe has recorded three of the Brewers’ first four team saves. Joel Payamps has the other. Despite having previous issues with his control (5.61 career BB/9), Uribe has classic closer stuff. His fastball regularly reaches triple digits on the radar gun and his slider generated a 58.1 Whiff Rate last season. If he’s not striking batters out, he’s using his sinker to induce them into hitting ground balls. 

His ability to get batters to hit grounders has helped him keep the ball in the park. Uribe has given up just one home run in 35 big league games and his control has been much better thus far this season (3 BB/9). The Brewers have other live arms in their bullpen capable of closing out games including Hoby Milner, but so far, Uribe is embracing the opportunity.

Despite The Hype Surrounding Jason Foley, He Has A Weakness That May Prevent Him From Being The Detroit Tigers’ Primary Closer

Even though he’s the type of manager who typically relies on one reliever to close out his team’s wins, as of Sunday morning Tigers manager A.J. Hinch wasn't ready to name his closer. However, based on his actions so far this season, Foley is his guy, at least when he won’t have to face tough lefty batters. 

Foley got the fantasy baseball community all riled up when they saw him throwing 101 mph sinkers on Opening Day, but he does have a weakness, and that is left-handed batters. For his career, lefty hitters have a .304 BAA him. 

Alex Lange, who was the Tigers’ primary closer for much of last season, is equally effective against right-handed and left-handed batters. Lange’s problem is that he’s been equally generous in giving up free passes to both righty and lefty batters. As we mentioned in our sleeper article, Lange did significantly reduce his walks allowed as last season progressed, and despite the fact that he’s already walked three in just a third of an inning this season, he may yet be used in save opportunities before this season is over. 

The Tigers have a deep bullpen with Shelby MillerWill Vest and Andrew Chafin all experienced in pitching in late-inning, high-leverage situations. Foley has never been a reliever who posts high strikeout rates. Instead, he tends to pitch to contact and with most of it being in the form of ground balls, like the previously mentioned Uribe, he tends to keep the ball in the ballpark. 

Foley is worth rostering, and despite his one glaring weakness perhaps he might find himself as being the strong side of a bullpen committee who’ll get the majority of the save chances for the Tigers this season.




It's Often Better To Have A Quality Long Reliever – Not A Mediocre Starting Pitcher – In Your Weekly Lineup

New York Yankees reliever Ian Hamilton has pitched 5.2 innings in the first week of the season. He hasn’t given up a run and he’s struck out seven batters while walking none.

Entering Wednesday’s action, Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Ryan Yarbrough appeared in three games and pitched nine innings. He pitched to a 4.00 ERA and only struck out three batters while walking three batters, but he earned a win and recorded a save.

The previously mentioned Josh Fleming pitched five innings this past week for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Fleming struck out five batters while walking just one and he has pitched to a 1.80 ERA. Fleming got a relatively rare three inning save last Friday. 

Cleveland Guardians reliever Tyler Beede pitched four scoreless innings in the first week of the season. He struck out six batters, walked one and recorded a hold.