If you want to roster an elite fantasy baseball closer, it’s going to cost you a sizable chunk of draft capital. Top tier closers like Josh Hader and Liam Hendriks have been selected as early as the second round in early preseason NFBC drafts.
However, investing an early round pick on a closer doesn’t always guarantee that he’ll perform up to expectations. On average, Aroldis Chapman was the third closer off the board last season, but he lost his closer’s gig for a few weeks and recorded the second highest ERA (3.36), and worst WHIP of his career (1.314).
On the other hand, fantasy managers who selected eventual Cleveland closer Emmanuel Clase in the back end of their 2021 fantasy baseball drafts were rewarded with a 24 save, 1.29 ERA, and 0.962 WHIP season
Per NFBC ADP, fantasy baseball’s top 10 closers will likely be selected by the eighth round of a typical 12 team league, but if you do your research and run into a little luck you can still find a serviceable closer in the latter rounds of your draft. Let’s see if we can find a few together.
Giovanny Gallegos, (ADP 111), took over as the Cardinals’ closer for the slumping Alex Reyes in late August and preceded to save 12 games in his final 16 appearances of the season. He also struck out 95 batters in 80 IP. With some anticipating that Reyes may be used as a starter this season, Gallegos may get most of the Cardinals’ save opportunities. Gallegos can often pitch for more than one inning per appearance. That ability combined with his above average K rate, should help him to once again be a significant contributor in the strikeout category.
Mark Melancon led the major leagues with 39 saves last season and pitched to a 2.23 ERA and yet he has an NFBC ADP of 128 and is the 12th closer being drafted this preseason. On average, he’s being selected in the 11th round of a typical 12 team league in part because he’ll be pitching for a Diamondbacks team that only won 52 games last season. Melancon is a good pitcher who learned to throw his cutter from the great Mariano Rivera and was one of only 11 pitchers to have a negative average launch angle against. The Diamondbacks will likely win more than 52 games this season and while Melancon probably won’t save another 39 games this season most projection models predict that he’ll save between 25 and 30. Don’t be afraid to roster closers who pitch on bad teams.
Scott Barlow is another example of a potentially very good closer who pitches for a win-challenged team who should get his fair share of saves this season. With an NFBC ADP of 164, Barlow is typically being selected in the 14th round of a typical 12 team league. Barlow didn’t settle in as the Royals’ closers until July, but he finished the season strong with 14 saves in his final 34 games. He posted career bests in ERA (2.42) and WHIP (1.197), and he threw 74.1 innings while striking out 91 batters. Several projection models expect that he’ll save close to 30 games and pitch 74 plus innings. Based on his career 11.25 K/9 if he can pitch that many innings, he’ll likely strikeout over 90 batters once again.
David Bednar is yet another closer who’ll be pitching for a team that will struggle to reach the .500 mark. He’s expected to get the majority of save chances for the Pirates this season, and if you can grab him at his NFBC 197 ADP you might be getting yourself a nice bargain. He gained a little over a MPH of velocity on his fastball last season. It averaged out at 97 MPH, but it even hit triple digits at times. His arsenal also features a hard splitter and a curveball whose average velocity is almost 20 MPH slower than his fastball. The Pirates might not win many games this season, but Bednar will strikeout a lot of opposing batters (11.08 career K/9), and several projection models still expect that he can save over 20 games.
Unless they acquire a closer before Opening Day, Pierce Johnson could open the season closing out games for the Padres while Drew Pomeranz continues his recovery from surgery to repair his torn flexor tendon. Johnson’s repertoire features two pitches: a 95 MPH fastball and a curveball that generated a 32.2 Whiff% last season. He’ll have to reduce the number of free passes he gives up (4.31 career BB/9) but last season’s 11.81 K/9 is impressive. Johnson is a bit of a dart throw, and he may not close out games for the Padres for the entire season, but just about all major projection models predict that he’ll save at least 15 games and expect his ERA to be below 4.00.
Fantasy Baseball 2022
- The Ultimate Fantasy Baseball Cheat Sheet
- Positional Breakdown: Relief Pitching
- Draft Guide: Streaming Strategies for Hitters & Pitchers
- Understanding Projections & Category Targets
- FA Baseball Podcast: Digging Deep into ADP