Fittingly, more than one-third of MLB teams have altered their ninth-inning plans in roughly one-third of the 2021 season. After all the success and failures, it is worth a few minutes of our time to assess where each team stands at the moment. You may be surprised when seeing where the closers on your fantasy team fall on this list.
Secure and elite
Josh Hader (MIL): Already an elite option, Hader has been better than ever this year. His 0.65 FIP and 0.79 WHIP are career-best marks.
Aroldis Chapman (NYY): Chapman has been awesome this year (0.41 ERA, 0.77 WHIP).
Liam Hendriks (CWS): Hendriks had some early hiccups but hasn’t allowed an earned run since April 25. Old-school manager Tony La Russa maximizes save chances for his closers.
Craig Kimbrel (CHC): Kimbrel tends to either be really good or really bad, and this year we have the good version. His control skills are back to normal, and he is logging an elite 15.3 K/9 rate.
Secure and solid
Edwin Diaz (NYM): Diaz is just short of elite, as he tends to have the occasional meltdown. Still, he has one blown save and one loss, and his hold on the ninth-inning role is secure.
Mark Melancon (SD): Melancon is far from losing his role, having converted 18 of 20 save chances. Still, his 19:10 K:BB line across 25.1 innings is far from an exciting mark for a fireman.
Matt Barnes (BOS): By dramatically reducing his walk rate, Barnes has become a reliable closer. Continuing to limit free passes will eventually push him to the top group, but his track record of wildness is too great to move him there just yet.
Raisel Iglesias (LAA): Iglesias has been homer prone and has given up two runs on five occasions. But his 30:3 K:BB ratio across 21 innings is an outstanding mark. I’m not really worried about him.
Ryan Pressly (HOU): Pressly has been good but unlucky, as he has had save chances in just nine of his 22 outings. But he’s pitching great (25:4 K:BB line, 1 HR) and the Astros are a good team. His luck should soon even out.
Will Smith (ATL): Thanks to an awful blowup on May 13, Smith has mediocre ratios (4.29 ERA, 1.24 WHIP). But he has yet to blow a save and is pitching well overall. His job is secure.
Secure but with some concern
Alex Reyes (STL): I put Reyes as low as possible for someone with 16 saves and a 0.62 ERA. The right-hander has shown abysmal control skills (8.1 BB/9 rate) which will eventually catch up with him.
Kenley Jansen (LAD): Jansen’s control woes aren’t on Reyes’ level, but the Dodgers veteran is walking too many batters and doesn’t have the swing-and-miss dominance to make up for the free passes.
Hector Neris (PHI): Neris has been effective this season, but fantasy managers should note his 3.73 FIP and history of losing closer roles.
Yimi Garcia (MIA): Garcia has blown just two save chances since taking over for Anthony Bass in mid-April but is coming off an ugly outing against Toronto. With a career 1.00 WHIP, he has the skills to keep his role.
Brad Hand (WSH): Having allowed three homers and nine walks in 20.1 innings, Hand has been walking a tightrope. He is also a strong candidate to work middle relief for a contender down the stretch.
Ian Kennedy (TEX): Kennedy has been great this year (1.77 ERA, 0.93 WHIP) but is among the most likely names on this list to be traded to a contender in July. The inconsistent 36-year-old may not work the ninth inning on his new team.
Diego Castillo (TB): Similar to Hand, Castillo has been successful despite giving up too many homers (4) and walks (8) in his 20.2 innings. The Rays are so willing to share save chances, and Castillo isn’t giving them a reason to change that tendency.
Richard Rodriguez (PIT): Copy and paste the Kennedy paragraph. Rodriguez has been great (1.54 ERA, 0.60 WHIP) but is on the wrong side of 30 and is more valuable to the rebuilding Pirates as a July trade chip.
Sharing the role
Emmanuel Clase, James Karinchak (CLE): The Indians have been evenly sharing save chances between these two dominant-but-sometimes-wild relievers. I don’t see the situation changing.
Jake Diekman, Lou Trivino (OAK): Like with Cleveland, the A’s have been evenly splitting save chances between two relievers. Neither Diekman nor Trivino have pitched well enough to indicate they can wrestle the job away from the other.
Kendall Gravemen, Rafael Montero, Kenyan Middleton (SEA): Graveman likely reclaims this role when he returns from the COVID-IL. In the meantime, Montero and Middleton are sharing opportunities.
Michael Fulmer, Geovany Soto (DET): Fulmer appeared to be taking over this role in mid-May but Soto got the most recent save chance. Soto doesn’t have the control skills to hold this role, but the rebuilding Tigers may not be interested in settling on a closer anyways.
Jake McGee, Tyler Rogers (SF): McGee started the season on fire before fading in late April. Since that time he has shared chances with Rogers, who has been effective despite minimal strikeout abilities.
Hansel Robles, Taylor Rogers (MIN): Robles has become the most likely closer in Minnesota, but he has had control woes and the team continues to give Rogers chances when the situation calls for a lefty.
Not secure, but has the job for now
Jordan Romano (TOR): Romano has emerged as the safest option in a beleaguered bullpen but could lose the role when Julian Merryweather returns this summer.
Daniel Bard (COL): Bard was close to losing his role in the first half of May but has been effective of late. He may not be talented enough to handle making half his appearances in Coors Field.
Reds: Manager David Bell has delivered on his promise of a closer committee, allowing five relievers to earn a save thus far.
Orioles: Baltimore won just two games from May 6-31, but in that stretch they moved away from Cesar Valdez as closer. The team has mentioned using Paul Fry in the ninth inning and recently got a save from Cole Sulser.
D-backs: Like Baltimore, Arizona fared so poorly in May that a closer wasn’t needed. Stefan Crichton remains their ninth-inning man by default, but he suffered three losses since his last save chance. Joakim Soria could get into the mix, but he hasn’t been effective since returning from the IL.
Royals: Josh Staumont briefly took over as closer but is now set to miss several weeks with a knee injury. I expect a full-blown committee, including Scott Barlow, Kyle Zimmer, Greg Holland and Wade Davis.