It is fantasy baseball season! Below, we’re focusing on fantasy baseball sleepers at the closer position.
The saves landscape has changed a lot over the last few years, as many teams are turning to multiple arms to handle ninth-inning duties. It makes the top-tier closers more valuable than ever, but that’s being reflected in their fantasy baseball draft prices.
In NFBC Main Event drafts so far, five relievers are going of the board by pick 80, and four more before pick 100. Let’s look at a few later options who should return solid value.
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Fantasy Baseball Sleepers: Closers
LHP Will Smith, Atlanta Braves
Smith began the 2020 season on the COVID-19 list, and returned to post a 4.50 ERA in 18 appearances. He still missed plenty of bats, though, and had a sub-1.00 WHIP.
With last year’s closer Mark Melancon now with the San Diego Padres, the door is open for Smith, who saved 34 games with the San Francisco Giants in 2019, to handle closer duties. The Braves have several other quality lefties in the bullpen to play matchups, and Smith appears to have the edge over Chris Martin in the closer battle, a job he can definitely thrive in.
RHP Anthony Bass, Miami Marlins
Bass spent some time in the closer role for the Toronto Blue Jays last season and saved seven games for them, including four in September.
He’s not a big strikeout guy, but his swinging strike rate has improved the last two seasons (11.5% in 2020), and he keeps the ball on the ground at a high rate (62.3% in 2020). Manager Don Mattingly has typically deployed one reliever to close out games, and signs point to that being Bass to open the year.
RHP Jordan Romano, Toronto Blue Jays
With closer Kirby Yates already going down for the season, no replacement has been formally announced in Toronto.
Romano is the logical replacement and has the skills to run with the role. He recorded a 36.8% K% and 1.23 ERA a season ago, leading to his 30-save potential mentioned in Baseball Forecaster. It’s a scenario that is well within the realm of possibility now, making Romano a solid investment.
RHP Nick Wittgren, Cleveland Indians
Most fantasy managers assumed all winter that RHP James Karinchak would serve as the team’s closer but Manager Terry Francona has been hesitant to anoint the hard-throwing right-hander and has given Wittgren some rave reviews this spring.
During his two seasons in Cleveland, Wittgren has put up a 2.99 ERA and 1.057 WHIP. There’s no guarantee he will claim the ninth-inning job but he is going outside the top 300 in most drafts and is a worthy gamble.
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