2020 Fantasy Baseball Closing Pitcher Rankings: Liam Hendricks On The Rise

In 2018, only 11 relievers had over 30 saves, and 17 were over 20 saves. 2019, we saw 11 relievers with over 30 saves again, but 21 with over 20 saves. Projecting saves is a noisy stat to predict. Only eight project for over 30, but 13-14 names here could certainly hit that mark. We do have 20+ relievers projected for over 20 saves. 2020 does not look like a bad year for closers, as there are only a few committee approaches to name at the moment. Of course we do have some unpredictable arms set to open the year as their team’s closers, which would create some issues if they do struggle. Keep tabs on our updating Closer Depth Chart leading up to the season and through the end of the year.

1Josh HaderMIL63.9$2172.73.833.22.821.02120.6
2Kirby YatesSD79.2$1863.
3Roberto OsunaHOU91.3$1666.13.437.43.491.1178.6
4Aroldis ChapmanNYY86.6$1852.02.736.92.891.1077.1
5Kenley JansenLAD127.5$1166.
6Liam HendriksOAK108.8$1559.
7Raisel IglesiasCIN149.6$1072.73.331.43.731.1988.9
8Ken GilesTOR134.5$1359.52.830.13.431.1476.2
9Hector NerisPHI144.7$1159.52.729.23.711.1876.3
10Edwin DiazNYM125.1$1466.13.428.22.781.03101.4
11Taylor RogersMIN120.3$1359.
12Brad HandCLE117.9$1266.
13Alex ColomeCHW162.4$966.
14Craig KimbrelCHC143.5$957.82.827.23.441.1882.0
15Brandon WorkmanBOS171.5$859.52.926.13.731.2972.8
16Ian KennedyKC200.4$566.12.825.64.171.2369.1
17Archie BradleyARI181.3$759.52.625.43.791.2866.9
18Sean DoolittleWSH204.2$361.12.825.33.911.1868.8
19Jose LeclercTEX173.3$1066.
20Hansel RoblesLAA170.5$866.
21Mark MelanconATL234.8$357.82.720.83.581.2655.1
22Keone KelaPIT224.7$666.
23Nick AndersonTB244.7$566.13.315.63.111.0692.5
24Joe JimenezDET223.8$559.52.522.14.021.2471.2
25Mychal GivensBAL337.0$
26Wade DavisCOL541.5$

Tier One (1-5)

No real surprise as Josh Hader steps in as the number one option. He is going earlier than any other reliever, mainly because he has the highest strikeout potential in comparison to the rest of the closers. Hader is coming off of a season where he had a 48% strikeout rate, and 37 saves. The lefty induced a 23% swinging strike rate, and hitters had just a 61% contact rate against him. Home runs I guess would be his red flag, if you could even say that. He allowed 1.78 HR/9, but nothing really alarming there. Kirby Yates had 41 saves in his full year as the San Diego closer. Yates has a good groundball rate at 48%, and that pairs nicely with his 41% strikeout rate. He has elite stuff, and enters as a top tier closer this season. He is easily the next closer off the board.

Roberto Osuna doesn’t have the big strikeout rate as some of the others, but he is a reliable closer coming off a 38-save season. He will see a ton of save opportunities, and has a chance to surpass 40 this season. He had a 0.88 WHIP, which is on par with Yates and Hader. Osuna doesn’t have a high walk rate, and should be viewed as a top end closer. Aroldis Chapman has a bit higher walk rate than you might want, but it doesn’t effect his overall numbers. Chapman still  had a 36% strikeout rate last season, and had a 2.21 ERA. Expect more of the same this year for the Yankees closer.

We see a big of a drop in ADP in comparison to Kenley Jansen, and the same goes for his auction value. Jansen went from being a 40+ saves guy with a sub-two ERA to being a 30-40 save guy with a 3.00-3.75 ERA. The strikeout rate has fallen about 10% in that span, and yes his days of being an elite closer are done. He still has above average stuff, and deserves the spot he is at. I don’t expect a massive drop off.

Tier Two (6-10)

Liam Hendriks is stepping into the full time closer role for Oakland this season, and he has been a part of an elite backend over the past few seasons. Hendriks has a power fastball, and is coming off a career high 37% strikeout rate in 2019. He had a 29% whiff rate on his four-seamer, and over a 50% whiff rate on his slider and curveball. He only threw the curve 8% of the time, but had a 28% put-away rate.

Raisel Iglesias struggled with the long ball, owning a 1.61 HR/9 last season, and had a 1.22 WHIP. The ERA took a hit at 4.16, but he did have seven saves, which was top ten among closers. He had a 15.5 swinging strike rate, and 32% strikeout rate. The ballpark is not friendly when you are owning a 29% groundball rate. Iglesias has a 28% whiff rate on his 95 mph fastball. He also has a slider with a 37% whiff rate and changeup with a 44% whiff rate. Suppressing the power is something that needs improvement, but can be done.

Hector Neris and Ken Giles are both strong options, but I want to talk more about Edwin Diaz. He went from a 57 save season with a 1.96 ERA to a 26 save season with a 5.59 ERA. Diaz talked about the ball, and he wasn’t the only one, where he was having issues on his grip. Granted Diaz was a bit unlucky with a .277 xwOBA and .344 wOBA allowed. His ERA estimators were also down about two full runs. The slider did drop off, and we have only speculation on what type of ball MLB will put in play this year. I still believe Diaz has 35+ save upside with some strong strikeout potential. A 27% HR/FB and .377 BABIP is very extreme.

Tier Three  (11-15)

Taylor Rogers is right on the cusp of being a tier two option, and is a strong arm to consider in the 115-130 ADP range. Rogers had 30 saves last season, with a 50% groundball rate and 32% strikeout rate. He also walked just 4% of batters faced, and they only had a 31% hard-contact rate off of him. Rogers is a stud, and I would be happy with him as my first closer. He has a chance to be a top six-seven fantasy closer. Alex Colome is a safe option as far has his job goes, but he out-performed his ERA estimators by quite a bit and doesn’t have big strikeout stuff. It is worth noting Colome seems to do post these types of numbers every year.

After the trade to Cleveland, Brad Hand had a full year in 2019 where he had 34 saves and a 3.30 ERA. His first half was excellent, but the second half was a major struggle. Hand ended up being shut down due to fatigue. I’m a bit concerned with the 2019 numbers in the second half, and his arm giving out towards the end of the year. He still projects for a 30 save guy with some strikeout upside, but there is some risk. Boston had somewhat of a committee last season, but entering 2020 it is Brandon Workman’s job to lose. He had 104 strikeouts in 71 innings last season, and posted a 1.88 ERA. Workman relies on his curveball first, using the fastball and cutter as secondary pitches.

One of the biggest question marks in the saves department is Craig Kimbrel. He struggled in 2019 with Chicago, and that wasn’t a big shock given he didn’t have time to prep. He also had some injuries mixed in as well. Going back to his 2018 season with the Red Sox, the walks gradually got worse. He has had some control issues at times during his career. The saves should be there in 2020, but I do believe there will be some struggles as well.

Tier Four (16-20)

Now we are getting to some of the more riskier names. We can start with Ian Kennedy, who actually has a fairly safe role with the Royals. He transitioned to a closer last season, and notched 30 saves. He had a 3.41 ERA and 3.77 xFIP. It is still Ian Kennedy, so the 1.28 WHIP and ability to miss bats is not going to help. There really isn’t much behind Kennedy to challenge him for the job, so you are pretty safe with him in a closer role. That can’t be said for most of the names moving forward. I like Archie Bradley as a late round guy right now, where he can pick up 30+ saves. He projects for a little over a strikeout per inning reliever. Bradley thrived in the second half, and hopefully he can keep that going.

Sean Doolittle had 29 saves last season, but a 4.05 ERA, 1.65 HR/9, and 5.08 xFIP. Washington has other options if he struggles again, and his health has also been a question mark. I would prepare for the worst with Doolittle. Daniel Hudson and Will Harris are two names behind him that would immediately sneak in if Doolittle struggles. The upside is there for Jose Leclerc, but walks continue to be an issue with a double-digit strikeout rate. He had 14 saves, most coming towards the end of the year. Leclerc will start the year as the closer, but it may not end that way. He did have a 34% strikeout rate, but a 13% walk rate followed. The 1.31 WHIP will need to improve.

The Angels have some quality bullpen arms, but have not had a strong closer role set. That should change in 2020, and Hansel Robles is the name that will get the first crack. He had 23 saves last season with a 2.51 ERA. He out-performed a bit, but is someone who took great strides. Robles is a solid late round closer to take a chance on.

Tier Five (21-26)

I am not a huge Mark Melancon fan, given the strikeout stuff is below average for a closer and he relies on the high groundball rate. Atlanta actually loaded up their bullpen, and if Melancon struggles, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go to a committee approach. This is a situation that I will likely stay away from, but that is mostly Melancon related, where there are some names I will talk about below. Joe Jimenez will open as the Detroit starter, which is not a good team, nor does he project for a ton of saves. He is a young arm, who had a 32% strikeout rate, but 9% walk rate. He also allowed a 1.96 HR/9. If he can find some control, Jimenez is a decent flier late in drafts.

There are two names I do like in this range. Keone Kela is one of them, and is a late round target for saves. He has a career 30% strikeout rate, but does have issues with control at times. A 1.11 WHIP isn’t bad for this range, and he has decent ERA estimators. The power fastball and curveball is his combo, and he will open up as the Pittsburgh. Tampa Bay trading Emilio Pagan to San Diego creates a chance for Nick Anderson, yet we are still waiting on the Rays confirmation. We can never be 100% certain they won’t just continue with a frustrating committee approach. However, Nick Anderson is coming off a strong 2019 season with two teams, where he had a 2.44 xFIP and 41% strikeout rate. He limited walks as well.

Wade Davis is someone I don’t want any part of in drafts, as for some reason Colorado opted to start him as the closer again. This is tied to the contract they gave him I am sure. Mychal Givens has pretty good stuff, and was a bit unlucky in 2019. The issue with him is that there isn’t a ton of save potential with Baltimore.

Names To Keep An Eye On

There are a few closer roles that have not been solidified yet, and the Marlins is one of them. Brandon Kintzler isn’t a big strikeout arm, but there is plenty of potential for him to pick up saves there. We could also see Ryne Stanek as well. The Cardinals closer role is a major question mark right now, and Giovanny Gallegos is someone to watch, although they could opt to use Carlos Martinez in that role as well. We could also see Andrew Miller and Alex Reyes get their chances. San Francisco is going with a committee, and Tony Watson will be a part of it with Shaun Anderson. I don’t love this group as a whole, but towards the end of drafts they are worth taking for some late round save potential.

In terms of names who are backing up poor closers, Daniel Hudson I mentioned as a potential choice to pick up some saves if Doolittle struggles. If Tampa Bay goes with the committee approach, Jose Alvarado would be the other name. Although his control is a bit of an issue, and Anderson is the better arm. Diego Castillo could be in the mix too. In Atlanta, Will Smith would be next in line to grab some saves. All in all he should be the one closing the door, but that won’t be the case just yet. Scott Oberg in Colorado was expected to be the closer, but will return to the setup role. If Davis struggles or goes through injuries again, then Oberg will step right in. Say Edwin Diaz does struggle again, Dellin Betances is the new setup man, and has closer type stuff. I would expect him to get a crack at some same.

Jason Guilbault has been writing and podcasting in the fantasy sports world for over five years. You can find his work at Daily Fantasy Cafe. He is an avid Tottenham fan, and follows the Boston sports teams. When he isn’t diving into stats, he is enjoying the outdoors or down at the local brewery.

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