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Hunting for Saves: Early Look Over the American League

It’s never too early to begin considering closer roles and pitchers that could earn saves down the road. We will guide you through each team’s late-inning landscape and point out potential candidates to rack up the precious “SV” stat for your fantasy squad.

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In Search of Saves

AL East

Baltimore Orioles: Mychal Givens (4.57 ERA, 4.50 FIP, 33.1 K%, 10.0 BB%) is the nominal closer. He didn’t save a game in all of September, though, and is a perennial trade candidate. That’s why you need to write down Hunter Harvey’s name. He’s a former first-rounder and had a 1.42 ERA with 11 strikeouts in 6.1 frames with the big club.

Boston Red Sox: Brandon Workman (1.88 ERA, 2.46 FIP, 36.4 K%) is the undisputed closer. Matt Barnes (3.78 ERA, 3.28 FIP, 38.6 K%) crumbled in high-leverage work last year, so Marcus Walden (3.81 ERA, 3.69 FIP) should be next in line. Darwinzon Hernandez (4.45 ERA, 2.75 FIP, 38.8 K%) is one for the future if he can throw more strikes.

New York Yankees: Aroldis Chapman (2.21 ERA, 2.28 FIP, 36.2 K%, 37 saves) is one of the safest save sources in the league. The Yankees have two former closers in Zack Britton (1.91 ERA, 3.74 FIP) and Adam Ottavino (1.90 ERA, 3.44 FIP) capable to pick up the slack if needed.

Tampa Bay Rays: Although they had a nominal closer in 2019, the Tampa saves situation is usually one to avoid. They are extremely analytical and matchup-based in that the choice for the ninth inning could vary depending on the situation. With that said, Emilio Pagan (2.31 ERA, 3.30 FIP, 20 SV, 36.0 K%, 4.9 BB%) should be the favorite for ninth-inning duties. Diego Castillo (3.41 ERA, 3.72 FIP) and Nick Anderson (2.11 ERA, 1.62 FIP, and a bonkers 52.6 K%-2.6 BB%) will also see high-leverage work.

Toronto Blue Jays: Ken Giles (1.87 ERA, 2.27 FIP, 39.9 K%, 8.2 BB%, 23 SV) excelled as the closer. If he is traded, as it has been rumored, there aren’t many appealing names to fill the void. Anthony Bass (3.56 ERA, 3.90 FIP, 0.98 WHIP), claimed this offseason from waivers, looks like the most desirable option.


AL Central

Chicago White Sox: Alex Colome (30 saves, 2.80 ERA, 1.07 WHIP) is the closer. Kelvin Herrera (6.14 ERA, 4.58 FIP) is there if he falters or if he gets injured/traded. However, he was so bad in 2019 that you need to consider Aaron Bummer (2.13 ERA, 0.99 WHIP) as the primary handcuff.

Cleveland Indians: Brad Hand (34 saves, 3.30 ERA, 84 K) was his usual dominant self as the Indians closer in 2019, except for an August hiccup and a five-run appearance in June. As long as he is in Cleveland (the team is reportedly looking to trim payroll) he will close. The newly-acquired Emmanuel Clase (2.31 ERA with a sick, 100+ mph cutter) and James Karinchak (1.69 ERA, 0.75 WHIP in MLB, 74 Ks in 30 1/3 innings in Minor League ball) will be there otherwise.

Detroit Tigers: When Shane Greene was traded, it looked like the Tigers’ bullpen was left in shambles. However, the team seems to feel good with Joe Jimenez (4.37 ERA, 4.66 FIP, 12.37 K/9) in the ninth-inning role. He only allowed one earned run in September and converted several save chances. Buck Farmer (3.72, ERA, 73 K, 1.27 WHIP) had a fine season and should be considered a frontrunner for the closer gig in the event that Jimenez can’t go. David McKay (5.59 ERA, 3.11 FIP), a Mariners’ castoff, had very good strikeout numbers (35.8 K%) but notable control issues (11.1 BB%) with the Tigers. He could be one to watch.

Kansas City Royals: Ian Kennedy (30 saves, 3.41 ERA, 2.99 FIP, 10.37 K/9) flourished as a reliever last season. He earned the closer gig and did pretty well. However, you almost have to assume he is going to be traded at some point in the offseason or when baseball starts. If/when that happens, I find Scott Barlow very interesting. He finished with a 4.22 ERA, 92 strikeouts (11.77 K/9) and a 1.44 WHIP, but from July 17 to the last day of the year, he had a 1.87 ERA and a 2.59 FIP in 33.2 frames. One for the future? Tyler Zuber. Remember the name. He had a dominating stint in Double-A (2.42 ERA, 2.95 FIP, 10.38 K/9 ad 1.73 BB/9) and could be up in the second half.

Minnesota Twins: Taylor Rogers (2.61 ERA, 2.85 FIP, 32.4 K%, 4.0 BB%) has a firm grasp of the closer role. Tyler Duffey (2.50 ERA, 3.06 FIP, 34.5 K%, and 5.9 BB%) was almost as good and deserves the first shot in the event Rogers falters or gets injured. Trevor May (2.94 ERA, 3.73 FIP) and Sergio Romo (3.18 ERA, 3.35 FIP) could also close if needed.


AL West

Houston Astros: Roberto Osuna (28.9 K%, 4.7 BB%, 2.63 ERA and 3.21 FIP) is the undisputed closer. The likelihood of a trade is very low, but in the event of injury or prolonged ineffectiveness, the nasty Ryan Pressly (2.32 ERA, 2.66 FIP) figures to see save chances. However, the team could go the bold route and try someone like Josh James (14.67 K/9, 4.70 ERA, 3.98 FIP.)

Los Angeles Angels: Hansel Robles (2.48 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 23 saves, 26.5 K%, 5.7 BB%) will enter 2020 as the preferred ninth-inning option. He earned it during a remarkable 2019, in which he even had a scoreless streak that lasted 15 appearances. Cam Bedrosian (3.23 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) is a name to watch, as well.

Oakland Athletics: Liam Hendricks (1.80 ERA, 1.87 FIP, 25 saves, 37.4 K%, 6.3 BB%) just put up a 3.8 fWAR season as a reliever, which is nuts. He is the undisputed closer. Joakim Soria (4.30 ERA, 3.62 FIP) has extensive experience in the role and could spell Hendricks if needed. Yusmeiro Petit (2.71 ERA, 3.59 FIP, 3.3 BB%) is also talented enough to close.

Seattle Mariners: Matt Magill (3.63 ERA, 3.12 FIP, 29.2 K%, 5.2 BB%) pitched well down the stretch and earned five saves. He will, presumably, open the 2020 season in the role. Brandon Brennan also closed 2019 on a high note and could fill the role if needed. Sam Tuivialala (2.35 ERA, 3.13 FIP) could be another candidate.

Texas Rangers: Jose LeClerc (4.33 ERA, 3.59 FIP, 33.4 K%) had a rocky 2019. However, he finished strong and reclaimed his closer role. If he were to falter, Rafael Montero (2.48 ERA, 3.83 FIP, 0.97 WHIP, 30.1 K%, 4.4 BB%) looks positioned to rack up saves for the Rangers.

From safest to shakiest:

  • Roberto Osuna (Houston Astros)
  • Aroldis Chapman (New York Yankees)
  • Liam Hendricks (Oakland Athletics)
  • Taylor Rogers (Minnesota Twins)
  • Brandon Workman (Boston Red Sox)
  • Alex Colome (Chicago White Sox)
  • Hansel Robles (Los Angeles Angels)
  • Emilio Pagan (Tampa Bay Rays)
  • Brad Hand (Cleveland Indians – possible trade candidate)
  • Ken Giles (Toronto Blue Jays – possible trade candidate)
  • Jose LeClerc (Texas Rangers)
  • Joe Jimenez (Detroit Tigers)
  • Matt Magill (Seattle Mariners)
  • Ian Kennedy (Kansas City Royals – likely trade candidate)
  • Mychal Givens (Baltimore Orioles – likely trade candidate)

My favorite sleepers for saves:

  • Emmanuel Clase (Cleveland Indians)
  • Hunter Harvey (Baltimore Orioles)
  • Scott Barlow (Kansas City Royals)
  • Rafael Montero (Texas Rangers)

For more great rankings, strategy, and analysis check out the 2020 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. We’ll be adding more content from now right up until Opening Day!

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