The first week of the season has already seen some changes in teams' ninth-inning plans. Which new closers and potential closers should you add to your fantasy baseball team?
Remember when we told you all spring not to worry too much about closers in your draft or auction? Sure, getting someone like Aroldis Chapman makes a difference, but we explained why you can be stingy at the position once the elite guys are off the board. There’s so much closer turnover within the season that you can always find someone cheap who ends up serving your fantasy purposes in the ninth inning. That carousel started spinning earlier than ever this year.
Rarely do we get a new closer before the first pitch of the season crosses the plate, but that’s exactly what happened this year. In addition to that stunning Braves-Padres trade, two expected closers already suffered injuries, and a third has struggled while his setup men have avoided any pitfalls through the season’s first week. We knew bullpen volatility would strike at some point early in the year. We just didn’t realize how early it would be.
As such, new closers and potential closers highlight this season’s first edition of the Waiver Wire Report. Those of you in leagues where pickups process more than once a week may have missed out on these guys already, but they should be immediately snatched if they’re still out there. If you’re set at the closer position, there could still be something for you here. Mining the wire can always lead to the discovery of gold, even in the first week of April.
Suggested FAAB bids are in parentheses.
Jason Grilli, RP, Braves (Mixed: $16, NL-only: $26)
One day before their first game of the season, the Braves shipped Craig Kimbrel to San Diego, continuing the teardown that mysteriously began by purchasing Nick Markakis’s services for the next four years. With Kimbrel gone, Grilli slid into the closer’s role and has looked good thus far. He converted his first two save opportunities, tossing a pair of perfect innings with three strikeouts. In one of the endlessly fun quirks of the early part of the season, he even has a negative FIP. That, of course, won’t last, but his status as Atlanta’s closer should. Remember, it was just two years ago that he saved 33 games for the Pirates.
Joakim Soria, RP, Tigers (Mixed: $7, AL-only: $21)
Soria was likely drafted in all AL-only leagues, as well as most deep mixed leagues, given Joe Nathan’s tenuous hold on the closer’s job in Detroit. If you spent any time speculating for saves in your draft, you likely starred and highlighted Soria’s name, with good reason.
He could have stolen the job from Nathan on merit, but for now he has inherited it with the incumbent on the DL. Soria has a grisly injury history of his own but he was a revelation last year, regaining the dominant form he showed early in his career with the Royals. When Nathan returns, he may find that he abdicated the throne.
Miguel Castro, RP, Blue Jays (Mixed: $5, AL-only: $9)
You always want to be careful about assuming a ninth-inning coup has taken place when a pitcher who wasn’t thought to be in the closer’s mix picks up a save. And then there are those times when Lenin tells the Romanov Dynasty to get lost, and the writing is pretty much on the wall. In that vein, it’s fitting that a Castro has engineered the first potential takeover of a bullpen this year. Brett Cecil didn’t exactly have a firm hold on the Toronto bullpen, and that was before he blew his first save opportunity and came down with shoulder soreness. Castro, a 20-year-old who never pitched above High Class A before this year, sits in the high 90s with his fastball, as the Yankees learned in the teams' season-opening series. He can also do this:
I’m buying Castro. You should too.
Jake Lamb, 3B, Diamondbacks (Mixed: $7, NL-only: $10)
Lamb’s going to be Arizona’s starting third baseman against righties, a status he didn’t have just two weeks ago. He has a pair of extra-base hits, including a homer, in his first nine plate appearances. This isn’t totally out of nowhere, as the 24-year-old slashed .318/.399/.551 with 14 homers at Double A Mobile last season. Lamb is going to have plenty of leash from the Diamondbacks, especially since no one believes Yasmany Tomas can hack it at third defensively. Lamb probably isn’t Jose Abreu, but there’s no reason to believe he’s going to become a member of the Chris Shelton/Chris Colabello All-Stars. Lamb should stick at third for Arizona and will likely be, at the very least, a serviceable corner infielder in mixed leagues.
Trevor Bauer, SP, Indians (Mixed: $7, AL-only: $11)
It’s funny that you see people talking about this “finally” being Bauer’s year when he’s 24 years old and has all of 192 1/3 major league innings under his belt. Not everyone is Matt Harvey or Jose Fernandez, and some guys need—gasp!—a season or two before things click for them. Bauer dominated the Astros in his first start, tossing six shutout innings and fanning 11 en route to a win. This was the whiff-happy Astros, and he did walk five batters, but Bauer’s nasty stuff was on full display. It’s that repertoire that has people breathlessly using a word like finally when talking about Bauer. If it is indeed under his command, he’ll be a universally owned starter by the time the calendar turns to May.