It’s slightly ironic to think that the season in which we lost the game’s greatest closer, we may gain the heir apparent. While it’s far to early to compare Cincinnati Red Aroldis Chapman to Yankee legend Mariano Rivera, it is quite fun to take a look at this phenom.
Chapman has pitched 28 innings this season in varying capacities for the Reds, only recently being named the official Closer. In those 28 innings, he has given up 0 earned runs. That’s not a typo, it’s June and Aroldis Chapman has not given up a single earned run yet. Oh and guess what? He’s compiled 50 strikeouts over that same period.
This is why it boggles my mind when they consistently talk about moving Chapman into the starting rotation. Yes the man has a freakishly strong arm, but isn’t that a continuing issue with relievers moving into the rotation? Look at Boston’s Daniel Bard, a reliever used to overpowering pitchers. Boston moved him to the rotation at the start of the year, and now you can find him pitching in Triple-A.
Before Cincinnati fans go up in arms, hear me out. I’ve always considered Chapman more of a thrower than a pitcher. He knows what he can do, and he does it. I don’t know if that would translate over six plus innings as a starter. Hitters adjust and I don’t think it would be long before Chapman’s ERA started flying high. I feel the same way about Mariano Rivera. As good as his cutter is, two times through the line-up and teams will start catching up. So why move these guys to the rotation? The Yankees didn’t and they ended up with the greatest closer in the history of the game. Chapman is a ways away from that, but why take that possibility away when you see a guy like this dominate like he has?
Over four weeks into the new baseball season I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a rookie league manager. This year I decided to gather a bunch of friends and start our own league instead of playing in other leagues. This has also offered a new experience for me: my first ever keeper league.
The excitement and detail of a keeper league can’t be overstated. No move can be made without careful thought. You’re not playing just for this season, you’re trying to build sustained success across several seasons. Which brings me to the topic for this article: are closers overrated in keeper leagues?
I don’t mean in terms of day to day operations, of course. Unless you want to get rid of a good opportunity to keep your ERA low and earn some saves, you definitely need closers. I mean in terms of the long run, are closers worth locking up with a keeper slot? Let’s take a quick look at some closers and how they’ve fared this season.
Drew Storen – Washington Nationals
One of the rising young arms, Storen began this season on the DL while three other pitchers held down the closers role for him. He’s still expected back before the All Star break, but there’s some bad news: one of those three pitchers holding his job turned out to be pretty good. Henry Rodriguez has done a fantastic job as everyone else has fallen by the wayside.
So, where does this leave Storen? Still a possible top level closer, does he come back into the staff in a set-up or long relief role? Does Washington demote Henry Rodriguez despite his performance? Or, does Washington now have a carrot to dangle as trade bait? Only time will tell, but nothing is certain right now.
Brian Wilson – San Francisco Giants
Possibly a victim of poor management, Brian Wilson was lost to his fantasy owners after only one appearance this season. A hero of the Giants World Series’ title, this is now the second year in a row Brian Wilson has been shut down. For a terrific closer and fantasy option, Wilson is quickly dropping out of the picture.
Heath Bell – Miami Marlins
One of Miami’s big off-season acquisitions, Bell has been nothing short of inconsistent and terrible this season. So much so that manager Ozzie Guillen recently demoted him from the closers role. With a ballooning ERA and no signs of making a save anytime soon, Bell now finds himself in a set-up role, a specialist. He’ll most likely be back due to his long and hefty contract, but will he be worth looking at as a viable fantasy option?
Mariano Rivera – New York Yankees
Yes, even the greats are susceptible. Even the greatest of all time. Until last week, Mariano Rivera was the exception to my argument. A beacon of consistency in the closer ocean. Unfortunately the Sandman has gone down with a torn ACL, removing the games best closer for the season. Now Rivera has said he’ll be back, so his career isn’t over. But his time as a fantasy stud may be. A torn ACL isn’t an easy injury to overcome, and it is hard to judge if Rivera’s now 42 year old body will be able to return to form.
These are just a few examples, but there are questions all over the league. Papelbon is being underutilized in Philly, Javy Guerra has been ousted for Kenly Jansen in LA, and the Red Sox can’t seem to find any answer right now. Even potential great closers like Aroldis Chapman in Cincinnati are stuck in middle relief limbo right now. So my question to you is this: are closers worth using a keeper slot on? Most of the effective closers right now are pitchers who were available on fantasy waivers the first week of the season. Are there any closers left right now that inspire the confidence for you to use a keeper slot? If so, who? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
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