2016 Fantasy Baseball2016 Fantasy Baseball Draft GuideChris Garosi

2016 Fantasy Baseball: The Closer Report — National League

The Closer Report is a weekly column at The Fantasy Fix where we try to keep fantasy players updated on the machinations in each bullpen. Last year was full of volatility and we expect more of the same in 2016. We also maintain a Closer Chart on the site that is updated whenever news breaks in the pen.

For the draft kit, we’ll review each team’s current situation and look ahead to whom else might get a chance to close during the 2016 season. And for you keeper and dynasty league players we’ll take a quick look at the potential closers in 2017.

First, a few quick notes:

  1. Relievers are volatile – always. Except for Mariano Rivera. He ain’t walking through that door.
  2. Sample sizes are small with relievers. When looking at year over year comparisons, one bad outing can do a ton of damage to a reliever’s season line. So, take any of the stats below with a small grain of salt.
  3. Closers aren’t always the relievers with the best skills. Closers are odd animals and most organizations treat them as some sort of china doll. An “experienced” closer will have a longer leash (in general) than a “rookie” closer who might have significantly better skills or stuff.
  4. I’ll include the contract status for the current closer to give you an idea if it makes sense to mine the relievers on the staff for a potential closer in 2017 and beyond.
  5. In the National League, there are a bunch of teams who aren’t playing for 2016. So, their bullpen will probably be in flux, especially around the trading deadline.
  6. The closer position will be tough this year – the NL lost the two best closers it had. And those two closers moved to the AL and will have to see the DH and a harder offensive environment in general.

Arizona Diamondbacks

2016 Closer: Brad Ziegler – Ziegler is the closer. For now. Dave Stewart said that he’s open to acquiring a closer, so that’s not the greatest thing for Ziegler’s job security. Ziegler is a ground ball specialist with excellent control so he’s success is predicated on excellent defense behind him. And a keystone of Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed in late innings will give him that luxury. Arizona looks to be going all in this year and that means a couple of things. First, a reliever could be part of the trade deadline for the D’backs. Second, if Ziegler struggles, the pressure will be on to find a solution so his hold is a bit more tenuous than we might think based on his work last year.
Contract Status: Ziegler is a free agent after this season.

Handcuff option: Tyler Clippard – Clippards’s ground ball rate went south in 2015 and his fly ball rate increased. His K% decreased and his BB% increased last year. And that’s a bad fit for Arizona. He’s likely the handcuff and I’d see the D’backs going to him first, but I’m not sure he’ll be able to perform if last year’s regression is the start of a trend and not just a blip.

Other option: Daniel Hudson – If I were a betting man, I might say that Huddy’s skills play better as a closer than Clippard’s will. Now, he’s had three or four or five Tommy John surgeries, so there is risk. But, he showed well last year in a seventh/eighth inning role. His walk rate is a bit too high for a guy with his strikeout rate, but he could be an option in 2016.

Darkhorse Option: Silvino Bracho – Bracho has the strikeout rate paired with an average walk rate that could lead to success in the role. However, he’s an extreme flyball pitcher so he’s got to keep his walks down to limit damage from dingers.

2017 Closer: Not on the team – Maybe it’s Hudson. Maybe it’s Clippard (who’s on a two year deal). Maybe it’s Bracho. With the D’backs it’s hard to know which way they’ll go in 2017.

Atlanta Braves

2016 Closer: Arodys Vizcaino – Maybe Jason Grilli wins this job in Spring Training. Maybe Grill’s Achilles (that’s fun to say) is fully healthy. Maybe the Braves want to keep Vizcaino’s arbitration numbers down. All of those things are possible. At this point though, I’ll stick with Vizcaino as he handled the gig well when Grilil went down. Watch Spring Training, but at this point Vizcaino and Grilli are probably equal in value.
Contract Status:
Second year of arbitration so the Braves have him under control for three years beyond 2016.

Handcuff option: Jason Grilli – Grilli is running and throwing off a mound. Which is good because pitchers have to do both of those things on a regular basis. Grilli blew his Achilles out in mid-July of last year so he could be ready by Opening Day. It’s a toss-up for me between Vizcaino and Grilli and I’ll lean Vizcaino as I see more long term value and I believe Grilli will be eased into the role in the early season and will be gone by the July trading deadline.

Other option: Jim Johnson – He’s one of those “experienced” closers that managers like because he’s had a bunch of saves next to his name in prior seasons. He’s a ground ball guy who needs the defense to work for him. He struggled with the Dodgers early in 2015, but recovered nicely with the Braves to close out 2015.

Darkhorse Option: Mike Foltynewicz – Throws gas. Sometimes knows where it’s going. The Braves are going to keep trotting him out as a starter (as they should) until he proves he can’t do it.

2017 Closer: Arodys Vizcaino – At this point, it’s tough to see the Braves going big at the closer spot until they move into their new stadium (2017) and some of their prospects are producing at the major league level (perhaps a bit beyond 2017).

Chicago Cubs

2016 Closer: Hector Rondon – We’ll start where the Cubs ended 2016 – with Rondon closing out games. And with 59 saves over two seasons, the Cubs don’t have a reason to move somewhere else. His solid K% rate is balanced by excellent control. He changed his pitch mix last year – doubling the use of his slider, dropping his fastball usage and nearly eliminating the cutter. He outpitched his peripherals a bit last year so don’t expect another 1.68 ERA (probably closer to 2.50). But, his skill set is stable and he hasn’t given the Cubs a reason to move off him.
Contract Status:
Second year of arbitration so the Braves have him under control for two years beyond 2016.

Handcuff option: Pedro Strop – Strop has a stable skill set as well, but that skill set pairs a poor walk rate (BB%) with an excellent strikeout rate (K%). And it’s that walk rate that’s kept him as a temporary option to close games. If Rondon falters, the Cubs could go to Strop for the short term, but if it’s a longer term issue, the Cubs will go outside the organization. They think they have a team that can win the World Series and they won’t suffer Strop walking the bases loaded too many times.

Other option: Justin Grimm – Grimm’s control is worse than Strop’s, but his just recently moved to the bullpen so perhaps he has time to figure it out? He picked up three saves last year, but if his control improves he could slide in front of Strop.

Darkhorse Option: Carl Edwards, Jr. – The former C.J. Edwards will likely start the season at AAA after making his MLB debut last year. He was a full-time reliever in AA and AAA last year so I don’t believe the Cubs will try him as a starter again.

2017 Closer: Hector Rondon – No reason to expect Rondon won’t be here next year. The Cubs can spend money and if Rondon does well again this year, they’ll pay up to keep him in arbitration.

Cincinnati Reds

2016 Closer: J. J. Hoover – Bryan Price says the closer’s job is Hoover’s to lose. So, that’s encouraging and we’ll go with that. And if Hoover shows well, then the 28-year old could be trade bait in July as the Reds aren’t going anywhere this year. And on the surface, he had a solid year. Until you see a strikeout rate the plummeted last year and he moved from a flyball pitcher to more of a groundball pitcher. If his strikeout rate stays depressed, he’s a candidate to struggle as his 2.94 ERA hid a 4.47 FIP, 4.42 xFIP and 4.36 SIERA. In short, he had some luck last year and I’m not sure he has the tools to be so lucky again.
Contract Status:
Second year of arbitration so the Reds have him under control for two years beyond 2016 of control with Hoover.

Handcuff option: Jumbo Diaz – Diaz has superior skills to Hoover, but he’s extremely homer-prone which is something he’d need to get under control if he wants to succeed in the late innings. And just because you may not have heard of him, doesn’t mean he’s a youngster. He’s 31 and toiled for years in the minors before finally debuting in 2014.

Other option: Tony Cingrani – Walks. And homers. Those are his two big issues. He did limit HRs a bit last year (in only 33 1/3 IP), but he’s going to have to get both under control to succeed out of the pen. He didn’t see a big jump in stuff with his move to the bullpen fulltime, but he’s got time to figure it out.

Darkhorse Option: Carlos Contreras – He’s young and throws hard. He had three saves at AAA last year. The Reds’ bullpen is in a state of flux right now so Contreras is certainly an option. And there are many more options that will be evaluated in Spring Training.

2017 Closer: J.J. Hoover – I guess at this point he’s the best bet, but this pen could see a lot of moving and shaking all year long.

Colorado Rockies

2016 Closer: Jake McGee – The Rockies dealt Corey Dickerson for McGee and there isn’t any reason to think anyone but McGee will close in Colorado. He’s a one-pitch pitcher (fastballs thrown over 92% of the time in each of the last three seasons. And there is reason to believe he can be quite successful in Colorado. There is inherent risk in any Rockies’ pitcher, but McGee’s strikeout rate over 30% the last two years means he should be able to succeed in this role.
Contract Status: He enters his final year of arbitration after the 2016 season so he’ll be with the Rockies in 2017.

Handcuff option: Jason Motte – Motte signed a two year, $10M contract in the offseason. He had some shoulder issues from late August onward and didn’t pitch in a game after August 23 rd (though he was never on the DL). So, watch his Spring Training work, but he’s got closer experience. His K% rate has plummeted the last two years (and his flyball rate has increased) so that means he holds little value unless he gets the closer’s gig.

Other option: Chad Qualls – Qualls’ profile has changed in the opposite direction from Motte. Qualls’ K% has moved upward of late and he’s maintained his excellent control. He’s a groundball pitcher with solid K% rate. For a groundball pitcher, he’s surprisingly homer prone which is never good in Coors.

Darkhorse Option: Miguel Castro – Adam Ottavino will lurk on the DL early in the season and could have an impact in the second half. But, Castro is here and healthy – at least we think. He ended last year with a back injury so we’ll see if he’s fully healthy. He’s just 21 so there is time for him to grow into the role.

2017 Closer: Jake McGee – He’s under team control for one more year, so as long as McGee stays healthy, he should be back next.

Los Angeles Dodgers

2016 Closer: Kenley Jansen – I might say that Jansen is one of the safer closers in the NL, but then I recall that the Dodgers “traded” for Aroldis Chapman. The Dodgers like to acquire assets no matter how duplicative they may be. That said, Jansen’s still here, Chapman’s in New York and other options in the pen aren’t terribly attractive. His K% rate is elite and his BB% (control) gets better each year. He’s an elite option and should be one of the first closers off the board.
Contract Status: Free agent at the end of the year.

Handcuff option: Chris Hatcher – Hatcher picked up four saves last year and pitched well down the stretch after spending a couple of months on the DL with an oblique injury. His average fastball was 96 mph last year (the highest of his career) and can fill in if Jansen has issues this year.

Other option: Yimi Garcia – Garcia’s skills are excellent and in another bullpen he might be next in line for saves. But, he’s not and he’s clearly third in line at this point especially with his struggles (limited as they were) when he was the closer last year.

Darkhorse Option: Pedro Baez – A hard thrower with excellent control, Baez was the setup man for the Dodgers for a good part of last year. He faltered down the stretch and also suffered through a pectoral injury in the middle of the season. His skillset should allow him to be successful if called to serve.

2017 Closer: Kenley Jansen – I’m assuming the Dodgers re-sign Jansen in the offseason, but it’s possible they go another way. Either way, Jansen will be closing somewhere in 2017 and doing it well.

Miami Marlins

2016 Closer: A.J. Ramos – Ramos is the incumbent so we’ll put him on the seat for now. But, the Marlins’ front office said there will be an open competition (scroll to the bottom) for the closer’s job in Spring Training.
Contract Status: Under team control through 2018.

Handcuff option: Carter Capps – The man with the unorthodox (illegal?) delivery put up mind-bending numbers last year. He struck out nearly 50% of all batters he faced last year – an astounding number. He missed the last two months of 2015 with elbow issues so health is a concern. If he throws 60 innings this year, he could challenge Dellin Betances for value as a setup guy.

Other option: Mike Dunn – Dunn is a solid reliever who struggled with his control last year as his walk rate (BB%) skyrocketed and his HR/FB nearly doubled. There isn’t a ton of upside here, but with the Marlins starting rotation in flux, we could see some decisions available for the relief corps in Miami.

Darkhorse Option: Nick Wittgren – The 25-year old Wittgren was the closer at AAA last year for the Marlins. He has excellent control (walk rates below 5% in the minors) and a decent enough K% rate to make it work if the Marlins blow things up.

2017 Closer: A.J. Ramos – He’s under team control next year and he’s entering the year as the closer, but there is just as good a chance that Carter Capps is in this role in 2017. And the Marlins could also deal Ramos if he’s deemed too expensive. Ramos makes $3.5M this year and Capps just under $1M.

Milwaukee Brewers

2016 Closer: Jeremy Jeffress – So, like many other teams in the NL, the Brewers’ bullpen will likely be in flux all year long. He lost one mile per hour on his fastball last year, but he’s still throwing 95 mph so he’s got enough stuff to maintain his reasonable K% rate and groundball tendencies (nearly 60% for his career). He was effective in an eighth inning role last year and I imagine he gets the first shot.
Contract Status:
Under team control through 2018.

Handcuff option: Will Smith – I know others will go with Knebel here and that’s certainly defensible if only that Knebel is right-handed and Smith is not. But, when I look at the lefty, I don’t see a huge platoon split (.312 wOBA against lefties, .330 against righties) so he can succeed even throwing the ball from the portside. His K% continues to creep upward while his BB% slides downward. He offers a lot of value especially in leagues where prospects are chased. Smith isn’t sexy, but he’s good.

Other option: Corey Knebel – Knebel had a solid full season debut and will attempt to build on it this year as one of the seventh/eighth inning guys for the Brew Crew. He has the skills to succeed, but the opportunity may not be there as the Brewers may look to build their bullpen looking to trade a piece at the deadline. Knebel probably a solid bet to be in this role in 2018, but not sooner.

Darkhorse Option: David Goforth – Goforth was the AA closer in 2014, but was behind Jaye Chapman last year at AAA. It seems his career K% rate and BB% rate are not good enough to succeed at the major league level. The 27-year old is running out of time to show he can be a big leaguer.

2017 Closer: Jeremy Jeffress – He’s under team control next year and I think he’ll start as the closer this year, but it can be any of the first three pitchers on this list closing next year (or leading the Brewers in saves this year).

New York Mets

2016 Closer: Jeurys Familia – And we have another “safe” option. Familia was no higher than fourth on the closer depth chart last year, but ended up saving 43 games and throwing over 90 innings (between the playoffs and regular season). A ground-ball rate near 60% and K% at nearly 28% means Familia should be able to continue his success from last year as long as his walk rate stays in the single digits.
Contract status:
Under team control through 2018 via arbitration.

Handcuff option: Addison Reed – Reed struggled with the D’backs and looked great with the Mets last year. The reality is probably somewhere in between. And that holds some value, especially in holds leagues. He’s the clear #2 in this bullpen.

Other option: Antonio Bastardo – Bastardo signed a two-year deal in the offseason to be a lefty in the pen. He’s not a situational lefty as he can handle righties pretty well. There isn’t a lot of upside here, but he’s a steady performer.

Darkhorse Option: Hansel Robles – Robles made his major league debut last year and acquitted himself well enough to be in play for high leverage innings if there are injuries in the Mets’ pen. He put up a 28.1% K% and 8.3% BB% last year – both respectable numbers. He was a bit homer prone, but his home park should help the 25-year old a bit on that front.

2017 Closer: Jeurys Familia – Under team control and solid, Familia SHOULD be around next year. But, who knows what the Mets do – their finances aren’t clear and if Familia doubles his salary in arbitration then he could be moved.

Philadelphia Phillies

2016 Closer: David Hernandez – Hernandez signed a one-year, $3.9M deal in the offseason and it looks like he’s the closer. At least until July when the rebuilding Phils ship him to a contender. But, we’ll have a few months where Hernandez should be the closer. His last two seasons (2013 and 2015) have shown him give up more HRs than you’d like. And he seems like he’s not the big strikeout pitcher he was in the past. With Tommy John surgery in his past, perhaps his skills are forever. Either way, he’ll get the first crack at the gig, but has limited upside.
Contract status: A free agent after this season.

Handcuff option: Luis Garcia – Garcia led the team in holds last year so let’s assume he keeps his gig near the back end of the bullpen. He has excellent groundball tendencies, a solid K% rate, but his control is awful. He had the best BB% of his career last year at 12.2% which isn’t very good. In deep leagues with holds you can roster him, but probably nowhere else.

Other option: Jeanmar Gomez – The rest of the bullpen is completely up in the air at this point. Honestly, there are probably ten names who could fit into these next three slots. We’ll go with Gomez here as he finished third on the team last year in games finished (behind Papelbon and Ken Giles who are both gone). I know it’s not much to go on, but it’s a start. If you are in a holds league, Gomez may hold value if he ends up with eighth inning gig, but he offers no other value with a below average K% rate.

Darkhorse Option: Choose Your Own Adventure -The Phils have retreads Edward Mujica, Andrew Bailey, Ernesto Frieri and James Russell as non-roster invitees. All have spent various amounts of time as a closer in the past. Watch Spring Training notes to see if any of these vets sneak into high leverage roles. None are really great bets to succeed, but a save is a save.

2017 Closer: Not on the team – Maybe they re-sign Hernandez. Maybe one of the youngsters steps up. The future is uncertain.

Pittsburgh Pirates

2016 Closer: Mark Melancon – Melancon’s poor season in Boston is a distant memory. He is what he is. An excellent groundball pitcher who will get enough strikeouts to keep everyone honest. But, he saw that strikeout rate dip a bit along with losing about one mph off his cutter and fastball. That’s not a great sign. The Pirates certainly believe they’ll contend this year and won’t be slow to pull the plug if Melancon’s velocity continues to drop. He’s a solid choice to keep the gig this year, but his future is a bit murky.
Contract status: A free agent after this season.

Handcuff option: Tony Watson – The lefty has been a workhorse for the Pirates. And his splits show that he can handle both lefties and righties (well below .300 wOBA against both). He’s outpitched his peripherals the last two years based mostly on higher than normal strand rates. His strikeout rate dipped last year as did his fastball velocity (just 0.5 mph). Perhaps his workload (70+ regular season IPs each of the last three years) has caught up with him, but he’s going to be out there for the Pirates and makes a good bet to close for them next year.

Other option: Neftali Feliz – Former closer alert! It was an ugly 2015 for Feliz on the surface, but we did see Feliz recapture a bit more of his lost velocity. If he can increase (or at least maintain) that gain, perhaps pitching coach Ray Searage can sprinkle his pixie dust on Feliz and get him back to a mixed-league asset. Watch for velocity reports out of Spring Training or early in the regular season to see if it makes sense to jump on board.

Darkhorse Option: Arquimedes Caminero – Caminero was all velocity until last year’s epiphany where he started mixing in a cutter and a slider. I imagine we can thanks St. Ray Searage for the change in pitch mix. His numbers weren’t great (23.4% K%, 9.1% BB% and mid to high 3s in ERA, FIP and xFIP), but there may be something more there if he can use those new pitches more effectively to get strikeouts.

2017 Closer: Tony Watson – He’s under team control through next year so he’s got as good a shot as anyone.

St. Louis Cardinals

2016 Closer: Trevor Rosenthal – Back to back years of 45+ saves has Rosenthal locked in as one of the safer options in the NL. His strikeout numbers look stable (28% of better in every year in the majors) and his BB% rate swung back down to closer to his career levels last year. Beyond injury, the only real danger is that the Cards decide to switch him back to starting though it looks like they are happy with him locking down the ninth inning.
Contract status:
Under team control via arbitration through 2018.

Handcuff option: Seung-Hwan Oh – Proven closer alert – Korean Baseball Organization version. Oh racked up 357 saves over 11 seasons in the KBO and comes to MLB on a one year deal. His numbers in the KBO imply that he probably won’t have enough swing and miss to be a valuable middle reliever outside of holds leagues, but his experience in the KBO means he could be the next man up if Rosenthal struggles.

Other option: Jonathan Broxton – Proven closer alert – MLB version. He has 118 career saves over his career. But that’s about it with Broxton. He won’t strikeout enough guys to be valuable unless he gets the closer’s role or in holds leagues.

Darkhorse Option: Jordan Walden – Walden has a Carter Capps-esque hop in his delivery, but his injury from last year certainly lowers his cost. Walden’s had K% rates in the upper 20s for the last four years so the upside is there is he stays healthy.

2017 Closer: Trevor Rosenthal – With the possible exception of an injury, it looks like Rosenthal is fixed as the closer for this year and beyond.

San Diego Padres

2016 Closer: Fernando Rodney – Talking about proven closers, Rodney is the definition. He has 236 saves over his length career and the 39-year old enters the twilight of his career in the comfy confines of Petco. He tweaked his hamstring in winter ball so he’ll start slowly in Spring Training. He walks too many guys to be an elite reliever, but he’ll have the job for now. He’s signed for only $2M for one year so if it doesn’t work out, Rodney could be easily dumped. They are paying Rodney less than the Dodgers are paying Matt Kemp. And Matt Kemp isn’t on the Dodgers’ roster.
Contract status:
Club option for 2017 or $400,000 buyout.

Handcuff option: Drew Pomeranz – I’m guessing San Diego puts Pomeranz in the pen, but he was a starter at the beginning of last season so he could always be swapped back there is needed. However, the work in the bullpen for the A’s last year offers hope. He finished with a K% of 27.5% (far above his career mark). He still struggles against righties, so he may be destined to be a lefty specialist, but there is magic Petco for relievers and I like his upside.

Other option: Kevin Quackenbush – Quackenbush outpitched his peripherals in 2014 and reversed those trends in 2015. So the real Quack is probably sits between the last two years. And that makes for a serviceable reliever. His strikeout numbers won’t wow you so he only holds value in holds leagues or if he gets the closer’s role.

Darkhorse Option: Jon Edwards – Almost anyone who goes to the bullpen becomes successful, so there is any number of darkhorse options. Edwards’ strikeout numbers look tasty until you look one column to the right an see his BB% and run screaming. He has to get his control under…..control before he can be a useful option.

2017 Closer: Not on the team – The Pads do hold an option for Rodney, but I imagine he gets jettisoned at the trade deadline.

San Francisco Giants

2016 Closer: Santiago Casilla – It’s an even year so the Giants are primed to win the World Series. Casilla saved 38 games last year and had the highest K% of his career last year (25.4%). His career mark is 20.8% and he’s always struggled with walks so his leash is probably shorter than most especially with the options in the ‘pen behind him.
Contract status –
Free agent after the season.

Handcuff option: Sergio Romo – Romo makes more than Casilla and is also a free agent after the year so the Giants’ bullpen will likely look quite different in 2017. Romo lives and dies on his slider and at some point the slider will kill his arm. It hasn’t yet and it has offered fantastic skills (career 28.7% K% and 5.1 BB%). He can close should Casilla falter. He’s started a bit later at Spring Training than others so watch injury news in March to see if there is something going on with his arm.

Other option: Hunter Strickland – Strickland has the arm that everyone wants and oddly, with an arm that big, the control to go with it. We’d like to see bigger strikeout numbers from a pitcher with a fastball that averages around 97 mph.

Darkhorse Option: Kyle Crick – Crick probably won’t be able to stick as a starter in the majors so it’s just a matter of time before he heads to the pen. Either way, he’s going to have to stop walking 15% of the batters he faces.

2017 Closer: Hunter Strickland – He’ll be on the Giants roster next year so he’s a solid bet to take over for the Casilla/Romo combo.

Washington Nationals

2016 Closer: Jonathan Papelbon – To nearly no one’s surprise, the Nats were unable to deal Jonathan Papelbon in the offseason. So, they dealt Drew Storen thus solidifying Papelbon’s hold on the job. Strip away whatever you think about him personally, Papelbon continues to be an effective ninth-inning reliever. He’s strikeout rate has dropped the last two years (22.4% and 24.3%) from his earlier career where he was in the upper 20s and into the 30s for a couple of years. The walk rate has stayed stable and his ERA will likely fall between last year’s 2.04 and 2014’s 2.92 as he was helped by lower BABIP and HR/FB rate last year. But, he’s solidly the closer in Washington in his last year on the team.
Contract status: Free agent after the season.

Handcuff option: Shawn Kelley – Kelley broke out last year with the Padres (though it seems just about every reliever who heads to San Diego breaks out). But, as we look back, it wasn’t a breakout so much as it was his surface stats catching up with his peripherals. He’s had a K% better than 30% in each of the last three seasons and his BB% rate has dropped in those three years down to 7.3% last year). Nationals Park isn’t quite as friendly as Petco, but it’s not a homer-dome so the switch in parks shouldn’t hurt him much. He’s a solid option and the clear #2 in the pen.

Other option: Trevor Gott – The Nats got Gott from the Angels for Yunel Escobar in the offseason. Gott made his major league debut last year and it was disappointing based on his minor league numbers. He’s a one pitch pitcher currently as he threw his fastball 85% of the time last year. The upside is limited as his K% numbers were abysmal last year. Watch Spring Training news to see if Gott has figured out a way to throw another pitch as his groundball rate from last year (57.2%) is attractive.

Darkhorse Option: Blake Treinen – Treinen gets ground balls (62.7% last year, 59.3% in 2014) at an elite clip. His K% jumped last year, but so did his BB%. He also got stung from the homer a bit more as well. And while the groundball rate looks tasty, he gets eaten up by lefties last year (career .376 wOBA against lefties; .242 wOBA against righties). He’s got a way to go to get where we’d like him to be, but things can move quickly for bullpen arms. And there is always hard thrower Reynaldo Lopez who finished 2015 at High-A, but could help out in the bullpen at the major league level.

2017 Closer: Not on the team – I imagine the Nats will spend on a closer in free agency or via trade next year. However, if you want to gamble on a current Nat then Kelley is your guy as he’s signed through 2018.

I would like to thank FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference for the statistics used in this section and Cot’s Contracts for the contract information.

For the Closer Chart, the columns are defined as below:

2016 Closer – The current closer
Handcuff Option – This is the guy who I believe will step into the closer role if the current closer loses his job.
Other Option – Another arm in the pen who could close if the manager chooses to go a different route.
Dark Horse Option – If all hell breaks loose in the pen, this guy could get a shot this year. Reminder – this isn’t necessarily the guy behind the guy behind the guy. He’s a long shot to have any value as a closer, but another name to keep on your radar.
2017 Closer – This guy should be in the closer’s role on Opening Day 2017.

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