Closer Report: 14th edition, 2015
Seattle's ninth-inning situation
Many happy steps were danced around the country when it appeared that young Carson Smith would finally be taking over the ninth inning for the Mariners in place of Fernando Rodney. But things got dicey for Smith owners on Friday when Rodney got the nod in the ninth inning after Smith pitched the eighth. To Lloyd McClendon's credit, he explained that Smith was used because the meat of the Angels' order was coming up, and he wanted to use his best reliever in the biggest spot. With that being said, Seattle's skipper has made it very clear that he never anointed Smith as the new closer, and he wants to see Rodney retake the job at some point. I'd still expect Smith to hold down the job for the next week or so, but if Rodney can put together a strong run of outings as a setup man, look for him to take the job back sooner rather than later.
It's Roberto Osuna time and it feels so good
The Blue Jays' closer situation has been uncertain all season, and it feels like I've been writing about them every week. However, things may now slow down, at least for a little bit. After taking Brett Cecil out of the ninth inning, Toronto appears to be handing the duties off to Osuna, its 20-year-old reliever. It's exciting for fantasy owners, as the youngster looks like he has the stuff to be electric and help out in strikeouts as well as saves. With that being said, the fantasy expectations should be kept in check for 2015. For one thing, the Jays haven't come out and named Osuna their closer, and Steve Delabar has been fantastic this season, so he could very well steal some save chances over the next few weeks. On top of that, this is a team that's been connected to virtually every available reliever in the league. It'd be surprising to me if someone like Jonathan Papelbon, Tyler Clippard or Francisco Rodriguez wasn't closing games for the Blue Jays by Aug. 1. Osuna will be exciting to own for the next month or so, and could be very valuable in long-term leagues, but he probably doesn't have a strong hold on the closer job for the rest of 2015.
Let's talk about Jason Grilli
Grilli has been one of my favorite closers to follow this season, mostly because he's exceeded my expectations. While I expected him to be decent, he's held the job admirably, bouncing back from a rough 2014. What's been most impressive has been his value in the strikeout department, as he's setting down 29 percent of his opponents. However, he had a rough go of it this past week, and now is the time to try to sell him off while he's still carrying some value. There's always a chance that he'll turn back into the 2014 version of himself, and you don't want to be around for that. I don't think that's a particularly likely outcome, but it's worrisome. Even more worrisome is that he's a prime candidate to be dealt to a team in need of seventh- and eighth-inning help. He's of no use to a rebuilding Braves team, and I can't see him closing games in the final two months of the season.
Kenley Jansen is excelling
The Dodgers made it through the first six weeks of the season without their elite closer. Their bullpen was inconsistent, but it mostly held up in his absence. Now that he's back, they have arguably the most stable closer situation in baseball. He has 15 games under his belt since coming back, and his numbers are ridiculous. To wit, he has a 0.57 ERA with a 0.61 FIP and has 26 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings with zero walks. Fantasy players who weren't scared off by his injury in Spring Training are reaping massive rewards right now.
Speaking of closers having amazing seasons, Zach Britton probably doesn't get enough love. He's taken his game to another level in his second season as a reliever, with a 1.93 ERA that's actually worse than his FIP (1.87). He was the No. 15 reliever taken in drafts this year and could be one of the biggest risers in next year's rankings.
Andrew Miller is working his way back from injury. Although he likely has a few more weeks before he returns to action, it's a good time to look at what he's coming back to. As expected, Dellin Betances has pitched well in Miller's absence. I would expect the two to split closing duties upon the latter's return, a disappointing outcome for both players' owners.
Jeurys Familia missed some time with tightness in his hamstring, but it doesn't look like it is affecting him anymore. He's thrown four scoreless innings in three outings since the minor injury and continues to build a strong All-Star case for the Mets.
A version of this story originally appeared on Baseball Prospectus.