Closer Report: 9th edition, 2015
Rondon is struggling for Cubs
The Cubs are living up to some of the hype they had coming into the season, but they're doing it in spite of their bullpen. A big part of those issues has been their closer, Hector Rondon. While his overall numbers aren't too bad, he's struggled this month and is performing worse in just about every category than he did last season. Rondon has been giving up much more hard contact this season, including just about a home run per nine innings, a 34 percent line-drive rate as well as a .333 BABIP. With all of that being said, his job as the team's closer still looks safe, just not as safe as it was a couple of weeks ago. Rondon is certainly not someone I would look to drop, and I wouldn't go dropping a valuable setup man to chase saves here outside of the deepest of leagues.
If you do decide to go that route, Pedro Strop would be the man to target, with Neil Ramirez, Justin Grimm and Jason Motte being other possibilities. The other name to watch is Rafael Soriano. Although nothing seems imminent, the Cubs were connected to the free-agent reliever last week.
Tolleson stepping up in Texas
Last week, the Rangers had decided to do away with defined roles in their bullpen and it looked like they'd be opting for a bullpen by committee. However, it sure looks like Shawn Tolleson will be getting the bulk of the save chances moving forward. He converted all four of his chances last week and has put together an impressive campaign so far.
The 27-year-old is striking out nearly 13 batters per nine innings while walking less than two. If Tolleson is somehow still available, add him to your roster immediately. Meanwhile, former closer Neftali Feliz was put on the disabled list to make room for Josh Hamilton. It's unclear what his role will be upon his return, but if Tolleson is still pitching like this, it's unlikely Feliz will be looking at more save chances. He'd be a safe drop if you can't fit him on your DL.
Diamondbacks' bullpen remains unclear
After Addison Reed was demoted from closer to setup man last week, it looked like Brad Ziegler would step in as the new closer. While that's mostly the case, an unexpected name has jumped into the fray as well. Rookie Enrique Burgos has been given the chance to save some games and he converted both of the opportunities the team gave him.
While Burgos struggled with control a bit, he has struck out a whopping 25 batters in just 13 2/3 innings of work, though he came out of Monday's game with a sore shoulder. Ziegler will probably still get the bulk of the chances, but he's likely already been picked up in most leagues. Burgos would be a strong add for teams in need of saves if he's able to avoid the DL. Reed also had a solid week, with one rough outing mixed in there, and could also retake his old job later in the year if he puts together a couple of strong months.
Doolittle returns for A's
Oakland has underperformed this season, but it'll get some much-needed bullpen help with Sean Doolittle's return. Unfortunately for owners, it looks like it will take a few days for him to start to contribute in fantasy, as Bob Melvin plans on using him in low-leverage situations before putting him back in the ninth inning. One of the best relievers in the game over the last three years, Doolittle should be a tremendous boost to any fantasy manager who has been able to stash him to this point.
Tyler Clippard has had his ups and downs as the closer and will be sent back to his normal setup role. He's been great in that role in the past, so there's surely a case to hold on to him in deeper leagues, but his numbers this year don't paint the same picture. I'd look for a better option on the waiver wire once Doolittle is officially back working the ninth inning.
The Royals' Greg Holland doesn't quite look like his old self, with his strikeouts falling way down from past years and his walks far higher. The struggles continued Monday as he allowed two runs on a hit and two walks in just one-third of an inning. It's unclear if there are any health issues to be concerned about, but based solely on Holland's performance, there's a chance he could see another trip to the disabled list.
The Astros' Luke Gregerson has taken a step back this month, which has some fantasy owners worried. However, there's been no indication of a possible change, and I'd hold on for now. The next man in line is likely Pat Neshek, with Chad Qualls and Josh Fields serving as other possibilities.
The Mariners' Fernando Rodney has a 6.98 ERA this year and is giving up home runs at a career-high rate. However, he's also converted 13 of 15 chances, and has the track record to earn a long leash. With that being said, it's a situation to keep an eye on. Carson Smith could start to see some save chances real soon if Rodney's struggles continue.
A.J. Ramos is doing nothing to make the Marlins regret putting him in the ninth inning. He's yet to give up a run in May and has a 0.78 ERA on the season. There's no reason to believe Ramos won't be the long-term closer in Miami barring a trade.
A version of this story originally appeared on Baseball Prospectus.