Fantasy Closer Report: Week 20
Koji Uehara hits the disabled list
The Red Sox's bullpen has struggled this season, but Uehara has been his typical great self. There has been a bit of a downturn in his stuff in 2015, but he's still striking out more than 10 batters per nine innings and has racked up 25 saves. Now, Uehara is hitting the disabled list with right wrist issues that came as a result of being hit with a line drive, and that will hold him out for the rest of the season.
It gets worse: Uehara's replacement isn't as clear as it should be. John Farrell has indicated that Jean Machi is going to get a shot at closing. This move surprised some, as the manager has Junichi Tazawa at his disposal. I can understand using them as a tandem, since they need to limit Tazawa's workload moving forward, but I can't see Machi getting all of the save chances down the stretch. If you use FAAB, don't use all of your budget on him. If you use more traditional waiver formats, I'd look to add guys like Fernando Rodriguez, Drew Pomeranz and Sergio Romo before Machi. With that being said, Tazawa is fair game if he's still available.
Tommy Kahnle named closer in Colorado
Kahnle should be added in all leagues if he hasn't been picked up already. He's not an elite reliever, but he's striking out a ton of batters this year and has allowed just two earned runs since the start of July. Control will be an issue for Kahnle, so he likely won't help your WHIP, but he's a solid addition with contributions in the form of saves and strikeouts.
Edward Mujica in trouble?
The writing is on the wall for Mujica's short-lived stint as Oakland's closer to come to an end. He blew two save chances last week, with the latter coming in a three-runs-allowed outing without an out recorded. I've been on the Rodriguez bandwagon for a few weeks now, and still believe the job should be his at some point soon. However, he also blew a save last week. If you're looking for a speculative add right now, Pomeranz could be an option, along with Rodriguez. The former has looked much better since converting to reliever, and Bob Melvin has apparently been happy with his work. It's possible that both could get save chances, with the call being determined by the handedness of the lineup on that given night.
Santiago Casilla struggling
Casilla took the closer role back in San Francisco last year, but he may be losing his grip with a rough 2015. He gave up runs in two of his outings last week, and he is having his worst overall season since 2009. Casilla has 3.89 ERA and a 4.25 FIP. The good news for fantasy owners is that he's increased his strikeout rate this season, but everything else has been less than expected. Meanwhile, Romo has looked much better after a rough 2014. Although his ERA doesn't look great, he's striking out 12.5 batters per nine innings and boasts a 1.76 FIP. For now, Casilla still has the job, but I'd be looking to add Romo if he's available. There's a decent chance he'll be getting save chances down the stretch, since the Giants are in the thick of a playoff race and can't afford to wait until Casilla sorts out his problems. Even if he doesn't take over as closer, Romo will help in other categories as a good setup man.
• Carson Smith had been going through a rough stretch, and it was looking possible that he'd lose his grasp on the closer role to Fernando Rodney. Luckily for those who own Smith, he's coming off a solid week and should have extended his leash a bit. It hasn't hurt that Rodney has been just as bad lately, if not worse.
• Hector Rondon is clearly back in the ninth for the Cubs, grabbing three saves last week. Thanks for your time, Jason Motte.
• A couple of closers who were promoted to the position after the non-waiver Trade Deadline, Arodys Vizcaino and Alex Wilson, performed well in their first week. The former had three scoreless outings with two saves and a win, while the latter had two scoreless with a save and a win.
• Shawn Tolleson has been outstanding as the Rangers' closer after taking over for Neftali Feliz. Although Tolleson has had some issues with home runs, his strikeout and walk numbers have been more than good enough to make him one of the better new closers this season.
A version of this story originally appeared on Baseball Prospectus.