The distribution of saves across MLB is more democratic than ever. With pitching workloads tightly monitored and more teams moving toward matchup-specific strategies rather than a traditional closer, finding a top fantasy relief pitcher is more difficult than ever.
In 2011, there were eight closers with 40 or more saves. In 2019, there was just one, Kirby Yates with 41. The increase in relief pitchers getting saves makes top closers like Josh Hader, Roberto Osuna, and Aroldis Chapman even more valuable. Due to the dearth of reliable closing options, fantasy owners will also be paying a premium for any mid-tier closer. The problem is, a few of those guys won't be closing in June, leaving players in a bind.
Because of this, finding low-cost saves late in fantasy drafts and free agency is more important than ever. Finding a high-quality sleeper at closer can make a huge difference for your roster. Here are four names you should target in your upcoming draft.
1. Keone Kela, Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pittsburgh Pirates are in organizational chaos, but Keone Kela is one of the few bright spots. Kela had a 2.12 ERA over 29 2/3 innings last season with a 10.9 K/9. Kela has a great arm and was a closer with the Texas Rangers before being traded in 2018 to the Pirates. Kela's 3.52 fielding independent pitching (FIP) and elite fastball-curveball mix makes him a solid option. With former All-Star closer Felipe Vasquez dealing with off-field issues, there will be an open competition heading into spring training with Kela, Kyle Crick, and Richard Rodriguez. Kela has the longest track record of the three and could be a valuable reliever, even on a bad team.
2. Tony Watson, San Francisco Giants
Tony Watson has been unheralded for much of his career. Although he often filled in for Mark Melancon on the Pittsburgh Pirates, he's rarely gotten the opportunity to close in his own right. With the Giants electing not to re-sign Will Smith, Watson will likely have the closer's role to himself in 2020. He's not on most people's radars due to being a 34-year-old left-handed specialist. While Watson had a 4.17 ERA last year, that was mostly due to a spike in home runs allowed, which, if the ball plays like it did in the postseason, should be alleviated. He will need to beat out Shaun Anderson in spring training and overcome a declining strikeout rate, but Watson has a wealth of experience and the opportunity to succeed.
3. Joe Jimenez, Detroit Tigers
Joe Jimenez is not a selection for the faint of heart. He plays for the Tigers, who will not be getting many wins, and he allowed a problematic 1.96 HR/9 in 2019. However, the stuff is clearly there for him to be a great reliever. He had a 12.39 K/9 in 2019, good enough for a 3.57 K/BB ratio. His fastball is electric, ranking in the 95th percentile of spin rate among all players. While he can be prone to blowups, Jimenez can also put together a hot streak and help your team out in strikeouts and in saves. Yes, the Tigers are bad, but that also means that Jimenez should get a fairly long leash as they continue to evaluate who should stay through their rebuild.
4. Giovanny Gallegos, St. Louis Cardinals
The last name on this list doesn't have a clear path to saves, but his elite skills will make him a valuable pitcher to play regardless. Giovanny Gallegos was the breakout star in the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen, shutting down hitters to the tune of a 2.31 ERA, 5.81 K/BB and a 3.05 FIP. While Gallegos' abilities are clearly elite, his situation isn't great, as both Carlos Martinez and Andrew Miller are at the back end of the Cardinals' bullpen. Martinez had several shaky outings last year and had worse numbers overall, but the Cardinals are going to stick with him as long as possible. Still, Martinez and Miller are both injury-prone, and Gallegos has value on a roster for his rate stats alone. If he gets some additional saves in the back half of the season, all the better.
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Jason Schandl is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Jason Schandl also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username Jaymun. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.