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2017 Fantasy Baseball: National League Closer Battles

Senior Fantasy Baseball Expert Adam Ronis reviews some turbulent bullpens as relievers fight for the closing job in the National League!

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The battle for saves in the National League is going to be wild. There are very few situations where you can say there's no doubt who the closer will be come Opening Day. Grabbing potential relievers late in deeper mixed leagues and for a dollar or two in an auction could pay big dividends.

It won't always work out, but at worst they could provide good ratios. Here are some relievers to keep in mind for draft day. I went over some deep sleepers and potential arms in the American League that could get saves at some point yesterday.


The last time we saw Capps pitch he was dominant. That was in 2015 with the Marlins, but he missed all of last season due to Tommy John surgery. Staying healthy has been a problem since Capps arrived in the majors with the Mariners in 2012. He has pitched 135.1 innings in the majors. In 31 innings with the Marlins in 2015, Capps had a 1.16 WHIP, 0.81 WHIP, a 58:7 K:BB ratio, averaged 98 miles per hour with the fastball and had an insane 25.4 percent swinging strike rate. Brandon Maurer is expected to open the season as closer, but he doesn't have a great track record and if Capps proves healthy and pitches like he did before the injury, he could close.


It would be surprising if the Nationals don't trade for a proven closer at some point. I think Shawn Kelley opens the season as closer barring a trade, but it seems like the Nationals are worried about his durability as Kelley had two Tommy John surgeries. Kelley has pitched well in relief the last two seasons. Blake Treinen is in the mix, too, but some Nationals beat writers believe Glover could close during the season. Glover pitched 19.2 innings with the Nationals last season, averaging 96 with his fastball and 90 with the slider. He's someone to get in the 50-round draft champions leagues and NL-only leagues.


Watson has been a good reliever for several seasons, but last year was one of his worst seasons. Watson will open the season as closer, but he might not keep the job long if he doesn't improve over last year when he had a 1.33 HR/9, a 38.4 percent fly ball rate and a 4.37 FIP. In 67.2 innings, he had a 21.3 percent strikeout rate, 7.4 percent walk rate, 3.06 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. The surface numbers weren't great for Hudson with the Diamondbacks last season, but the underlying stats show a potential closer. He allowed 15 earned runs in seven July innings to inflate his ERA. Hudson struck out 33 in 27.1 innings in the second half, had a 12 percent swinging strike rate, 32 percent fly ball rate and 27.7 percent hard hit rate. Juan Nicasio is another name to keep an eye on. As a reliever Nicasio had a 75:20 K:BB ratio.


The Phillies plan to start the season with Jeanmar Gomez as the closer, but we saw him fall apart in the final months and he doesn't have a great skill set. Joaquin Benoit might close since he's the veteran. Neris could be in the mix, too. In 80.1 innings last season, he had a 31.1 percent strikeout rate, 9.2 percent walk rate, 2.58 ERA, and 1.11 WHIP. He had a 15.4 percent swinging strike rate. He will need to throw more first-pitch strikes to keep the closer role if he gets his shot.


Ottavino should be the closer for the Rockies. The Rockies signed Greg Holland to a one-year, $7 million deal with incentives that could get the deal to $14 million. Holland had a 1.86 ERA and a 358/91 K/BB ratio in 256.1 innings from 2011-14. He saved 47 games in 2013 and 46 the next season. He saved 32 games in 2015, but was limited to 44.2 innings and clearly wasn't the same and had Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss the 2016 season. Holland has a career 0.45 HR/9 but pitching in Kansas City is way different than Coors Field. Holland was averaging 95-96 miles per hour with his fastball that decreased to 93.6 miles per hour in 2015. Ottavino looked well on his way to a dominant season in 2015. In 10 games, he pitched 10.1 scoreless innings and allowed three hits, two walks and struck out 13. Then he had an elbow injury leading to Tommy John surgery. Ottavino returned late in the season pitching 27 innings in 34 games. He had a 2.67 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and a 35/7 K/BB radio. He's a ground ball pitcher and has a career 29.9 percent fly ball rate. His velocity went from 95.7 miles per hour on his fastball in 2015 to 93.8 last season.

RP Addison Reed, NEW YORK METS

Reed was great last season as the setup man. Jeurys Familia is likely to be suspended for an alleged domestic violence incident. Reed might only close for one month depending on the length of a potential suspension for Familia, but one month of saves is valuable and if Reed pitches like he did last season with a 1.97 ERA, 0.94 WHIP. 10.55 K/9 and 1.51 BB/9, he will be someone worth owning even as a setup man.


The Reds might use Raisel Iglesias for multiple innings instead of closing. If that happens, Storen could be the one to get the saves. He was excellent for the Nationals in 2015. He struggled for the Blue Jays last season and turned it around when he went to Seattle. His velocity dropped from 94 miles per hour in 2015 to 91.8 last season. If he can get that velocity back, he has the skills to close.

RP Arodys Vizcaino, ATLANTA BRAVES

Jim Johnson is slated to open the season as closer. He had one of his better seasons after two horrible seasons the previous two seasons. The risk is Johnson going back to pitching poorly or being traded. Vizcaino throws hard and has ability. He converted six of seven saves in the first two months and then struggled right before the All-Star break and landed on the disabled list with an oblique injury. Control has been the problem in addition to staying healthy. Mauricio Cabrera could be the darkhorse. Cabrera averaged 100 miles per hour with his fastball in 38.1 innings with the Braves last season. Cabrera only had a 7.51 K/9 and struggled to throw strikes with a 4.46 BB/9. If he shows he can throw more strikes, he could be in the mix.


I like A.J. Ramos, but he does have control issues and it seems like the Marlins don't have a lot of patience with him. Ramos converted 40 of 43 saves last season and while he does make it interesting, he usually gets the job done. Since 2014, he has BB/9s of 6.05, 3.33 and 4.92. He has allowed eight home runs the last three seasons, including one in 64 innings last season. If Ramos struggles, Ziegler could get the call. Ziegler is not overpowering, but he gets a lot of ground balls and has saved 52 games the last two seasons. Kyle Barraclaugh had 113 strikeouts and 44 walks in 72.2 innings, but the Marlins may want to use him for multiple innings and high leverage situations.


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