The ninth inning is already a time with so much frustration and confusion for fantasy managers. Let’s try to sort it all out in the latest edition of the Closer Stock Report.
MLB closers: Stock report
Tanner Rainey, Washington Nationals
The Nats want Rainey to be their closer. That’s been the case for a while, but he just has never had the command or control to really hold down that gig. Through two appearances so far, spanning two innings, he has yet to issue a walk and did get the save in Sunday’s game. The equation is simple for the right-hander: If he keeps throwing strikes, the Nationals will continue to put him in high-leverage situations, with Kyle Finnegan, Washington’s closer at the end of last season, in more of a setup role.
Jake Diekman, Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox didn’t name a closer heading into the season, but most thought it would be Matt Barnes, who was an All-Star last year before melting down and losing his job over the course of the second half. However, back tightness sidelined Barnes for the entire season-opening series against the Yankees, and Diekman took advantage Sunday night. The lanky lefty struck out Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Joey Gallo in order to close out a clean ninth and a one-run win for Boston. That’s got to give Alex Cora some confidence that he can lean on Diekman in the ninth, something we’re not sure Cora had with Barnes during Spring Training.
Daniel Bard, Colorado Rockies
It’s always going to be risky to invest in a Rockies closer because of their home park, but Bard was mighty impressive on Saturday night as he struck out the Dodgers’ side in the ninth to notch the save in a one-run victory. This bullpen looked like a messy situation heading into the season, but Bard provided a bit of clarity during opening weekend. It also helped that Alex Colome did himself no favors in his Rockies debut Saturday (0.2 IP, four hits, one earned run).
David Robertson, Chicago Cubs
It was interesting that the North Siders gave the veteran Robertson the chance to shut down the Brewers in the ninth with a one-run lead on Opening Day, not Rowan Wick, who was the presumed closer. Wick was instead inserted in the eighth inning and allowed a run. Robertson pitched a scoreless ninth, picking up one strikeout. This ‘pen shouldn’t be considered settled at all, but Robertson seems to have the early lead for saves here.
Camilo Doval, San Francisco Giants
Last year’s late season star by the bay had a rough introduction to the 2022 season, giving up three runs in the ninth inning, squandering San Francisco’s lead before the Giants were able to tie it up in the bottom half of the inning and win it in the tenth. In Doval’s defense, he gave up a couple of soft singles and there was an error involved before Jazz Chisholm Jr. bashed a two-run homer. The next day, Doval entered in the seventh inning — after setup man Jake McGee allowed a game-deciding run — and walked his first batter before settling down over the next 1.1 innings. And then Dominic Leone got the save Sunday, striking out two over a perfect ninth inning. Doval wasn’t going to be used three days in a row, but his hold on this job is a little tenuous.
Kenley Jansen, Atlanta Braves
Jansen almost blew a four-run lead in the ninth inning on Friday. He gave up three runs before stranding the tying run at first. Granted, like Doval, he was victimized by some less-than-authoritative contact. His spin rates were down, but it could just be a case of a veteran still ramping up. The issue here is that the Braves’ bullpen is loaded with guys who have the stuff to close — A.J. Minter, Tyler Matzek, Collin McHugh and Will Smith, who did get the save Saturday while Jansen rested after throwing 30 pitches. Smith also allowed a run in his outing, but the point is that Atlanta could turn to one of those guys if the 34-year-old Jansen needs time to get himself regular-season ready.
Anyone on the Mariners, Orioles, Rays, Reds or Twins
Three games in, your guess is as good as mine as to who’s in the lead in any of these cities for the closer’s role. One side note: Twins rookie Jhoan Duran was nasty in his two-inning stint on Friday, striking out four with two hits and one walk. Maybe Minnesota won’t push him into the back of its bullpen this early in his career, but his 100 mph sinker looks ready for whenever the time comes. Keep your eye on him.