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Fantasy Baseball Reliever Report: Three Must-Add Breakout Closers

Cam takes a look at the fantasy baseball closer landscape a month into the MLB season.

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 17: Mason Miller #19 of the Oakland Athletics pitches during the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at the Oakland Coliseum on April 17, 2024 in Oakland, California. The Athletics defeated the Cardinals 6-3. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images)

A common theme last season in my weekly reliever report was the abundance of pitchers who snagged saves. So far, things are the same in 2024. We aren’t even out of April, and there are already 75 pitchers this season who have at least one save. By September, I expect that number to nearly double. The volume of pitchers who now get saves in this league is remarkable.

Of course, there are teams that have dedicated ninth-inning guys. Yankees closer Clay Holmes leads all relievers with nine saves. Guardians closer Emmanuel Clase and Braves closer Raisel Iglesias each have seven saves. All of these situations were predictable before the season. But there were plenty of unclear closer situations heading into the season, and if you picked the right guy, you’re now reaping the benefits.

There are also closers who were supposed to be locked-in options but have been absolutely awful to this point. Exhibit A is the Astros’ big free agent, Josh Hader. He still hasn’t found it to start the year in his new league. Hader does have two saves, but he also has two losses. He’s still averaging 15.6K/9IP, but his ratios are terrible. He is sporting an 8.38 ERA and a 1.66 WHIP. He won’t lose his job, and he should return to form at some point, but it’s going to be tough waiting it out for his fantasy mangers.

Conversely, there are relievers who began the year with huge question marks who have come through. Exhibit A in this category is Mets closer Edwin Diaz. He missed all of last season due to a freak accident in the WBC, but he’s come back this season like he never missed a beat. In eight appearances, he has four saves and has struck out 12 hitters in only 7.2 innings. He has a miniscule 1.17 ERA and a 0.78 WHIP.

Of the 75 pitchers with saves this season, three stand out who have emerged after not being the preseason closers for their teams.

James McArthur, Kansas City Royals

Will Smith came over from the Rangers and it was assumed he would be the Royals’ closer, but McArthur has emerged as the guy. In 10 appearances he has a win and five saves. He’s struck out over a batter per inning, and he’s sporting a solid 3.09 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP.

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Mason Miller, Oakland A’s

The fireballer is not only emerging as the dedicated closer for the A’s, he’s emerging as one of the game’s best. He may be this year’s version of Baltimore’s Felix Bautista. In eight appearances, he has five saves, with a tiny 1.80 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP. And he’s struck out a whopping 20 batters in only 10 innings, which is an 18K/9IP ratio.

Kirby Yates, Texas Rangers

The defending World Series champions signed David Robertson, presumably as a ninth inning option. And, to start the year, the job belonged to Jose LeClerc. But LeClerc started the year sluggishly, at least temporarily losing his job, and between Yates and Robertson, Yates has been the one to perform. He still hasn’t given up an earned run in 10 innings, and his WHIP is only 0.40. In nine appearances, he has two wins and three saves.