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Fantasy Baseball Reliever Report: Update On MLB Closer Injuries

Cam gives a fantasy baseball update on reliever injury situations throughout the MLB.

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - APRIL 28: Kevin Ginkel #37 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on April 28, 2024 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: I hate closers, and I hate the save category. There is not a more volatile and infuriating position in the game. We just entered the second month of the season, and there have already been 86 pitchers to get at least one save.

The dilemma of either drafting a couple of sure-fire stud closers or taking a few second-tier, closer-by-committee guys is always an issue. And at times, even those can’t-miss guys end up missing. Look at how Josh Hader has started this season for the Astros. He still only has two saves, and his ERA is over 6.00. Meanwhile, guys like Kansas City’s James McArthur emerge out of Spring Training to secure closer duties, and he’s been nothing but fantastic. In 12 appearances he’s 1-0 with seven saves. He’s striking out over a batter per inning and he has a 2.63 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP.

It is so important to monitor the injury bug for all pitchers, but especially for closers. Think of it this way: There are 150 starting pitchers on five-man rotations throughout the league, but there are only 30 closers. Two of the league’s better closers were recently activated off the IL, Toronto’s Jordan Romano and Minnesota’s Jhoan Duran, bringing a sense of normalcy to those two teams.

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But there are other teams with closers either currently on the IL or nearing it.

With Arizona’s Paul Sewald on the IL until the middle of May, ninth-inning duties have gone to Kevin Ginkel. And he’s performed admirably. In 13 appearances he’s 1-0 with five saves. He’s striking out a hitter per inning with a 2.77 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP.

Devin Williams of the Brewers is out until the end of July, giving a couple of pitchers the chance to earn saves. The main benefactor has been Joel Payamps, who has four saves on the year. He also has a sub-1.00 WHIP, which is a nice threshold stat for closers. Trevor Megill also has a save and is a solid bullpen arm. Although his WHIP is a touch over 1.00, he has a tiny 1.35 ERA.

Tampa Bay’s Pete Fairbanks is on the shelf until the middle of May, which never matters to the Rays due to their interchangeable pitchers and revolving door policy. The two pitchers who have taken his place are Garrett Cleavinger and Jason Adam. In 14 appearances, Adam has one win and one save. He has a crazy low 0.64 WHIP to go with a crazy low ERA of 1.29. Cleavinger has three wins to go along with two saves. He’s striking out a whopping 12.97 batters per nine innings, and other than a slightly elevated 1.59 WHIP, he’s been dominant.

Baltimore’s Craig Kimbrel hasn’t hit the IL yet, but signs are pointing in that direction. He’s been out with a back issue and is considered to day-to-day. The Orioles have one of the best bullpens in the league, so there are many pitchers to choose from, but up to this point, the three alternatives to replace Kimbrel are Yennier Cano, Danny Coulombe, and Jacob Webb. Coulombe and Webb recently picked up their first saves of the season. And although Cano doesn’t have one to his name yet, he may be the most dominant of the bunch. He is listed as the team’s setup man and has a 2-1 record in 15 appearances. He’s striking out a batter per inning to go along with a solid 1.19 WHIP and a 2.25 ERA.