Closers in fantasy can be the difference between winning a league, and failing miserably. Today FH Freeway will go over the top five closers in fantasy entering 2020.
5. Will Smith
New Braves pitcher Will Smith cracks the top five of our closer rankings, and he’s not here just because he’s now with the defending NL East Champions. Last season with the Giants, Smith had 34 saves (tied for fifth in MLB), along with 96 strikeouts in 65.1 innings. Smith’s 37.4 K% was in the top 2% in baseball (from Baseball Savant), and his slider was absolutely dominant last season. Batters hit just .124 off his breaking ball, and Smith’s whiff rate on his slider was at 47.5%.
Smith racked up a lot of saves on a team that hovered around .500 for most of the season. Now with the Braves, who have won the NL East title each of the last two seasons, he should be able to put up just as good, if not better numbers.
4. Josh Hader
Brewers closer Josh Hader is one of the harder closers to project in 2020. Last season, Hader was a major reason why the Brewers were able to make the playoffs. Hader struck out 138 batters in 75.2 innings, while recording 37 saves in his first full season as a closer. Hader’s 37 saves was tied for third in all of baseball, and not only was that figure among the best, so was his 47.8% K rate.
Still, there’s reason to be concerned with Hader’s fantasy value entering 2020. Even though batters only hit .155 off of the Brewers closer last season, hitters pounded him when they were able to make contact. The average exit velocity off of Hader was 90.4 MPH, almost three MPH over the MLB average, and Hader’s Barrel% (via Baseball Savant) was 12.6% (bottom 1% in MLB). When taking those two numbers into account, along with the fact that Hader has thrown 157 innings over the last two seasons, and a potential trade, Hader’s stock is still high but he comes with a risk.
Astros closer Roberto Osuna should once again be a top-five closer after what was a pretty impressive 2019 season. Osuna had 38 saves for the defending AL Champions last season, a number that was second in MLB. Osuna struck out over a batter per inning last season, striking out 73 over 65 innings (10.11 K/9). While his 28.9% K rate wasn’t as gaudy as some of the other pitches on this list, he did a tremendous job when it came to limiting runners. Osuna’s 4.7% BB rate was among the best, and he ended last season with a sparkling 0.88 WHIP.
Osuna should be able to put up similar numbers next season. The Astros offense will most likely be dominant once again next season, as well, meaning Osuna may not get as many chances as some of the others on this list. Still, he should be fine, as he’ll most likely get somewhere between 45-50 chances (Osuna had 44 chances last season).
2. Kirby Yates
Back in 2016, Kirby Yates was designated for assignment by the Yankees after a difficult season in their bullpen. Fast forward to last season, Yates led all of baseball in saves (41) and established himself as an elite closer. Like Smith and Hader, Yates had a high K% rate. Yates’ 41.6% K rate was outstanding, and very rarely allowed runners to get on base. Yates walked just 13 batters across 60.2 innings, and batters hit just .186, a far cry from the .258 opponent’s average he had back in 2016.
Entering 2020, Yates is no doubt a top five closer. And considering that the Padres should be improved after last season, it should allow Yates to receive more chances to get saves, and possibly top his 41 saves from 2019.
Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman is the top closer on our list. Chapman won the AL Reliever of the Year award in 2019, a season where he recorded 37 saves and struck out 85 batters across 57 innings. Chapman was once again an elite reliever last season, as hitters had trouble hitting his elite stuff. Armed with a powerful fastball and a strong slider (.159 OPP AVG and 43.2% Whiff rate), Chapman continued to punish opposing hitters. And when hitters did make contact off of him, it was usually soft contact. Batters had a Hard Hit rate of 29.3%, over five points lower than the MLB average, and that figure was also in the top 6%.
With all of that said, it’s pretty obvious why he’s the top closer entering the 2020 season. Who do you think should have made our list? Let us know on our social media channels. Plus, be sure to keep checking out the FH Freeway site for more fantasy tips, news and reports.