This week’s Cavalcade of Closers doesn’t include Ken Giles of the Astros or new Mariners stopper Edwin Diaz and his dizzying 53 strikeouts in 27 innings. I gave you fair warning on Diaz early last month with a strong buy suggestion, and if you missed out, you have only but yourself to blame.
Tyler Thornburg, P, Brewers: He doesn’t look the part, yet try asking NL hitters how difficult Thornburg has been to crack over the past three months. Since May 13, Thornburg — who was already a valued arm in NL-only leagues and those that use holds as a category — has allowed just three earned runs, which made him the easy choice to handle the closer’s role after Jeremy Jeffress (Rangers) and Wil Smith (Red Sox) were moved at the deadline. For the season, Thornburg has struck out 61 batters in 43.2 innings while holding hitters to a paltry .178 batting average. Owned in over 12 percent of polled mixed leagues, I like Thornburg to be a difference-maker since the Brewers will continue to be competitive the last eight weeks of the year. Of each of the closers I’ll chat up this week, he’s the one to grab.
Cam Bedrosian, P, Angels: Even with the blown save on Wednesday, I’m in Cam’s Corner. While manager Mike Scioscia is harping on a committee to eradicate opponents in the ninth, Bedrosian is the best suited for the role, sporting a blistering 95 mph heater to go along with a slider that he is throwing more frequently compared to last season. The run he allowed on Wednesday night marked the first time since May 31 that Bedrosian had been scored upon, a span of 24 consecutive appearances. The Angels wisely ignored trade offers for him, which gives the franchise a rare young and talented cornerstone it can build around along with that Trout fella in the outfield. Bedrosian’s ownership rate hovered around less than two percent a couple of weeks ago; it’s currently at 19 percent of polled mixed leagues, and I’m confident that total will climb in the next week.
Jake Barrett, P, Diamondbacks: Stuff wise, Barrett may be the better of the aforementioned closers, yet my one concern with him is the potential lack of opportunities that could befall his value. The Diamondbacks’ rotation has been so riddled with injuries and inconsistency (don’t worry, Shelby Miller, you’re not the only one…) that if Brandon Webb or Miguel Batista were called to help fill the void, I wouldn’t be shocked. Still, the departures of Brad Ziegler (Red Sox) and Tyler Clippard (back home to the Yankees) opened the door for Barrett, who — until Monday — had not been scored upon since June 27. His K/9 rate hovers just under a batter per inning, and considering that he has shown the ability for more whiff damage in the minors, my hunch is that he can improve that total. Barrett’s cause would also be helped if he can curve his addiction to homers, as his 1.14 HR/9 rate indicates it’s best to look at his save opportunities with your hands covered up. There’s more positives working in Barrett’s favor, which is why his ownership rate is at 13 percent and climbing. He’d be a deep sleeper in 2017 if his home run-itis were cured.
Homer Bailey, P, Reds: He’s the person you took a liking to and got involved with only to have that person disappear… only to show up unexpected when you’ve erased the memory of the experience. Bailey made his return from the slagheap on Sunday with a solid 89-pitch outing against the Cardinals, striking out six in his 5.2 innings tossed. What comes with him the rest of the way borders on either a late-season revival or a grab bag filled with wasps and hornets, yet because of his potential, Bailey merits a look. With 13 percent ownership in mixed leagues, the trend suggests that the risk of a swollen ERA and WHIP is worth the strikeouts, since wins will be few and far in between for a franchise trying to avoid 100 losses.
Has there been a bigger tease of pitching talent over the past decade than Bailey? When you think of the hype surrounding his top-end heater and ace-caliber makeup, the residual damage Bailey has caused Fantasy owners over the years in overvaluing and trades is depressing. Goodness, I’m making myself sad… let’s move on.
Aaron Altherr, OF, Phillies: His 39-game sampler last season (.814 OPS, 20 of his 33 hits going for extra bases) made Altherr an intriguing Fantasy prospect heading into the spring, but a wrist injury sidelined him until late last month when he finally returned to Philly after a 13-game dry run in the minors. The power and speed combo has flashed its presence thus far, yet it’s Altherr’s improved patience at the plate that enhances his game. He’s walking at a 10.7 percent rate, which helps offset a tepid .265 BABIP and a 25 percent strikeout rate. The outfield at Citizens’ Bank Park is getting crowded these days, as Altherr joins All-Star Odubel Herrera, Cody Asche and Tyler Goeddel, while top prospect Nick Williams is due up at some point this month. His ownership in polled mixed leagues is 13 percent and while it appears crowded, Altherr is worth the play.
Wilmer Flores, INF, Mets: At this point of the season, the versatile ones gain more value, which is one reason why Flores and his eligibility across the infield has seen a rise in ownership, currently standing at 12 percent in polled mixed leagues. Flores’ power is also causing interest, as he is starting to exert more pop into his 6’3″, 200-pound frame. His splits are a source of concern, considering Flores has a 1.088 OPS against lefties and .605 versus those of the normal armed variety. While he’s best served in a platoon scenario, the Mets and their continuing lack of warm bodies dictate Flores will play daily. You can do much worse than a player on pace for 15-18 homers filling out a middle infield role, yet I’ll leave you dynasty/keeper leaguers with this thought: Flores will hit 25 homers in 2017. Bank it.
Orlando Arcia, SS, Brewers: The future arrived for the Brewers on Tuesday, as the franchise’s top prospect made his arrival to the bigs, moving Jonathan Villar to third. Arcia will play daily and offer his owners solid stolen base potential along with occasional power. He’s only at 11 percent in polled mixed leagues at this point, yet that will rise before season’s end. His ability to reach base consistently will determine if Arcia can become the cornerstone the franchise is banking on him to become or if he’s the tech age version of Pat Listach.