The Astros have spent years trying to find an elite closer. Ken Giles had a great season but is it a one-year wonder or a sign of things to come?
The Houston Astros are moving on to the ALCS, facing either the Cleveland Indians or New York Yankees. They got to this spot with a lot of help from their offense. But the regular season was held down by closer Ken Giles. Is he now a top closer option?
Giles spent his first two years in Philadelphia as a middle reliever. He recorded 15 saves in 2015 before being traded to Houston in the offseason. In his first year, Giles had another 15 saves as he was competing with Will Harris (12) and Luke Gregerson (15) for saves.
With neither of them standing out throughout the 2016 season or Spring Training, Giles won the closer role. And looking at what he did throughout this year, management made the right choice.
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Giles, in 63 games, posted a 2.30 ERA, 2.39 FIP 1.037 WHIP and 34 saves. He also had an 11.9 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 62.2 innings. I would like him to lower his walk rate just a bit but his strikeout rate and hits offset the walk damage.
Giles saw a 4.4 percent increase in his groundball rate. Though, his fly ball rate went up 2.6 percent from 2016 to 2017. His HR/FB rate was almost cut in half. Giles allowed eight home runs in 65.2 innings last year and just four this season.
I don’t think Giles will get back to his 100-strikeout season from last year but he will continue to post a strikeout rate over 10. The American League West did not hit well this year. Three of the four opponents finished 24th or worse in team batting average, giving Giles favorable matchups for most of the season.
The top-five closers drafted this season were Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman, Zach Britton, Mark Melancon and Seung-Hwan Oh.
I don’t advocate drafting a closer early. Britton, Melancon and Oh all finished outside the top 50 on the Player Rater. Felipe Rivero and Knebel finished in the top-10 on the Player Rater but they both had an ADP of 260.0, undrafted in most ESPN leagues. Saves can be found late.
Looking at the closer rankings for 2018, Craig Kimbrel, Jansen and Chapman are clearly the top three. Corey Knebel is in the conversation as well. There is no other closer that stood out to make a case for a top-five spot. That’s where Giles comes in.
Giles will likely rank as my top-five closer for next season. He has a good supporting staff in front of him, led by Chris Devenski. The offense is also one of the best in the league. But, as my top-five closer, he shouldn’t be drafted until Round 12. He is good enough to be your team’s top closer as you look to solidify other positions.
A combination of Giles/Arodys Vizcaino, Brad Hand or Rivero is a good target for drafts.