The Cardinals have a few names in the bullpen that are competing for the closer role. Which one makes the most sense for fantasy baseball?
The St. Louis Cardinals closer situation has been a fantasy quagmire for the last couple of seasons. After years dominance from Trevor Rosenthal, he struggled and made way for Seung-hwan Oh to take over in the second half of 2016 but that didn’t last long. Now, with three potential closers, fantasy owners are questions who to draft.
According to Roster Resource, Luke Gregerson is the expected closer. However, he dealt with an oblique injury early in the month. Gregerson has closer experience, recording 31 saves in 2015 and 15 in 2016 with the Astros. Though, he saw increases to all of his ratio stats over the last three seasons.
Everyone thought that this is Gregerson’s job, and still could be. But someone has emerged from the bullpen as a sleeper option with his performance last year and his dominant spring. Dominic Leone is the likely pick to take over for Gregerson if he misses time. Leone posted a 2.56 ERA, 1.052 WHIP, 10.4 K9 and 2.9 BB9 in 70.1 innings with the Blue Jays last season. So far this spring, he has a 1.29 ERA, 1.143 WHIP, 10 strikeouts and four walks in 7.0 innings.
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Those are the two names atop the depth chart that fantasy owners are targeting in drafts. There are a few other names to keep an eye on throughout the season. Veterans Brett Cecil, Tyler Lyons and Bud Norris round out the rest of the relevant relief pitchers.
Cecil hasn’t been a full-time closer at any point in his career. He has 12 career saves with a 4.17 ERA and 8.1 K9 rate. I wouldn’t want him as my team’s closer. Lyons recorded three saves last year. He posted a 2.83 ERA and 11.3 K9 in 54 innings last year.
Norris probably has the most experience as a closer of the three. He was a starter for the majority of his career before moving to the bullpen in 2015. never recorded a save before last season. The Angels were another team with closer issues last year. Norris finished with 19 saves, a 4.21 ERA, 1.339 WHIP, 10.7 K9 and 3.9 BB9 in 62 innings.
If Gregerson suffers a setback, I can see a split between Leone and Norris for saves to start the season. Leone is posting great numbers so far but Norris has the experience to get the job done. Also, Gregerson won’t be away for too long so he’ll be in the mix too.
Gregerson has a 278.0 ADP, Leone is at 314.0 and Norris is at 471.0 according to FantasyPros. As long as he stays healthy, Gregerson is the reliever you want. He’ll be available as a 28th round pick in standard leagues. The other two are good for holds and ratio help in deeper leagues. The extra saves won’t hurt, either.
The Cardinals will benefit from using a committee instead of relying on one guy but that doesn’t help fantasy owners. More teams are developing deeper bullpens to relieve the pressure of their starters (to pun intended) but that means there are fewer innings for more pitchers.