2016 Outlook: Thankfully, Papelbon's fantasy owners don't have to worry about him choking any of his fantasy teammates, because the fiery reliever continues to produce statistically, despite his consistent blowups and bridge-burning. Papelbon's 24 saves in 2015 marked his lowest total since becoming Boston's closer in 2006, but he still recorded a 2.13 ERA and showcased his typically impeccable control, as he walked just 1.7 batters per nine innings. However, there is room for concern with Papelbon's declining stuff -- he struck out a career-low 7.9 batters per nine innings, and now has a fastball averaging under 92.0 mph. Between his experience and his control, there's no reason to believe he can't be sharp with that arsenal, but his margin for error continues to shrink.
2016 Outlook: Betances has posted back-to-back seasons of eye-popping numbers. He's thrown at least 84 innings in each of the past two seasons, struck out more than 130 batters in each campaign (cumulative K rate of 38.5 percent) and allowed an impossibly-low hit rate of 4.7 H/9. He endured a wild run at the end of the season, walking 12 batters and coughing up three jacks in the final month of play (he allowed no homers over the first three months), but the right-hander consistently punched out hitters with at least 18 strikeouts in each month of the season. Betances was one of the top relievers in the game last year despite earning just nine saves, and the Yankees' commitment to owning the most dominant bullpen of all-time has effectively bounced him from the role of accumulating saves in lieu of newcomer Aroldis Chapman.
2016 Outlook: An offseason trade sent McGee from Tampa Bay to Colorado, one of the game's best pitcher's parks to one of its worst. But McGee will likely become the Rockies closer, as he has been far better in recent years than contenders like Jason Motte and Chad Qualls (Adam Ottavino doesn't have a timetable for return from Tommy John surgery). McGee has a 2.58 ERA (149 ERA+) with 286 strikeouts in 226.2 innings (11.4 K/9) over the past four years, and in three of those he has finished with a sub-2.50 ERA. Coors Field will be a tough test, but his stuff is top tier and should play anywhere.
2016 Outlook: Street is a closer, born and bred, going back to his days of closing games as a Texas Longhorn. He goes through his occasional dings and dents, but has appeared in 40 or more games in every season of his career, dating back to 2005. He has never had an ERA higher than 3.86 (despite pitching in Colorado for three years), has racked up 20 or more saves in seven straight seasons, and has kept his walks down to the extent that last season's 2.9 BB/9 was his highest rate since 2008. He has a contract with the Angels that runs through 2018, and the Halos have their eyes on contention, so the right-hander is unlikely to depart Orange County.
2016 Outlook: Relievers are fickle, and Miller's meteoric rise to prominence - following several seasons of struggle - is a great example of the volatile value proposition that these players bring to the table. Teams have been pinch-hitting with right-handed bats like it's going out of style against Miller and he hasn't been fazed, posting an even better line against right-handed bats then against lefties – right-handed hitters are hitting a combined .137 in 299 at-bats versus Miller over the past two seasons. Although the acquisition of Aroldis Chapman certainly dings Miller’s value, Miller will be afforded a fairly significant window to rack up saves to start the year with Chapman banned for the first 30 games. After Chapman’s return, Miller will still carry plenty of value in leagues that count holds, while the immense strikeout rate and dents to the ratios will make him useful in most standard formats as well.
2016 Outlook: After allowing fewer than one home run per nine innings for the previous five years, hitters teed off on Sanchez in 2015, launching 29 home runs off of the righty in just 25 starts. Sanchez posted his highest ERA since 2008 as a result, checking in at a brutal 4.99. Sanchez has had a history of shoulder issues and was forced to end his season prematurely due to shoulder soreness, though no structural damage was found. It's possible his issues in 2015 were due to an attempt to pitch through injuries, given Sanchez's injury-prone history; he has made 30 starts just three times in 10 seasons. Improvement is likely for Sanchez in 2016, if he can get healthy, but the ace-type performance he flashed in 2013 (182 IP, 14-8, 2.57 ERA, 10.0 K/9) appears to be squarely in the rear view mirror.
2016 Outlook: On the surface, Perkins' 2015 might look like an improvement on his 2014 season in many respects, but there are some underlying factors that should serve as caution flags for prospective owners. While he did successfully convert 32-of-35 save chances, his strikeout and groundball rates both continued to slip, down to 22.7 and 33.7 percent, respectively. With more balls in the air than ever before in his career, home runs were an issue, especially at home (8 HR in 33.1 innings). Lefties batted .373 and got on base at a .419 clip against Perkins in 2015, though they did not account for any of the nine homers against him, and his overall numbers looked much better before a dramatic implosion over the season's final month. Those late struggles can be at least partially attributed to the back and neck issues he dealt with. While Perkins reportedly has not had any lingering effects from the injury this offseason, he will be 33 on Opening Day and there is a good deal of fastball/slider mileage on his arm. Plus, Kevin Jepsen and Trevor May loom as potential threats to his job.
2016 Outlook: Storen was dealt to Toronto in the offseason but manager John Gibbons eventually named incumbent Roberto Osuna the opening day closer. Storen did the job very well in 2015 before the Nationals went out and traded for Papelbon and ended Storen's run at 40 saves. His strikeout rate jumped over three full strikeouts per nine innings and he once again kept the ball in the yard which was not the case back in 2013. Last year, he was more flyball-heavy than he had been in previous years, which makes him a bit riskier moving into Rogers Centre and the cozier run environments in the American League East. Storen profiles as a top setup man, valuable in holds leagues, and the clear second option for saves in the Toronto bullpen should Osuna falter, get injured, or need a day off.
2016 Outlook: Giles struggled with reduced velocity in April and May, but was still effective working in a setup role in front of Jonathan Papelbon throughout the first half of last season. Once Papelbon was shipped to the Nationals at the trade deadline, Giles took over the ninth-inning role for the Phillies and flourished. Showing improved control after the All-Star break (6.0 BB%), while going 15-for-17 in save chances and posting a 1.71 ERA. Using a high-90s fastball and a slider, Giles has the tools to become one of the game's elite closers, and he's piled up strikeouts at an impressive clip during his first two seasons in the big leagues (32.5 K%). The Astros acquired Giles from Philadelphia in December, giving up a package of young talent for a controllable asset to immediately place in their bullpen, and he should remain a closer with the move to Houston for the foreseeable future.
2016 Outlook: Casilla did an unquestionably excellent job closing in the second half of 2014 with a 2.42 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and 24 strikeouts in 26 innings, plus a 17-for-18 save rate. And yet, he was one of the last closers picked in 2015 drafts, going 25th among relievers. The skepticism was understandable. He was a 34-year-old who brought a career 7.7 K/9 rate into the season and just 58 saves over eight-plus seasons. So of course he logged 38 saves with a career-high 9.6 K/9 rate, almost three more per game than 2014, but they came at the expense of more walks, home runs and hits, which ballooned his WHIP. On the surface it looked like a big season, but the skills were wobbly and he has to deal with both Sergio Romo, who ceded the role to Casilla but enjoyed an excellent 2015, and Hunter Strickland, the 100-mph fireballer with incredible strikeout stuff accentuated by strong control. Thus, Casilla is still no better than the 25th or so closer off the board.
2016 Outlook: Doolittle got a late start to the 2015 season due to shoulder soreness, came back for one appearance in late May and went back on the shelf as the left shoulder flared up again. He returned in May with diminished velocity, sitting 92-94 mph rather than his customary 95-plus, an expected outcome given the ties between shoulder health and velocity. How much of that velocity returns could determine his role for 2016, and for Doolittle that pitch-speed plays an even greater role due to a usage pattern that has leaned on the heat more than 87-percent of the time in his career. The A's paid good money this past offseason for endgame options John Axford and Ryan Madson, either of whom could fill the role of stockpiling saves for stretches at a time in the event that Doolittle is unfit to handle the job.
2016 Outlook: Cishek parlayed a strong finish after a trade to the St. Louis Cardinals (23.1 IP, 2.31 ERA) into a two-year, $10 million contract with the Mariners and will be Seattle's closer heading into the season. But it's hard to be too encouraged by Cishek's 2015 -- he posted a 7.8 K/9 and a 4.4 BB/9, both the worst of his career (min. 5 IP). The control problems were hardly absent in his time with St. Louis (5.0 BB/9). Perhaps more alarming were Cishek's issues handling left-handed batters, a natural consequence of his sidearm delivery. Cishek allowed a .247/.384/.370 batting line to the 99 left-handed hitters he faced. As closer, teams are going to throw their best lefties at him with regularity, and if he can't handle them, he won't be long in the role.
2016 Outlook: Last year, Jeffress took advantage of his first opportunity to pitch an entire season in the majors. The 28-year-old pitched 68 innings, posting a 2.65 ERA and 1.26 WHIP, often in high-leverage situations. He also struck out 67 batters in that span and limited himself to 22 walks on the season. Now that Francisco Rodriguez is out of town, Jeffress could earn a significant number of saves throughout the course of the season, as manager Craig Counsell announced that he plans to play the matchups in the ninth inning with Jeffress and lefty Will Smith. With this in mind, Jeffress makes for a worthy flier in the second half of drafts. Even if he were to fall behind Smith at some point, he would still be useful in most formats given the ratios and strikeouts.
2016 Outlook: Shoulder issues cost Bailey two years of his prime, but he finally returned to the majors last season, making 10 appearances for the Yankees over the final month of the season. The results were not good, nor were the peripherals -- his K-BB% was a mere 2.4 percent, a far cry from the 20-plus percent marks he posted at each stop as he made his way up the Yankees’ minor league ladder. His velocity was not down all that much, though, and his swinging-strike rate of 12 percent was higher than his career average. The Phillies brought Bailey in on a minor league deal with a spring training invite, and not only is he going to make the roster, manager Pete Mackanin has named Bailey the frontrunner for the closer job out of camp. How long he keeps the role is anyone’s guess, but David Hernandez is probably Bailey’s only real threat.
2016 Outlook: Gausman recorded 90 strikeouts with a 1.22 WHIP in 100.1 innings as a starter last season, but it was still difficult to extract much overall value from his 17 starts, as he allowed 15 big flies. There is plenty of profit potential with the 25-year-old, assuming that his 1.36 HR/9 regresses to his 1.05 career mark in 2016, as owners may be scared off by an unsightly 4.25 ERA that was negatively impacted by his struggles in 12 relief innings. The athletic 6-foot-3 righty should finally get to spend an entire season in the rotation after the Orioles jerked him around for three straight seasons, and the stability and comfort of knowing he will get the ball every fifth day could go a long way toward seeing him approach the potential that led to Gausman's rating as a top-30 prospect in 2013 and 2014.