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MLB Today: Picking a Closer

February 27, 2024 | By RotoRob | comment on this post
Emmanuel Clase has been lights out for the Cleveland Guardians.
Can Emmanuel Clase lead the bigs in saves yet again? (Erik Drost)

The Tampa Bay Rays have added a key bench player in Amed Rosario; new Los Angeles Dodger Shohei Ohtani (elbow) is already flashing his massive power in BP; and the Philadelphia Phillies are hoping to extend ace Zack Wheeler, who is heading into his walk year. Let’s examine a few other Fantasy baseball stories we’re following as Spring Training games begin this week…

Can Emmanuel Clase Keep Racking Up Saves?

Picking closers in Fantasy is always tricky business simply because projecting saves is damn hard given all the variables involved. Sometimes, you’re better off simply targeting high strikeout relievers that offer up solid ERA and WHIP numbers and are expected to pitch in high-leverage situations for contending squads.

Simple, right?

Except that’s not always a rule of thumb that works.

Take, for instance, Emmanuel Clase. He pitches for a Cleveland Guardians squad that was expected to be rancid in 2022, yet wound up winning 92 games, and was projected to regress a bit in 2023, but actually wound up being a lot worse than that.

Yet Clase has led the majors in saves in back-to-back seasons.

He got off to blazing start last season, and had already racked up 17 saves heading into June, but managed just 11 over the next two months before rebounding from August on.

However, cracks formed in Clase’s game. A career low of 7.9 K/9 suggests he was far from dominant, and he also led the majors with 12 blown saves, so wasn’t exactly a sure thing every time he took the mound. And apparently, Clase needs to be kept away from Kyle Schwarber (at least in the virtual world… see video below).

Clase still has nasty stuff, but will need to be better if he’s going to maintain his ninth inning gig, so that’s definitely something to watch and should at least make you think twice about what kind of investment you’re willing to make in him. His current ADP is 54, and if he saves 40+ again, we’re good with that. But don’t say we didn’t warn you about those red flags.

We absolutely love what a workhorse Clase is, but have opposing hitters figured him out? In 2022, batters swung at a whopping 49.8 per cent of the pitches he threw outside the strike zone; last year, that number was just 35.1 per cent.

That’s a dramatic difference and something owners should really keep an eye on this season.

Jasson Dominguez Making Progress

The New York Yankees are already the favourite to finish as the AL’s top seed this year (+260 as per odds at FanDuel), and now they’ve gotten some good news regarding the progress of one of their most exciting young players.

Outfielder Jasson Dominguez hurt his elbow and required Tommy John surgery just eight games after beginning his MLB career in mid-September. The procedure was expected to sideline him for nine to 10 months, taking him out of circulation until June or July of this season.

However, Dominguez seems to be ahead of schedule, taking his first post-surgery swings off a tee on Monday (20 in total), with another round slated for Wednesday. If he’s ready by late-May/early-June, that would provide a huge boost to the Yankees’ attack.

We’re talking about a kid that was No. 34 on our Top 100 Prospects list heading into 2023, and while his power and BA regressed a smidge in the minors, he swiped 40 bags in under 120 games between Double-A and Triple-A before posting a ridiculous 980 OPS in his brief big league audition.

Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2019, the just turned 21-year-old remains the Yankees’ top prospect and a fine stash candidate given his immense upside.

Seeking Steals On the ChiSox

Chicago White Manager Pedro Grifol had a rude awakening to his managerial career last season, suffering 101 losses. He’s talked about transforming the team’s approach this year and making them more aggressive on the basepaths.

With that in mind, sharp Fantasy owners will mine this team for potential sleepers in the stolen base category.

Outfielder Luis Robert was already a projected stud this year after narrowly missing out on a 40-homer/20-steal season, but the prospect of him flirting with 30-30 or better has to make owners nudge him up the ranks.

An actual sleeper worth considering from this roster is Robert’s fellow outfielder Andrew Benintendi. Thanks to recent revelations about Benintendi’s hand never feeling 100 per cent last year, we can better understand his power outage. So if he can return to his mid-teen power and perhaps even flirt with his career-best of 20 jacks while returning to his days of swiping 20 or more bags, his value will bounce back in a huge way.

Watch Benintendi very closely this spring.

RotoRob Tune of the Day

He was born Roy Kelton Orbison, but the American songwriter was known more simply as Roy Orbison. In 1999, a compilation album of his music was released as part of Legacy Recordings’ series of 16 Biggest Hits. From this effort came “Blue Angel,” originally released on his 1961 debut album Lonely and Blue.

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