For those seeking saves in Corey Knebel's absence, who are you looking to as a widely available replacement?
For a full look at the ninth-inning climate, check out our closer chart.
Tristan H. Cockcroft: Milwaukee Brewers reliever Josh Hader seems like the guy to get if you had Knebel rostered, but I'd be just as apt to take a chance on Nate Jones of the Chicago White Sox, available in 87.5 percent of ESPN leagues (an additional 10 percent more than Hader). While Jones isn't considered the White Sox's official closer right now, his ascension to the role should arrive in the near future, considering his filthy combination of a 96-plus-mph fastball and slider, which have helped him post a 27.1-percent strikeout rate in his 241 career big-league appearances. It's that categorical skill that should be most attractive for teams seeking help in Knebel's stead, as Jones' strikeout potential is greater than other widely available options like Fernando Rodney, Keone Kela or Brad Ziegler, though it's difficult to imagine Jones matching Rodney's saves total if that's your greater need.
If Joakim Soria continues to show diminished fastball velocity and similar difficulty keeping the ball down that he exhibited in his mediocre 2011 and 2016 seasons, Jones could sneak ahead of Soria in the pecking order. Who's to say that Jones can't register the most saves of any pitcher in the currently-available-in-more-than-half-of-ESPN-leagues group?
AJ Mass: Just a few days before the season started, there was still a bit of mystery remaining in Arizona as to who Torey Lovullo would name as his closer. Most fantasy managers who had to make the call themselves in drafts that took place prior to the Diamondbacks skipper announcing his decision thought it was going to be Archie Bradley, as evidenced by his ADP of 195.7, No. 20 among relief pitchers.
However, Lovullo instead went with Brad Boxberger, whose ownership has grown over 20 percent since Opening Day, but still sits at just 58.9 percent headed into action on Friday. With the injury to Knebel, expect Boxberger to find a lot of new fantasy homes. It's easy to forget that Boxberger was once an All-Star, because when he saved 41 games back in 2015, it was with Tampa Bay in its first season post-Joe Maddon, and few were paying attention.
With four scoreless innings, three saves in three chances and a 13.5 K/9 rate, Boxberger has done everything to assure Lovullo he made the right choice. He's shown in the past that he's more than capable of handling the job for a full season, and there's no reason to think he won't still be getting the ninth-inning call come September.
Eric Karabell: Since Arizona's Boxberger and San Francisco's Hunter Strickland have become so popular and are rostered in more than half of ESPN leagues, it doesn't leave much for immediate saves. I like the Rodney more than anyone should, but he can't replace Knebel for strikeouts, ERA or WHIP. Texas Rangers closer Kela still qualifies, with 11 strikeouts per 9 innings in his career and the likelihood he will continue earning saves because the rest of the bullpen lacks better options. He is actually somewhat comparable to Knebel in that he should have been saving games for a few seasons.
Kyle Soppe: When seeking saves, you generally have two options. You can speculate on an iffy situation for a good team or you can scoop up the current closer on a poor team. In most formats, I prefer the latter, as I tend to chase saves on the wire. What better way to do that than to acquire someone currently finishing off games?
Yes, I understand that there are fewer opportunities for bad teams, but is it really as bad as you think? There were eight teams that won fewer than 75 games last season, and there were an average of 33.8 converted saves for those teams. That'll work. Shane Greene's 2017 campaign was largely underrated, and that is even more the case if you subtract a poor four-day performance in June. Without those dreadful 2.1 innings (and I get it, you can't do that if you rostered him, but bear with me, I'm proving a bigger point), he posted a 1.65 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. That looks a lot like the closer you are currently trying to replace. Knebel broke out last season with a 1.78 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. Greene struck out three White Sox on his way to his first save of 2018 last night, and while I think the Detroit Tigers are just as bad as you do, there are still saves to mine here, and they appear to be Greene's for the foreseeable future.