2018 Outlook: Doolittle emerged as the primary closer for the Nationals following a deadline trade to Washington, recording a save in 21 of his 22 opportunities down the stretch. His numbers were strong throughout the season, with a 2.81 ERA which was well supported by a 31.5 percent strikeout rate and 5.1 percent walk rate. Injury risk is the biggest thing separating Doolittle from the top tier of closers as the 31-year-old lefty has spent time on the disabled list in each of the past four seasons. There is also the risk of the Nationals upgrading the back end of their bullpen at some point and bringing in an even more established closer, in which case Doolittle would likely be relegated to setup duty. As a result, it's best to not pay for a full season's worth of saves.
2018 Outlook: Holland, who missed the entire 2016 campaign recovering from Tommy John surgery and was forced to audition for teams during the 2016-17 offseason merely to find a job, thrived last season after choosing Coors Field as his home, saving 41 games and capturing National League Comeback Player of the Year honors. If not for a month-long "blip" in August, a month during which he cut the finger on his throwing hand, he'd have had a sub-2.00 ERA and sub-1.00 WHIP, further exemplifying the strength of his rebound. Holland waited until Opening Day to land a 1-year contract with the Cardinals which will pay him closer money, making it obvious that the Cardinals will give him the role as soon as he is ready to join the team.
2018 Outlook: Herrera's first full season as the Royals' closer was a rocky one. Though he converted 26-of-31 saves, his ERA ballooned by a run and a half. He served up nine home runs, two shy of his combined 2014-16 total. His strikeout rate also plummeted during the season's second half, reaching its low point with a 12.8 percent number in the month of September, during which time it was reported he was dealing with a forearm strain. If healthy, Herrera should begin the season as Kansas City's closer, but his tumbling numbers hint at future injury risk. Even if he's not shelved outright, his waning performance could put his job security in jeopardy. He'll be one of the more important closers to monitor during spring training and is a high-risk, moderate-reward pick in the low end of the top 20 at his position.
2018 Outlook: There are times when a pitcher strikes out so many batters it does not much matter how many they walk. That was the case with Barraclough in 2016 as he mowed through opposing batters, striking out 37 percent of those he faced. His 14 percent walk rate was very high, but his 23 percent strikeout-minus-walk rate was one of the 25 best for a relief pitcher in 2016 -- better than the likes of Zach Britton. Truth be told, Barraclough's walk rate was not that much higher than Craig Kimbrel's in 2016. The problem in 2017 was the strikeout harvest was not as plentiful as his rate dropped 10 percentage points and his K:BB dropped to the bottom 50 percent of the reliever pool. It is surprising that his ERA barely moved, but the ERA indicators point in an unfavorable direction for him in 2018 if he does not get back to his 2016 level of neutralizing opposing batters.