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.
2016 Outlook: Arodys Vizcaino - Vizcaino had a second chance to make a first impression with Braves fans last season, and the right-hander didn't disappoint. His late-season ascension to the closer role was hardly noticed by a fantasy community that had all but written off Atlanta as a bottomless pit of fantasy despair, but from August 6th through the end of the season he went 9-for-10 in save opportunities with 26 strikeouts against 8 walks in 22.0 innings pitched. Entering his age-25 season, Vizcaino is without a set role and on a bad team. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he will mix and match Vizcaino, Jason Grilli, and Jim Johnson in the ninth inning depending on the situation. The skipper’s words should curb enthusiasm among prospective owners, but Vizcaino is the best of the bunch, so don't be shocked if he finds his way to 30 saves this year.
2016 Outlook: Storen was dealt to Toronto in the offseason and manager John Gibbons has remained non-committal in naming either Storen or Osuna as the closer this year. 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. Keep an eye on this situation in the spring as drafting Storen on the cheap while the uncertainty is still out there could turn out to be very profitable once the decision is finally made.
2016 Outlook: It's surprising how little buzz Jepsen is getting when it comes to speculative saves. In 2015, for the second straight season, Twins regular closer Glen Perkins had late-season health woes. Jepsen filled in admirably down the stretch, registering a tidy 10 saves in 11 chances after taking over in late August. The veteran right-hander isn't dominating, but misses ample bats to be dangerous. Last season was buoyed by goofy BABIP and HR/FB marks but even with some reversion, Jepsen's still a quality reliever. That said, if he isn't closing then Jepsen's not the type of player who is a huge help for a mixed staff, since his whiffs are good but not great and he doesn't toss a ton of innings. That said, Jepsen is a solid option for leagues that score holds.
2016 Outlook: Following the offseason trade of Aroldis Chapman, Hoover will look to secure the Reds' closer role for the upcoming season. The 28-year-old rebounded from a dreadful season in 2014, as he worked to a 2.94 ERA last season, the third time in his four-year career that he's finished with a sub-3.00 ERA. There is some cause for concern though, as Hoover sported a mediocre 52:31 K:BB ratio and benefitted from a .222 BABIP that will likely regress at least a bit in the wrong direction, as it did when he posted a 4.88 ERA in 2014. If he's able to win the ninth-inning role out of spring training, the righty will be an intriguing play, but he could be replaced at the first sign of trouble.
2016 Outlook: The Oakland bullpen was a disaster as Sean Doolittle labored through injuries, Tyler Clippard wasn't his best version and the rest of the bullpen was painfully thin. Billy Beane seems determined not to let that happen again, adding several reinforcements behind a hopefully-healthy Doolittle, including Madson. All Madson did was take three full years off and come back without missing a beat. In 2010-11, Madson had a 2.45 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 4.3 K:BB ratio in 113.7 innings. In 2015 with the Royals, he put up 2.13, 0.96 and 4.1 in 63.3 innings. He won't be closing to start the season, but he's likely first up if Doolittle's health plagues him again.
2016 Outlook: After years of being on the cusp of a closer's role, Gregerson finally got a shot and handled the job admirably. He logged 31 saves, his 25 percent strikeout rate was a five-year high and his 0.95 WHIP was the second-best mark of his career. To reward him for that work, the Astros went ahead and named him their permanent closer. Wait, what? Actually, they spent the entire winter involved in trade rumors for just about every closer on the block before finally paying a mint for Ken Giles. Gregerson goes back to a setup role that he has excelled in for years. His ERA was up almost a run from 2014 to 2015, but his struggles were clustered including a pair of 3-earned run outings where he didn't complete an inning. In fact, nine of his 10 run-allowing outings featured multiple runs. The ERA indicators suggest 2015 was one of his best years. He's worth a $1 bid in deep leagues even without closing, but Giles has been closing for only about five minutes so he's no guarantee, either.
2016 Outlook: A right-handed, flyball setup man with an 87 mile-per-hour fastball working half his games in Camden Yards certainly doesn't sound like a candidate for one of the richest reliever contracts in the game. However, that's exactly what O'Day signed to return back to the Orioles. The deceptive soft-tosser features pinpoint control and a wipeout slider that baffles both righty and lefty swingers. Last season, O'Day bumped an already impressive strikeout rate into double digits while maintaining his stingy walk rate. O'Day is also durable, throwing a minimum of 62 innings for four consecutive seasons. The only problem is Zach Britton is entrenched as the team's closer, which renders O'Day only fantasy worthy in leagues scoring holds or deep AL-only formats for some ratio support.
2016 Outlook: Buchholz entered 2015 as the ace of Boston's rotation, and he pitched like one for much of the season. The right-hander had a decent first half of the season, with a 7-7 record, 3.26 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. He also had an outstanding 4.65 K/BB ratio, thanks mostly to his impeccable control shown through his 1.8 BB/9, an outstanding 0.5 HR/9 and a 2.74 FIP. Despite all of these numbers pointing toward a good year, Buchholz was shut down halfway through the season due to elbow issues. Thankfully there was no ligament damage, so Buchholz should have a clean bill of health heading into 2016. That said, he has had some durability issues in the past, which makes him a bit of a risky pick going forward. He is best suited for shallower leagues where competent replacements are available on the waiver wire for when he likely misses time.
2016 Outlook: Acquired in the Ken Giles deal, Velasquez is one of the most exciting young players the rebuilding Phillies will feature next season. In 19 games (seven starts), Velasquez finished with a 4.37 ERA but struck out 58 against 21 walks in 55.2 innings. His fastball averaged a scorching 94.6 MPH and he already features a slider, curve and changeup in his arsenal. Velasquez will have to show up with good control in spring training to win the fifth starter job, as the Phillies may elect to start him in the minor leagues. But his strikeout numbers in the minor leagues -- 117 in just 88.1 innings across High-A and Double-A last year -- are fantastic, and his electric stuff makes him an intriguing sleeper for 2016.
2016 Outlook: After a disappointing 2014 campaign, Grilli signed a multi-year deal with the Braves, ostensibly to set up Craig Kimbrel but as it turned out, Grilli inherited the closer role when Kimbrel was dealt to the Padres right before Opening Day. Grilli proceeded to regain his 2011-2013 form and was discussed as a candidate to be dealt at the trade deadline before his season came to an abrupt halt due to a ruptured left Achilles’ tendon. The veteran right-hander did not make his spring debut until March 17, but the Braves still believe he will be ready for the start of the season. However, Arodys Vizcaino proved capable of closing out games last year, and manager Fredi Gonzalez suggested he’s open to using a combination of Grilli, Vizcaino, and Jim Johnson to close game, at least initially. As such, Grilli is merely a dart throw for a third closer in mixed leagues or second closer in NL-only formats.
2016 Outlook: Karns came to Tampa Bay with a spotty fastball and a big curve, but was quickly indoctrinated in the Rays' way of pitching as he took to the changeup like a college freshman to their first credit card. The pitch got better with each start, and it made his fastball look better. The problem with Karns came on a few fronts: He broke down late in the season with forearm soreness, he struggled with home runs and he can't go through the lineup a third time. Manager Kevin Cash was very quick with the hook for Karns for that reason, and Karns didn't care for it. New Mariners manager Scott Servais may handle him differently, but durability is a big question mark for the pitcher.
2016 Outlook: The problem with Bauer is that when he was off, he was way off. He had 10 starts where he allowed five earned runs or more, tied with Kyle Kendrick for the second-highest total in the game. Alfredo Simon and Jeff Samardzija both had 11. Speaking of Samardzija, he and Bauer had similar seasons in terms of volatility as, on the other end of the spectrum, Bauer had 17 starts of six or more innings with two or fewer earned runs (Samardzija had 13). Bauer was tied for the eighth-highest total in that category, though there were a lot of ties at different counts so let's just say there were 24 starts with at least 17. That was among the 226 pitchers who had at least one such start, so either way it was pretty good. If he can cut down the number of implosions, there is upside to tap into here. Entering his third season, Bauer is a decent post-hype option, especially given the minimal investment needed to get him.