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: Let's all pump the brakes a bit. Yeah, Iglesias' peripherals were outstanding. But it was about half a season; maintaining that level for a full year is difficult. Actually, imagine the hype train if his ERA wasn't unlucky? Everyone's attention is piqued as Iglesias fanned more than a hitter per inning while carrying a walk rate better than league average. He's a ground-ball pitcher, which helps mitigate working half the time in Great American Ballpark. Of some concern is that Iglesias was shut down a couple weeks early last season with shoulder fatigue, though the Reds' brass said it was a precautionary measure. Still, considering Iglesias spent 2014 establishing residence in Haiti after defecting from Cuba, it wouldn't be surprising if Cincinnati were careful with the soon-to-be 26-year-old's right arm. Be aggressive but temper expectations in terms of both performance and innings.
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: Corbin threw over 180 innings at age 23 in 2012 and exceeded 208 innings at age 24 in 2013. Pop went the elbow during spring training in 2014 and he missed 21 months recovering from Tommy John surgery. He made a nice return in 2015 over 16 starts considering the fact his command was just as good as it was pre-injury, which is a rarity for pitchers returning from TJS. The slider is still his moneymaker and the pitch looked good upon his return, but better fastball command will make the slider look better. Given the lengthy time off, there has to be some kind of inning cap on the young arm as he is still in his mid 20's and that limitation puts him as an end-game pick with quite a bit of upside. That cap and his health are his only risks as he's been rather solid hurler in what are typically the young and volatile years for pitchers.
2016 Outlook: Severino was a revelation for the Yankees last season, keeping runs off the scoreboard to the tune of a 2.89 ERA despite modest peripherals. His walk rate was just 2.3 BB/9 through 320 2/3 innings in the minor leagues, a stretch in which he allowed just eight home runs and struck out more than a batter per inning. The home run rate didn't translate, as he coughed up more bombs in 62 1/3 innings of big-league play than he had surrendered in five times that many frames in the minors. His stuff is electric, with a fastball that averaged 95.8 mph last season and a hard slider/cutter hybrid with subtle movement that he throws liberally to both left- and right-handed hitters. He has the delivery and the frame to withstand the rigor of a big-league workload, but the tight velocity band in which he throws all of his pitches (including an 87-90 mph "changeup") will make it easier for major-league hitters to pick up the timing of Severino's arsenal.
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.