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Monday, February 18, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL CLOSING TIME: NO CRAIG KIMBREL IN BOSTON MEANS GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY FOR MATT BARNES OR RYAN BRASIER

While the free agent market for All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel moved as slow as rush hour traffic in downtown Los Angeles this past winter, it was widely assumed by most in the industry that the veteran would eventually re-up with the team. Even when camps opened, this was still the consensus line of thought.  Alas, it took Red Sox chairman Tom Werner to come out on Monday and say it was "unlikely" the team would bring back Kimbrel and so now focus needs to shift towards who will take over saves for the upcoming season.  Given that the Red Sox are still considered to be the top team in baseball once again, there should be plentiful saves for whomever gets the assignment and on that front, speculation should center on either Matt Barnes or Ryan Brasier. 

When you compare the two, it would appear as though Barnes should be considered the favorite given his extreme strikeout ability which is always a major prerequisite for finishing games.  In fact, Barnes was downright Kimbrel-esque on that front last season as his 14.01 K.9 was downright massive and it helped mask what was a bit of an elevated 3.65 ERA considering how much heat he possesses. The problems with Barnes is that he has almost no experience closing games and his horrible 4.52 BB/9 a year ago is some downright brutal control that is not such a good thing for high-pressure ninth-inning situations.  As far as the first issue, we all know there have been endless power arms who dominate in the seventh and eighth but moving into the ninth causes them to turn to mush due to mental weakness.  We are not saying this is what is in store for Barnes if he closes games but it is surely an unknown.  Then there is the awful control which is always a problem no matter the inning.  At the very least though, Barnes should be in line as the favorite due to his overpowering nature.  With regards to Brasier, he is a bit of a mystery as he didn't pitch at all in 2017 and only logged 33.2 innings with the team where he put forth an impressive 1.60 ERA.  While Brasier is not a strikeout guy (7.75 K.9), he has very good control (1.87 BB/9) which is a nice bonus.  Given that Brasier is still finding his way after not pitching in 2017, we still think he is a step or two behind Barnes in terms of closer hierarchy. 

If you break it all down, we would tab Barnes as the guy who will likely lead the Red Sox in saves this spring but the exhibition schedule is likely to determine where this goes.  With just one spot to work with, Barnes would be the add but this could be another spring fluid situation. 


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