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Fantasy Baseball Closer Rankings

 

Closers are often the most overrated of all fantasy positions. There are very few truly elite closers, and even many of them fail in the long-term. Closer is the most volatile position in fantasy baseball. Elite closers one year can be wreck’s the next (see Brad Lidge Houston), and then bounce back unexpectedly (see Brad Lidge Philly). All of that adds up to one simple fact, do not overspend or overdraft a closer. Closer’s tend to be more sought after than they should be, especially considering that out of the list below I would argue that only about 8-10 (at most) are above 50/50 bets to be successful in that role. You can go after one or two of those ten if you like, but these guys are only guaranteed to help you in one category (saves). The argument is made that they help in strikeout leagues, and they do a bit. However, unless your league does k’s per 9 then they do not really help that much because they cannot accumulate enough throwing so few innings. What it all means is that the value of taking an elite closer early does not come close to matching the value of taking a player that is a starter or a position player. You are better off taking a couple closers in the later rounds, because the truth is that the difference between closer 8 and closer 25 on this list is razor thin.

 

Closer Fantasy Projections:

 

  1. Francisco Rodriguez- (Mets)
  2. Joe Nathan- (Twins)
  3. Brad Lidge- (Phillies)
  4. Mariano Rivera- (Yankees)
  5. Jonathan Papelbon- (Red Sox)
  6. Jaokim Soria- (Royals)
  7. Jose Valverde- (Astros)
  8. Kerry Wood- (Indians)
  9. Jonathan Broxton- (Dodgers)
  10. B.J. Ryan- (Blue Jays)
  11. Carlos Marmol or Kevin Gregg- (Cubs)
  12. Brian Wilson- (Giants)
  13. Bobby Jenks- (White Sox)
  14. Brian Fuentes- (Angels)
  15. Trevor Hoffman- (Brewers)
  16. Francisco Cordero- (Reds)
  17. Chad Qualls- (Diamondbacks)
  18. Frank Francisco- (Rangers)
  19. George Sherrill- (Orioles)
  20. Brandon Lyon- (Tigers)
  21. Huston Street or Manny Corpus- (Rockies)
  22. Mike Gonzalez- (Braves)
  23. Heath Bell- (Padres)
  24. Joel Hanrahan- (Nationals)
  25. Jason Motte- (Cardinals)

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The Best:

Francisco Rodriguez (Mets), Joe Nathan (Twins), Brad Lidge (Phillies), Mariano Rivera (Yankees)

Last season' numbers give Francisco Rodriguez (Mets) the top spot among closers for 2009. He had a record-setting 62 saves in 2008, while saving at least 40 games in the three preceding seasons. It'll be pretty tough to match the 62 he put up last year, but he'll easily reach the 40 mark.

Joe Nathan (Twins) is guaranteed to save 35 games, but he hasn't hit 40 since 2005. The reason why he's such a reliable closer is his ability to keep a really low ERA and WHIP. He hasn't had an ERA above 1.88 in his past three seasons. If he can repeat last season's stats, he's an arguable 1 or 2 closer; 2008: 39 saves, 1.33 ERA, and 0.90 WHIP.

Brad Lidge (Phillies) had 41 saves in 41 attempts last year, a 1.95 ERA, and 92 strikeouts. You can't really ask for a better outing from a closer. Going perfect again isn't likely, but he will definitely get close to, if not more than, 90 strikeouts. Not many closers can even put up 80 K's, and Lidge had three straight seasons of 100+ strikeouts, before dropping to 88 in 2007, then 92 last year. His WHIP can get up there sometimes, but his capability to save games and strike out 85+ guys a season will compensate.

I had to put Mariano Rivera (Yankees) on my “Best” list. He is arguably the best closer the MLB has seen in the past 10 years. He had some shoulder problems last year and still had his statistically best season out of his past three. Rivera has shown no signs of slowing down, which is obviously good to hear. He's guaranteed 35+ saves, 70-80 strikeouts, and a sub-2.00 ERA.

 

The Rest:

If you drop below the top-3 closers, Jonathan Papelbon (Red Sox), Jose Valverde (Astros), Joakim Soria (Royals), and Kerry Wood (Indians) are the best bets, assuring you no less than 40 saves, if they stay healthy. Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg (Cubs) are both top-15 closers, but they play for the same team. If you want my preference, I would go with Gregg...he saved 61 games with the Marlins in the past two seasons, and Marmol is only 26 with barely any closing experience. If you're in the bottom half of the closer's list, Brandon Lyon (Tigers), Chad Qualls (Diamondbacks), and Heath Bell (Padres) are three guys who average an ADP of about 200 and are easily suited for 25-30 saves in '09. Huston Street (Rockies), Mike Gonzalez (Braves), and Jason Motte (Cardinals) are the three biggest risks on the list. It's not that their incapable of saving games, it's the fact that they're fighting for the closing job. Street is competing with Manny Corpas, Gonzalez is fighting it out with Rafael Soriano, and Motte is trying to beat out Ryan Franklin, Josh Kinney, and Chris Perez. If the three guys get the job, they're extremely valuable for the price they're going for.

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Risers:

Jason Motte (Cardinals), Carlos Marmol (Cubs), Brian Wilson (Giants)

Jason Motte (Cardinals) is the youngest on the list, at 26 years old, with just 11.0 MLB innings under his belt. Last year, in those 11 innings (12 appearances), Motte had one save and four holds. Here's the better stuff...five hits, 16 strikeouts, 2 runs (1 earned), 3 walks, a 0.82 ERA, and a 0.73 WHIP. Pretty good numbers in your first 12 games as a major leaguer. Even if he doesn't close, he's going to be a proficient help for the Cards' bullpen.

I know Carlos Marmol (Cubs) isn't guaranteed the closing berth for Chicago, but that doesn't take away the fact that he's going to be a star pitcher. He had 118 K's in 87.1 innings last year, posting a 2.68 ERA...which isn't too shabby for a third year pitcher, and only second year out of the pen. Beating out Kevin Gregg might be tough, but if it happens, Marmol has the ability to save at least 30 games this year with a high strikeout count, which is rare for many closers.

Brian Wilson (Giants) saved 41 games last year (tied for 4 th in the MLB with Lidge and Papelbon), and for a below-average team, too. He did have a pretty high ERA at 4.62, and we hope to see that decline to between 2.00-3.00 in 2009. He's pretty average in strikeouts and WHIP, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Wilson save 45 games this year, thanks to a better Giants team in 2009.


Fallers:

B.J. Ryan (Blue Jays), Chris Ray (Orioles), Huston Street (Rockies)

B.J. Ryan (Blue Jays) saved 32 games last year, one of his his worst seasons in his career. He didn't start closing until 2005, in which he saved 36 games and 38 games in 2006. He was injured in 2007, pitching in only 5 games. But last year, we saw his ERA and walks go up, and his strikeouts go down. He pitched like crap in this years' World Baseball Classic, too. He's not a bad closer, if he stays healthy, but I don't see him saving more than 30 games this year. Plus his ERA is just going to rise. He's a risky top-10 closer.

Chris Ray (Orioles) didn't play a single game last year due to Tommy John surgery. In '06 and '07 he combined for 49 saves in 104 appearances...not bad at all. However, the O's found a new closer when Ray got his surgery...George Sherrill. He took the closing job and ran with it. He saved 31 games last year, which was his first year closing. Chris Ray will probably split closing time with Sherrill this year, but my guess is Sherrill wins the spot. A lot of pitchers struggle with post-TJS...but we'll see how the ex-stopper does.

Huston Street (Rockies) was never really a “great” closer. In '05, possibly his best season, Street saved 23 games with 72 strikeouts and an astonishing 1.72 ERA. He did save 37 games in 2006, but he also blew 11 saves and had an ERA above 3. And since then, he's mingled 34 saves with an average 3.31 ERA. Now he's in Colorado where has to fight for the closing job with Manny Corpas. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Rockies divvy up the time between the two...leading to another season of around 15 saves. There's a lot of risk with little reward here.

 

Others and Sleepers:

Brad Ziegler/Joey Devine (Athletics) are both fighting for the job in Oakland, but whoever gets it is good enough to provide his team with 30 saves. Devine is the better candidate right now, but don't count on it 100% yet. Devine played in 42 games last year and put up these stats: 6-1, 1 save, 49 Ks, 15 BBs, 0.59 ERA, and 0.83 WHIP. His low ERA/WHIP and low walks are his best potentiating numbers. He's yet to close for a team yet, but I think he'll do a fine job if he gets the chance to shine.

Matt Capps (Pirates) is a 30-40-save guy playing on a sub-par team. It's hard to save that many games when your team can't even win 70. He's yet to save over 21 games in his two years of closing, but if the Pirates show any improvement and win 80 or so games, Capps is capable of saving those 30+ games.

Matt Lindstrom (Marlins) is set to close for the Florida Marlins this year. He's been in the league for two years and has had 33 holds with around a 3.10 ERA. He doesn't provide too many strikeouts and he does let up a bit too many walks...but that was probably due to his inexperience. He's let up only three homers in 137 career appearances. That's really good to know for a potential closer. He won't let up the long ball much, and his other numbers should incline, too. He's in for a 25 save season...and don't be shocked if he blows that number out of the water.

 

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By: Tony Falcioni
Brian Chmielewski, Director of Fantasy Content contributed to this article

 

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