Fantasy Baseball: 2011 Top 20 Closer Rankings

Jan 26, 2011

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Here’s an updated and expanded look at the 2011 closer rankings. Information about accounting degrees online is available via this resource. Some people who enjoy sports stats enjoy classes and careers that involve numbers, budgets, and finance.
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1.  Brian Wilson, San Francisco Giants:  Wilson led the Majors in saves (48) last year while posting a 1.81 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 93 Ks.
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2.  Heath Bell, San Diego Padres:  His stats read almost identical to Wilson’s. It’s really a preference thing here. I like Wilson because his starting pitching staff is better. Plus, without Adrian Gonzalez, the Padres could struggle to give him leads.
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3.  Joakim Soria, Kansas City Royals:  In the last three years Soria has 115 saves, a 1.84 ERA, and a 1.01 WHIP. He also has 210 Ks in 186 innings.
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4.  Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs:  With 38 saves, a ridiculous 138 Ks, a 2.55 ERA, a 1.18 WHIP, and a microscopic .147 BAA, Marmol is a very valuable closer.
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5.  Jonathan Broxton, Los Angeles Dodgers:  Broxton slipped big time last year picking up only 22 saves with a 4.04 ERA, a 1.48 WHIP, and a .270 BAA. His lone bright spot was the 73 Ks in 62-2/3 innings. He was electric in 2009 with 36 saves, a 2.61 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP, a .165 BAA, and 114 Ks in 76 innings, which leads me to believe he can be a top five closer again.
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6.  Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers:  It’s not that I think he’s any less filthy, but it’s looking like he may give starting a go. He’s still valuable, but you would obviously lose the main category you draft a closer for.
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7.  Jonathan Papelbon, Boston Red Sox:  Papelbon wasn’t nearly as nasty last year posting a 3.90 ERA, a 1.27 WHIP, and a .226 BAA. He still managed 37 saves last year. He’s averaged 37.6 saves over the past five years with 77.6 Ks, a 2.18 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP.
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8.  Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees:  It’s not that I think Mo is slipping, but the addition of Rafael Soriano suggests that he will have a lighter load this year. Let’s face it, the Yankees season doesn’t start until the playoffs begin.
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9.  Francisco Rodriguez, New York Mets:  I’m more worried about him mentally than physically. Despite his bizarre season he had 25 saves with a 2.20 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP, a .213 BAA, and 67 Ks in 57-1/3 innings.
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10.  Joe Nathan, Minnesota Twins:  We know what he was before Tommy John surgery, but how will he respond at 36? Considering how dominant he was, I’d still rank him top ten.
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11.  Francisco Cordero, Cincinnati Reds:  He’ll give you a bunch of saves (39 & 40 in the past two years), but don’t expect a high strikeout total or low WHIP.
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12.  Jose Valverde, Detroit Tigers:  His save total (26) wasn’t great and his ERA (3.00) wasn’t spectacular, but he had a solid 1.16 WHIP and an excellent .184 BAA. He also had 63 Ks in 63 innings.
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13.  Andrew Bailey, Oakland Athletics:  Bailey is going to see Dr. James Andrews, which is usually not a good sign. He’s too big of a risk to be a #1 fantasy closer.
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14.  Huston Street, Colorado Rockies:  He can deliver when he’s healthy. He has 55 saves in the past two years for Colorado with a 3.30 ERA, a 0.97 WHIP, and 115 Ks in 109 innings.
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15.  John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers:  I originally had David Aardsma in this spot, but his hip injury is a little worrisome. Axford shared closer duties with Trevor Hoffman last year and still managed 24 saves, a 2.48 ERA, a 1.19 WHIP, and 76 Ks in 58 innings. As the Rotoprofessor points out, he does have control issues, but there is enough upside to justify a top 15 ranking.
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16.  Chris Perez, Cleveland Indians:  Perez posted a 1.71 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP, and 61 strikeout in 63 innings last year. Even if he regresses, he should be one of the top strikeout closers.
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17.  J.J. Putz, Arizona Diamondbacks:  Drafting Putz will take a little leap of faith considering he has been on three teams and compiled just 20 saves over the past three seasons, though he totaled 76 saves in 2006 & 2007 for the Mariners. You can count on a bunch of strikeouts and a potentially low WHIP.
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18.  Kevin Gregg, Baltimore Orioles:  Mike Gonzalez is there if Gregg messes up, but he should be a good source for saves and strikeouts. He nailed down 37 wins last year for the Blue Jays.
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19.  Frank Francisco, Toronto Blue Jays:  There are so many question marks on the remaining closers. However, Francisco picks up a ton of strikeouts and has shown he can post a low WHIP. He’s never topped 25 saves, but that could change this year.
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20.  Drew Storen, Washington Nationals:  Storen was groomed for this role and now it’s his time to deliver. He struggled after June, but has enough upside to gamble on later in the draft.
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10 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Rotoprofessor
    January 26th, 2011 at 6:11 am #

    I would disagree slightly on Broxton and Marmol, but overall great job Ryan!

    After Broxton’s struggles last season it is hard to rank him in the Top 5 entering the year. He certainly has the stuff and I do value him as a #1 closer, but there has to be that little voice in the back of your head wondering if the Dodgers will once again pull the plug if he struggles.

    With Marmol, the walk rate makes him feel like a ticking time bomb. Great stuff, but if he starts walking the ballpark how long will they trust him? Again, he’s a tremendous option, I would personally just knock him down a few pegs, that’s all.

    I’m probably just nitpicking…lol

  2. LestersLegends
    January 26th, 2011 at 8:36 am #

    I may be overthinking it, but closers, outside of a few rocks, can fluctuate year to year perhaps more than any position. My thought is you get the extra K’s with those two and that allows you to add a low ERA/WHIP pitcher that doesn’t get a lot of Ks for a balanced team.

  3. Kevin
    January 26th, 2011 at 8:40 am #

    Where would you rank John Axford? He had 25 Saves last season without having the closer role until late May and recorded 76 strikeouts in only 58 innings. His ERA was respectible at 2.48.

    I would think he might make the Top 10 (although admittedly I am a Brewers fan) since the pitching staff should keep games close and the offense has plenty of talent to provide leads in the late innings. Also, there is no risk of injury or anyone vying for the closer role. I might have him ranked ahead of Bailey or Broxton even, but I’d probably jump Marmol up a few rankings as well.

  4. LestersLegends
    January 26th, 2011 at 8:51 am #

    He’s a solid option as well. It’s really just a preference thing with the closers. You do make a strong case for him.

  5. Alex
    January 26th, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    Where would Craig Kimbrel be? Numbers last year where ridiculous.

  6. LestersLegends
    January 26th, 2011 at 9:32 am #

    There were, but closing is a different animal. He’s certainly worth taking as a second or third closer, but I’m a little cautious with him.

  7. Rotoprofessor
    January 26th, 2011 at 12:24 pm #

    Just to throw in my two cents, I have both Axford & Kimbrel, I have them both in my Top 20, but also outside the Top 15.

    Kimbrel’s problem could be opportunity. With Jonny Venters also in place, I could easily see the Braves playing righty/lefty matchups a little bit, which decreases Venters’ potential. Obviously, as the righty, he will likely be in store for extra opportunities, but you never really know.

    As for Axford, his control scares the heck out of me. He posted a 4.19 BB/9 in ’10 and had a minor league career mark of 6.06. The strikeout upside is nice, but if he starts to lose the plate things could get ugly. That makes him a major risk, because I certainly could see him losing the job at some point.

    I wouldn’t mind either as a low-end #2 RP, or a high-end #3, but I wouldn’t value them above that due to the question marks.

  8. Socrates
    January 30th, 2011 at 10:43 pm #

    I have read almost all your rankings (outfield is next), but this one is the only one that I really disagree with.

    First, I will complain about my Yankee. Mo is not only the best closer ever, but he had an ERA of 1.80 last year. In addition, he has only had one season with an ERA above 2.00 in the last 8(!!!!) years. If there is anyone that you should put money on having an ERA under 2.00 this year it is him. Being behind Papelbon is almost unexplainable. You have to go back to 1995 (that’s right… the last century) to find a season when Mo had an ERA that high. Papelbon was 14. Mo being behind Broxton is equally confusing. Not that Broxton doesnt have the potential to be good, but to be ahead of Mo you are betting on him keeping the job AND regaining his dominant form. It could happen, but it is more likely Mo has another sub 2.00 ERA.

    Second, Valverde should also be higher, but I am not as passionate about that so I wont waste time elaborating.

    I think that Chris Perez should have been on the list ahead of Axford and frankly there could even be a case for him ahead of Cordero, Papelbon, K-Rod, and Broxton.

    Last, while I agree that Wilson and Bell are at the top (I think that Soria should be 1), I dont think that you articulated the reasoning. For Wilson for example it is less that he team will win games than that his team will play A LOT of close games. Also, one of the thing that puts Wilson ahead of everyone (but Soria) is that he (more often than others) will get a few 4 out saves.

    Anyway, I would go:
    1) Soria
    2) Wilson
    3) Bell
    4) Mo Rivera
    5) Marmol
    6) Feliz

    Not to be over critical. I really liked all the lists.

  9. Socrates
    January 30th, 2011 at 10:52 pm #

    Sorry. One confusing line.

    Mo hasnt had an ERA as high as Papelbon’s 3.91 since 1995. I am not sure if that was clear.

  10. LestersLegends
    January 30th, 2011 at 11:34 pm #

    I feel less strongly about closer rankings than any other one because there is so much volatility in the position. Papelbon had a bad year, but he’s been nearly unhittable throughout his career. Broxton’s strikeout potential has him high on the list.

    I know how good Mo is and has been. I don’t think he’ll have a bad season. I just think he’ll be used less with Soriano in the mix. Mo can’t pitch forever, but they can prolong his career by holding back some during the regular season. It’s a gut thing. Clearly Mo will be off the board much sooner than nine in virtually every draft.

    As for my top two, I just think the combination of save total, strikeouts, era, and whip put them a cut above the rest.

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