Relief pitchers are often thought of as the “Kickers” of baseball, and there is a reason for this theory. For one, there are 30 closers in the league (maybe even more if you count “by committee” bullpens). If you’re in a 10 team league, there will be a throng of closers to be had, even into the late rounds (not every closer will be owned by the end of the draft). Closers also only fulfill one stat category (Saves), which means if you draft a closer with one of your top 10 picks, you’re going to be losing out on a lot of other categories.
That being said, I like to own one of the more renown closers as to avoid the headache of “chasing saves.” I won’t ever go out and draft the best closer, or the second best for that matter, but I like to have a guy on my team who is going to get me at least 30 saves and won’t be in jeopardy of losing his job. This would actually be a good year to draft Jonathan Papelbon or Francisco Rodriguez because of how late you can get them. Brian Wilson was a great value last year, but I won’t own him this year due to his inflated value.
The best closer this year has to be Carlos Marmol, not because he’s going to get the most saves/save opportunities, but because he’s the only pitcher on this list who is a two stat player. Last year, Marmol had 138 strikeouts in 77.2 innings! That’s startling. The only real knock on the guy is his inability to have a 1-2-3 inning. If you own this flamethrower, I would suggest not watching any of his performances. Marmol allowed 12 more walks than hits last year, which suggests major control issues, but when you’re also striking out the side every outing, not many are going to complain.
Closers will have more value in rotisserie leagues than head-to-head leagues, because you’ll be compiling those saves and averages and strikeouts all year long. In a head-to-head league, the saves will matter, but in a week how much can a closer who is only pitching 3 innings affect your ERA, WHIP, or Ks? Not too much.
I only projected the saves for these guys. To the right of certain closers you’ll notice a name or two. These are guys who could see time in the driver’s seat this year.
Finally, some may say Heath Bell is ranked too low, but I beg to differ. If the Padres come out flat, Bell is going to be traded. I actually thought about putting him even lower, as I do expect him to be pitching for another team by season’s end (and not as a closer, but as a middle reliever).
1. Carlos Marmol, Cubs: 40
2. Mariano Rivera, Yankees: 33 (R. Soriano)
3. Brian Wilson, Giants: 42
4. Joakim Soria, Royals: 38
5. Neftali Feliz, Rangers: 35
6. Heath Bell, Padres: 38 (L. Gregerson, M. Adams)
7. Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox: 35 (J. Bard)
8. Andrew Bailey, Athletics: 29
9. Francisco Rodriguez, Mets: 38
10. Brad Lidge, Phillies: 33 (R. Madson)
11. Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers: 30 (H. Kuo)
12. Houston Street, Rockies: 28
13. Jose Valverde, Tigers: 28
14. Francisco Cordero, Reds: 34 (A. Chapman)
15. John Axford, Brewers: 29
16. Matt Thorton, White Sox: 23 (C. Sale)
17. Ryan Franklin, Cardinals: 26 (Anyone)
18. David Aardsma, Mariners: 29
19. Drew Storen, Nationals: 21
20. J.J. Putz, Diamondbacks: 20
21. Fernando Rodney, Angels: 20
22. Jonny Venters, Braves: 19 (C. Kimbrel)
23. Chris Perez, Indians: 22 (R. Perez)
24. Leo Nunez, Marlins: 20
25. Joe Nathan, Twins: 25 (M. Capps)
26. Kevin Gregg, Orioles: 18
27. Brandon Lyon, Astros: 18
28. Joel Hanrahan, Pirates: 16 (E. Meek)
29. Frank Francisco, Blue Jays: 17 (O. Dotel, J Rauch)
30. Jake McGee, Rays: 15 (A. Sonnanstine, K. Farnsworth)