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 (really) 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.
There’s a reason I leave these rankings until last: without fail, every year, one or two closers lose their starting gigs in spring training due to injury or ineptitude. Already Chris Perez and Grant Balfour have injuries. Guys like Jonathan Broxton, Brandon League, and Ernesto Frieri don’t have solid ground beneath them and could begin the season as eighth inning hurlers. The reason most leagues hold their drafts at the end of March is to avoid wasting picks on dead end closers.
Traditionally, closers will have more value in rotisserie leagues than head-to-head leagues because you’ll be compiling those saves, along with 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 three innings affect your ERA, WHIP, or strikeouts? 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.
1. Craig Kimbrel, Braves: 44
2. Jonathan Papelbon, Phillies: 36
3. Jason Motte, Cardinals: 37
4. Rafael Soriano, Nationals: 45
5. Fernando Rodney, (I still call them) Devil Rays: 40
6. Mariano Rivera, Yankees: 36 (D. Robertson)
7. Tom Wilhelmsen, Mariners: 34 (S. Pryor)
8. Joe Nathan, Rangers: 35
9. Joel Hanrahan, Red Sox: 41 (A. Bailey)
10. J.J. Putz, Diamondbacks: 36 (H. Bell)
11. John Axford, Brewers: 38
12. Jim Johnson, Orioles: 39 (P. Strop)
13. Sergio Romo, Giants: 29 (S. Casilla)
14. Greg Holland, Royals: 27 (A. Crow)
15. Rafael Betancourt, Rockies: 32 (W. Lopez)
16. Chris Perez, Indians: 34 (V. Pestano)
17. Huston Street, Padres: 26 (D. Thayer)
18. Jason Grilli, Pirates: 31 (M. Melancon)
19. Carlos Marmol, Cubs: 29
20. Jonathan Broxton, Reds: 27 (A. Chapman)
21. Brandon League, Dodgers: 24 (K. Jansen)
22. Glenn Perkins, Twins: 25 (Anyone)
23. Ernesto Frieri, Angels: 26 (R. Madson)
24. Grant Balfour, Athletics: 27
25. Addison Reed, White Sox: 27 (M. Thorton)
26. Steve Cishek, Marlins: 20 (J. Rauch)
27. Jose Veras, Astros: 19 (Anyone)
28. Bobby Parnell, Mets: 14 (B. Lyon)
29. Casey Janssen, Blue Jays: 13 (S. Santos)
30. Bruce Rondon, Tigers: 12 (O. Dotel)