FANTASY BASEBALL 2012: RELIEF PITCHER RANKINGS
(FANTASY BASEBALL: OFF-SEASON ADDITIONS: AL)
(FANTASY BASEBALL: OFF-SEASON ADDITIONS: NL)
(FANTASY BASEBALL: SP/RP THE HYBRID PITCHER)
(FANTASY BASEBALL: ADAM DUNN 40 HR SEASON)
(FANTASY BASEBALL: SPRING TRAINING PART 1)
(FANTASY BASEBALL: CATCHER RANKINGS)
(FANTASY BASEBALL: RELIEF PITCHER RANKINGS)
Strategy: Depending on the league, it is always important to have a good amount of closers on your fantasy roster. Drafting the best is not a necessity, as there are always 40 save guys who get drafted towards the end. This example is clearly evident when you look at last years leaders. Jose Valverde (49 saves), Craig Kimbrel (46 Saves), John Axford (46 Saves), J.J. Putz (45 Saves). When I draft closers I look to grab good pitchers that have the job safely. If they are a great strikeout pitcher I will be more inclined to take them, but being on a good team is more important as they will have more save opportunities. The top 4 closers listed above all were on teams that won their division.
#1. Craig Kimbrel- Prediction (1.90 ERA. 44 Saves. 4 Wins. 120 Ks)
Kimbrel is the top closer in fantasy baseball. His K rate is ridiculous, and on top of that he was #4 in ERA, #1 in Ks, and #2 saves. Kimbrel has an electric arm and is truly worth grabbing early in all leagues.
#2. Drew Storen- Prediction (2.60 ERA. 42 Saves. 3 Wins. 80 Ks)
The Nationals are one of those sleeper teams this year that can surprise everyone and make the playoffs. Their pitching is healthy, and their hitting is one year more experienced. The addition of Gio Gonzales will add some wins to this team, and Storen can build off of his impressive 43 Saves. Storen was getting a K per Inning and remains a high-end player at the position.
#3. Mariano Rivera- Prediction (2.40 ERA. 47 Saves. 2 Wins. 63 Ks)
Mariano is not getting any younger, but his stats will tell you otherwise. He was second in all closers in ERA, and the Yankees will prove once again to be the top contender in the AL. Rivera is as solid as they come in the 9th inning, and despite his age 40+ saves can be expected.
#4. Brian Wilson- Prediction (2.80 ERA. 44 Saves. 3 Wins. 72 Ks)
The Beard still ended up with 36 saves despite missing time and being on the DL throughout a good portion of the year. The Giants are built for save situations as a team with little offense and elite pitching. Wilson was a top 10 closer before last season, and should be treated like one going into this season. The Giants will keep him busy.
#5. Jonathan Papelbon- Prediction (3.20 ERA. 44 Saves. 4 Wins. 85 Ks)
A move away from Boston was the best thing for Papelbon. The pressure was getting to him, and now he moves to one of the top teams in the NL with the Phillies. Papel should have ample save oppurtunities as the Phillies were good enough to have three valuable closers at different times last year; Contreras, Lidge, Madson. The job is all Papel’s and he should be an elite option. Excellent K pitcher.
#6. Heath Bell- Prediction (2.70 ERA. 45 Saves. 2 Wins. 55 Ks)
Pitching for Florida gives Heath Bell a huge advantage. The Marlins are poised to be one of the top teams in the NL thanks to the addition of Jose Reyes, and the nice little boost to their pitching staff with Zambrano and Buehrle. Florida should easily win 85+ Games this season, which could result into 40+ saves for Bell. Not a huge K pitcher, Bell should still make up for it with a solid ERA.
#7. Jose Valverde- Prediction (2.80 ERA. 46 Saves. 3 Wins. 65 Ks)
Last year’s leader in saves now has Prince Fielder to give the Tigers a chance for more wins. Valverde was perfect last season not blowing any saves. That probably will not happen again, but his nice ERA and a K per Inning should.
#8. Andrew Bailey- Prediction (2.40 ERA. 45 Saves. 2 Wins. 60 Ks)
Pitching from Oakland, Bailey now moves to the biggest stage in baseball pitching for Boston. When he is out there he is one of the shutdown closers in baseball. Health has always been a concern for Bailey, but when he is active the Red Sox should give him ample save opportunities.
#9. Jordan Walden- Prediction (3.50 ERA. 43 Saves. 2 Wins. 73 Ks)
The Angels are one of the strongest teams in the AL, especially with the addition of Pujols. There will be plenty more wins for this team, which in return will result in plenty more save opportunities for last years All-Star. Walden is an elite option and will give you a solid K rate.
#10. Joe Nathan- Prediction (3.40 ERA. 36 Saves. 2 Wins. 65 Ks)
Moving the Ranger, Nathan should get an ample amount of extra save opportunities. However Neftali Feliz is no lock to stay as a starter the whole season which could cause a problem down the line. For now I would not worry about the situation and I expect Nathan to be a very safe option.
#11. Carlos Marmol- Prediction (3.40 ERA. 34 Saves. 2 Wins. 110 Ks)
Last year Marmol was wild. He lost his closer job for a brief period, and no lead was ever safe when he entered the ball game. The season before that however, he was very elite. I expect him to bounce back as the Cubs will need him in a lot more ball games especially losing the big bat of Aramis Ramizer. When he is on, he is amongst the leaders in Ks.
#12. J.J. Putz- Prediction (2.20 ERA. 39 Saves. 3 Wins. 59 Ks)
Putz is a diehard fantasy baseball fan. He understands his value, and understands that if he blows the save then everyone will despise him. He offers an excellent ERA, and has a nice K rate of more than 1 per inning. The D-Back should win a lot of games again this season.
#13. Huston Street- Prediction (3.70 ERA. 43 Saves. 2 Wins. 67 Ks)
Street is one of those guys who can get the job done in the 9th inning, but cannot stay healthy throughout the year. Pitching in San Diego, Street will be asked to be used more often than not. If he can stay healthy he should have a very solid fantasy season.
#14. Rafael Betancourt- Prediction (3.10 ERA. 38 Saves. 4 Wins. 80 Ks)
The Rockies are a solid team, and the job is all Betancourt’s. Rafael has been patiently waiting for this opportunity his whole career, and finally at the age of 37 it is his. An excellent K pitcher with a solid ERA.
#15. Joakim Soria- Prediction (3.25 ERA. 33 Saves. 3 Wins. 65 Ks)
Soria is one of those closers who are good, but he pitches for a terrible team. When the Royals win, they make it very close. I do not expect Soria to be an elite option especially with Broxton more likely than not blowing a lot of opportunities. Last year he was not himself with an ERA over 4.00. When Soria pitches, expect him to get a K per inning.
#16. Joel Hanrahan- Prediction (2.40 ERA. 37 Saves. 2 Wins. 62 Ks)
Hanrahan was one of the biggest surprises in last year leading all closers in ERA. It is hard to say if he will repeat, but the job is all his. The Pirates may have not gotten better to win more games, but when they do, they will be close. Joel is a decent K pitcher.
#17. John Axford- Prediction (2.50 ERA. 38 Saves. 2 Wins. 80 Ks)
Axford is in a tough position this year. The Brewers are a bit weaker with no Prince Fielder. The bullpen has K-Rod ready to get his old closer spot, and Axford does not have as long of a leash as other closers. Axford proved to be valuable with the third best ERA from the closer spot, and his K rate also remains elite. With K-Rod in the bullpen, the Brewers will be more inclined to save Axford for save situations exclusively.
#18. Jason Motte- Prediction (2.70 ERA. 34 Saves. 3 Wins. 68 Ks)
Motte enters the season as the Cardinals closer. It is about time he got the opportunity to do it, and he should run with the job. No Pujols means the Cards are a bit worse as a team, but that still means Motte will get enough save opportunities to be a very valuable closer.
#19. Ryan Madson- Prediction (3.40 ERA. 31 Saves. 2 Wins. 53 Ks) If he stays healthy.
Madson moves from the Phillies to their NL central rivals the Reds. Madson is already complaining about arm soreness, that is a terrible sign. I personal will avoid him on draft day for that reason alone. It is a very long season, and you do not want to come in injured.
#20. Sergio Santos- Prediction (3.70 ERA. 37 Saves. 4 Wins. 100 Ks)
Santos is use to pitching with a lot of competition for his job. That is good news, because in Toronto Francisco Cordero will be breathing down his neck when he slips. Toronto’s main problem a season ago was the fact they did not have a closer or bullpen they can count on. Santos will look to shore up that problem. Santos is an elite K option regardless of him keeping the closers job.
#21. Brandon League- Prediction (3.10 ERA. 35 saves. 2 Wins. 55 Ks)
Seattle likes League, and League did not disappoint a season ago. After racking up 37 saves and an ERA under 3.00, League comes into the season with the job all his. Seattle will improve a bit offensively with the addition of Jesus Montero.
#22. Matt Thornton- Prediction (3.50 ERA. 30 Saves. 4 Wins. 65 Ks)
Thornton opened up as the closer for the White Sox last season to only see him lose his job to Sale and Santos. This season, Santos is in Toronto, and Sale is now fighting for a starting spot. Thornton should be able to keep the closer job as he was excellent to close out the season and finished with an ERA under 3.50. Thornton is a solid K closer. Addison Reed could steal the closer job at some point. For now I would not worry.
#23. Javy Guerra- Prediction (2.70 ERA. 32 Saves. 2 Wins. 50 Ks)
Javy turned out to be a great closer for the Dodgers last season. He was nearly flawless to start the season, and the Dodgers are similar to the Giants on being a team that will keep games close and let their bullpen take over. Guerra does have some competition with Jensen being a potential closer, for now he is more than safe. Not a great K pitcher, but he gets it done with his ERA.
#24. Brett Myers- Prediction (3.90 ERA. 27 Saves. 3 Wins. 70 Ks)
Myers goes back into the closer role he once succeeded at. Pitching for Houston, there will not be too many opportunities but he does bring you nice flexibility qualifying at the SP roster position. Excellent K pitcher.
#25. Jim Johnson- Prediction (3.10 ERA. 26 Saves. 4 Wins. 45 Ks)
Jimmy J. was an elite option to finish out the season last year. The Orioles were winning games at a high level, and Johnson was getting the job done against the Red Sox and Yankees with ease. Johnson does not have as long of a leash as other closers, but he should be a solid option all season long. Not a great K pitcher.
#26. Kyle Farnsworth- Prediction (3.60 ERA. 28 Saves. 2 Wins. 55 Ks)
Farnsworth was a great closer option for the Rays last season. After handing the job at a very high rate, there is no guarantee he holds onto the job all season. When he was out there he had an ERA under 2.20. D-Rays should be able win a good amount of games for the veteran.
#27. Kenley Jensen- Prediction (3.40 ERA. 7 Saves. 4 Wins. 120 Ks)
Jensen is an elite K pitcher from the RP position. In leagues where Innings are capped off, Jensen is a must own player. He may not get save opportunities unless Guerra really blows it, but even without saves Jensen will still remain a very solid fantasy option.
#28. Chris Perez- Prediction (4.20 ERA. 25 Saves. 3 Wins. 35 Ks)
Already injured, Perez limps into the season with a bad arm and a worse team. To make matters even worst, Perez is one of the worst K pitchers from the closer spot. If I expect any closer to lose his job this season, it will be Perez.
#29. Matt Capps- Prediction (3.90 ERA. 14 Saves. 3 Wins. 30 Ks)
Capps by zero means is a shutdown closer. He is good enough to hold the job at times, but also good enough to lose it to Perkins. Not an elite K pitcher, Capps will be a guy that you cannot depend on all season long. Especially with how bad the Twins project going into this season.
#30. Frank Francisco- Prediction (4.20 ERA. 15 Saves. 3 Wins. 55 Ks)
Frankie F is not a solid closer. He lost the job in Toronto, and was lucky enough to get the opportunity to do it again for the Mets. Chances are he will not keep the job all season as his best days appear to be behind him. Bobby Parnell, and Jon Rauch are probably better than Francisco.
#31. Glenn Perkins- Prediction (3.50 ERA. 15 Saves. 2 Wins. 42 Ks)
Perkins comes into the season as a setup man, but it will not take long for him to get that closers job. Capps is no lock to hold onto that job all season, and Perkins is easily the better pitcher between the two.
#32. Brandon Lyon- Prediction (3.60 ERA. 6 Saves. 3 Wins. 65 Ks)
Opened up training camp as the teams closer, but that did not last long. The only way Lyon becomes valuable is if Myers completely blows the job away. The leash is very short for Lyon if he does get his chances.
#33. Joey Devine- Prediction (3.90 ERA. 14 Saves. 2 Wins. 45 Ks)
Devine will be fighting with Balfour for that closer spot. Either way they should rotate throughout the season, and Devine is a nice sleeper candidate if you need a closer late in your draft.
#34. Grant Balfour- Prediction (4.10 ERA. 13 Saves. 3 Wins. 45 Ks)
Balfour is no lock to keep the job all season. In fact he may lose it to Joey Devine before the season even begins. Keep a close eye on the battle during Spring Training, whoever wins will probably rotate at some point during the season.
#35. Francisco Cordero- Prediction (3.80 ERA. 12 Saves. 5 Wins. 45 Ks)
Cordero comes into the season as the 8th inning man for Toronto. The Blue Jays need him to thrive at this position before there is any chance he takes Santos’s job. However Santos is locked in at the closer spot for now, and it will take a bad season for there to be any chances. Cordero does not offer a lot in the K department.
#36. Jon Rauch- Prediction (3.70 ERA. 15 Saves. 2 Wins. 45 Ks)
Rauch comes into the season in the exact same situation he was a season ago, but now on a different team. Being the setup man for Frankie F in New York gives Rauch an excellent opportunity to steal away that job at some point this season. Not a good K pitcher, but he can get the job done in the 9th inning.
#37. Vinnie Pestano- (3.40 ERA. 17 Saves. 3 Wins. 65 Ks)
If Vinnie can do a nice job of handling that closers role before Chris Perez returns, there is a chance he can run with it all season long. Pestano has always had nice potential and remains a nice flier if you need a save guy late in your draft.
#38. Mark Melancon- Prediction (3.80 ERA. 8 Saves. 4 Wins. 45 Ks)
Melancon was the closer for Houston a season ago, and was pretty decent when the chances came. Now he goes to Boston where he could be valuable if the fragile Andrew Bailey ever hits the DL. He is definitely worth scooping up in larger leagues where there is an Innings cap, otherwise he will not be a great closer option.