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The Closer Report's 2012 Top 10 Fantasy Closers

Todd FarinoCorrespondent IJanuary 19, 2012

The Closer Report's 2012 Top 10 Fantasy Closers

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    It's that time of the year again. I've released my annual 2012 Closer Report Draft Kit, which contains our rankings of the top 66 relief pitchers in MLB for 2012. In this article, The Closer Report will present the top 10 closers for 2012. To see the complete 2012 Closer Report Draft Kit, visit www.thecloserreport.com.

    Let's get started with the No. 1 closer for the 2012 season and work our way down the list.

No. 1: Heath Bell, Miami Marlins

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    In 2012, Heath Bell made the move over to the Miami Marlins, where he will close for a high-powered offense in a new large ballpark. One of the keys to Bell's success was the fact that he can take chances with his fastball and curve in PETCO Park because it was so vast. 

    Welcome, Sun Life Stadium, which is more vast than PETCO. Bell will have immediately success in his new home and will line up a ton of saves.

    The Closer Report 2012 Projections: 45 SV - 4 Wins - 2.56 ERA - 1.17 WHIP -55 Ks

No. 2: Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves

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    Craig Kimbrel had an amazing 2011. In 2012, we don't see him slowing down. Last year, we compared him to a right-handed version of Billy Wagner, and he lived up to that. We expect huge numbers from Kimbrel in 2012, and he should remain amongst the top closers for the season.

    The Closer Report Draft Kit 2012 Projections: 43 Sv - 5 Wins - 2.45 ERA - 1.11 WHIP - 114 Ks 

No. 3: Andrew Bailey, Boston Red Sox

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    Andrew Bailey is one of the more dominating closers in baseball right now. His only hangup to fantasy owners will be his health. Bailey was traded to the Red Sox in the offseason, which puts the ROY closer on pace for 40 saves before the season even starts.

    Even though no one can predict injury, I believe that Bailey is in good hands in Boston. The Red Sox dealt with Papelbon very delicately with his "tired arm" by putting him on an innings limit and making sure he was rested. They will do the same for Bailey, and that, plus clubhouse physical training, should ensure Bailey will remain healthy all season.

    The Red Sox win, so Bailey will be out on the mound early and often.

    The Closer Report Draft Kit 2012 Projections: 44 Sv - 5 Wins - 2.01 ERA - 0.97 WHIP - 95 Ks 

No. 4: Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Do not cry for Papelbon, Argentina, as he will be just fine in Philadelphia, just as the Red Sox will be just fine with Andrew Bailey.

    The change of scenery is exactly what Papelbon needed for his career. After dominating the American League East for the past several years, Paps gets to turn his attention on the much less competative and DH-free National League East.

    Papelbon worked in what most consider a hitters park (Fenway) against some of the top lineups in MLB. Now, he will face the Braves instead of the Yankees 18-plus times a year and the amazing Mets instead of the Tampa Bay Rays 18-plus times a year.  He will also get to lick his chops against the Padres and Astros. So, this move bodes well for the All-Star closer.

    The Closer Report Draft Kit 2012 Projections: 42 Sv - 3 Wins - 2.46 ERA - 0.98 WHIP - 82 Ks

No. 5: Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs

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    I get it and I hear you. Yes, Carlos Marmol is highly inconsistent and was 34-for-44 in save opportunities.

    However, put the past in past. You've seen players mature overnight. You've seen pitchers go from being alright to All-Star in a season. That is Carlos Marmol in 2012. First off, there is new management in Chicago with a winning mentality and a strive for perfection. Marmol will feed off of that. 

    Then Marmol will surpass the milestone of 500 innings in his career, and combining all that with his experience and a revitalized team spells big numbers for the Cubs closer.

    The Closer Report Draft Kit 2012 Projections: 40 Sv - 3 Wins - 2.96 ERA - 1.17 WHIP - 120 Ks

No. 6: Brian Wilson, San Francisco Giants

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    The hairy face of Major League Baseball is back for another exciting campaign. Fantasy owners were heavily disappointed with Wilson in 2011 when he regressed and only produced 36 saves and a ERA over 3.00. While that was somewhat expected, it was not altogether a fair image of the All-Star closer. First off, he was hurt a few times in the year, and that produced early blown saves and a blown ERA. 

    Wilson enters the 2012 healthy and ready to resume dominating NL hitters in the ninth inning. We expect him to break 40 saves, but once he gets past 40, there is no telling where he will stop.

    The Closer Report Draft Kit 2012 Projections: 41 Sv - 5 Wins - 2.45 ERA - 1.22 WHIP - 79 Ks

No. 7: John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers

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    John Axford had a tough start to 2011, blowing two of his first five save opportunities. After that, he didn't look back and converted his next 43 chances. 

    Axford has convinced us that he is a real-deal closer. I admit we were worried a bit that he would regress from his first season as closer, and it almost looked that way. His dominant fastball and fiery yet calm attitude on the mound makes him the closer he has become.

    There is no telling how well the Brewers will play this season with all the player movement.  Regardless, they have a great pitching staff and will likely have many three runs or less ninth inning leads for Axford to close out. 

    The Closer Report Draft Kit 2012 Projections: 41 Sv - 4 Wins - 2.22 ERA - 1.16 WHIP - 79 Ks

No. 8: Joakim Soria, Kansas City Royals

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    2011 was a tough year for Joakim Soria. He was not only hurt, but when he managed to come back, he was hammered. He posted the highest ERA of any year in his career and managed to blow a career high in saves (seven) as well. 

    2012 looks to be a different year for Soria. He is 100 percent healthy and relaxing in his home country of Mexico awaiting spring training. When Soria returns, he will be 100 percent for the 2012 season and will get back to his dominating ways.

    The Royals have a vastly improved team on offense and some of the best young pitching in the game. That will turn out to be mucho saves for Soria.

    Do not be scared off by his 2011 numbers. Consider them an anomaly. Draft Soria with confidence and expect a big season.

    The Closer Report Draft Kit 2012 Projections: 43 Sv - 2 Wins - 2.14 ERA - 1.05 WHIP - 74 Ks

No. 9: Ryan Madson, Cincinnati Reds

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    Last week the Reds signed closer Ryan Madson officially giving up on Francisco Cordero.

    Madson gives the Reds an instant hard throwing closer that they need.  Francisco pitched well, but his age and consistency no doubt bothered Reds management.  The Reds are a team that is built to make the playoffs and in order to do that you need to be able to close the door in the 9th.  Madson proved that filling in for Brad Lidge on the Phillies.  He recorded 32 saves for the Phillies last season, who signed Papelbon to close the door.

    The Closer Report Draft Kit 2012 Projections: 41 Sv - 2 Wins - 2.42 ERA - 1.08 WHIP - 77 Ks

No. 10: Brandon League, Seattle Mariners

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    Let's not joke. Brandon League has one of the most devastating sliders in baseball. His only problem? Controlling it with consistency. In fact, League's only problem as a closer is consistency. 

    Brandon League is a formidable closer with great stuff and excellent mechanics. When he is on, he is lights out. He was 37-for-42 last season in saves. Looking into those numbers, you will see that nasty spell he had where he blew three straight saves in grand fashion (giving up seven runs). After that, he calmed down and only blew two more saves over the rest of the season. 

    League isn't on the best team, and there is no telling where the Seattle Mariners will go this season. Wherever it is, expect to get 75-plus innings from League, and I have no doubt that if he remains healthy and consistent, he will have no problem notching 40+ saves.

    The Closer Report Draft Kit 2012 Projections: 43 Sv - 4 Wins - 2.42 ERA - 1.11 WHIP - 62 Ks

     

    Check out www.thecloserreport.com for the rest of The Closer Report 2012 Draft Kit! 

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