We all know that closers can be extremely unpredictable, for the most part. Would anyone have expected someone like Joakim Soria to temporarily lose his job in 2011? Unfortunately, it happens and it helps to justify the belief in drafting closers late or searching for saves on the waiver wire.
That strategy definitely has value, but that doesn’t mean drafting one of the better closers in the league is the wrong way to go either. For those who like to target one of the elite, let’s take a look at my Top 15 heading into 2012:
- Craig Kimbrel – Atlanta Braves
- Jonathan Papelbon – Philadelphia Phillies
- Mariano Rivera – New York Yankees
- John Axford – Milwaukee Brewers
- Brian Wilson – San Francisco Giants
- Drew Storen – Washington Nationals
- Heath Bell – Miami Marlins
- Joakim Soria – Kansas City Royals
- Ryan Madson – Cincinnati Reds
- Andrew Bailey – Boston Red Sox
- J.J. Putz – Arizona Diamondbacks
- Jose Valverde – Detroit Tigers
- Joe Nathan – Texas Rangers
- Huston Street – San Diego Padres
- Rafael Betancourt – Colorado Rockies
- Until Mariano Rivera falters, how can we not consider him anything but one of the elite closers in the game? Every season it feels like people want to write him off due to his age and every year he gets the job done. Last year all he did was post a 1.91 ERA, the eighth time in the past nine seasons he’s posted a sub-2.00 ERA. He also posted a 0.90 WHIP, the sixth time in the past seven years he’s had a sub-1.00 WHIP. Sure, the Yankees may handle him with a little bit more care at this point (meaning giving Rafael Soriano or David Robertson a few more save opportunities), but there is little doubt that he is going to produce impressive numbers once again.
- John Axford had struggled with his control coming up through the minors, including a 4.19 BB/9 in 58.0 innings for the Brewers in 2010. He corrected that issue in 2011, with a 3.05 BB/9, and the results were dazzling. As long as he can continue to control the strike zone, he should be a top-five closer once again.
- While Huston Street is not an elite strikeout pitcher, his 8.49 K/9 in ’11 is more than enough. There is reason to believe that hitters won’t make such solid contact against him (24.3 percent line drive rate), and a move to San Diego is certainly going to help him keep the ball in the ballpark. With pinpoint control, as long as he stays healthy he will be a nice buy as a No. 2 closer.
- We all know that Joakim Soria struggled in 2011 with a 4.03 ERA and 1.28 WHIP, but is anyone really ready just to dismiss him as one of the better options in the league? He has good control (2.48 BB/9 for his career) and a solid strikeout rate (9.73 K/9 for his career). Considering his worst ERA was 2.48 and WHIP was 1.13 prior to ’11, I think it is pretty safe to expect a rebound.
- Brian Wilson, Joe Nathan and Andrew Bailey should be among the better closer options in the league, assuming all three can stay healthy. It’s always going to be risk/reward with those guys, but given their track record and upside, the risk is well worth it.
Make sure to check out all of our 2012 rankings: