Fantasy Baseball 2012: The 20 Best Closers in the Fake Game
As Spring Training has commenced in full force, so too has the Fantasy Baseball buffs who are strategically planning their roster for the upcoming season.
Men and women young and old, are studying stat sheets from a season ago, trying to find the diamond in the rough that will help propel them into fantasy immortality.
One of the most important positions in "real" baseball is closer, and fantasy owners will look to get a quality closer to get valuable points.
Here's a look at the top twenty closing prospects for Fantasy Baseball this season.
20. Javy Guerra
Although Javy Guerra hasn't officially won the closer's job in Los Angeles, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is expecting Guerra to have the job when the season starts.
Guerra appeared in 47 games for the Dodgers last season, saving 21 of 23 of games in his first season in L.A.
If the Dodgers can be more competitive in 2012 than they were in 2011, Guerra will have more opportunities to show why the Dodgers are so high on the right-hander.
19. Joe Nathan
Joe Nathan has had some tough luck the past couple of seasons, battling injuries and trying to return to his dominant form.
Nathan signed with the Texas Rangers in the offseason and will have the chance to take over for Neftali Feliz at the back end of the bullpen for the Rangers.
Nathan had a disappointing season in 2011 with Minnesota, appearing in 48 games and having an ERA of 4.84 while losing his closer's job.
If Nathan can return to half of what he was in his prime, he will offer some value in late rounds for fantasy owners.
18. Sergio Santos
Newly acquired Sergio Santos will look to provide stability at the end of the Toronto Blue Jays' bullpen in 2012.
Santos will be closing for a young, talented starting rotation for the Blue Jays, who will be looking to finally compete in the AL East.
Santos was a member of the Chicago White Sox in 2011, where he recorded 92 strikeouts in 63.2 innings. He also saved 30 games in his first season closing.
Santos provides major upside for the Blue Jays and could prove to be a solid closer in fantasy this season.
17. Huston Street
Huston Street is another player who finds himself on a new team in 2012.
Street was a formerly a member of the Colorado Rockies and posted 29 saves for the Rockies a season ago.
Street is still a relatively young pitcher who can still provide quality innings for many years to come, but he may not get as many opportunities for his new team, the San Diego Padres.
Street is reliable at the end of games and could be a good pickup in later rounds.
16. Ryan Madson
Ryan Madson was part of a busy offseason for the Cincinnati Reds, signing a one-year deal with the Reds for the 2012 campaign.
Madson had a quality season with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011, saving 32 games for a talented Phillies club.
Madson will be playing for a multi-year deal following this season and will be motivated to prove his doubters wrong.
Madson will definitely be a solid contributor to a fantasy team.
15. Andrew Bailey
Andrew Bailey has big shoes to fill in Boston, replacing Jonathan Papelbon as the Red Sox' closer in 2012.
Bailey has the talent to be one of the best closers in the game if healthy.
But that's a big if.
Bailey will have more opportunities for saves in Boston than in Oakland, and he could be worth the risk for fantasy owners.
14. Carlos Marmol
Although Carlos Marmol had a high ERA in 2011 (4.01), he put up big numbers in the strikeout department (99) and provided the Cubs with 34 saves.
Marmol has an electric arm, and while he may be inaccurate at some points, he can provide valuable points when it comes to strikeouts.
Marmol would be a quality pickup for someone who wants strikeouts but doesn't necessarily care about the bloated ERA that Marmol might have.
13. J.J. Putz
Putz had a revival in his career in 2011 with the Arizona Diamondbacks and found his former All-Star self.
Putz had an amazing 45 saves for the D'Backs with a minuscule WHIP of 0.91.
Although 2011 could be a flash-in-the-pan type season, Putz could be worth the risk as your closer in this year's fantasy season.
If he puts up the same numbers as last season, he could be a steal at the closer position.
12. Chris Perez
Chris Perez emerged as the Cleveland Indians closer in 2011 and looks to solidify his spot at the back end of the bullpen with a strong showing in 2012.
Perez had 36 saves for the surprising Indians in 2011, and although news came today that he suffered an oblique injury in camp, Perez could be even better in 2012.
If his injury isn't too serious, owners should take a look at Perez as solid value pick.
11. Jason Motte
Jason Motte was a pleasant surprise in the playoffs for the St. Louis Cardinals and has earned himself a shot as closing full time in 2012.
Motte only saved nine games in the regular season for the Cards but was a rock at the back end of the bullpen during the World Series run for St. Louis.
If Motte can carry over his success from the World Series run, he could be a steal for owners in 2012.
10. Joel Hanrahan
Joel Hanrahan was another pleasant surprise in 2011 for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
He saved 40 games for the rejuvenated Pirates, and the young pitcher has the talent to continue his success.
If owners are looking for a high-potential closer in the draft, they may turn to Hanrahan, who may not be a household name to other fantasy owners.
9. Joakim Soria
If Joakim Soria played for a contending team, he might be viewed as one of the premier closers in all of baseball.
Unfortunately for Soria, he plays for the Kansas City Royals, which may turn off some owners because he may not get as many chances for saves.
However Soria will still put up superb numbers, whether recording saves or not.
8. Drew Storen
Drew Storen proved to be one of the elite closers in baseball in 2011 for the Washington Nationals.
Storen saved 42 games while having a WHIP of 1.02. In 2012, Storen will be closing for a stacked Nationals rotation that includes Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson.
The young closer will pay huge dividends for whichever owner wants him.
7. John Axford
Milwaukee Brewers closer John Axford had a breakout season in 2011.
Axford recorded 46 saves for the Brewers and will look for a repeat peformance in 2012 to move into the discussion of elite closers in baseball.
Fantasy owners must take advantage of Axford's upside now, as a closer's prime could be gone at any moment.
6. Brian Wilson
Brian Wilson has been an elite closer in Major League Baseball for the past four seasons.
Wilson recorded 36 saves in 2011, which was his lowest in four years, proving his dominance in the National League.
Wilson had a Major League high 48 saves in 2010 and has the ability to put up monster numbers out of the bullpen for the San Fransisco Giants.
5. Heath Bell
Heath Bell has left the comfort of the West Coast for the chance to win in Miami.
Bell was just one of the high-price free agents the Marlins signed this offseason, and he looks to continue his track record of being a dominant closer.
Bell put up a great season in San Diego in 2011, posting 43 saves.
Although Bell is aging, he has shown he can still put up big numbers.
4. Jose Valverde
Jose Valverde is a hard-throwing closer who has emerged as a top performer out of the bullpen for the Detroit Tigers.
Valverde saved 49 games for Detroit, helping them reach the ALCS in 2011.
Valverde showed no signs of slowing down and could be one of the top fantasy closers in 2012 as well.
He should be one of the top closers off of the board in any draft.
3. Jonthan Papelbon
Jonathan Papelbon had a much needed bounce-back season in 2011 with the Boston Red Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies rewarded him with a new four-year deal.
Papelbon had 31 saves for the Red Sox last season, but perhaps more importantly, restored some faith in his ability to be a big time closer.
His transition from the American League to the National League may benefit him, and owners may hit it big if Pap can fully return to his former self.
2. Mariano Rivera
Although Mariano Rivera may retire after this season, he will almost assuredly have another stellar year for the New York Yankees.
Rivera had 44 saves for the Yanks just a season, ago and the over 40-year-old closer shows no signs of slowing down.
Rivera will be off the board soon when it comes to closers and owners should still take him high until he proves us otherwise.
1. Craig Kimbrel
Craig Kimbrel is the reigning NL Rookie of the Year, and for good reason.
Kimbrel has an amazing 46 saves in his rookie campaign for the Atlanta Braves and it is only the beginning.
The flame-throwing closer will have even more confidence heading into the second full year and should be the first closer off the board.