Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Relief Pitchers
by Derek of The Sportmeisters
1. Jonathan Papelbon—Boston Red Sox
Projection: 4 W 40 SV 80 K 2.18 ERA 0.91 WHIP
Papelbon has been the most consistent closer in baseball the past three years, saving 35, 37, and 41 games. He plays for a stacked Boston team and will get his save chances.
He should be the first closer taken, around the fourth or fifth round.
2. Joe Nathan—Minnesota Twins
Projection: 3 W 40 SV 75 K 1.77 ERA 0.95 WHIP
Another guy who has been the definition of consistency. Nathan has 36, 37, and 39 saves the past three years and his ERA never goes over 1.90. Draft him after Papelbon is off the board.
3. Mariano Rivera—New York Yankees
Projection: 4 W 38 SV 70 K 2.00 ERA 0.88 WHIP
Rivera is getting up there in age, but had his best season last year, saving 39 games with a 1.40 ERA. He should be picked around the same time as the other two as an elite fantasy closer.
4. Francisco Rodriguez—New York Mets
Projection: 3 W 44 SV 82 K 2.60 ERA 1.20 WHIP
K-Rod broke the record last year, compiling 62 saves in Anaheim. Now, he has signed a huge contact with he Mets and has a lot more pressure this year after the bullpen woes that the Mets have had recently.
We will have to see how he handles the league change, but I figure he will be ok and should still be one of the first closers off the board, but don’t reach too early for him.
5. Brad Lidge—Philadelphia Phillies
Projection: 2 W 37 SV 90 K 2.75 ERA 1.30 WHIP
Lidge didn’t blow a lead all year last year, going 2-0 and converting all 41 save opportunities.
However, he doesn’t have the track record of being consistent year after year. Expect another 35+ save season, but don’t reach too high and definitely not before the other five on my board.
6. Joakim Soria—Kansas City Royals
Projection: 2 W 35 SV 70 K 2.40 ERA 1.00 WHIP
Soria saved 42 games for KC last year and comes into this year as Kansas City’s unquestioned closer. He had a better ERA and WHIP than K-Rod last year and should have no problem repeating those numbers this year.
7. Carlos Marmol—Chicago Cubs
Projection: 2 W 33 SV 90 K 3.00 ERA 1.11 WHIP
Marmol will be given the chance to be the closer after the Cubs decided not to re-sign Kerry Wood.
The Cubs did go out and get Kevin Gregg from Florida and Lou Pinella has said that Gregg will get a chance to win the closer’s job, but I expect Marmol to win the job outright as I know first-hand as a Marlins fan what a choke artist Gregg is.
Expect 30+ saves and a middle-round pick.
8. Bobby Jenks—Chicago White Sox
Projection: 3 W 32 SV 50 K 3.05 ERA 1.13 WHIP
Jenks saved 41 games in 2006 and 40 in 2007, but regressed to 30 last year. However, his ERA dropped from 2.77 in 2007 to 2.63. He still has a live fastball and will get his share of strikeouts.
Target him in the middle rounds as a tier two closer.
9. Jonathan Broxton—Los Angeles Dodgers
Projection: 2 W 35 SV 85 K 2.95 ERA 1.24 WHIP
Broxton got the closer’s job last year after Takashi Saito went out with an injury and he never looked back, saving 14 out of 17 games and striking out 88.
Broxton has nasty stuff and should save 30+ as a full time closer.
10. Brian Fuentes—Los Angeles Angels Of Anaheim
Projection: 3 W 31 SV 75 K 3.28 ERA 1.29 WHIP
Fuentes lost his closer’s job in 2007, but won it back last year. He saved 30 games and had 80 K’s for Colorado. He signed with the Angels this offseason and will be the unquestioned closer. He should get 30+ saves and warrants a middle-round pick.
11. Kerry Wood—Cleveland Indians
Projection: 3 W 36 SV 80 K 3.50 ERA 1.18 WHIP
I always said that Kerry Wood would make a good closer and he proved me right last year when he saved 34 games. He signed with Cleveland and could be a middle-round sleeper that gets you top-notch closer numbers.
12. Jose Valverde—Houston Astros
Projection: 2 W 37 SV 77 K 3.45 ERA 1.24 WHIP
Valverde has 91 saves in the past two years, but is not considered an elite closer due to a high ERA.
He gets strikeouts, piling up 83 last year, but that high ERA I mentioned ballooned from 2.66 to 3.38. I wouldn’t be upset if he fell to me in the middle to later rounds, but don’t reach for him.
13. B.J. Ryan—Toronto Blue Jays
Projection: 2 W 36 SV 65 K 3.15 ERA 1.26 WHIP
Ryan came back from Tommy John surgery to save 32 games and having a full year back will help. He should get more opportunities this year and could wind up with 35+ saves.
14. Francisco Cordero—Cincinnati Reds
Projection: 4 W 33 SV 80 K 3.50 ERA 1.33 WHIP
Cordero wasn’t necessarily a bust, but wasn’t necessarily great either. He had 44 saves in 2007 with a 2.98 ERA, but just 34 saves with a 3.33 ERA last year.
He should top the 30 save mark again and is worth a late-round pick.
15. Trevor Hoffman—Milwaukee Brewers
Projection: 3 W 32 SV 44 K 3.50 ERA 1.14 WHIP
Hoffman will be with a different team for the first time since 1993 and his age seems to be catching up with him. He had his worst ERA since 1995 with 3.77 and wasn’t nearly as dominant as he has been.
He will still get 30 saves and could be a late-round sleeper.
16. Mike Gonzalez—Atlanta Braves
Projection: 3 W 28 SV 66 K 2.95 ERA 1.28 WHIP
Gonzalez came back strong from Tommy John surgery, saving 14 games for Atlanta. With Rafael Soriano injured again, Gonzalez should go into the season as the closer and should hang onto the job and come close to 30 saves.
17. Huston Street—Colorado Rockies
Projection: 3 W 28 SV 70 K 3.28 ERA 1.24 WHIP
Street goes from Oakland to Colorado this year and should win the closer’s role over Manny Corpas. If healthy, Street is a pretty good closer, saving 18 games last year. He could be a late-round sleeper or a middle-round bust, depending on if he stays healthy.
18. Matt Capps—Pittsburgh Pirates
Projection: 2 W 27 SV 55 K 3.00 ERA 1.05 WHIP
Capps saved 21 games for a dismal Pittsburgh team. He should get decent opportunities this year, but Pittsburgh still stinks and he should only be drafted if you need a closer in the late rounds.
19. Brian Wilson—San Francisco Giants
Projection: 3 W 33 SV 62 K 3.95 ERA 1.40 WHIP
Another guy playing for a bad team. Wilson put up 41 saves last year for the Giants and is unquestionably the closer this year.
However, they are still the Giants and won’t win many games, so don’t reach for him, but don’t be afraid to use a late pick on him.
20. Matt Lindstrom—Florida Marlins
Projection: 4 W 26 SV 56 K 3.25 ERA 1.39 WHIP
Lindstrom took over last year for Kevin Gregg and did a decent job, saving five games.
He has a 99 MPH fastball and is the front-runner for the job so far, but as we have seen from the Marlins, anyone could come out of nowhere to claim the job. He isn’t draftable before the last few rounds.
21. Joey Devine—Oakland Athletics
Projection: 4 W 25 SV 72 K 2.75 ERA 1.20 WHIP
We don’t know who will end up closing for Oakland. We do know it will be either Devine or Brad Ziegler. Devine has the edge at the moment, but has injury problems. Neither is draftable, but they are guys to keep an eye on for the waiver wire.
22. Brad Ziegler—Oakland Athletics
Projection: 5 W 16 SV 40 K 2.62 ERA 1.23 WHIP
We don’t know who will end up closing for Oakland. We do know it will be either Joey Devine or Ziegler.
Ziegler has the ability to go multiple innings, so that actually hurts his chances, but he is expected to get his share of chances. Don’t draft him, but keep an eye on him as a waiver wire wonder.
23. Heath Bell—San Diego Padres
Projection: 4 W 23 SV 72 K 3.36 ERA 1.26 WHIP
Bell finally gets the chance to close after Trevor Hoffman left via free agency.
He won’t rack up 40 saves, but could be picked up via free agency if you need a few saves. In other words, don’t draft him.
24. Brandon Lyon—Detroit Tigers
Projection: 3 W 25 SV 48 K 4.00 ERA 1.35 WHIP
Lyon was the closer in Arizona for the better part of 2008, compiling 26 saves. He signed with Detroit and is the favorite to start the year as closer.
With the lineup in Detroit, he could be a draft day super sleeper and could rack up as many as 30+ saves, if he wins and keeps the job.
25. Joel Zumaya—Detroit Tigers
Projection: 4 W 10 SV 70 K 3.13 ERA 1.40 WHIP
This is one guy who could be an ultimate sleeper. Detroit does not have a clear closer, although Brandon Lyon has the upper hand.
Zumaya has had trouble staying healthy, but has that 100 MPH fastball and devastating curve. He has the stuff to be a closer, but we will have to see how Jim Leyland uses him.
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