Jonathan Papelbon is the best closer to own, end of story. He plays for one of the three best teams in baseball, he strikes out people at a ridiculous rate, and his ERA has never been above 2.65. His saves have increased over the last three seasons, and given the talent on the Red Sox, he could top his 41 saves from last year.
Brad Lidge had a magical season in 2008. Lidge was a perfect 41 for 41 on save opportunities, and struck out a ridiculous 92 batters in just 69 innings. Lidge also had the second best ERA of his career at 1.95. Can he possibly repeat his 2008 season? Well, there is almost no chance that he will be perfect again, but he isn’t that far removed from his major collapse a few years ago. Lidge is a dynamite closer, but I don’t think he should be the second one chosen.
Francisco Rodriguez obliterated the saves record last year by compiling 62 saves for the Angels, and how brings his show to the Big Apple. There have been some concerns about K-Rod’s velocity in the last year, and he also blew seven save chances. Rodriguez goes to one of the best teams in the National League and should get plenty of save chances. He still gets a ton of strikeouts,and has over 100 saves in the past two seasons. There are a few concerns, but K-Rod is a great value in the seventh round, and is definitely worth being the third closer off the board.
Joe Nathan has been blowing more saves each year. That is the bad news. And that is the only bad news. Nathan is one of the best and most consistent closers in baseball for the last five years. His ERA has been between 1.88 and 1.33 over the last three years, and he strikes out hitters at an incredible rate. No matter how low their payroll is, the Twins keep winning, and Nathan is probably the second best closer in baseball.
Mariano Rivera is the best closer of all time, bar none. Rivera also had one of the best seasons of his Hall of Fame career in 2008, and that’s saying something. Rivera blew just one save last year, and his ERA was under 2.00 for the fifth time in six years. He also continues to mow down hitters with that cutter, striking out 77 batters in just 70 innings. He still should be an elite closer in 2009.
Joakim Soria took the fantasy world by storm in 2008, with 42 saves in 45 opportunities, a 1.60 ERA, and 66 strikeouts in 67 innings. It is hard to believe the closer for the Royals could possibly be second in the American League in saves, but that is what he did. As good as he was, Soria was still somewhat frustrating to his owners, just because of the time between save chances. But the Royals are looking like a team that could approach .500. Soria is one of the top five closers for 2009.
Bobby Jenks‘ saves took a pretty good dip from 40 in 2007 to just 30 in 2008. However, the rest of his numbers have stayed pretty much the same. His strikeouts took a bit of a dip in 2008 as well, but there is virtually no chance that he will lose his closing job. He will help your ERA, as it has been 2.77 or better the past two years, and he doesn’t walk many batters. He doesn’t blow many save chances, and the White Sox could compete for the AL Central title.
Jose Valverde has become one of the better fire balling closers over the past two seasons. However, there are a few concerns with him. He has blown six save opportunities in each of the last two seasons. Also, he has had some dominating seasons, but he has also been wildly erratic as well. The Astros pay him a ton of money so he would have a total meltdown to lose the job, and Valverde also strikes out a ton of guys. Not my favorite, but a solid closer.
Although Brian Fuentes recently lost his closer’s job to Manny Corpas, he has also been a two time All-Star in this decade. Many fantasy owners are worried about Jose Arredondo taking his job, but think of this. If the Angels were so hell bent on making Arredondo the closer, why would they have given Fuentes that big free agent contract? He struck out 82 guys in 62 innings, and the Angels are among the best teams in the league. He should have another great season.
There is a ton to like about Johnathan Broxton. He is a young guy, but has been with the team for a few years, being groomed for just this situation. He has proven to be durable, and plays for a team that will challenge for the division title. But the best thing about Broxton is the way he blows hitters away. Broxton has 187 strikeouts in just 151 innings in the past two years. You should get elite closer value, from the seventh or eighth closer off the board.
B.J. Ryan showed he was back from Tommy John Surgery in 2008 when he saved 32 games in 36 chances. Ryan offers you a great ERA and will strikeout at least a batter an inning. The Blue Jays are in the tough AL East, but they still should be around .500. Ryan should get 35-40 opportunities again in 2009.
Carlos Marmol hasn’t officially been named the closer as of this writing, but it is universally assumed he will get the job. He has one of the more electric arms in all the major leagues, and his strikeout potential is off the charts. He walks a few too many, gives up a few too many home runs, but Marmol is a closer that helps you in every category.
Francisco Cordero is a train wreck as far as closers go, but somehow at the end of the season his numbers turn out to look OK. His ERA is a little high for a closer, and he blows far too many save chances. Cordero does get a great number of strikeouts though, and that helps his draft status. He’s not elite, but a decent second tier option.
Matt Capps seems to be drafted pretty high for the Pirates’ closer, and I’m not exactly sure why. He only has gotten 47 save opportunities in the last two seasons, and he doesn’t strike out nearly a batter an inning. His ERA was over 3.00 which is not good for a closer at all, but he is drafted over what seems to be better options. The best thing about Capps is his control, as he walked only five batters in 53 innings in 2008.
There is no doubting Kerry Wood’s talent. There is no doubt that Kerry Wood will strike out a bunch of hitters. The doubt that comes with Kerry Wood is if he will be able to put together a full season, or something that resembles a full season. Wood was mostly healthy in his first season at the back of the bullpen, but give his history, if you draft Wood don’t be surprised if he gets hurt. He talent and possibilities often lure fantasy owners to give him a chance on their roster.
Brian Wilson gave up a whopping 32 earned runs as the Giants’ closer in 2008, but he was able to nail down 41 saves and strikeout 67 in just 62 innings. The Giants seem to have made a few moves to improve their team, so perhaps getting close to that number again in 2009 is possible. Wilson is a fine lower level option at closer.
Heath Bell will be following a legend in San Diego when he takes over as closer in San Diego. Bell didn’t have a great season by his standards as he had a 3.58 ERA and 71 Ks in 78 innings. Bell is a strikeout an inning kind of guy, the only thing holding him back is how likely awful the Padres will be.
Matt Lindstrom is dealing with a rotator cuff injury or else he would be my favorite “non-elite” closer heading into the season. Lindstrom has the capability of throwing 100 MPH, and is your prototypical closer. The team seems to think he will be ready for Opening Day, but this is not good news. Keep an eye on him if you plan on picking him.
Trevor Hoffman is not a great closer in actual baseball anymore. Don’t get me wrong, he is a legend, but he has started to make his save chances much more interesting than he used to. Also, if the game is of any importance, you can count on him blowing it. For fantasy purposes, he still is a viable option. He still only blew four saves last season, and his strikeout numbers, while declining are still good. He is far from an elite option at his point of his career, but getting out of San Diego and to Milwaukee helps his value tremendously.
Manny Corpas will almost definitely get his second shot at closing games for the Rockies, as he has been very effective this spring, while his competition Huston Street has been getting knocked around. His ERA was never anything that great, and he strikes out far less than one an inning. The Rockies want him to close, we will see how long it lasts.
The Nationals will be terrible, so it is hard to say how many save chances Joel Hanrahan will get. However, he has the stuff to convert most of his opportunities. Hanrahan is a strike out master, as he whiffed 93 guys in just 84 innings in 2008. He has no real competition for the job, and should be a good late round sleeper at closer.
Brad Ziegler looks like he will win the closer’s role over Joey Devine, but possibly only because Devine is banged up a little. Ziegler had a great season in 2008, and I think that he will be a viable closer for 2009. The Athletics look to compete for the division title, which should give Ziegler a chance at saving a bunch of games. He only blew two games when he got the chance to close last year, but his strikeout numbers leave plenty to be desired. A late in the game choice.
Frank Francisco has all the stuff to be a dominant closer. He has the crazy mentality, a great fastball, and his strikeout numbers are off the charts. In 2008, he fanned 83 guys in just 63 innings, and it looks as though he has no reasonable competition for the job in Texas. Of all of the late round options, I believe Francisco has the best chance to be the surprise dominant closer.
Late Rounds or Undrafted
Mike Gonzalez (ATL); Joey Devine (OAK); Huston Street (COL); Chad Qualls (ARI); Brandon Lyon (DET); Fernando Rodney (DET); Troy Percival (TB); J.J. Putz (NYM); Grant Balfour (TB); George Sherrill (BAL); Chris Ray (BAL); Jason Motte (STL); Chris Perez (STL); Ryan Franklin (STL); Kevin Gregg (CHC); Jon Rauch (ARI); Miguel Batista (SEA); Mark Lowe (SEA)
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