Fantasy Baseball: What To Do About Closers

Andrew McCluskeyCorrespondent IMarch 15, 2010

Fantasy Baseball's Nightmare: Closers


Any fantasy baseball player out there knows the perils of drafting closers. Most of us out there need the chart that tells us who the favorite to close is, who is second in line, who is third in line, and so on. No matter how prepared you come on draft day there is NO sure thing as closer.

Yes, that means you too Mr. Rivera.

Lets take a look at the Top Five in saves since 2005...


  1. Chad Cordero (WAS) - 47
  2. Francisco Rodriguez (LAA) - 45
  3. Bob Wickman (CLE) - 45
  4. T. Hoffman/J. Nathan/M. Rivera (TIED) - 43


  1. Francisco Rodriguez (LAA) - 47
  2. Trevor Hoffman (SD) - 46
  3. Bobby Jenks (CWS) - 41
  4. Billy Wagner (NYM) - 40
  5. BJ Ryan (TOR) - 38


  1. Jose Valverde (ARI) - 47
  2. Joe Borowski (CLE) - 45
  3. Francisco Cordero (MIL) - 44
  4. Trevor Hoffman (SD) - 42
  5. B. Jenks/F. Rodriguez/J. Putz (TIED) - 40


  1. Francisco Rodriguez (LAA) - 62
  2. Jose Valverde (ARI) - 44
  3. Joakim Soria (KC) - 42
  4. J. Papelbon/B. Lidge/B. Wilson (TIED) - 41
  5. J. Nathan/M. Rivera (TIED) - 39


  1. Brian Fuentes (LAA) - 48
  2. Joe Nathan (MIN) - 47
  3. Mariano Rivera (NYY) - 44
  4. Heath Bell (SD) - 42
  5. Francisco Cordero (CIN) - 39

Now lets rank each closer by most appearances in the Top Five in saves since '05...

  1. Francisco Rodriguez - 4
  2. Joe Nathan, Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman - 3
  3. Francisco Cordero, Bobby Jenks, Jose Valverde - 2
  4. Everyone Else - 1

I am sure by now you are probably wondering what my point is. Well, here it is. 

Do not, by any means, waste upper to middle round picks on closers, ever!

Right now the closers with the highest ADPs (Average Draft Positions) on CBS and Yahoo! are Jonathan Broxton, Mariano Rivera, and Jonathan Papelbon. 

Here are the ADP breakdowns...

M. Rivera - Yahoo! - 60.1/CBS - 63.12

J. Broxton - Yahoo! - 64/CBS - 51.96

J. Papelbon - Yahoo! - 69.6/CBS - 54.72

These numbers are insanely high for a position that is the most unstable in baseball. If you are wondering who No. 4 is? Joe Nathan.

My sympathies to all of those who snagged him in your money leagues. I'm sorry I couldn't have shared this with you earlier.

Now I understand that those three, barring injury, are guaranteed their jobs. However, it does not guarantee success.

Sure, these guys will give you some nice ERA and WHIP numbers. Sure, these guys give you the comfort of leaving your closer chart at home. Sure, these guys are touted as some of the best closers in the game. No argument from me on these points, but this is fantasy baseball. Balance and getting the most bang for your buck is the key to winning.

If you are in a Yahoo! or CBS league and you take one of these guys at their average ADP, then you are passing up some of the following...

  • Jon Lester
  • Josh Beckett
  • Josh Hamilton
  • Carlos Quentin
  • Nick Markakis
  • Josh Johnson
  • Yovani Gallardo
  • Carlos Lee
  • Cliff Lee
  • Cole Hamels
  • Matt Cain
  • Chad Billingsly
  • Javier Vazquez

There are Cy Young winners and contenders on that list. There are guys with easy 30+ HR potential on that list.

Three pitchers on that list finished in the Top 10 in K's last year and Josh Beckett was ranked 11th. So while you are taking one of those projected  top closers, someone else is locking down a great SP or some extra pop in their lineup.

That list is just a handful of potential studs you would be skipping over in exchange for a closer. Now do not get me wrong, saves are important. You are going to have an extremely hard time winning any league without them. You need to be competitive in every category if you want to win and I am completely aware that saves is one of those categories.

My suggestion is to wait. 

You might be thinking..."Okay Andrew, I will wait, but there is NO ONE at the bottom of the closer pile that is worth anything."

Think again. I highly doubt people were fighting over Chad Cordero, Bob Wickman, or Joe Borowski in their big years. Even recently guys like Brian Wilson and Joakim Soria have come out of nowhere (on non-competitive teams mind you) to be big contributors on fantasy teams. 

I am going to give you my list of guys that I think have a great chance to be late round contributors as closers.

  1. Billy Wagner  (ATL)  - Wagner showed great stuff with the Red Sox last year. He has proven in the past that he can be a dominant closer and even though he has an injury history, he is worth the pick. He will pick up his fair share of chances with the Braves.
  2. Frank Francisco  (TEX)  - He got off to a dominant start last year as he did not allow a run until May 31st. He suffered an injury mid summer and did not bounce back completely from in towards the end of the year. He is back healthy and has the closer job with an improved Texas Rangers team.
  3. Leo Nunez (FLA)  - Nunez is another great young arm with tons of potential. Nunez took over the job and had a great second half, picking up 22 of his 26 saves after the all-star game. Another year of experience under his belt should lower his ERA.
  4. Bobby Jenks (CSW)  - Came out of nowhere in 2006 to get into the Top Five in saves and he has declined ever since. The big guy has got some serious stuff and he has the potential to get back to where he was. He can be a Top 15 closer that you can get after the Top 20 are off the board.
  5. Matt Capps (WAS)  - This is my deep, deep sleeper at closer. In 2008 he was a great late round closer for the Pirates. He picked up 21 saves with a 3.02 ERA that year on the annually horrendous Pirates. He came out last year and picked up 27 saves, but moved into the "Heart Attack" closer tier. He was traded to the equally awful Nationals, but he has the closing job coming off an injury in '09. He should be there in the last few rounds and if your pitching staff can handle it, he could easily net you 25+ saves.

Now remember any one of those bottom level closers could make their jump to the Top Five in saves and surprisingly lead you to your league championship. Just do not fall in love, because they most likely will not be the guy for you in 2011. 


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