Fantasy Baseball: Ranking the Top 15 Closers

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Fantasy baseball closers.  To some, the art of chasing and speculating on saves is the most challenging and enjoyable part of the fantasy game.  To others, dealing with saves is a sharp pain in the balls.

To help you navigate you through a frolic in Magical Closer Meadow or merely serve as some ointment to ball pain, we’ll be ranking all 30-ish closers in the majors — starting today with the Top 15.

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The Elite:

1) Craig Kimbrel

  • Currently sporting a career-high 2.20 ERA — with a career-low 73.7% LOB, insane .87 FIP and psychopathic 16.53 K/9.  The only knock on Kimbrel is how much you had to spend on him, but you’re getting exactly what you paid for.  He is “the man” and any list of closers that doesn’t have him as No. 1 had better be put out by The Onion or Kenley Jansen’s mom.

2) Kenley Jansen

  • You’re happy about 12-for-14 in saves and almost 15 K/9.  You’re displeased by the 4.34 ERA.  You take a look at the .432 BABIP and 77.2 LOB% and realize that the ERA will correct itself.  You giggle when you discover that his middle name is “Geronimo.”  You high-five yourself for having him on your team and look down on the rest of your fantasy baseball league as you move on down the list.

3) Greg Holland

  • 13.5 K/9, 12-for-13 in saves, 2.16 ERA, 1.75 FIP — and all with a .351 BABIP that will assuredly drop.  A beast.

4) Aroldis Chapman

  • He’s back, he’s throwing just as hard as ever, and he’s racking up the Ks with nine in just five innings so far.  He’s two-for-three in save chances but the one blown save was a double followed by two sacrifice flies — it’s not like he got lit up.  I’d say buy now while confidence may be low, but honestly anyone who has him has been waiting for two months, so good luck with that.  If you have him, enjoy him.

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The Mostly-Elite:

5) Koji Uehara

  • He’s continued his epic run from 2013 by being perfect in nine save opportunities this year, striking even more dudes out (13.5 K/9), walking only a teeny bit more (1.6 BB/9) and putting up a near identical ERA (1.08 this year, 1.09 last).  The only thing standing in the way of Koji’s ascension to elite status is his health.  Uehara is 39 years old and, with the exception of last year, is perpetually injured.  Enjoy the Japanese Eckersley while you have him, just know that his shoulder/elbow/knee could, without warning, explode at any moment.

6) Glen Perkins

  • He’s 12 for 14 in saves with a career-high 12.84 K/9 and a career-low 1.33 BB/9.  Perkins’ meh ERA of 3.54 is almost three times his outstanding 1.30 FIP.  That 68% LOB will go up and that .346 BABIP will go down.  Perkins has quietly become one of the best.  If you want to procure a near-elite closer for a reasonable price the window is closing quickly — and it’s one of those old wooden windows that expands in the summer, making it impossible to open once closed.  If you even try, you end up with splinters, not to mention all of the dead flies that somehow got in between the screen and storm windows.
  • I’m pretty sure this analogy got away from me.

7) Joakim Soria

  • I thought this guy was toast, but instead he’s just on fire (Back on the analogy train!).  His strikeouts (12 K/9) and walks (1.2 BB/9) are currently career bests.  While Soria’s ERA is “only” fantastic at 2.40, his FIP is a brain-melting 0.81, thanks to a 60% LOB that can only go up.  Soria is perfect in seven save chances and if Texas had any starting pitching (not including Darvish who just finishes his own games anyhow) he’d be perfect in 14 chances and everyone would be talking about him.  If Joakim Soria is in your bullpen you’ll be loving life and counting saves.  If you don’t, see if his owner believes and try and trade for him.  He’s on the cusp of being elite again.  I think the only thing standing in his way is health.  Which brings me to:

8) David Robertson

  • Mr. Not-Rivera missed some time, but when he’s been on the field he’s been absolutely fantastic.  D-Rob is a perfect eight-for-eight in saves with 15 strikeouts and two walks in 11.2 innings.  He’s the real deal and if he can stay healthy he can be elite.

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Good, With Caveats:

9) Steve Cishek

  • The good news: Cishek is striking guys out more than ever with a 10.38 K/9.  He’s nine-for-10 in saves and both his ERA (2.08) and FIP (1.80) are what the kids would refer to as “baller.” #oldguy
  • The bad news: Cishek had a ground ball rate well over 50% from 2011-2013.  This year that’s down to 38.1 percent.  So far he’s given up exactly zero home runs, but that can’t last with all of those extra balls in the air.  Expect some tough blowouts once the luck pendulum swings the other way.
  • That being said, this is still a skill set you want to own.  Just don’t get too amped up about him.

10) Trevor Rosenthal

  • You like the K/9 over 11.  You’re down with the 11-for-13 in save chances.  That’s kind of where the good news ends.  The 5.82 BB/9 is atrocious.  A 23.1 GB% is horrifying for a closer.  And while the 65.4% LOB is bound to correct itself and help bring that 4.98 ERA closer to the 3.26 FIP, a 24-year-old fireballer who’s lost over a mile an hour on all of his pitches is not a good sign.  When he’s good, he’s stupendous, but right now he’s not very good.  I’m concerned, and I might be looking at a possible Jason Motte handcuff if you have the room.

11) Jonathan Papelbon

  • His strikeouts have continued their pattern of decline all the way to a pedestrian 7.71 K/9 this year and his fastball’s average velocity sits at a career-low 91.5 MPH. In addition Papelbon’s walks are up to 3.31 BB/9 and his BABIP is an unsustainable .227.  That being said, he is 11-for-12 in saves and his ERA (2.91) and FIP (3.05) suggest that there’s nothing too out of line.  His job security is rock solid and he’ll get you saves, but don’t mistake him for the river-dancing stopper/lunatic from years gone by.  Be wary.

12) Sergio Romo

  • This guy used to be a huge fantasy asset and now he’s just some dude that nets you some saves.  His strikeouts, once monstrous, now barely top 7.5 per nine.  Romo’s 15-for-16 in saves is awesome, and sure his 2.21 ERA looks pretty, thanks to a cranium-eroding .143 BABIP — his FIP is 4.21 — but you can bank on his 93.2 LOB% dropping and when those runners start to come around and score, those blown saves will start to pile up and that ERA will rise.  He ain’t junk, but he ain’t Mo.

13) Joe Nathan

  • While we’re on the subject of almost washed-up former monsters — 11-for-13 in save opportunities is good, but that’s about the end of the good news.  He’s striking out less than he has in over ten years (8.1 K/9) and walking more than he has since 2000 (4.32 BB/9).  Personally, I refuse to go for a closer who walks over four batters per nine. Nathan will continue to be a mostly reliable source of saves, but he’s definitely not the guy we saw with Texas or Minnesota.

14) Rafael Soriano

  • This is a player I wanted no part of this year after his crappy 2013 and with both Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard breathing down his neck.  He’s performed a lot better than I or most other pundits predicted, bringing his K rate back up to 8.05 — though unfortunately his walk rate also went up to an unsightly 3.79 BB/9.  Soriano’s 90% LOB is the highest of his career and after three straight years of a HR/FB rate over 8 he’s somehow given up no homers despite a 36.2% GB rate.  Enjoy the 10 saves he’s given you so far, but if you can unload him for fair value, now’s the time.

15) Huston Street

  • Wow.  Just wow.  Street has been an absolute revelation this season, recording 13 saves for a crappy team, striking out 10.5 per nine and posting an ERA of a half a run.  There are some things to be wary about, however.  His LOB is 100%, which is absurd.  He has yet to hit the DL, which always happens.  Still, he’s reliable when on the field, and the 2014 version of Healthy Street is even more reliable than usual.  Unless you’re playing with a bunch of guys who don’t know anything about fantasy baseball, you’re not going to be able to deal him for anything of consequence, so just enjoy the ride while it lasts.  And who knows, he might not get hurt this year.
  • (Ha ha ha ha!)

 

These were pretty easy.  Join us next time when we review the bottom half of this list.

2 Comments

  1. J

    May 22, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    Is K-Rod really in the bottom 15?

    • Joseph Theroux

      May 22, 2014 at 2:00 pm

      Yep. Stay tuned.

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