Fantasy Baseball: Ranking the Closers, Part Two

fantasy baseball

“I haven’t been this awesome since Game of Thrones was only books!

Let’s continue on our stroll down fantasy baseball closer lane.  Unfortunately, this little street is about to enter the bad part of town.

Good, With Caveats (continued):

16) Francisco Rodriguez

This piece wasn’t even published and I had already caught flak from a few readers for my low ranking of K-Rod.  I have my reasons, and some of them even make a little sense.

K-Rod is having a John Travolta circa Pulp Fiction type resurgence this year, going 17-for-18 in save chances.  Granted having 18 cracks at a save before Memorial Day is pretty lucky to begin with, but you can’t argue with a 94% conversion rate.  His 11.25 K/9 is awesome and pretty sustainable for him.

Let’s not forget that not too soon after Pulp Fiction, Travolta was barfing out garbage like Michael and Phenomenon.  Rodriguez will not finish the season with his current 1.5 BB/9, which is less than half his career rate.  His next closest was last year’s 2.70, and other than that it’s all high threes and fours.  Does this mean he’s just moving in the right direction?  Even though he’s been around forever, he’s still only 32, and could be turning over a new leaf.

The other thing that makes me go “hmmm” is his home run rate.  His HR/FB of 5.9% is way below his last couple of years (15.2% in 2013, 12.3% in 2012).  Especially pitching in such a homer haven as Miller he’s bound to cough up a few more longballs.

K-Rod’s average fastball velocity is 89.7, down from 91.4 last season.  He’s cut way back on his curveball, opting to use his change as his putaway pitch.  The same change that, with an average speed of 82.9, is barely six miles an hour slower than his fastball.  I just can’t believe that the league wouldn’t catch on to this new K-Rod eventually.  He could be the second coming of Trevor Hoffman and I could look like a dummy, but I doubt it.  I’m preaching caution here because most people aren’t.  Then again, I spent all off-season preaching caution on Yasiel Puig and look where that got me.

17) Fernando Rodney

The Tilt’s 11-for-13 in save opps is nice.  His 2012 contract with the devil expired, but it evidently had a few player options for high strikeout rates.  This is pretty much the exact same guy that pitched for the Rays last year, striking out over 11 K/9 and walking over 4 BB/9.  He is who you think he is.

18) Casey Janssen

I liked him a lot coming into this season as a solid bargain option — thank God I didn’t end up with him on any of my teams.  After missing the first month of the season with abdominal and back issues, Janssen’s been perfect in five chances: no blown saves and no runs.  That being said, his LOB is 100%, his BABIP is .222, and he has three strikeouts in six innings.  It’s still in small sample size territory but Janssen’s biggest asset was dependability, and with that now in question he’s a bit less desirable.


Leading the league in name mispronunciation.

Leading the league in name mispronunciation.

Gainfully Employed Question Marks:

19) Addison Reed

I always end up with this jerk on my teams.  I look at the great strikeout numbers and good walk numbers and he looks like a closer.  I always end up justifying his lousy ERA with a few random shellings in non-save situations.  This year may be my last ride on the Addison Reed train.  You just can’t trust a closer with a groundball rate around 30%, especially one who pitches in a homer-friendly park like The Cell or Chase.  He gave up six bombs in each of the last two seasons, and this year he’s already coughed up six.  He’s 12-for-14 in saves this year, but he’s taking a dump on your ERA (4.57).

20) Jenrry Mejia

Since moving to the pen, Mejia has pitched 5.1 innings, picking up two saves, six strikeouts and zero free passes.  There was a lot of talk about Daisuke Matsuzaka or Jeurys Familia taking over this role, but so far Mejia looks like he owns it.  This is a guy to pick up who could easily end the season in the top 15.

21) Hector Rondon

Where did this come from?  Rondon has stepped up his game in every possible way this season and took over the pitiful Cubs’ closer situation (by “pitiful”, I was referring to the closer situation, though it applies to the Cubs equally).  He’s added some extra zip to his fastball, his strikeouts are way up to 10.38 K/9, his walks are down to a respectable 3.32 BB/9, his ground ball percentage is up to 52.7% and his ERA and FIP are both under two.   Even doodoo teams offer save chances and Rondon seems poised to take advantage.  It’s too early to anoint him as rock solid, but he’s in the right area code.

22) Mark Melancon & Jason Grilli

Right now Melancon is the man, and by “the man” I mean “the closer” not “awesome.”  He’s been passable filling in for an injured Grilli, converting 7-of-9 save chances.  His control has remained phenomenal with a 1.29 BB/9 but his strikeouts have inexplicably disappeared into nothingness (6 K/9).  Luckily he’s able to keep the ball on the ground and in the park.  He’s probably just as relieved as Grilli owners that he’ll soon be setting up camp in the 8th inning again — he’s always performed better in a setup role.

Last year Grilli established himself as the real deal, flashing some serious strikeouts (13.32 K/9) while bring his walks to a career low (2.34 BB/9).  This year his numbers aren’t anywhere near that level (7.88 K/9, 4.5 BB/9), but I’m willing to give him an injury mulligan.  Hold onto Melancon until Grilli proves that he’s all the way back.

23) Chad Qualls

Who the hell is this guy and what has he done with the real Chad Qualls?  They’re both sinker/slider types that keep the ball on the ground, but this guy strikes out waaaay more than that other guy ever did (10.54 K/9 in 2014 vs. 6.95 career rate.)  He’ll probably stay in Houston’s closer seat, rack up a few saves, and get traded by the deadline for a prospect or two.  Take the saves while you can get them but don’t expect these awesome numbers to continue.

"John, tipping pitches is the least of your problems."

“John, tipping pitches is the least of your problems.”


24) Sean Doolittle & Jim Johnson‘s shadow

If only actual skills got you the job instead of some nebulous concept like “closer experience”, then Doolittle would be much further up this list.  He beat out Luke Gregerson for the temp job by striking out 12.52 batters per nine and walking a measly 0.39 per nine.  Yes, that is a thirty-nine preceded by a zero and a decimal point.  Doolittle has been downright beastly but unfortunately the hot garbage show of Jim Johnson is still looming there in the wings.

25) Ernesto Frieri & Joe Smith

There’s some type of a timeshare going on between these two now, and for that, Frieri should be grateful.  While is strikeouts (11.29 K/9) and walks (1.96 BB/9) are phenomenal, the hideous ERA (4.91) and FIP (5.63) leave much to be desired.  His Achilles’  heel has always been surrendering bombs and this season is no exception.  His GB% is 35.6 — a career best so far — and his HR/FB% is a staggering 30%.  That’s not going to work.

Joe Smith seems to be the better choice.  His strikeouts (9 K/9) and walks (1.5 BB/9) are closer-worthy, but unlike Frieri, he keeps the ball on the ground (61.2%) and in the park (8.3% HR/FB).

I’m steering clear of this mess, but if someone were to hold a gun to my head I’d much rather have Smith.

26) Zach Britton & Darren O’Day

Baltimore fans can rest easier with Tommy Hunter on the DL.  It looks like Britton may be first in line for saves, but with a strikeout rate of under six per nine, I don’t foresee this going too well.  Britton is a groundball machine with a BABIP under .200, meaning that his sparkly 0.70 ERA should look something more like his 3.30 FIP.  O’Day historically has issues with lefties and his FIP (4.00) is way higher than his ERA (1.00).  If you’re hard up for saves I’d day to look at Britton first, but you’d be better off looking elsewhere.

27) Every Indian but John Axford

Terry Francona may be loyal to his players, but he’s not stupid.  John Axford is in the dawghaus and Cleveland’s closer is pretty much everybody else.  Scott Atchinson got the save Thursday night.  Bryan Shaw’s gotten a few.  Cody Allen got an opportunity Monday night and blew it.  Allen and his 12.5 K/9 is the only guy here worth being interested in skills-wise, but when the save opps are spread so thin like this it’s best to just move along.

Ladies and gentlemen, the worst closer in baseball!

Ladies and gentlemen, the worst closer in baseball!


28) Ronald Belisario

Sucks to be the White Sox.  They rid themselves of possibly the worst closer in baseball in Matt Lindstrom, and they end up with this Big Gulp of ugly.  On Thursday night he notched his second save of the season by giving up only two runs in the ninth.  Belisario strikes out less than seven per nine and the only thing giving him job security is the fact that he has zero competition in one of the worst bullpens in baseball.  On the bright side, at least he’s better than Matt Lindstrom.

29) Latroy Hawkins

Ten saves, one blown save.  The good news ends there.  4.41 ERA.  4.47 FIP.  3.31 K/9. No, that is not a typo.  Three point three one strikeouts per nine innings.  Six strikeouts in sixteen and one third innings.  In Colorado.  Dayum.  I wouldn’t want his stats in Safeco, never mind Colorado.  This guy sucks.  Trade him now for a beer and cheesesteak while he’s still worth that much.

30) Grant Balfour

This spaz somehow is 8-for-9 in save opportunities with a 5.71 ERA and more walks than strikeouts.  His 67.5 LOB% is bound to go up, but that will likely just be balanced out by the impending correction on his .205 BABIP.  Seriously, a closer that has walked 16 batters in 17 innings.  Start taking a long look at Jake McGee and Brad Boxberger.


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