A look at the top 50, also broken down into tiers:
The “Don’t Pay for Saves” mantra has spread like wildfire to the point where it is basically accepted as common strategy. With most of last year’s top relievers coming from the middle rounds or later, the proof is in the pudding. We found there to be seven closers with so few concerns that they consist the elite tier, then there’s a pack of 15 closers in the next two tiers that could be pretty much packaged together. If you believe in having three closers, you’ll want to make sure you get two of these top 22, because serious questions abound once you reach the fourth tier. If you only think two closers are needed, you could wait to grab your second from the fourth tier, or even the fifth if you are a gambler. The elite setup men fluctuate so much from year to year that it doesn’t make much sense to pay a premium for someone like Sergio Romo when someone like Eduardo Sanchez or Juan Abreu could be this year’s Greg Holland. Note that we are not ranking relievers who are attempting moves to the rotation this year despite the fact that in some leagues you would be able to slot them in an RP spot – Neftali Feliz, Daniel Bard, Chris Sale, Aroldis Chapman and Aaron Crow. We are giving top priority to pitchers’ prospects to garner saves, not just what their value might be in leagues where it pays to slot starting pitchers or non-closer relievers in the RP spot.
The eighth position in the RotoAce.com series of fantasy baseball rankings is relief pitcher, so let’s look at how they all fit together and where you might find some potential bargains or pitfalls in your fantasy baseball draft or auction. All ages are as of Opening Day.
2012 Rankings, Tiers and Projections
|1. Craig Kimbrel, Braves||23||72||2.21||4||41||117||1.06|
|2. Mariano Rivera, Yankees||42||61||1.98||2||38||55||0.96|
|3. Jonathan Papelbon, Phillies||31||64||2.78||4||37||84||1.05|
|4. John Axford, Brewers||29||69||2.67||3||39||80||1.17|
|5. J.J. Putz, Diamondbacks||35||61||2.74||3||37||64||1.05|
|6. Rafael Betancourt, Rockies||36||62||2.96||3||35||71||1.02|
|7. Heath Bell, Marlins||34||65||2.94||3||40||62||1.17|
|8. Drew Storen, Nationals||24||66||3.01||3||37||62||1.16|
|9. Joel Hanrahan, Pirates||30||68||2.85||2||37||62||1.18|
|10. Jose Valverde, Tigers||32||67||3.06||3||38||64||1.21|
|11. Sergio Santos, Blue Jays||28||62||3.21||4||33||74||1.21|
|12. Brian Wilson, Giants||30||62||2.96||4||36||66||1.23|
|13. Jason Motte, Cardinals||29||64||2.82||4||33||62||1.13|
|14. Brandon League, Mariners||29||64||3.06||3||35||49||1.18|
|15. Huston Street, Padres||28||58||3.03||3||32||54||1.14|
|16. Carlos Marmol, Cubs||29||74||3.43||2||36||98||1.31|
|17. Jordan Walden, Angels||24||60||3.08||4||33||69||1.23|
|18. Kyle Farnsworth, Rays||35||57||3.25||3||31||52||1.16|
|19. Andrew Bailey, Red Sox||27||52||3.31||3||31||47||1.15|
|20. Joe Nathan, Rangers||37||54||3.52||3||31||51||1.14|
|21. Sean Marshall, Reds||29||69||2.78||4||27||77||1.14|
|22. Grant Balfour, A’s||34||61||3.21||3||29||58||1.16|
|23. Matt Thornton, White Sox||33||62||2.92||3||25||68||1.17|
|24. Matt Capps, Twins||28||64||3.86||3||27||42||1.23|
|25. Javy Guerra, Dodgers||26||62||3.48||3||23||50||1.28|
|26. Kenley Jansen, Dodgers||32||55||3.42||3||25||60||1.26|
|27. Aroldis Chapman, Reds||24||124||3.59||6||10||149||1.28|
|28. Frank Francisco, Mets||32||55||3.42||3||25||60||1.26|
|29. Brett Myers, Astros||31||72||3.81||4||25||55||1.28|
|30. Greg Holland, Royals||26||62||2.92||4||20||70||1.14|
|31. Jim Johnson, Orioles||28||72||3.34||4||22||48||1.21|
|32. Chris Perez, Indians||26||55||3.57||3||25||46||1.29|
|33. Vinny Pestano, Indians||27||63||2.89||3||14||77||1.13|
|34. Jonathan Broxton, Royals||27||43||3.42||3||12||45||1.31|
|35. Addison Reed, White Sox||23||54||3.48||2||12||65||1.22|
|36. Glen Perkins, Twins||29||63||3.15||3||13||59||1.23|
|37. Bobby Parnell, Mets||27||63||3.66||3||10||64||1.35|
|38. Mark Melancon, Red Sox||27||69||3.23||4||9||63||1.25|
|39. Mike Adams, Rangers||33||69||2.78||3||8||71||1.09|
|40. Sergio Romo, Giants||29||56||2.41||3||4||62||0.98|
|41. Fernando Salas, Cardinals||26||64||3.25||4||7||62||1.18|
|42. Aaron Crow, Royals||25||102||3.81||5||6||91||1.31|
|43. Matt Lindstrom, Orioles||32||57||3.91||2||8||42||1.29|
|44. Wilton Lopez, Astros||28||67||3.45||3||7||49||1.26|
|45. Jonny Venters, Braves||27||78||2.79||4||5||85||1.21|
|46. Francisco Rodriguez, Brewers||30||68||2.71||4||5||72||1.26|
|47. Brian Fuentes, A’s||36||55||3.59||2||8||44||1.23|
|48. Brad Lidge, Nationals||35||42||3.45||2||6||46||1.31|
|49. David Hernandez, D-backs||26||67||3.69||3||6||69||1.25|
|50. Jon Rauch, Mets||33||54||4.02||2||5||45||1.32|
Keep an eye on: Scott Downs, Angels; Jason Isringhausen, Angels; Brandon Lyon, Astros; Juan Abreu, Astros; Joey Devine, A’s; Francisco Cordero, Blue Jays; Eric O’Flaherty, Braves; Kris Medlen, Braves; Eduardo Sanchez, Cardinals; Mitchell Boggs, Cardinals; Kerry Wood, Cubs; Sergio Romo, Giants; Santiago Casilla, Giants; Tom Wilhemsen, Mariners; George Sherrill, Mariners; Hong-Chih Kuo, Mariners; Chance Ruffin, Mariners; Steve Cishek, Marlins; Edward Mujica, Marlins; Juan Oviedo, Marlins; Tyler Clippard, Nationals; Brad Lidge, Nationals; Luke Gregorson, Padres; Antonio Bastardo, Phillies; Jose Contreras, Phillies; Evan Meek, Pirates; Kenji Uehara, Rangers; Joel Peralta, Rays; Fernando Rodney, Rays; Jake McGee, Rays; Nick Masset, Reds; Sean Marshall, Reds; Matt Belisle, Rockies; Aaron Crow, Royals; Tim Collins, Royals; Louis Coleman, Royals; Joaquin Benoit, Tigers; Octavio Dotel, Tigers; Jesse Crain, White Sox; Rafael Soriano, Yankees; David Robertson, Yankees; David Aardsma, Yankees
Drew Storen (ADP #2, RotoAce #6) does not have the elite strikeout rate (8.8 K/9) nor does his xFIP (3.14) live up to his average draft position. We still have him in the first tier, but there’s some better bets than this second-year closer on a team still trying to prove it can be a contender.
Brian Wilson (ADP #6, RotoAce #14) pitched through elbow, back and hip pain all last season and it showed in his rates going in the wrong direction – strikeouts from 11.2 to 8.8 K/9 and walks from 3.1 to 5.1 BB/9. There’s just too much risk here for us to recommend drafting him amongst the elite options at closer.
Jordan Walden (ADP #12, RotoAce #19) led the majors with 10 blown saves last season, and with the Angels in win-now mode, they probably won’t be as patient with their young closer this year. Walden has one of the game’s most explosive fastballs (averaged 97.5 mph), but he needs to improve his command (3.9 BB/9).
Andrew Bailey (ADP #13, RotoAce #20) has battled elbow problems each of the past two seasons, so if you draft the new Red Sox closer than be sure to get Mark Melancon as his handcuff. Bailey’s ERA headed toward his career 3.40 xFIP last year and now he’s moving from Oakland’s cavernous Coliseum to Boston’s cozy Fenway Park.
Francisco Rodriguez (ADP #24, RotoAce #46) is relegated to being an $8 million setup man, as K-Rod accepted salary arbitration to provide the bridge to closer John Axford for the Brewers. Rodriguez could become trade bait in July for a team in need of a veteran closer, so he may be someone to stash on your bench come the All-Star break.
J.J. Putz (ADP #10, RotoAce #5) regained his dominant form from 2006-07 by racking up 45 saves last season despite missing nearly a month and posting a 0.91 WHIP. There is enough injury concern to grab Putz’s handcuff of David Hernandez if you can afford the bench spot.
Rafael Betancourt (ADP #22, RotoAce #8) has been one of the game’s most dominant relievers since coming over to the Rockies in the summer of 2009, and now he will get the chance to show what he can do with a full season in the closer role. Betacourt has posted identically tiny 1.16 BB/9 rates the past two seasons while racking up strikeouts to the tune of 12.9 and 10.5 K/9 rates, respectively. The only thing keeping him from the elite tier is a lack of experience as a closer and that he’ll turn 37 years old in April.
Matt Thornton (ADP #31, RotoAce #24) flubbed his chance at the White Sox closer job last April but returned to form the rest of the way and enters this season as rookie manager Robin Ventura’s best veteran option for saves. Thornton has four straight seasons of sub-3.00 xFIPs to go with a career 9.8 K/9, so he should be able to hold off youngster Addison Reed.
Matt Capps (ADP #39, RotoAce #25) stumbled badly last season with nine blown saves and a 4.25 ERA, but the Twins brought him back for another go at the closer job on a one-year, $4.75M contract. Capps maintained his usual solid walk rate (1.8 BB/9) last year but needs to get his strikeout rate back up from last season’s 4.7 K/9 if he hopes to hold off Glen Perkins for saves.
Brian Fuentes (ADP #50, RotoAce #33) is engaged in a wide-open battle for Oakland’s closer job after some memorable blowups filling in for Andrew Bailey last year. The four-time All-Star with 199 career saves should be the favorite to break camp as the closer, but keep an eye on this situation to see if Grant Balfour, Fautino de los Santos or Joey Devine are able to win the job.