Here is the eleventh article in the series of our 2012 fantasy baseball rankings looking at the closers. There are several closer jobs still up for grabs in places like Baltimore, Houston and with the Los Angeles Dodgers so watch spring training closer news closely to see who is expected to grab the job.
Here is a look at the fantasy baseball starting pitchers I have ranked for 2012 with my comments. A longer list with 2012 fantasy baseball projections is available in the 2012 FBT Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide which is on sale now.
1. Craig Kimbrel - was solid all season before fading late in September with a 4.76 ERA and 1.41. His 77 innings were a little too much for a closer which likely contributed to his performance at the end. His strikeout rate, plus dominating stuff makes him the number one closer.
2. Mariano Rivera- despite his age, he is still chalking up 40 saves a season. Eventually the end is going to come at some point right?
3. Heath Bell – has rung up 40+ saves three seasons in a row but it a little concerning how much his trikeout fell last season, going from 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 201 to 7.3 last season.
4. John Axford – has converted 93.4% of his saves in his career. Last season upped his ground ball rate while reducing his walk rate and he was lights out the second half of the season with a 0.84 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP.
5. Drew Storen – managed to pick up 43 saves despite not being the full-time closer the first month of the season. Picked up strikeouts in bunches the second half of the season with 40 fanned batters in 29 innings.
6. Jonathan Papelbon – after two seasons of struggling with his control, he turned in a season like 2008 without the save total. Fly ball tendencies could lead to a slightly higher ERA in Philadelphia.
7. Brian Wilson- has averaged 41 saves over the last four seasons but was done in last year by injuries and a jump in his walk rate per nine innings from 3.1 to 5.1 per game, something that afflicted him early in his career.
8. Jose Valverde - converted all 49 saves opportunities last season, despite the fact his walks per nine were 4.2 and his strikeout rate fell for the fifth year in a row.
9. J.J. Putz- last two seasons have been pretty close ratios wise. His 45 saves were the most of his career and the most since 2007 in Seattle. Given age and past injury history, I would grab David Hernandez if I owned Putz.
10. Joakim Soria – lost his closer job temporarily as ratios were impacted by rise in home run rate and second straight year of a drop in strikeout rate.
11. Ryan Madson – had long been a closer in a set up man’s clothing and finally got his chance last season. He responded by converting 32 saves in 34 chances with 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings.
12. Sergio Santos – showed an upper echelon strikeout rate and converted 30 saves in 36 opportunities. Still has some work to do on his walk rate which is to be expected given his limited pitching experience. Recent signing of Francisco Cordero could cost him a few saves.
13. Carlos Marmol – the strikeouts are nice but this is the third season in a row with a horrible walk rate. Good chance he pitches himself out of the closer role if he cannot get his control fixed.
14. Andrew Bailey – has yet to break 26 saves in a season and has spent parts of the last two seasons on the disabled list. If you own him, you should also grab Melancon as a backup.
15. Joel Hanrahan – there is a good amount of correction coming this season. Last season saw a significant drop in his walk rate, a 10 percentage point jump in his ground ball rate and only one home run allowed in 68 2/3 innings. Don’t pay for those ratios in 2012.
16. Brandon League – cut his walk rate in half from 2010 and has pitched extremely well at SAFECO Field with a 1.95 ERA and a .95 WHIP in 83 career innings.
17. Jordan Walden – his 32 saves were not bad for a rookie campaign, but his 10 blown saves gives a little concern as does his walk rate at close to four per nine innings.
18. Huston Street – one of the lowest career save percentage conversion rates of the expected closers in 2012. Has also spent time on the disabled list three of the past five years. San Diego has a lot of different options in their bullpen if he struggles.
19. Jason Motte – finished the season as closer for the Cardinals, converting 9 of 11 saves with a 1.93 ERA and a .70 WHIP. Walk rate has fallen the last two seasons while ground ball rate is risen, two good signs for him keeping the closer job for more than a few months.
20. Joe Nathan – struggled the first half of the season as he returned from Tommy John surgery. The second half of the season was better as he went 11-for-11 on saves and had a 3.91 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP.
Instead of spending money on outdated magazines written by fantasy owners with no experience of winning fantasy baseball leagues, order the 2012 FBT Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide today so you can start dominating the competition in your fantasy baseball league.