This is the 12th article in the series of our 2013 fantasy baseball rankings looking at the position of closers. Never have I seen a more unrpoven list of closers heading into a season as what we have entering the 2013 campaign. Typically more than 1/3 of the closers will lose their job in a season and this year that number might be closer to 50% given the amount of relief pitchers closing for the first time.
It makes draft strategy much more interesting this year. If you have always held off on paying top dollar for a closer, is this the year you finally are willing to spend money or use a higher draft pick to get one of the few established closers? If not, you might have to draft four or five instead of the typical three just to reach your minimum goal in saves given the failure rate.
Here is a look at the fantasy baseball closers ranked 1-20 for 2013.
1. Craig Kimbrel - number one closer and second place is far, far away. Be prepared to pay full price to own him and even that may be too cheap given the overall poor quality of closers this year.
2. Jonathan Papelbon - with more than 1/3 of the closers losing their jobs each year, there is something to be said for Papelbon’s consistency with seven straight seasons of 30+ saves.
3. Jason Motte - kept walk rate gains intact and bumped up strikeout rate while saving 42 games. ERA should be lower this year after home run spike last season.
4. Joe Nathan - looked like he was back to his 2009 with an even lower walk rate although he has become a little easier to hit the last two seasons. Health permitting, he should be good for 35 saves again.
5. Mariano Rivera - missed almost all of 2012 season with torn ACL and is expected to be ready for the start of spring training. Age and possible knee issues make him far from a lock like he once was.
6. J.J. Putz - past health issues limit save total upside as he will be rested more than other closers.
7. Sergio Romo - multiple solid arms in Giants bullpen possibly prevents him from reaching 40 saves, but he should be close to that number.
8. Rafael Soriano - in his three years as closer in career, has converted 92% of his save chances. ERA is more prone to spikes as a fly ball pitcher, but the rest of his numbers should be solid.
9. Chris Perez - walk rate down, strikeout rate up and he even turned into a ground ball pitcher! Now has an 85% success on save chances in his career.
10. John Axford - despite the ugly ratios, he still managed to save 35 games and struck out the most batters per inning of his career. He ended the season converting 18 of 20 saves, but he was still having control issues. Monitor his walk totals in spring training.
11. Jim Johnson - magical season in his first closer gig as he kept his ground ball gains from 2011 which is a good thing because he strikes out such few hitters. Expect regression in saves total, ERA and WHIP in 2013.
12. Fernando Rodney - look at his numbers from 2009-2012 and tell me what season is the outlier. If I am in an auction league, he is the first person I am nominating at closer. Let someone else own him in 2013.
13. Tom Wilhelmsen - took over as closer in June and never looked back, picking up 29 saves. Ratios were close both halves of the season though strikeout rate fell off a little after the All-Star break.
14. Glen Perkins - two solid seasons in a row since moving from the rotation to relief using the same formula of good ground ball rate + low walk rate = success. Saved 16 of 20 games last season and should break 30 saves this year.
15. Joel Hanrahan - gave back all of his gains from 2011 in walk rate and ground ball rate and home run rate normalized. Still a good closer, but 2011 was obviously an aberration.
16. Greg Holland - walk rate is going to be an issue for WHIP with 4.6 per nine innings last season and 4.1 per nine in his minor league career. Strikeout rate means he will be able to work himself out of some jams to preserve ERA so he should be good for 30-33 saves or so.
17. Huston Street- spent time on disabled list for third straight season as he fell short of 30 saves again. Really a second fantasy closer given his injury history.
18. Rafael Betancourt - on the plus side, had few problems in his first year as closer picking up 31 saves and ratios were similar to season’s past. On the flip side, ERA runs closer to 3.00 as a fly ball pitcher in Colorado and strikeout rate fell for the second year in a row.
19. Grant Balfour - skills have been improving as he hits his mid-30′s which is not typical. Should lead Oakland in saves but expect some regression in his ratios.
20. Casey Janssen - since a return to health three years ago, he has been harder to hit each season. Will be in line for more saves given the improvements the team has made.
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