The relief pitcher position in fantasy baseball is one that is annually filled with tumult and potholes. Every season up to half of those who begin the year in the closer’s seat will invariably find themselves out of a job due to injury, ineffectiveness, trade, or any other various reason. With so much change-over at the position, this has led to a fierce debate between fantasy baseball owners about how best to address it during drafts. Some feel that getting a top notch, proven closer is of chief importance since there is so much uncertainty. Better to have a safe option at the very least. The other side of the coin centers on waiting for later in the drafts to address saves by investing with under the radar guys who have a chance to excel. Or going for guys who are new to the job but who have done well as setup men and thus are decent sleepers to look into. Whatever side you fall under, its important to know who is likely to start the year as a team’s closer and that’s what the list below identifies at this early juncture in the season.
With spring training only a few days away, here is how I see the relief pitchers stacking up when it comes to 2011 fantasy baseball along with the tiers they belong in. No doubt this list will look completely different at this point next season but that’s just the nature of the relief pitching beast.
1. Brian Wilson: Wilson has proven himself a true shutdown closer as he has curbed the walks and upped his K-rate.
2. Joakim Soria: Would be Number 1 if he got more chances but the pure dominance is good enough.
3. Mariano Rivera: His K-rate dropped some in 2010 but he was still stellar as usual. One of the best player in baseball history no matter the position.
4. Neftali Feliz: I don’t buy the idea of Feliz becoming a starter and he was untouchable the second half last season.
5. Carlos Marmol: Had more strikeouts than some starters last season but walks still rear ugly head once in awhile.
6. Heath Bell: Likely will be traded and it all depends on if he closes. Atlanta or St. Louis anyone?
Summary: The top of the heap here and all these guys are as safe as you can get at a position where there is a great deal of turmoil. The price is usually too high for me to grab one of these guys as I prefer to wait on saves, but that’s a debate for another day.
7. Jonathan Papelbon: Don’t buy that Papelbon is fading. He just had a rough year. Happens to anyone.
8. Andrew Bailey: Had surgery in the off-season but seems fine. Unreal start to his career.
9. Francisco Rodriguez: Was having a comeback season in 2010 until he went berserk on his father-in-law. Mets welcome him back.
10. Jose Valverde: Terrible second half causes some worry but he should recover to have another fine season.
11. JJ Putz: Love the value here. He makes the perfect guy to target if you wait on saves like I do. Remember Putz was as dominant as there was as a closer in Seattle.
12. Jonathan Broxton: This could go either way. Very mysterious what happened to him last season. Be sure you add Hong-Chi Kuo as insurance.
Summary: I will try to grab my first closer from this group as these guys are all very solid options who have a bit more risk than those in Tier 1. The value here is much better in my view.
13. Huston Street: Injuries are the only thing holding him back from a spot in Tier 1. I was burned last year so I am extra tough on him.
14. Chris Perez: Another guy like Putz I am targeting due to the cheap price. Love his stuff and he somewhat curbed the walks.
15. John Axford: Remember Derrick Turnbow? Seems eerily similar to me. Be that as it may, Axford has tremendous K-stuff so maybe he is legit.
16. Joe Nathan: Will shoot up the list if he is ready to go at the start of the season. If he is and looks great off the bat then he goes back to Tier 1. Great value here.
17. David Aardsma: Off-season surgery clouds his future but Aardsma answered the critics with a solid 2010.
18. Francisco Cordero: Fading fast as his K-rate continues to drop and the walks are rising. Aroldis Chapman anyone?
19. Brad Lidge: I am probably too hard on Lidge but we have seen this act before. I will give him his due as he was very good last season, but I am done with this roller coaster.
20. Ryan Franklin: Jason Motte is a live threat to his job if Franklin struggle some, and there are Heath Bell rumors as well.
21. Chris Sale: Was very impressive as a call-up last season and the team is planning on using from as closer from the start. Another great value I will target.
22. Drew Storen: Is the “other pitcher” the Nationals drafted but Storen is ready for his closeup.
23. Brandon Lyon: I wont touch this guy with your team. Poor K-rate is a bad sign for the job.
Summary: Starting to get into some questionable guys based on injury issues or those coming off shaky seasons. Increased risk here for problems later on, but that’s just the nature of the beast.
24. Leo Nunez: Another one who could go either way. Team will give him the chance again as he was very good the first half of 2010. Needs to curb the homers.
25. Fernando Rodney: My bet to lose the job first.
26. Joel Hanrahan: Should win the job over Evan Meek as he has the closer pedigree with an insane K-rate. Another guy who I will go after. Carlos Marmol anyone?
27. Octavio Dotel: Enough of this guy already.
28. Craig Kimbrel: Had a 17 K/9 IP rate in his cup of coffee with the Braves last season and I think he beats Venters our for the gig.
29. Kevin Gregg: See Dotel, Octavio above.
30. Jake McGee: It’s either him or Kyle Farnsworth in Tampa. McGee has a live arm so there is that chance he runs with the job. Keep track of this.
Summary: These guys are all very shaky closing options who could easily lose their jobs this season. There could be some diamond in the rough however with Kimbrel and McGee and those two in particular need to be monitored in spring training.
So there you have it. Surely there will be debate on this and I welcome your respectful opinions in the comments section.
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