Yesterday we busted through the best setup men in the biz. Today we’ll rank all the closers and speculative save options, explore pending 9th inning battles, and review the strongest backup options.
Rankings and Tiers
Closer Battles are discussed more in depth below but those competing are ranked as if the job is already in their pocket. Arms without the 9th locked up have lower market value than where they sit in these rankings so keep that in mind when drafting and don’t forget to factor in risk.
1A. Kenley Jansen (Los Angeles Dodgers)
1B. Wade Davis (Kansas City Royals)
3A. Aroldis Chapman (New York Yankees)
3B. Craig Kimbrel (Boston Red Sox)
5. Jeurys Familia (New York Mets)
6. Zach Britton (Baltimore Orioles)
7. Carter Capps (Miami Marlins)
8. Ken Giles (Houston Astros)
9. Mark Melancon (Pittsburgh Pirates)
10. Trevor Rosenthal (St. Louis Cardinals)
11. David Robertson (Chicago White Sox)
12. Cody Allen (Cleveland Indians)
13. Hector Rondon (Chicago Cubs)
14. Brad Boxberger (Tampa Bay Rays)
15. Drew Storen/Roberto Osuna (Toronto Blue Jays)
16. A.J. Ramos (Miami Marlins)
17. Huston Street (Los Angeles Angels)
18. Will Smith (Milwaukee Brewers)
19. Arodys Vizcaino (Atlanta Braves)
20. Glen Perkins (Minnesota Twins)
21. Jonathan Papelbon (Washington Nationals)
22. Francisco Rodriguez (Detroit Tigers)
23. Brad Ziegler (Arizona Diamondbacks)
24. Shawn Tolleson (Texas Rangers)
25. Sean Doolittle (Oakland Athletics)
26. Jeremy Jeffress (Milwaukee Brewers)
27. Jake McGee (Colorado Rockies)
28. Santiago Casilla (San Francisco Giants)
29. Jason Grilli (Atlanta Braves)
30. Steve Cishek (Seattle Mariners)
31. Fernando Rodney (San Diego Padres)
32. David Hernandez (Philadelphia Phillies)
33. J.J. Hoover (Cincinnati Reds)
The order of this tier is not that concrete and based more on speculative save totals than actual pitching ability.
Kevin Quackenbush (San Diego Padres) – Prior to Rodney’s recent hammy strain word on the street was his velocity is still there. Threw heat in 2015 but he was still a volatile mess. Unfortunately Quack is also dealing with some hammy issues but he should be a-ok and I’m betting he takes over. Maurer would be the clear cut next in line if he wasn’t moving to the roto.
Joaquin Benoit (Seattle Mariners) – Benoit is a bit banged up but should be healthy opening day. Cishek was demoted in Miami last year after losing a couple clicks on his heater.
Ryan Madson (Oakland Athletics) – Doolittle couldn’t get healthy last season and it is not a guarantee that his shoulder will hold up.
Kevin Jepsen (Minnesota Twins) – Perkins was incredible in the 1st half but the injury bug struck and Jepsen took the reins. Glen is supposedly 100% healthy and happy with his altered offseason attack but the best predictor of injury risk is injury history.
Jason Motte (Colorado Rockies) – McGee is a one trick pony but the nasty southpaw heat gets it done. Elbow or knee injuries could pop up again though. Not fun rooting for Rockies arms.
Hunter Strickland (San Francisco Giants) – Casilla is 35 with a questionable strikeout rate. He k’d like never before last season but regression is coming. I absolutely love Strickland but if Casilla struggles Romo might get the nod if he is pimping.
Sergio Romo (San Francisco Giants) – See above.
Keone Kela (Texas Rangers) – Tolleson did work last season but I get the impression Texas isn’t dedicated to him closing. Kela is one of my favorite setup men and has 2nd tier upside if Tolley stumbles.
Joe Smith (Los Angeles Angels) – Street is solid but I have a feeling he will miss some time this season. Dealt with a minor groin last year but still crossed the 60 IP threshold for the first time since 2009. Smitty is the clear next in line.
Daniel Hudson (Arizona Diamondbacks) – The deceiving release definitely plays but Ziegs is getting older and he lacks the sexy k/9 that most closers possess. Clippard doesn’t excite me anymore, Hudson will get the 9th if the job opens up.
Andrew Miller (New York Yankees) – Aroldis suspension brewing, and Miller will get some opps when Chapman sits.
Roberto Osuna (Toronto Blue Jays) – Maybe Storen craps out in the 2nd half again.
Alex Colome (Tampa Bay Rays) – I’m banking on a Boxberger bounceback but if he can’t improve his control Colome might take the gig. More of a long reliever but his stuff is dominant out of the pen.
Nate Jones (Chicago White Sox) – Robertson has stayed healthy in recent years but he is another one that seems to catch minor strains.
Pedro Strop (Chicago Cubs) – Rondon had a rough patch last season but did get the job back. However Strop is a proven reliever and long time Cub who would seamlessly transition if Maddon wants to shake the pen up.
Pending Closer Battles
Drew Storen vs. Roberto Osuna (Toronto Blue Jays) – Smart money is on Storen to close. Osuna is more valuable as a flexible setup man and long reliever. There is also a small possibility he is stretched out as a starter in 2017 so Toronto might not want to restrict him to a specific role.
Jason Grilli vs. Arodys Vizcaino (Atlanta Braves) – Grilli is nearly 40 and coming back from a torn left achilles. Reports indicate he will be ready opening day and the job is his to lose. Last season Vizcaino converted 9 out of 10 save opps after Grilli went down and finished with a 1.6 ERA in 33.2 IP. Absolute worst case Viz closes once Grilli is dealt.
Will Smith vs. Jeremy Jeffress (Milwaukee Brewers) – Will Smith looks like the favorite right now. Their fate hinges on a semi-meaningless small sample size spring training. Smith is a lefty but doesn’t posses splits that could damage his campaign for closer. 2015 he actually had a reverse platoon limiting righties to an OPS .200+ lower than lefties. Milwaukee is in rebuild mode and youngster Corey Knebel is a sleeper candidate to close down the stretch.
Carter Capps vs. A.J. Ramos (Miami Marlins) – My gut says Don Mattingly, the same guy who took months to figure out Kenley Jansen should close over Brandon League many moons ago, will stick with AJ. Capps is a game changer borderline first tier closer if he gets the gig. The stupid fastball speed is even more unfair when you factor in perceived velocity from the hop step release point. Carter is close to a must own gamble in NFBC leagues where upside rules.
Closers are more valuable in roto leagues since it is very difficult to win a competitive roto while booting a category. Relievers in general carry more value in rotos, especially daily 5x5s with an IP limit, because they can provide strong K/IP and rate stats that compare to top of the line starters. That value is capped by their low innings totals, but you would be wise to cram in as many reliever innings as possible out of your RP and P slots.
Assuming that strategy is feasible with your league setup, there are a number of closers that get a boost in value because they have exceptionally strong and safe backup options. You can roster them all season to eat quality innings, or trust your trigger finger and expect above average replacement value if your guy gets hurt.
Mark Melancon, Tony Watson (Pittsburgh Pirates) – Tony is a horse and upper 2nd tier if Melancon goes down.
Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist (St. Louis Cardinals) – Siegrist collected a handful of saves across 2015 when Trev rested.
Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller/Dellin Betances (New York Yankees) – If Aroldis hits the DL or is suspended to start the season, Andrew Miller will likely get most of the save opps. Betances is a great asset in daily roto leagues as well. Unfortunately you might have to spend a bit more on these backups but the juice is worth the squeeze.
Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo/Hunter Strickland (San Francisco Giants) – I went over these options in Tier 6.
Ken Giles, Luke Gregerson (Houston Astros) – 100 mile Giles is very trusted for a relatively unproven arm but his mojo is undeniable. Gregerson flies under the radar but he would take over with ease if necessary.
Craig Kimbrel, Carson Smith (Boston Red Sox) – Carson > Koji in my book. Carson Smith proved he can handle the 9th in 2015 and is a fringe 3rd tier closer if Kimbrel gets hurt. Not betting on that to happen but protecting your stream of saves is a smart play.
Zach Britton, Darren O’Day (Baltimore Orioles) – O’Day has been nothing but dominant in B-More. 4 straight seasons with a sub 2.5 ERA and 68 appearances.
Glen Perkins, Kevin Jepsen (Minnesota Twins) – I went over Jepsen in Tier 6.
Shawn Tolleson, Keone Kela (Texas Rangers) – I went over Kela in Tier 6.
Steve Cishek, Joaquin Benoit (Seattle Mariners) – I went over Benoit in Tier 6.
Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop (Chicago Cubs) – I went over Strop in Tier 6.
Drew Storen, Roberto Osuna (Toronto Blue Jays) – Unfortunately even if you assume Storen earns the 9th, Osuna will still has the price tag of a potential closer.