I have always considered closers like kickers in the NFL. There are 5 or 6 great ones, some very good ones, some good ones and then there are ones I wouldn’t draft for my worst enemy. By using this theory, I have ranked all 30 current closers into different divisions. The guys who you should definitely take and the guys you shouldn’t. Let’s take a look were the current crop of closers will fall in 2009.
Dennis Eckersley Division
These are your cream-of-the-crop, top closers headed into 2009. These guys are #1 closer material in any fantasy league
1. Francisco Rodriguez, Mets – Krod, who broke Bobby Thigpen’s record for saves with 62 in 2008 with the Angels will now attempt to close out games in Flushing. While many people point to Krod’s diminished strike out rate (declined every year since 04) and his rising BAA (increased every year in the majors), it’s not like Krod had 62 saves with a 4.50 era. Krod’s era was still a dominant 2.24. With the Mets offering their closers plenty of save opportunities (72 in 08), Krod figures to close 45-50 games in 09.
2. Mariano Rivera, Yankees – Many thought the 2007 was the beginning of the decline for the great Rivera because of a 3.15 era (highest since he became a reliever). 2008 proved that was anything but the case. The 39 year old had one of the best seasons of his career, netting 39 saves with a paultry 1.40 era. If all is well from off-season shoulder surgery, Rivera once again will be one of the top closers in 2009.
3. Joe Nathan, Twins – Nathan, one of the most consistent closers in baseball had another stellar year in 2008 with 39 saves anda 1.33 era. You can pretty much pencil in the Stony Brook product 35-40 saves with an era under 2.
4. Joakim Soria, Royals – “The Mexecutioner” burst onto the scene in 2009 for Royals posting 42 saves with a nice 1.60 era. The 24 year old has been practically unhittable since reaching the majors in 2007 as he has only given up 85 hits in 136.1 innings. Soria should be a top 5 fantasy closer again in 2009
5. Brad Lidge, Phillies – Lidge had a season for the ages in 2008, going a perfect 41/41 in save opportunities. While I don’t expect Lidge to be perfect again in 2009, he should once again be one of the top closers in baseball as the Phillies figure to contend in the NL East.
6. Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox –The Red Sox closer set a career high in saves in 2008 with 41. Fantasy owners only concern with Papelbon would be he threw a career high 79.1 innings last year including the post season. Look to see what Papelbon does in April. If he is strong through April, then a typical Papelbon season is in order
Tom Henke Division
The next 4 are right under the great closers but will still put up solid numbers for you in 2009
7. Jose Valverde, Astros – Finished 2nd in baseball in saves with 44, high era of 3.38 but lots of K’s with 83
8. Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers –With Saito off to Boston, Broxton takes over as the full-time closer in LA. 35-40 saves with 80+ K’s is more than doable in 2009
9. Francisco Cordero, Reds –With the Reds improved in 2009, Cordero might reach the 40 save mark. Something Cordero has done twice before. Unfortunately, Cordero’s usually high era will leave him out of the top 6
10. Kerry Wood, Indians – One of the better season signings in baseball, Wood gives something Cleveland hasn’t had in a very long time….A LEGIT CLOSER. There is always an injury risk when picking Wood but if healthy Wood is certainly a top 10 closer. I like 35+ saves for Wood in 2009
Jeff Montgomery Division
The perfect #2 fantasy closer. These next 5 guys are perfect #2 closers
11. Bobby Jenks, White Sox – How does a guy who throws 98 mph only strike out 5.55 guys every 9 innings? Just doesn’t make sense.
12. BJ Ryan, Blue Jays – Ryan isn’t the strike out pitcher he used to be but he still knows how to save a game. Pencil in 30+ saves again for Ryan in 2009.
13. Huston Street, Rockies –I am on the Huston Street bandwagon this year. A fresh start with the Rockies and this being an odd year, Street should have a nice bounce back year. Street, like Bret Saberhagen pitches very well in odd years
14. Brad Ziegler, A’s – Ziegler burst onto the scene last year by starting off his career with a 39 inning scoreless streak. I expect Ziegler’s era to increase from 1.06 to around the high 2 mark in 09. With the A’s very much improved expect Ziegler to register 25-30 saves
15. Brian Fuentes, Angels –I am not sold on Fuentes as most people are. He lost his closers role in 07 only to gain in back in 08. With Shields and Arredando looking over Fuentes’ shoulder it will be interestingto see how Fuentes fairs. The Angels offer a lot of opportunities for saves so 30+ saves with an era in the high 2’s is not out of the question
Armando Benitez Division
These guys can get you saves but when you need them the most they will blow a big one in September
16. Brian Wilson, Giants – 41 saves, 4.65 era in 2008
17. Trevor Hoffman, Brewers – It will be weird to see Hoffman in a Brewers uniform. At this stage of his career Hoffman will get his saves, perhaps 25-30 with an era of around 4.50
18. Matt Capps, Pirates – Good for 15-25 saves on once again a very bad Pirates team
19. Mike Gonzalez, Braves – Had 14 saves in 36 games in 2008. High era of 4.28. Injury always a concern with Gonzalez
20. George Sherrill, Orioles –1st time closer in 2008, Sherrill had 31 saves before an injury ended his season. Lots of hits and a high era is something to be wary of in 2009
Al Reyes Division
These closers are usually 8th inning set-up types that are forced into the closers role because the team has no one else. These are the guys you only draft if you desperately need to fill a closers spot
21. Brandon Lyon, Tigers
22. Dan Wheeler, Rays
23. Chad Qualls, Diamondbacks
24. Heath Bell, Padres
25. Ryan Franklin, Cardinals
26. Joel Hanrahan, Nationals
27. CJ Wilson, Rangers
28. Tyler Walker, Mariners – With the Heilman trade yesterday, it looks like Walker might get the 1st shot at the closers role. Officially the worst closer in baseball headed into 2009.
Octavio Dotel Division
These are the 2 question marks going into the season. Great as 8th inning set up guys but are now asked to close games. Big difference between the 8th and 9th innings. These guys can either be in the Tom Henke division or the Armando Benitez division
?. Carlos Marmol, Cubs – Only 3 other relievers were in more games than Marmol was in 2008. Will the over use of last year come back to bite the Cubs this year? I am not sure if Marmol has the mental make up to be a closer, especially in Wrigleyville. I will go with 33 saves, an era in the low 3’s and a lot of tums for Sweet Lou
?. Matt Lindstrom, Marlins – As I wrote in my post about the Marlins, Lindstrom is the X factor for the team in 2009. I like Lindstrom more than Marmol because of less pressure in Florida and Lindstrom proved he can do the job by going 5-5 in September. I like 25 saves and an era in the mid 2’s for Lindstrom
Norm Charlton Division
Top set up guys who are waiting in the wings and could fill in adequately if something happened to the current closer
1. Kevin Gregg, Cubs
2. Scot Shields, Angels
3. JJ Putz, Mets
4. Ryan Madsen, Phillies
5. Grant Balfour, Rays
Mark Davis 1989 Division
This is for the one guy who I will think have that ridiculous year, seemingly out of nowhere. Good the year before and this year explodes on the scene
Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers –As I mentioned earlier, I really like Broxton this year. The Dodgers offered their closers 55 save opportunities last year, so racking up saves shouldn’t be a problem for this 24 year old. Playing in the NL West, the worst division in baseball should help Broxton dominate in 2009