There have been a lot of changes to the closer position over the last couple of weeks so let’s take a final look at Fantasy Closers 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. 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
13. 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
14. 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
15. Jason Motte, Cardinals – The only thing that will hold Motte back will be Tony LaRussa. It wouldn’t shock me if he gave some opportunities to Franklin and to Perez when he gets called up from Triple A. If LaRussa doesn’t screw around with Motte, then 30+ saves with an era in the mid-2’s is realistic.
16. 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. Ryan has been slow to start the season and could lose some save opportunities to Scott Downs.
Armando Benitez Division
These guys can get you saves but when you need them the most they will blow a big one in September
17. Kevin Gregg, Cubs – In a move that surprised a lot of people, Kevin Gregg was named the Cubs’ closer in 2009. Gregg had 29 saves for the Marlins last year but also blew 9. That is a lot of blown saves in 38 opportunities. Gregg melted down in the dog days of August when he had an 0-4 record, 3 blown saves and an era of 10.14. If he couldn’t handle the pressure in Miami how is he going to handle the pressure pitching under a microscope in Chicago? Gregg will get his saves early because the Cubs will be competitive in 2009 but I don’t see this ending well. I suspect Marmol will be closing games at some point during the season.
18. Brandon Morrow, Mariners – Morrow voluntarily moved to the bullpen in part to help him deal with diabetes which he was diagnosed with while he was in High School. If he can control this disease and I hope he can, there is no reason to think he won’t be effective. In 45 games as a reliever last year, Morrow had a 1.47 era. The only reason Morrow isn’t ranked higher is because the Mariners stink. Expect 20-25 saves with an era in the very low 2’s.
19. Brian Wilson, Giants – 41 saves, 4.65 era in 2008
20. Matt Capps, Pirates – Good for 15-25 saves on once again a very bad Pirates team
21. Mike Gonzalez, Braves – Had 14 saves in 36 games in 2008. High era of 4.28. Injury always a concern with Gonzalez
22. 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
23. 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. Hoffman will be starting the year on the DL and there is no time table for his return.
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
24. Troy Percival, Rays
25. Chad Qualls, Diamondbacks
26. Joel Hanrahan, Nationals
27. Heath Bell, Padres
28. Frank Francsico, Rangers
29. Fernando Rodney, Tigers – Rodney is your worst fantasy option headed into 2009. Not only does he close for a bad team but he has Brandon Lyon and rookie Ryan Perry looking over his shoulder.
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
?. 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. Carlos Marmol, Cubs
2. Scot Shields, Angels
3. JJ Putz, Mets
4. Scott Downs, Reds – Could get some saves early in the season.
5. Ryan Madsen, Phillies
6. Dan Wheeler, Rays
7. Leo Nunez, Marlins
8. Brandon Lyon, Tigers
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