Closers, the position we love to hate. If you want a good one you’ll have to sacrifice an early pick to get one. The next best things will go anywhere from rounds 7-11. After that, it’s all a crap shoot. Of the 30 closers that started the 2014 season, over one-third of them were demoted or injured by the end of the season. Think about that for a second, one out of every three closers will lose their job. It’s no wonder that some people decide to punt saves while others will reach for the Kimbrels and Chapmans of the world. And when one of those closers goes down, it’s a mad race to the waiver wire hoping to score a winner.
You get what you pay for. You may get lucky and strike gold with a late round pick or playing the waiver wire game. If you want a solid closer, someone who will keep his job for the entire season and put up relatively good numbers, you should get one of the top 10-12 guys. One or two of those guys will have Rosenthal type seasons where you get good strikeouts and saves but with a high your ERA and WHIP, and then there is the occasional Joe (I regret every drafting you) Nathan season someone will put up. Overall, the top guys are the safest bet (obviously); the longer you wait, the bigger the risk.
Joining me for the final set of rankings (along with where you can find them) are:
Seth Klein (@SethDaSportsMan) from Fantasy Pros and contributor at RazzBall
Doug Anderson (@rotodaddy) from Fantasy Sports Network
Timothy King (@TKing978) from The Sports Script and host of Fantasy Forecaster on Blog Talk Radio.
Before we get to the rankings, let’s take a look at this year’s free agent class. You can see a full list of all the free agent relief pitchers on our MLB free agent tracker, I’m only going to list the potential fantasy relevant names as the list is extensive: David Robertson, Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, Casey Jannsen, Andrew Miller and Sergio Romo.
Approximately 1/2 of the teams in the league have their closer situation locked up. The other half either has a viable (and some less than desirable) option or are looking for someone to fill the role. I’m sure Robertson will land a closer role someplace, but the rest of the names (all former closers except Miller) might have to accept a standard role in the bullpen (at least to start the season). I’m sure there are a few players on the list below who will have their fates altered between now and March so check back next season when we roll out our updated site rankings.
The rankings below represent the top 25 relief pitchers/closers for the 2015 season.
Enough talk, on with the rankings.
The first 11 players are the one you want. Doolittle, Britton, Allen and Rosenthal each had one ranking far below the rest so you may want to take a deeper look at them when making your decision. Overall, the top 18 were ranked by all four of us; while the rankings may not be all the same, we all agree they should be ranked and owned. The same can’t be said about the final seven. Uehara, Benoit, Davis, Feliz and Rondon were all left off of one set of rankings while Rodriguez and Miller were left off of two. Where Miller and K-Rod sign and their role in the bullpen will decide their ultimate value so keep an eye on both players. So who was ranked that didn’t make the top 25?
Addison Reed and Santiago Casilla appear on two lists, though neither inspire much faith judging by ranking. The fact that neither has a defined role going into 2015 might have something to do with it. The same can be said for Rodon and Sanchez. Carlos Martinez is the only starting pitcher to appear here so take his N/R ranking by some of us with a grain of salt, RP eligible starters can be a great asset in fantasy. Romo’s status could change depending on where he signs. As for Mejia, the Mets have a number of options which I’m sure scared off everyone but Seth. We’ll see what happens here once spring training rolls around.
Player(s) that you would reach for in the draft
Doug: Ken Giles – He will close at some point in 2015 and it will come with elite Ks, ERA, and WHIP.
Tim: Saves are a category I look for late in the draft or on the waiver wire during the season. For me, a reach probably constitutes anything earlier than round 12. In that scenario, I’m probably looking at pitchers like Cody Allen or Trevor Rosenthal. I like my relievers to have big upside in the strikeout department. Both had bumps and bruises last year but have the ability to post elite strikeout rates.
Jim: Craig Kimbrel – If I’m going to reach for a closer at all, I’m going for the best, most reliable one out there.
Player(s) you will avoid drafting
Doug: Francisco Rodrigues – had a great year but I just can’t see a repeat. The way he pitched in second half reminded me of Rafael Soriano.
Tim: Any closer that costs me a top 100 pick. Otherwise, I’m going to try to stay away from Tampa’s situation, as they have two (maybe 3 with the signing of Ernesto Frieri) capable arms back there and I want to see how it shakes out. Also, Koji Uehara’s struggles in 2014 worried me enough that I’ll probably pass on his services. Koji turns 40 on April 3.
Jim: Joe Nathan and Koji Uehara – Nathan was an utter mess and Koji’s collapse looked very Nathan like. Given their ages and potential replacements behind them in the pen, I’ll look elsewhere.
Average Joe, the player that you would wait on and settle for.
Doug: Fernando Rodney – He keeps defying my fear of him and puts up 30+ saves.
Tim: I’ll probably end up owning shares of Storen, Street and Rondon. All are fine options. Competing in saves is all you can hope to do. Plus, the Nationals and Angels figure to be winning a lot of games and Chicago should be much improved.
Jim: Jonathan Papelbon – I don’t know if he qualifies as an average Joe, but every year people are down on him. He still provides a good WHIP, an ERA in the 2.5 range, almost a strikeout an inning, and 30+ saves in every season except 2013 (29).
Late round pick that could make an impact
Doug: Sergio Romo – This obviously hinges on him getting a closer gig, but his 1.80 ERA in the second half certainly looked like the Romo from the last few years.
Tim: I like Addison Reed, 4.25 ERA but 3.26 xFIP in 2014. Bests in whiff rate, walk percentage and SwStr% last year while getting unlucky in the HR/FB department. Assuming his leash is long enough in Arizona, sign me up.
Jim: Ken Giles – He won’t start the year as a closer and may not finish either, but his strikeout potential could pay dividends if he can maintain a low enough ERA and WHIP (like Wade Davis did in 2014). Bobby Parnell could be a sneaky late round DL stash, I don’t see Jenrry Mejia lasting long as the Mets closer even with his high strikeout rate.
Early 2015 Rankings
Want to hear more about the players ranked here, listen to David, Seth, Doug, Tim and Jim discuss their rankings every Wednesday on FantasySquads Radio – AskROTObaseball Livecast hosted by David Kerr.
Still need more rankings, head on over to Fantasy Rundown where Goose will be compiling rankings for the 2015 season as well as prospect rankings and the best baseball links available this off-season.