CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Fantasy Article Preseason Value Picks:... (02/16)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Geniu... (02/13)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Geniu... (02/20)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: ... (02/16)

February 16, 2012

Resident Fantasy Genius

Fantasy Tier Rankings: Closers

by Derek Carty

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

Today, I’m happy to kick off our annual fantasy rankings, taking over where my predecessor Marc Normandin left off. I’ll be going position by position, organizing players into five tiers, beginning with relief pitchers.

In general, five-star players are going to be your star-level players that will be selected within the first couple of rounds, usually worth upward of $30*. Four-star players are the next step down, worth more than $20. Three stars are worth more than $10, two stars will be in the single digits, and one star will be roster-filler and late-round fliers. Of course, this is just a general guideline. While the rankings will generally follow PECOTA, I will deviate when I feel strongly that a player will over or underperform his PECOTA projection.

*Closer tiers will hold a slightly different meaning. While there will still be five tiers, the top guys at the position aren’t necessarily going to be worth early-round picks. You can usually wait until at least the fifth or sixth round to take the elite closers in most standard leagues, and our PFM indicates that this is wise. Our top-ranked closer is only worth $18 in mixed leagues, so be sure to take this into account when deciding when to pull the trigger on a ninth-inning man.

For reference, the dollar values were created by our PFM using a league format of 12 teams, 5x5 scoring, and 23-player rosters—broken down as C (2) 1B (1) 2B (1) 3B (1) SS (1) CI (1) MI (1) OF (5) UT (1) P (9)—and $180 of the $260 budget allocated for hitters and $1 minimum salaries. A minimum of 20 games needed to be played at a position in the previous season to qualify. We’ll be providing values for both mixed leagues and AL-only/NL-only leagues. While this is the industry standard format, your own league structure may differ, in which case you can customize the PFM to your own needs.

Five Stars

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

IP

W

SV

SO

ERA

WHIP

Mariano Rivera

NYA

$18.14

$27.15

67.3

4

40

66

2.44

1.02

Jonathan Papelbon

PHI

$16.69

$23.84

55.1

3

40

67

2.19

1.01

Mo and Pap are obvious choices for the top tier. Seeing as they are two of the longest-tenured closers in baseball—15 and six years, respectively—and have top-notch skills, you’d have a hard time making a reasonable case for anyone else as the first closer off the board.

Four Stars

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

IP

W

SV

SO

ERA

WHIP

Craig Kimbrel

ATL

$14.79

$21.75

69.4

4

34

104

2.50

1.20

Heath Bell

FLO

$13.75

$21.58

64.7

4

38

66

2.89

1.20

John Axford

MIL

$7.14

$15.97

70

4

34

74

4.07

1.45

Jose Valverde

DET

$12.41

$22.77

63.7

3

38

66

3.20

1.22

Huston Street

SDN

$15.77

$22.33

66.1

4

35

70

2.44

1.04

Drew Storen

WAS

$12.77

$20.41

66.6

4

36

63

3.11

1.18

Carlos Marmol

CHN

$16.09

$23.85

74.7

4

38

104

2.74

1.22

Joakim Soria

KCA

$15.35

$24.08

73.9

4

35

79

2.76

1.11

Brian Wilson

SFN

$12.76

$20.63

64.7

4

37

69

2.99

1.24

Ryan Madson

CIN

$12.20

$20.28

67.2

4

37

63

3.36

1.22

Our second closer tier encompasses the solid closers with good skills and secure jobs but not quite at the level of Papelbon or Rivera. Still, you’re likely better off passing up the five-star guys in favor of a couple of players from this or the next tier. The differences in value just don’t justify the difference in the price you’ll have to pay.

If you’re looking at projected value, John Axford sticks out like a sore thumb in this tier; PECOTA is just not a believer. My guess is that the extra weight given to past years has something to do with it, as Axford’s control in the minor leagues was hideous. That said, I’m buying into him as a 4.0 BB/9 kind of guy. He’s shown two years of such performance, finds the zone at a league-average rate, and I’ve spoken with someone inside the game whose opinion I place a lot of value in who believes he’s turned a corner with his control since coming to the majors.

Carlos Marmol and Joakim Soria are interesting cases in that the PFM sees them as the third and fourth most valuable closers, mock drafters see them as the 15th- and 16th-most valuable, but my rankings place them in the middle. Were it not for the fact that these two will be trade candidates around midseason, I’d have them third and fifth, respectively.

Soria struggled last year and was even removed from the role for a short period, but his peripherals were strong, and a bounce-back 2012 is likely. Marmol gets flak because he lost a couple ticks off his fastball this year, but he was still inducing whiffs and generating strikeouts at the same rate he’s done his entire career. With a K/9 that remained over 12, all of those strikeouts make him a top-notch option as long as he’s closing. I had actually debated making him a five-star guy before knocking him down for the trade possibility.

Three Stars

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

IP

W

SV

SO

ERA

WHIP

Joe Nathan

TEX

$11.80

$21.27

57.3

4

35

61

3.18

1.15

J.J. Putz

ARI

$11.45

$18.99

54.8

3

36

58

3.08

1.17

Rafael Betancourt

COL

$12.02

$18.61

71.7

4

30

76

3.06

1.13

Andrew Bailey

BOS

$9.67

$20.13

68.4

3

35

64

3.68

1.28

Brandon League

SEA

$9.59

$19.71

65.7

4

34

53

3.59

1.26

Sergio Santos

TOR

$9.40

$19.53

59.8

3

34

72

3.47

1.30

Joel Hanrahan

PIT

$8.11

$16.44

67.3

3

34

68

3.83

1.36

Frank Francisco

NYN

$8.97

$16.37

60.2

3

32

65

3.39

1.26

Jason Motte

SLN

$8.63

$15.63

61.8

3

30

62

3.32

1.23

Kyle Farnsworth

TBA

$8.36

$18.34

52.8

3

34

49

3.67

1.26

Our third tier is where things become interesting. This tier belongs to the closers with at least one major chink in their armor. Most possess risk in one form or another, but because this will translate to a lower cost on draft day, this is the tier where you’ll find the greatest value among Opening Day closers.

In this tier, risk can come in many forms. Pitchers like Nathan, Putz, and Bailey have injury concerns, while guys like Betancourt, Francisco, and Motte have yet to log a full season in the ninth inning. Then there are guys like League, Santos, and Hanrahan, who should have job security but are in this tier because they don’t have as much experience as our four-star closers, nor does their performance quite stack up. Santos and Hanrahan have control issues (not so bad as to cause concern, but enough that their rate stats aren’t on par with the tier above) and Brandon League succeeds by inducing a lot of ground balls as opposed to strikeouts (which are a category unto themselves).

Two Stars

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

IP

W

SV

SO

ERA

WHIP

Chris Perez

CLE

$10.01

$19.67

70.5

4

32

73

3.47

1.26

Matt Thornton

CHA

$8.40

$15.32

71.7

4

22

79

2.95

1.19

Jordan Walden

ANA

$4.64

$15.42

56.1

3

32

47

4.28

1.47

Jim Johnson

BAL

$5.43

$14.99

79.3

4

27

50

4.02

1.33

Matt Capps

MIN

$7.49

$16.14

68.9

3

28

52

3.59

1.22

This is the bottom tier of relievers who are likely to close, but the value of these guys is tied up almost exclusively in their saves totals. A reliever with an ERA over 4.00 holds no value in a mixed league and very little in an AL-/NL-only league if he’s not saving games.

Matt Thornton makes this group not because he fits this mold, but because his skills are just so good. Combine that with being the favorite to close in Chicago, and he has enough saves to go with his excellent ratios to get bumped up from the One Star group. Were he to officially be named the closer, I’d bump him up again to Three Stars.

PFM likes Chris Perez a lot more than his two-star ranking indicates, but I just can’t justify putting him any higher. Yes, it’s important not to get bogged down in small samples, but there is just so much cause for concern with him that I have a hard time buying into a projected 3.47 ERA. As I briefly discussed on Monday, he was really bad in 2011. His fastball has worsened both in terms of movement and velocity, he’s not getting the kinds of swings-and-misses he used to, and he has never managed to improve his control. He’s getting by on low BABIPs that may or may not be sustainable, but if I can avoid it, I’d like to not to find out whether it is while he’s on my roster.

One Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

IP

W

SV

SO

ERA

WHIP

Kenley Jansen

LAN

$6.96

$10.54

64.9

4

12

99

2.17

1.13

Grant Balfour

OAK

$5.40

$11.49

69

3

17

76

2.99

1.22

Addison Reed

CHA

$4.60

$10.01

71.7

4

13

83

3.18

1.20

Javy Guerra

LAN

$0.76

$8.91

69.6

3

28

54

4.99

1.62

Fautino De Los Santos

OAK

$0.69

$6.59

59.2

3

13

63

3.82

1.37

Brandon Lyon

HOU

($0.47)

$3.96

38

2

15

25

4.01

1.36

Sergio Romo

SFN

$3.96

$6.22

60.1

4

4

71

2.16

1.00

Mike Adams

TEX

$3.27

$6.34

71.6

5

4

72

2.84

1.10

Francisco Rodriguez

MIL

$1.38

$5.10

74.7

4

6

86

3.32

1.28

Joey Devine

OAK

$1.28

$5.25

59.2

3

7

64

2.95

1.21

Luke Gregerson

SDN

$0.99

$3.50

66.1

4

2

63

2.89

1.17

David Carpenter

HOU

($5.08)

$0.56

57.1

2

8

49

4.94

1.54

Our final tier belongs to players competing for a closing job and a few elite relievers whose skills alone make them worth something. Javy Guerra is projected for the most saves and could get bumped up a category if you’re desperate for saves, but PECOTA is not optimistic about his performance, and Kenley Jansen will challenge him during spring training. If Jansen does win the job, he’d easily be a Three-Star guy. The same goes for Balfour and Reed. If Lyon, Carpenter, or De Los Santos were to win a job closing, they’d jump up to Two Stars (DLS would be a borderline Three-Star guy).

Related Content:  Baseball,  Fantasy Tier Rankings,  Closers

20 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Grizpin

Kimbrel 4 stars?

Feb 16, 2012 03:39 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

Yup. He's just not quite at the Mo/Pap level. He only has one year of experience, and as good as he is, we just can't say he's as good as those two yet, and he doesn't have the kind of job security they do. If he struggles, there's a real chance Venters takes over. If Mo struggles, there's basically a zero percent chance that anyone else closes.

Feb 16, 2012 07:51 AM
 
timber

And, like Axford, Pecota should remember that Kimbrel also had horrible control as a minor leaguer.

Feb 16, 2012 08:37 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

That said, if he keeps the job the whole year, he could wind up being the most valuable closer in baseball. The chance that he doesn't, though, is reflected in his projected saves total, and that drags him down a bit.

Feb 16, 2012 08:02 AM
 
Eddie

I wonder why Jordan Walden's projections are so terrible.

Feb 16, 2012 07:30 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

I would guess poor minor league numbers combined with PECOTA's heavy backweighting. He has good stuff, but I'm not ready to throw him into the Three Star group yet.

Feb 16, 2012 07:53 AM
 
bateman19

I imagine Motte will get a slightly longer leash this year with TLR out of the picture...how safe is his job?

Feb 16, 2012 09:42 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

While Matheny should be better than TLR in this regard, any first-time closer is going to have less job security than an established guy. Motte's skills are good, which is why he's in the tier he is, but he's only projected for 30 saves while most guys in his tier are mid-30s (these are based on the depth charts which I have a hand in). With other viable candidates in St. Louis, Motte is the kind of guy who could be in trouble if he struggles (unlucky or not) but could be a great bargain if he manages to put together a good April and May.

Feb 16, 2012 11:39 AM
 
Grizpin

You say Reed is a 3 star if he gets the closer role. What do you think his long term value is?

Feb 16, 2012 13:22 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

He looks like the closer of the future in Chicago, so as long as that comes to fruition, long-term he's a Four Star guy once he gets a year or two of closing experience under his belt and some job security.

Feb 16, 2012 13:23 PM
 
wonkothesane1

Francisco Cordero didn't even crack the 1 star closers?

Feb 16, 2012 13:52 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

Nope, Cordero will set up for Sergio Santos in Toronto this year, and his skills alone aren't good enough for him to crack the list. There are plenty of other elite setup men that you could make a case for on this list (Tyler Clippard, Koji Uehara, etc), but Cordero isn't one of them.

Feb 16, 2012 13:55 PM
 
CalledStrike3

Deep Deeeeep Sleeper AL only leagues: Pedro Strop - Baltimore .... Interesting in Texas if Nathan were to break down ... Uehara was supposedly pitching with a bad elbow august September but was dominating for 3 months in Baltimore ... Adams has always been a better set-up guy - did not pitch great under pressure post season .... and then there is that Feliz kid

Feb 17, 2012 07:52 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

Yes, agreed on Strop, although less so now that Lindstrom is in Baltimore. Uehara looks like he might be headed to Oakland, where he might wind up as the favorite to close. I think Adams is the man in Texas (behind Nathan, of course) even if Uehara stays put, which seems unlikely.

Feb 18, 2012 12:25 PM
 
CalledStrike3

One thing is likely certain .... by September this list will have about a 40% turnover

Feb 17, 2012 07:53 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

I think that number is too high, but yes, there is bound to be turnover. Predicting who it will be is never easy to do with a large amount of accuracy.

Feb 18, 2012 12:27 PM
 
jp

Where would u slot Brett Myers?

Mar 10, 2012 17:53 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

Three Stars, ahead of Farnsworth

Mar 10, 2012 17:54 PM
 
jp

Thx...think that makes sense. Thanks for all the.work on the rankings

Mar 12, 2012 17:59 PM
rating: 0
 
adamsternum

Am I....missing Rafael Soriano?

Mar 17, 2013 09:47 AM
rating: 0
 
You must be a Premium subscriber to post a comment.
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
<< Previous Article
Fantasy Article Preseason Value Picks:... (02/16)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Geniu... (02/13)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Geniu... (02/20)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: ... (02/16)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Premium Article What You Need to Know: Bryant vs. Harper
West Coast By Us: Whatever, I'm Wearing Jort...
BP Wrigleyville
Premium Article Minor League Update: Games of Tuesday, May 2...
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: Wednesday, May 27
Premium Article Some Projection Left: Top 100 Draft Prospect...
Premium Article Rubbing Mud: Rubbing Not-Really-Mud

MORE FROM FEBRUARY 16, 2012
Premium Article Heartburn Hardball: The Race to the Bottom i...
Premium Article On the Beat: Spring Position Battles
Premium Article Overthinking It: The All-NRI Team
The BP Broadside: Fernandomania and Linsanit...
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Fukudome Lands on the ...
Fantasy Article Preseason Value Picks: Starting Pitchers for...
The BP First Take: Thursday, February 16

MORE BY DEREK CARTY
2012-02-27 - Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Genius: Fantasy Tier Rankin...
2012-02-22 - Premium Article Prospectus Preview: NL East 2012 Preseason P...
2012-02-20 - Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Genius: Shifts in Their Gam...
2012-02-16 - Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Genius: Fantasy Tier Rankin...
2012-02-13 - Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Genius: The Saves Sleeper T...
2012-02-09 - Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Genius: Enter Swingman
2012-02-06 - Premium Article Resident Fantasy Genius: The Age-27 Breakout...
More...

MORE RESIDENT FANTASY GENIUS
2012-02-29 - Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Genius: CBS Experts League ...
2012-02-27 - Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Genius: Fantasy Tier Rankin...
2012-02-20 - Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Genius: Shifts in Their Gam...
2012-02-16 - Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Genius: Fantasy Tier Rankin...
2012-02-13 - Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Genius: The Saves Sleeper T...
2012-02-09 - Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Genius: Enter Swingman
2012-02-06 - Premium Article Resident Fantasy Genius: The Age-27 Breakout...
More...

INCOMING ARTICLE LINKS
2012-11-12 - Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Genius: The Value Picks We ...
2012-10-29 - Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Genius: The Ones We Got Wro...
2012-04-02 - Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Genius: Common Players on m...
2012-03-22 - Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Genius: Fantasy Tier Rankin...
2012-03-20 - Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Genius: Fantasy Tier Rankin...
2012-03-14 - Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Genius: Fantasy Tier Rankin...
2012-03-13 - Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Genius: Fantasy Tier Rankin...
2012-03-12 - Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Genius: Fantasy Tier Rankin...
2012-03-09 - Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Genius: Fantasy Tier Rankin...
2012-03-08 - Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Genius: Fantasy Tier Rankin...
2012-03-01 - Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Genius: Fantasy Tier Rankin...
2012-02-27 - Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Genius: Fantasy Tier Rankin...