2012 Rankings: Top 15 Closers

We all know that closers can be extremely unpredictable, for the most part.  Would anyone have expected someone like Joakim Soria to temporarily lose his job in 2011?  Unfortunately it happens and it helps to justify the belief in drafting closers late or searching for saves on the waiver wire.

That strategy definitely has value, but that doesn’t mean drafting one of the better closers in the league is the wrong way to go either.  For those who like to target one of the elite, let’s take a look at my Top 15 heading into 2012:

  1. Craig Kimbrel – Atlanta Braves
  2. Jonathan Papelbon – Philadelphia Phillies
  3. Mariano Rivera – New York Yankees
  4. John Axford – Milwaukee Brewers
  5. Brian Wilson – San Francisco Giants
  6. Drew Storen – Washington Nationals
  7. Heath Bell – Miami Marlins
  8. Joakim Soria – Kansas City Royals
  9. Ryan Madson – Cincinnati Reds
  10. Andrew Bailey – Boston Red Sox
  11. J.J. Putz – Arizona Diamondbacks
  12. Jose Valverde – Detroit Tigers
  13. Joe Nathan – Texas Rangers
  14. Huston Street – San Diego Padres
  15. Rafael Betancourt – Colorado Rockies


  • Until Mariano Rivera falters, how can we not consider him anything but one of the elite closers in the game?  Every season it feels like people want to write him off due to his age and every year he gets the job done.  Last year all he did was post a 1.91 ERA, the eighth time in the past nine seasons he’s posted a sub-2.00 ERA.  He also posted a 0.90 WHIP, the sixth time in the past seven years he’s had a sub-1.00 WHIP.  Sure, the Yankees may handle him with a little bit more care at this point (meaning giving Rafael Soriano or David Robertson) a few more save opportunities), but there is little doubt that he is going to produce impressive numbers once again.
  • John Axford had struggled with his control coming up through the minors, including a 4.19 BB/9 in 58.0 innings for the Brewers in 2010.  He corrected that issue in 2011, with a 3.05 BB/9, and the results were dazzling.  As long as he can continue to control the strike zone he should be a Top 5 closer once again.
  • While Huston Street is not an elite strikeout pitcher, his 8.49 K/9 in ’11 is more than enough.  There is reason to believe that hitters won’t make such solid contact against him (24.3% line drive rate), and a move to San Diego is certainly going to help him keep the ball in the ballpark.  With pinpoint control, as long as he stays healthy he will be a nice buy as a #2 closer.
  • We all know that Joakim Soria struggled in 2011 with a 4.03 ERA and 1.28 WHIP, but is anyone really ready just to dismiss him as one of the better options in the league?  He has good control (2.48 BB/9 for his career) and a solid strikeout rate (9.73 K/9 for his career).  Considering his worst ERA was 2.48 and WHIP was 1.13 prior to ’11, I think it is pretty safe to expect a rebound.
  • Brian Wilson, Joe Nathan and Andrew Bailey should be among the better closer options in the league, assuming all three can stay healthy.  It’s always going to be risk/reward with those guys, but given their track record and upside, the risk is well worth it.

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Make sure to check out all of our 2012 rankings:


  1. big o says:

    rather take my chances with hanrahan repeating than with soria rebounding .

  2. TY says:

    Madson pitches for the Bengals!

    All I know is I’ve done a handful of mocks now and Kimbrel going in the 4th to 5th rounds? WOW… never pay for saves people.

    As weak as hittings become and as stacked as pitching is going after a closer that early is throwing in the towel in the 1st inning.

    • Phillysnowballthrower says:

      I agree but look at his strikeout projections. I could never pick a reliever in the 4rth or 5th round. I am more inclined to pick up whats left at the end. Santos is interesting to me as one not on the top of the list.

  3. fiji.siv says:

    That sure is a bullish pick on Brian Wilson considering how he finished out last year. On the season he put up his worst numbers since 2006 or 2007 in BB%, K%, K/BB, BB/9, K/9 and WHIP.

  4. Rotoprofessor says:

    big o – I actually just posted about Hanrahan this afternoon. I don’t trust him in the least, personally. He has never before come that close to the control he showed. Could be a big falloff.

    TY/Philly – I definitely don;t disagree, There’s a difference between getting a solid closet and picking one way too early.

    fiji – That’s the point. Injuries played a huge role in his diminished production and it is hard to imagine him not coming back significantly closer to what he had proven to be. I would definitely be willing to roll the dice on him./

  5. Dina says:

    I’m in a league that counts holds. Is Soriano or Robertson projected to be the Yankees 8th inning guy this year?? I’m hoping its Robertson I would love to pick him and get holds and a high k/9.

  6. carlito says:

    crazy no santo$ in there! not to mention soria and madson hurt. this list is crap.

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      This list hasn’t been updated since February 21, so obviously there have been some changes (though Madson’s injury is not considered serious and won’t downgrade him very much, if at all).

      A new list will be coming shortly, however.

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