Updated @ 3 PM – Since I posted these rankings this morning the news broke that Ryan Madson will require Tommy John surgery (according to John Fay via Twitter) and is out for the season. There is no word yet on who will replace him, though Sean Marshall and Aroldis Chapman are the front runners.
Closer is always a risky position and injuries have already made their presence felt. Joakim Soria is ticketed for Tommy John surgery, ending his season before it started. Brian Wilson, Drew Storen and Ryan Madson are all also banged up, though at this point none of those appear to be serious issues (though time will tell). With that in mind, let’s take a look at how the rankings currently look:
- Craig Kimbrel – Atlanta Braves
- Jonathan Papelbon – Philadelphia Phillies
- Mariano Rivera – New York Yankees
- John Axford – Milwaukee Brewers
- Drew Storen – Washington Nationals
- Brian Wilson – San Francisco Giants
- Heath Bell – Miami Marlins
- Andrew Bailey – Boston Red Sox
- J.J. Putz – Arizona Diamondbacks
- Jose Valverde – Detroit Tigers
- Joe Nathan – Texas Rangers
- Huston Street – San Diego Padres
- Rafael Betancourt – Colorado Rockies
- Sergio Santos – Toronto Blue Jays
- Jordan Walden – Los Angeles Angels
- Ryan Madson is an injury risk right now, though we have not yet gotten word on the severity of the issue. However, getting scratched from a recent appearance and being sent for testing has to be concerning. Right now the unknown is going to drop him a few spots, though a clean bill of health will move him back up quickly (he was initially ranked #8). It’s not like the names immediately preceding him don’t bring their own risk (does anyone really expect Bailey or Putz to stay healthy all year). If news breaks that the injury is more severe, however, our view will obviously have to change. (Updated – Madson is out for the season due to Tommy John surgery and should not be drafted in all formats)
- Brian Wilson and Drew Storen got flipped, though both could prove risky. Wilson has been working minor league games and could soon make his spring debut, though the fact that he is once again dealing with an injury concern has got to be eye-opening. He struggled last season and he needed a strong spring to ease some concerns. Meanwhile Storen has been on the sidelines, but luckily is dealing with inflammation and not a structural issue. He’s a risk, until the injury is resolved, but one with higher upside.
- The season ending injury to Joakim Soria brings Sergio Santos onto the bottom of the list. Potential control issues (4.53 BB/9 in ’11, 6.28 in the minor leagues), as well as consistent matchups with the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays, keeps his value capped. It’s great to have electric stuff, but that doesn’t mean that he needs to be considered one of the elite (all you need to do is see Carlos Marmol as to why).
- I am a big fan of Rafael Betancourt’s, as he brings a potentially elite WHIP to the table with him. That’s what happens when you post a BB/9 under 2.00 in four of the previous six seasons. Over the past two seasons he has 162 K vs. 16 BB. That’s elite, to say the least. Don’t overlook him as a great second closer in all formats. To see my 2012 projection for him, click here.
- Jose Valverde was a perfect 49-for-49 in save opportunities last season, to go along with a 2.24 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. That means he has to be considered one of the elite, right? Well, think again. Valverde should still be a good option, but let’s not forget what happened to Brad Lidge the year after he went 41-for-41 in save opportunities (along with a 1.95 ERA and 1.23 WHIP). All he did was post a 7.21 ERA while going 31-for-42 in save chances. Obviously I wouldn’t expect that type of a regression for Valverde, but I also wouldn’t expect a repeat performance.
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Make sure to check out all of our 2012 rankings: