Relief pitchers are an unpredictable group. A star pitcher one season could significantly struggle the next. Brad Lidge anyone? There’s something to be said about stability, about knowing someone is going to hold down the job and do it well.
With that said, let’s take a look at how I rank the closers heading into 2010:
- Jonathan Broxton – Los Angeles Dodgers
- Joe Nathan – Minnesota Twins
- Mariano Rivera – New York Yankees
- Joakim Soria – Kansas City Royals
- Jonathan Papelbon – Boston Red Sox
- Francisco Rodriguez – New York Mets
- Heath Bell – San Diego Padres
- Brian Wilson – San Francisco Giants
- Jose Valverde – Detroit Tigers
- Billy Wagner – Atlanta Braves
- Huston Street – Colorado Rockies
- Andrew Bailey – Oakland Athletics
- Frank Francisco – Texas Rangers
- Trevor Hoffman – Milwaukee Brewers
- Rafael Soriano – Tampa Bay Rays
- It may seem a little bit odd to see Joakim Soria ranked ahead of Jonathan Papelbon, but the two are actually extremely similar pitchers. Last season Papelbon had a 1.85 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and a 10.06 K/9. Joakim Soria had a 2.21 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and an 11.72 K/9. The differences (besides Soria missing time due to injury) was that Soria had worse luck, with a .326 BABIP vs. Papelbon’s .297 and Papelbon’s control, which had been impeccable, was just average (3.18 BB/9). Papelbon gets his control in order… Soria sees better luck… They are very equal, so it’s really a preference call.
- Heath Bell has proven to be a solid option, but be mindful of the trade rumors surrounding him. I’m not downgrading him in the rankings, but make sure you have the appropriate depth if you draft him.
- It may be a stretch to have Billy Wagner ranked tenth, but he has as much strikeout potential as anyone. Also, as long as he’s healthy, it’s his job, no questions asked. There’s something to be said about that.
- I can’t say it enough about Frank Francisco, the Rangers proved in ’09 how committed they were to him as their closer. They have a very capable replacement in C.J. Wilson who filled in just fine when Francisco was on the DL three separate times in ‘09. Yet, every time he came back (or gave up six runs to the Red Sox), it was Francisco who continued to get the ball in the ninth inning. Considering his strikeout rate was over 10.40 each of the past two seasons, exactly why are fantasy owners shying away from him? His current ADP is 206, the 25th relief pitcher coming off the board. That’s an absolute steal in my book.
- It’s hard for me to enter 2010 expecting Andrew Bailey to be as impressive as he was in 2009. He had worked primarily as a starting pitcher previously, so there’s not much to go on. He posted a 3.79 BB/9 and benefited from a .234 BABIP and 84.9% strand rate. It’s impossible to expect a 1.84 ERA and 0.88 WHIP once again, because there should be a regression in both those numbers.
What are your thoughts on the rankings? Who’s too high? Too low? Who was the biggest omission?
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Make sure to check out our other early rankings:
- First Basemen
- Second Basemen
- Third Basemen
- Designated Hitters
- Starting Pitchers
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