Top 15 Closers For 2011: An Extremely Early Look

Closer is one of the most unpredictable positions for fantasy owners.  Injuries and inabilities cause the options to shuffle, but here’s an extremely early look at how I’d rank the Top 15 Closers for 2011 for those looking to build for next season:

  1. Jonathan Broxton – Los Angeles Dodgers
  2. Joakim Soria – Kansas City Royals
  3. Jonathan Papelbon – Boston Red Sox
  4. Mariano Rivera – New York Yankees
  5. Andrew Bailey – Oakland Athletics
  6. Francisco Rodriguez – New York Mets
  7. Brian Wilson – San Francisco Giants
  8. Jose Valverde – Detroit Tigers
  9. Carlos Marmol – Chicago Cubs
  10. Neftali Feliz – Texas Rangers
  11. Heath Bell – San Diego Padres
  12. Rafael Soriano – Tampa Bay Rays
  13. Francisco Cordero – Cincinnati Reds
  14. Ryan Franklin – St. Louis Cardinals
  15. Joe Nathan – Minnesota Twins


  • While he had a poor game on Sunday against the Yankees, Jonathan Broxton continues to excel as the Dodgers closer.  He’s allowed runs in just three outings this season (out of 34) while striking out 49 over 33.2 innings.  With tremendous control (1.9 BB/9), is there any closer you’d rather have?
  • Every season we wonder if this will be the year that Mariano Rivera finally slows down and every year he just continues getting the job done.  A 0.92 ERA and 0.61 WHIP?  It’s unbelievable, but it’s impossible to pick against him right now.
  • Andrew Bailey has quickly proven that his rookie campaign was no fluke.  He’s currently 14-for-17 in save opportunities with a 1.74 ERA and 1.00 WHIP.  If he played for a better team there would be a chance to push him either further, but Top 5 isn’t bad.
  • If Carlos Marmol could ever get his control in order he could be the most dominant closer in the game.  While he’s struck out 63 over 34 innings (16.7 K/9), he’s walked 25 (6.6 BB/9).  He’s still a tremendous option, but Top 3 is within reach.
  • Neftali Feliz has proven that he could excel at the backend of the bullpen, with a 2.70 ERA and 0.96 WHIP en route to 20 saves in 22 opportunities.  For now he’s got a spot on this list, but it is possible the Rangers opt to move him back to the rotation in 2011.  It’s hard to imagine, given his success, but you really never know.
  • Despite the Padres success early on this season, rumors persist that Heath Bell may be traded.  That threat suppresses his value, but only slightly.  The truth is, even if he was guaranteed to remain a closer, he doesn’t have much upward mobility.
  • There has been talk of 2010 being Billy Wagner’s final major league season.  Until we know for sure, I’ll leave him off the list.
  • Matt Capps has been tremendous, but there is no guarantee that he’s the closer in 2011.  The Nationals are playing for the future, and we all know that Drew Storen will be closing, sooner or later.
  • Joe Nathan should slide right back into the Twins closers spot in 2011.  We all know he’s capable of being a Top 3 option, so he’ll be worth the gamble in the middle of the pack of closers on draft day.  Of course, that all depends on his health.  As we move closer to the offseason, hopefully we’ll know a bit more.

What are your thoughts on these rankings?  Who is being overvalued?  Who is being undervalued?

Make sure to check out our other extremely early 2011 rankings:


  1. Erik F says:

    If Heath Bell is traded then I’m targeting Gregerson or Adams next year.

  2. Rotoprofessor says:

    Erik, I agree with you, but at this point there’s no telling which of the two will assume the job. Between those two, it really is a coin flip, but at the same time how can San Diego trade their closer considering the year they’ve had?

  3. Nick Tenaglia says:

    Jun. 20 – 8:20 am et
    Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

    Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin believes that he will retire when his contract expires after the 2011 season.
    Franklin will be 38 at that point and told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “I think I owe it to my family. I’ve missed a lot of things that have been going on. I don’t want to miss a lot more.” With the current spate of midseason will-he-or-won’t-he retirement stories, it’s a nice change of pace to see a player who has his plan in place in advance.

  4. Nick Tenaglia says:

    The retirement of Franklin makes me think that he won’t be the full time closer in ’11. Jason Motte will probably take over, unless the Cards decide to trade for someone (Putz, Qualls, Jenks etc etc)

    That being said, I don’t think Franklin should even be on this list.

    Also, where’s Leo Nunez?

  5. Slevin Kelevra says:

    Soriano 12th, really ?

  6. Big Al says:

    Soria should not be at number two. 90% of the reason we draft closers is to get saves. He will not put up more than Brian Wilson who is ranked 7. Soria’s WHIP and ERA don’t make a big impact with just about 80 IP. He should be moved down to 10ish.

  7. Will Overton says:

    I don’t know if I’d have Soria #2 based on his team, but he certainly is better than 10th in my opinion. You just know what your getting and you never have to worry about a blowup or him losing his job or hurting your ERA. He’s just a risk free closer which isn’t to easy to come by anymore.

  8. Nick Tenaglia says:

    Big Al, your heart is in the right place, but your logic is flawed… You can’t look purely at Wins, assuming that the more wins a team gets, the more Saves a team gets.

    To a certain extent you are correct, because you can’t earn a save if your team never wins, but it is also possible that every Win a team has produces a Save.

    That being said, here is some more advanced data for you to process…. (These are Team Stats from ’08 to ’09)

    LA Angels are the benchmark for all teams when it comes to saves. They have 117 Saves between the two seasons. They also have the most opportunities (SVO), at 159.

    Save Percentage (Saves / Opportunities):
    NYY: 1st (79%)
    LAA: 2nd (74%)
    KC: 12th (67%)
    WAS: 30th (54%)

    Opportunities per Win (SVO / Wins):
    SEA: 1st (99%)
    LAA: 8th (81%)
    KC: 6th (83%)
    TOR: 30th (60%)

    Saves per Win (Sv / Wins):
    SEA: 2nd (58%)
    LAA: 1st (59%)
    KC: 3rd (56%)
    CLE: 30th (38%)

    If you take each team’s rank in each of the three stats above and add them up, you can determine which team is the best across the 3 sets of data. So LAA was 2nd, 8th, and 1st, meaning that their score is 11 (2+8+1). Do you know which team came in 2nd place? Kansas City Royals! (12+6+3=21) Followed closely by the Houston Astros (13+7+4=24)

    Well despite these results, there is one more advanced stat that we can look at – we can call it an “effectiveness” factor. This is a ratio divided by another ratio with a common factor (Save Opportunities)

    Save Effectiveness (Save % / Opportunities per Win):
    NYY: 1st (130%)
    LAA: 15th (91%)
    KC: 22nd (81%)
    WAS: 30th (55%)

    Here is the full set of data, if you want to run some of your own numbers….
    1 New York Yankees 192 93 117 79% 61% 48% 130%
    2 Toronto Blue Jays 161 69 97 71% 60% 43% 118%
    3 Chicago White Sox 168 70 106 66% 63% 42% 105%
    4 Philadelphia Phillies 185 91 128 71% 69% 49% 103%
    5 Oakland Athletics 150 71 102 70% 68% 47% 102%
    6 Boston Red Sox 190 88 128 69% 67% 46% 102%
    7 Tampa Bay Rays 181 93 131 71% 72% 51% 98%
    8 Cincinnati Reds 152 75 108 69% 71% 49% 98%
    9 Chicago Cubs 180 84 126 67% 70% 47% 95%
    10 Minnesota Twins 175 90 129 70% 74% 51% 95%
    11 San Francisco Giants 160 82 118 69% 74% 51% 94%
    12 Atlanta Braves 158 64 104 62% 66% 41% 93%
    13 Colorado Rockies 166 81 120 68% 72% 49% 93%
    14 Cleveland Indians 146 56 94 60% 64% 38% 93%
    15 Los Angeles Angels 197 117 159 74% 81% 59% 91%
    16 Los Angeles Dodgers 179 79 125 63% 70% 44% 91%
    17 Texas Rangers 166 81 122 66% 73% 49% 90%
    18 St. Louis Cardinals 177 85 131 65% 74% 48% 88%
    19 Arizona Diamondbacks 152 75 117 64% 77% 49% 83%
    20 Florida Marlins 171 81 129 63% 75% 47% 83%
    21 Houston Astros 160 87 130 67% 81% 54% 82%
    22 Kansas City Royals 140 78 116 67% 83% 56% 81%
    23 Milwaukee Brewers 170 89 137 65% 81% 52% 81%
    24 Pittsburgh Pirates 129 62 101 61% 78% 48% 78%
    25 New York Mets 159 82 132 62% 83% 52% 75%
    26 Detroit Tigers 160 76 128 59% 80% 48% 74%
    27 Baltimore Orioles 132 66 112 59% 85% 50% 69%
    28 San Diego Padres 138 75 124 60% 90% 54% 67%
    29 Seattle Mariners 146 85 144 59% 99% 58% 60%
    30 Washington Nationals 118 61 114 54% 97% 52% 55%

  9. Rotoprofessor says:

    That’s real good analysis Nick!

    The thing is, it’s hard to say that the Royals are bad, so they won’t get save opportunities. Even bad teams are going to win around 70 games, at the least. Plus, if you are a bad team, how many times are you going to blow out your opponent?

  10. Nick Tenaglia says:


    Thats my point exactly. KC will convert each Win into a Save about 56% of the time, meaning that 70 Wins turns into 39 or 40 Saves….

    Also, with the effectiveness numbers, they become skewed by teams that win a lot of games in non-save situations. The formula is as follows:
    (Saves x Wins) / (Save Opp)^2
    So if you have a high W/SvOpp ratio, (like the Yankees) then your effectiveness is increased.

    I just developed an adjusted number that gives you a better understanding of the teams that should be given the highest priority when it comes to judging the best “save-getters”

    RANK TEAM Adjusted Effectiveness
    1 SEA 57%
    2 WAS 50%
    3 SD 49%
    4 LAA 48%
    5 KC 46%
    6 HOU 44%
    7 NYM 43%
    8 BAL 43%
    9 MIL 42%
    10 DET 38%
    11 MIN 38%
    12 SF 38%
    13 ARI 38%
    14 PIT 37%
    15 TB 37%
    16 TEX 36%
    17 STL 36%
    18 COL 35%
    19 FLA 35%
    20 CIN 35%
    21 PHI 34%
    22 CHC 33%
    23 OAK 32%
    24 BOS 31%
    25 LAD 31%
    26 NYY 29%
    27 ATL 27%
    28 CWS 26%
    29 TOR 26%
    30 CLE 24%

    What’s important to know about this list is that this will show you the best teams to choose closers from (given the assumption that all closers are created equal).

    Why is Seattle #1?
    Seattle is number 1 because 99% of their wins offer up Save Opportunities, and because of those 99% of games, they are converting 57%

  11. Andrew says:

    Papelbon is lucky he still has a job as a closer. He should barely be cracking the Top 10. Start watching the American League a little more.

  12. Rotoprofessor says:

    Papelbon has 22 saves this season with a 3.07 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in a “down” year. He’s blown four saves, so it’s not like he’s blown a huge number of games.

    He’s proven to be one of the more consistent closers in the league, so it’s hard to argue putting him near the top considering the instability of the position.

  13. Andrew says:

    He still does not belong in the top 10. If you had to chose any closer, your telling me that he would be your third choice!

    Closing is an art in baseball. I understand he has been consistent. But this year especially, there has been many more closers more consistent than him. Like I said, he is lucky he still has his job. They were flirting with using Bard.

  14. carlito says:

    what about marmol? man, if that guy pitched for the padres, rays, giants, braves…

    he would be the best fantasy closer in baseball. his k numbers are better then some starters who have pitched 100 more innings.

  15. Sal says:

    Rotoprof, who would you rank as the top 5-10 set-up men that have a good chance of taking over a closers role during next year? I like to get relievers later in my drafts.
    And will you be coming up with 2011 starting pitcher rankings any time soon? Thanks

  16. Rotoprofessor says:

    Sal, I’m working on both of those things as we speak. Hopefully in the next week or two both will be posted, so keep checking back.

  17. Matt Perkins says:

    I really think this list should be expanded and be for relievers not just closers. So many leagues now reward for holds and a lot also value holds as much as saves. In which case Gregerson should be a targeted RP

    I’d like to know where people see guys like Tillman, Holland and Arrieta coming into next year. I myself think their all top 100 SPs but how far into the top 100 in keeper leagues would be the question since all have struggled so far.

    And please don’t be one of those fools who rank Strasburg over Kershaw when the 2011 SP list is done. Strasburg is overhyped and looks like he’s the second coming of Mark Prior. Already has his second injury in less than 100 major league innings.

  18. Rotoprofessor says:

    Matt, there will be a separate RP list, so we will get there.

    As for the three starting pitchers go, I’ll take a look comparing the three in the next week or two, trying to determine which has the most potential value for 2011.

  19. Kevin says:

    Soriano needs to be bumped way up that list.

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