Top 15 Closers For 2011: Take Two

Is there any position that is more unpredictable than a team’s closer is?  No one would have expected Jonathan Broxton to lose his job in 2010, but that is exactly what happened.  You really just never know, so ranking them is extremely difficult.

With that said, let’s take a look at how I currently rank the Top 15 Closers for 2011:

  1. Heath Bell – San Diego Padres
  2. Brian Wilson – San Francisco Giants
  3. Joakim Soria – Kansas City Royals
  4. Neftali Feliz – Texas Rangers
  5. Mariano Rivera – New York Yankees
  6. Andrew Bailey – Oakland Athletics
  7. Jonathan Papelbon – Boston Red Sox
  8. Jonathan Broxton – Los Angeles Dodgers
  9. Francisco Rodriguez – New York Mets
  10. Carlos Marmol – Chicago Cubs
  11. Joe Nathan – Minnesota Twins
  12. Huston Street – Colorado Rockies
  13. Jose Valverde – Detroit Tigers
  14. J.J. Putz – Arizona Diamondbacks
  15. Chris Perez – Cleveland Indians


  • There is nothing concrete on who will close in Minnesota, but it is hard to imagine Nathan not getting the job.  Having missed the entire 2010 season it is easy to forget just how dominant of a force he was.   Upon arriving in Minnesota he instantly became their closer for six seasons.  His worst ERA was 2.70, the only time he was above 2.10.  His worst WHIP was 1.02, the only time he was above 0.98.  He never posted a K/9 below 9.67.  With players coming back from Tommy John surgery better than ever, there is no reason to shy away from him.  He could be the steal of the draft.
  • Will Neftali Feliz move to the rotation?  The rumors are that the Rangers will give him an opportunity to win a spot in Spring Training, but it is hard to believe, especially now that Frank Francisco is in Toronto.  I know they lost out on Cliff Lee, but why give up an advantage?  With Feliz in the ninth, it is an eight inning game. 
  • Broxton struggled in 2010, but he did still average 95.3 mph on his fastball.  He also had a significant amount of poor luck, with a BABIP of .369.  Can we really expect that to continue?  Don’t overlook how dominant he was in 2009 (2.61 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 13.50 K/9).  He should be fine in 2011.
  • Francisco Rodriguez is a huge wild card, but there is little question that he will open the year as the Mets closer.  If he makes it to the end with the job, however, is an entirely different question.  If the Mets are in contention (I know how crazy that sounds), they are going to stick with him.  If they fall out of it, would it be a surprise to see them try out an alternate, considering his vesting option is based on the number of games finished?  You may want to take advantage of him early but move him mid-year depending on the situation.
  • I know everyone loves Carlos Marmol due to the strikeout rate, but I would tread carefully.  His pathetic control almost makes him feel like a ticking time bomb.  You can walk over six batters per nine innings for only so long before it catches up to you.  We will discuss him in much more detail in the near future.

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Make sure to check out our 2011 rankings:


  1. Nick Tenaglia says:

    How much does job security and “non-trade-ability” factor in to these weightings, if at all?
    Example, Heath Bell could be traded mid-season, and unless he gets put into a perfect scenario, he would most likely become a setup man on a contending team (ie Yankees). The same thing applies to Huston Street and JJ Putz.
    Or in the case of Papelbon, the Sox have 2 potential closers in the bullpen (Bard and Jenks) that can take Pap’s place in the case that he struggles.
    Lastly, Bailey and Soria have great security and almost guaranteed to not be traded anytime soon, so does that give them a boost in the rankings?
    I mean closers are only being drafted for 1 stat – Saves. So depending on your league’s roster setup, if you know that you can secure 3 closers that are guaranteed to not lose their job and/or not be traded to a contender, then that’s all you’re looking for. A closer does not pitch enough innings to have the overall team WHIP or ERA be effective. I would rather take a closer with a 5.00 ERA and 1.7 WHIP that will get me 40 saves than a closer with a 2.00 ERA and 1.0 WHIP with 22 saves who then gets traded mid-season….

  2. Will Overton says:

    These are the Professor’s rankings and he’s out on vacation, so not sure when he’ll be able to respond.

    My thoughts though is that job security is a factor as it is related to effectiveness. That’s why I actually endorse drafting at least one top end closer that you know won’t be losing his job.

    Trade targets is hard to factor in though because it’s so unpredictable. People were hesitant to draft Heath Bell last year for that reason and now he’s the number one closer on these rankings. I also think he is to the point where if he gets traded he gets traded to someone who needs a closer, he’s to good not to be in that role.

    I also think closers can have a little more of an effect on our ERA and WHIP than we realize. I actually have an article that’ll be up this afternoon that talks about my take on strategies for drafting closers.

  3. carlito says:

    every publication i have read has marmol top has him top 5. most mocks have in the top 70. Here he is barely top 10.


  4. Kyle Johansen says:

    Good point on Heath Bell last season, but I do like Nick’s orginal point of job security being the top priority. The only problem is that how many of these guys really have that job security locked down?

    You mention Soria and Bailey and I agree with those two and would add Rivera, Wilson and Marmol to that list of most secured jobs.

    I definitely like the idea of locking down the closers with the most job security, but you’re going to have to pay dearly for that in the draft aren’t you? With so much save turnover, drafting one top guy and hoping another “secure” closer falls a bit may not be a bad strategy.

  5. will.overton says:

    Yeah, like I said, the Prof can answer for himself when he returns. But I have talked to him quite a bit about Marmol and I know he scares him because of his control issues.

    I don’t think he’s a top 5 closer personally, not yet, but I would probably have him a couple slots higher than 10 too.

  6. Kyle Johansen says:

    I know the Professor isn’t enamored with Marmol due to the BB-rate, but his 6.03 BB/9 last year was actual almost 2 walks lower than 2009. In 2007 and 2008 he was right around 4.5 BB/9, which is a lot more reasonable.

    Marmol is about as unique as they come when it comes to BB-rate and WHIP. Despite the massive amount of walks, he has only had a WHIP higher than the 1.185 last year once in the last four years. Batters simply do not get base hits off Marmol with any consistency. Last year batters hit .147 against him, in the past four years the highest mark is .167 BAA. With Marmol’s extreme strikeout and hit prevention skills used to strand runners, I think there is no chance Marmol loses his job and should continue to excel.

  7. Kyle Johansen says:

    One noticeable difference in Marmol’s stats last year was throwing a first pitch strike in 63% of at bats. This is up from 50% in 2009 and 49% in 2008, and I think this goes a long way in explaining how he was able to strikeout 16 batters per 9 IP.

  8. Turk99 says:

    Putz over lidge? Please elaborate.

  9. Kyle Johansen says:

    K/9 2010:
    Putz – 10.83
    Lidge – 10.25

    BB/9 2010:
    Putz – 2.50
    Lidge – 4.73

    When Putz was healthy for the Mariners he was consistently under 2 walks per 9, that separates him from Lidge.

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