Setup Men


RotoAuthority Rankings 2014: Closers

As you certainly recall, we’ve recently dug into a number of different position rankings for hitters (including Outfield, Catcher, First Base, Second Base, and Third Base – with Shortstop rankings to arrive on Saturday). Now it’s time for Closers to get a little love. Like the rest of the RotoAuthority rankings, we’ll break down the position into tiers with some extra attention to sleepers and setup guys. Unlike Opening Day, we won’t make you wait any longer…

Tier 1 – Top Guns

1. Craig Kimbrel

2. Kenley Jansen

3. Aroldis Chapman

4. Greg Holland

The top tier features four excellent closers with high-end career strikeout rates (Kimbrel – 15.1 K/9, Jansen – 14.0, Chapman – 14.7 K/9, Holland – 12.3). With 163 combined saves last season, each one of these guys can give you a serious advantage in the relief pitcher department week-to-week. Many will place Kimbrel in a tier all by himself, and perhaps rightfully so, but I think that Jansen, Chapman, and Holland will give him a run for his money in 2014.

Tier 2 – Next Best Thing

5. Koji Uehara

6. Joe Nathan

7. Trevor Rosenthal

8. Casey Janssen

9. Jim Johnson

10. Glen Perkins

Uehara had an outstanding end to 2013 and might be among the game’s best. If he can prove that his 2013 numbers aren’t a flash-in-the-pan (1.09 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, 12.2 K/9, 21 saves), he’ll be pushing Kimbrel with the rest of the top tier. Nathan has been consistent (340 saves over the last 10 years) and should keep the Joe Show going in Detroit. Rosenthal will have to prove that last season was not a fluke (2.63 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 12.9 K/9) and he can handle the ninth before moving up the rankings. Janssen, Johnson, and Perkins are all consistent enough to round out the top 10 for the fickle closer position.

Tier 3 – On the Cusp of Top-Notch

11. David Robertson

12. Jonathan Papelbon

13. Jason Grilli

14. Sergio Romo

15. Ernesto Frieri

16. Rafael Soriano

17. Grant Balfour

18. Steve Cishek

Robertson will inherit the ninth after Mariano Rivera’s departure and has outstanding numbers as a setup guy (2.04 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 10.4 K/9 last season). If he can keep these numbers up, he’ll perform admirably in Mariano’s stead and be a draft day gem. Although Papelbon seemingly struggled last season, he still posted good numbers (2.92 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 29 saves) and should have another good year. Grilli provides strong value this season and was a dominant closer most of last season (2.70 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 13.3 K/9, 33 saves) despite missing time due to injury.

Tier 4 – Steady Eddies

19. Addison Reed

20. John Axford

21. Huston Street

22. Jim Henderson

23. Fernando Rodney

24. Bobby Parnell

Without being too flashy, this tier is dependable if you’ve decided to wait at closer. Axford might return to form and move up a tier before the season’s end. Rodney is closing for the new look Mariners and could have plenty of save opportunities. If Parnell can stay healthy for 2014, he’ll provide some great value later in drafts.

Tier 5 – Position Battles & Closer Sleepers

25. Jose Veras

26. Tommy Hunter

27. LaTroy Hawkins

28. Neftali Feliz

29. Nate Jones

30. Chad Qualls

31. Mark Melancon

32. Rex Brothers

33. Jesse Crain

34. Danny Farquhar

35. Joakim Soria

Unlike the above tiers, this one if chock full of potential and uncertainty. Jose Veras will regain the ninth as closer for the Cubbies and Tommy Hunter seems to have won the closer gig in Baltimore. Hawkins might eventually lose his job to Rex Brothers, but the Rockies are paying him to be their closer on Opening Day. While Jesse Crain may eventually own the job in Houston (out until April with injury), Chad Qualls should be the first to have it in 2014. Neftali Feliz and Nate Jones would both be ranked higher if either were officially named closer.

Tier 6 – Setup Guys

36. Darren O’Day

37. Tyler Clippard

38. Cody Allen

39. Pedro Strop

40. J.J. Putz

41. Matt Lindstrom

42. Joaquin Benoit

43. Brad Ziegler

44. Tanner Scheppers

45. Sergio Santos

46. Daniel Webb

47. Brian Wilson

48. Jose Valverde

49. Francisco Rodriguez

This grab bag tier features a number of names you’ve seen before and some that are fairly new to the scene. Clippard and Allen are both elite setup men that could steal a few saves. Strop, Benoit, and Santos also provide tremendous value as setup men and can be useful in several fantasy formats (especially those that count holds). Putz and Ziegler are speculative picks that could pan out if there’s a closer competition in Arizona. Other wild cards include former closer studs Wilson, Valverde, and K-Rod.

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



Closer Updates: Indians, Brewers, Rockies, Mets, Cubs, Dodgers, Rays

It was a more eventful week in the ninth inning than last week, as two teams lost their closers to the DL (and another nearly joined them). There was good news, however, and more of it, as several more closers around the league stregthened their footing as stopper. Or, at least they watched their competitors falter....

Indians

Chris Perez hit the DL with "mild tendonitis" and will be replaced by Vinnie Pestano for the time being. Fantasy pundits have been recommending for the last couple years that Cleveland make this move, though Perez might actually have been outpitching his understudy this season. While Pestano claims to have found the mechanical flaw that has kept his velocity down (and his ERA over 5.00), Perez doesn't have a timetable yet. There's nothing to indicate that it will be a long DL stay...but nothing to assure us it will be short, either. Pestano is a good option, even as a short-termer, so he's well worth picking up.

Brewers

Just when Milwaukee fans thought they finally had their ninth innings locked down with Jim Henderson's sub-1.00 ERA he goes on the DL. Ouch. Literally, as he's got a pulled hamstring. So far, word is that it isn't serious and that the DL stint is mostly so that the team can't give into the temptation to rush him back. I don't blame them: their fill-in options don't inspire much confidence, unless you believe John Axford's got the magic back from 2011 or Francisco Rodriguez does from 2006. The Brewers say they'll do the committee thing in Henderson's absence, but I'm betting that K-Rod gets the majority of the opportunities.

Rockies

We had a bit of a frenzy to add Rex Brothers last week, when it looked like Rafael Betancourt was going on the DL, but that ended up not being much of a thing. Of course, Betancourt immediately went and blew a save, but that doesn't change anything in the Colorado bullpen hierarchy, so don't get worried.

Update: Betancourt just hit the DL and Brothers will be taking care of the closer's duties. So pick him up if you still can.

Mets

Bobby Parnell didn't have much to worry about in the Mets' closing job, but now he has even less, as Frank Francisco is now on the 60-day DL. If you had stashed him in the hope that he'd come back and steal the job, it's time to let that dream die.

Cubs

Kevin Gregg should never be considered "one of the most secure closers," but he really is at this point. Not only has he been lights-out (weird), but Kyuji Fujikawa will be having Tommy John surgery, so there goes basically his whole Cubs contract. When manager Dale Sveum was asked what he thought about Carlos Marmol closing again, he responded, "I hope not." So he's not likely to threaten Gregg's job.

Dodgers

Brandon League looked just about ready to cede his job to, well, anyone else, not that long ago, but he's in better shape now. He's locked down five consecutive scoreless outings and is up to 11 saves. His overall numbers aren't awesome, but there definitely seems to be a desire to keep him in the ninth instead of Kenley Jansen--who hasn't earned a save in two weeks. So long as League is just good enough not to demote, expect him to keep his job. That probably goes for manager Don Mattingly too, which is good news if you own League. Any new manager could make an easy splash by changing closers. So hang on to League if you've got him, but Jansen is still too good and too close to the job not to be owned in all fantasy formats.

Rays

Fernando-mania 2.0 seemed ready to fizzle out for good with Fernando Rodney being so inneffective of late. He's now gone four straight scoreless outings (and three straight walkless) so things are looking up. His overall numbers are still ugly (5.40 ERA, 19 BB in 21.7 IP) but they weren't bad enough for him to lose the job before and they won't be now while he's on a hot streak. Sure, he may lose the job if he gets into trouble, but the Rays have a lot invested in keeping him installed in the ninth, as their other options are not inspiring. He'll be given the chance to right the ship, which is great news if you own him, as you've probably got a lot invested in him too. If he does falter, Joel Peralta is the most likely replacement.

Add-Vice

Vinnie Pestano is a must-add right now. While Chris Perez is probably not going to be out very long, you can never be sure. Plus, Pestano is a good enough pitcher that the Indians may decide that he's a better guy to have in the ninth anyway. Francisco Rodriguez is a good pickup too, as he's most likely to benefit from Jim Henderson's absence. Beyond those two, Joel Peralta is still a decent speculative guy if you don't believe in Rodney, and the strikeouts Rex Brothers generates make him potentially useful even if Rafael Betancourt stays healthy all season.



Closer Updates: Orioles, Rays, Dodgers, Nationals, Rockies, Red Sox, Angels

As you can see from the title, there's been a little bit of closer news this week, so we'll get right down to business. Speaking of which, check out @CloserNews for up-to-the-minute info. Also, take a look at our Closer Depth Chart for a league-wide overview of the ninth inning. But anyway, on to business.

Orioles

Jim Johnson didn't have his best week ever. Three consecutive blown saves are enough to cost many closers their job, but Johnson earned his leash last year and manager Buck Showalter trusted him enough to hand him the ball in extra innings. Johnson earned the win, and there seems to be good reason to think this rough patch was just that and not a sign of impending doom.

For one thing, while his HR/9 rate and his HR/FB rate are much higher now than last year, a reliever's sample size is so small that that includes a whopping three homers allowed, two of which came during his three blown saves in a row. Moreover, while his BB/9 rate has also increased, it was already so low that it had wiggle room. Since his K/9 has increased since last year as well, he still maintains a 3.00 K/BB and is adding value with nearly two extra strikeouts per nine. All in all, he doesn't look like someone about to go Axford on us.

Rays

Speaking of impending doom and John Axford, Fernando Rodney appears to be turning into the proverbial pumpkin. His magical season last year has rightly earned him a lot of room for error, but at some point even that will have to be considered used up. Rodney has had bad results recently: he's blown three of his last four saves and looked bad doing it. Rodney has a bad process: his 8.35 BB/9 is rough to look at, let alone experience in the ninth inning. Not only is it worse than the sparkly but unbelievable 1.81 mark he put up last year, it's worse than any of the once-and-again wildman's previous ML rates, including the one that got him demoted by the Angels in 2011. Unless he gets his control under control, Rodney is probably on the way out of the ninth inning, at least temporarily.

Setup man Joel Peralta has gotten the most mention as a possible replacement, while neither Jake McGee nor Kyle Farnsworth have been obviously better than Rodney. Don't expect the Rays to go out of the organization, but don't be shocked if they do opt for a committee.

Dodgers

 The great and tragic drama of Brandon League and Kenley Jansen continues to play itself out, as manager Don Mattingly won't commit to "annointing" a closer. I guess that's technically a demotion for League, as he had already been annointed as closer (which apparently makes you some type of king by fiat). It's mitigated good news for Jansen owners and plenty of reason to pick him up if he's still unowned. Perhaps more reason to grab Jansen is that Mattingly may well play things as close to "the book" as he can while he flails around trying to keep his job. If he is fired, expect the new manager to make the obvious choice and officially install Jansen in the ninth, if only to earn some cheap points with the masses. As this situation begins to resolve itself, you're probably safe to drop League in most (a-hem) leagues. 

Nationals

Rafael Soriano came into the year as a top closer, and his 2.14 ERA suggests he still is. Though he blew two saves in a row this week (and tossed teammate Bryce Harper under the bus after one of them), he's firmly entrenched as the Nats' closer. There's trouble under the hood, however, as Soriano's FIP is 3.41 and his xFIP an even worse 4.23--Soriano isn't really pitching all that well. Perhaps more pointedly, his K/9 is sitting at just 6.43--the worst since his rookie season in 2002. As a starter. Now, he's got plenty of time to ratchet up the K's, but it might be a good idea to sell him while his ERA still shines as well as it does. Though he's not in imminent danger of losing his job, these things can shift quickly and the Nationals have other quality options in their bullpen.

Rockies

First, the rumor was that Rafael Betancourt was going on the DL, now it's that he won't. The facts are that Betancourt is having a very nice season (albeit with too many walks) and won't be supplanted by a quick injury, DL trip or no. The other facts are that Rex Brothers is having an even better season (also with more walks than are preferable) and saved the game for Betancourt on Wednesday. While the 38-year-old Betancourt will probably be just fine, this isn't a bad time to add Brothers, just in case. It isn't every team that can replace their closer with someone pitching at least as well, but the Rockies are one of them. In the event something bad happens, Brothers would be a quality setup man. If all stays well, he's still a usable non-closer in many leagues.

Red Sox

Andrew Bailey is back from the DL and back into the closer's role. Sort of. The Red Sox won't use him on back-to-back nights for an while as they let their fragile pitcher reacclimate. That means that Junichi Tazawa (who wasn't exactly a useful pickup during Bailey's absence) may still have the chance to grab some saves--more, certainly, than most setup guys. Keep him rostered until the Sox show us that Bailey is ready for a full workload. Considering his 25:3 K:BB ratio and Bailey's tendency to get hurt, Tazawa remains one of the better setup men to keep on your team.

Angels

Bad news for Ryan Madson is good news for Ernesto Frieri. Frieri will need it, as he's issued a ton of walks (6.75 BB/9) in April and May. He strikes a lot of people out too, which is good, but his ERA (2.25) doesn't match his FIP (4.58) or his xFIP (4.71). As long as Madson keeps having setbacks, however, expect Frieri to keep getting the call in the ninth inning. At least until those walks start costing him saves....

Add-Vice

Obviously, Kenley Jansen should be owned in all leagues at this point. If you own Fernando Rodney, I'd strongly suggest picking Joel Peralta up as backup (though the Rays do unconventional things whenever given an excuse). In fact, he's the top guy out there as far as speculative closers. If Junichi Tazawa's owner dropped him when Andrew Bailey came back from the DL, pick Tazawa up as he's in a great save-vulturing position. The same is true for Rex Brothers, but less so. Everyone else seems to be staying the course for now, so there isn't any real need to gobble up Orioles, Nationals, or Angels setup guys.

 



2013 Position Rankings: Relief Pitchers

No position comes close to relievers when it comes to unpredictability. With their value tied so intrinsically to saves, and each pitcher throwing only a tiny sample of innings, it shouldn't really be a surprise to anyone when weird things happen: like Fernando Rodney being 2012's best reliever; like John Axford pitching badly enough to lose his job; like anything that happens when Carlos Marmol is on the mound. 

So how do you rank players that come with such an intense level of inherent variance? With caution. Waiting on closers and drafting multiple smei-competent back-enders has always been my plan at this position, and I see little reason to change. Great relievers fall suddenly, and nobodies rise to prominence just as quickly. The rounds into which the closers are tiered reflect my own closer-caution--unfortunately, some drafts won't let you play it so safe if you want to compete in saves, so consider the rounds looser guidelines than usual, even though the player groups stand just fine.

We're finished with the hitters; you can find ShortstopsThird BasemenSecond BasemenFirst BasemenCatchers, and  Outfielders at these links. Today's rankings come from a team discussion, featuring Tim Dierkes and the entire RotoAuthority staff and they cover all the closers, plus some of the most draftable setup guys. They're divided into groups of similar value, and tiered by where they deserve to be drafted in a standard league. If you're bidding in an auction, consider players in the same tier to be of similar price.

3rd Round

1. Craig Kimbrel, ATL

Kimbrel is so good that even I would consider taking him in the third, and I haven't taken a closer before the 10th in about five years. Those strikeouts pile on value; my only worry is that dominant relievers before him have fallen hard.

7th Round

2. Jonathan Papelbon, PHI

After Kimbrel, there is no one I would take over Papelbon, for the simple reason that he's been good for so long that his sample isn't all that small any more: we can safely conclude that he's a good pitcher. It doesn't hurt that the Phillies are paying him big stacks of cash and won't remove him from the job unless he turns into Heath Bell.

8th-9th Round

3. Mariano Rivera, NYY
4. Joe Nathan, TEX
5. Jason Motte, STL

Rivera's been so good for so long that only his injury keeps him this low on my list. It's not that I think he'll be the best closer out there, it's that I'm very confident that he'll be good--and keep his job. Nathan proved last year that his injuries are behind him; like Rivera, so is a long history of success. Motte is a lot lower on this list than most, but don't get me wrong: he has a higher fantasy ceiling than anyone above him (except Kimbrel), but his relative inexperience also tells me that he has a lower floor. Plus, his team isn't invested in him the way Nathan's, Rivera's, and Papelbon's are.

11th-12th Rounds

6. J.J. Putz, ARI
7. Rafael Soriano, WAS
8. John Axford, MIL
9. Fernando Rodney, TBR

Putz is rock solid--when healthy. Fortunately, David Hernandez is one likely backup, and he's worth rostering in a setup role. Unfortunately, Heath Bell is the other likely backup. Soriano should be great in saves and strikeouts, but his walks will keep his WHIP up and probably lead to the occasional blowup. Axford should rebound from a tough 2012 to be the high-K stopper we'd come to expect. Rodney's last season screams fluke...but what if it wasn't? I'm willing to take that chance, albeit not as early as mock drafters are.

13th-14th

10. Jason Grilli, PIT
11. Sergio Romo, SFG
12. Greg Holland, KCR
13. Tom Wilhelmsen, SEA
14. Rafael Betancourt, COL
15. Glen Perkins, MIN 

Grilli seems like he came out of nowhere, but he's put up two excellent seasons in a row, and has four straight years of increasing strikeout rates--a number that increased to 13.81 K/9 last year. Romo has serious questions about the health of his elbow, and the best-case scenario for him seems to be that other members of his bullpen vulture more saves than average. Holland and Williamsen rake in the strikeouts but play for mediocre teams. Also, their closing tenure has been short, so their leashes will be too. Betancourt would be a tier higher if he didn't play in Colorado. Perkins was excellent last year, but how many leads will the Twins' rotation be able to deliver?

15th-16th

16. Huston Street, SDP
17. Addison Reed, CHW
18. Jonathan Broxton, CIN
19. Jim Johnson, BAL
20. Grant Balfour, OAK
21. Chris Perez, CLE
22. Steve Cishek, MIA 

Street is a very good pitcher--when healthy, which isn't much of the time. Draft him expecting a DL stint. Reed flew under the radar a little, but was quite successful. Broxton didn't impress--especially with the strikeouts, but the Reds should hand him plenty of leads. Johnson was dynamite last year...but he doesn't get many strikeouts and this Orioles fan expects a bit of team regression. Balfour's overall numbers are pretty good, but he bounced in and out of the closer role. Oakland is an organization that isn't afraid to make changes or defy convention, which is great for them, but less than ideal for a fantasy closer. Perez was surprisingly competent last year, but his shaky history keeps our enthusiasm low. Cishek pitched well, but it probably wouldn't take much for the mercurial Marlins to make a change. Also, they might not be too good next year.

17th-18th

23. Joel Hanrahan, BOS
24. Bobby Parnell, NYM

Hanrahan's underlying numbers were pretty shaky last year, and I don't think Boston will hesitate to make a change if one is needed. They proved with Andrew Bailey that trading for someone doesn't mean he'll get a long leash. Parnell is looking more and more like the Mets' closer in camp. If he starts the season with the job, he'll have to really blow up to lose it to Frank Francisco.

19th-20th

25. Brandon League, LAD
26. Ernesto Frieri, LAA
27. Kenley Jansen, LAD
28. Jose Veras, HOU
29. Sergio Santos, TOR

League and Frieri are both slated to start the season closing for their Los Angeles teams. Both teams are expected to switch closers at some point in the year. For the Angels, that's the plan: switch to Ryan Madson. For the Dodgers, it's what you expect when Jansen is that much better than League. As far as what will really happen...I couldn't say at all. I can say, however, that I prefer to take the guy with the job in hand, because sometimes they don't let it go. Speaking of jobs in hand, that's what Veras has in Houston, and what Santos appears to be grabbing--to start the season--in Toronto.

Should any of these messy closer situations get fully straightened out by Opening Day, Frieri and Jansen would belong in the 13-14th tier, Santos and League in the 15th-16th tier.

21st-22nd

30. Casey Janssen, TOR
31. Ryan Madson, LAA
32. Carlos Marmol, CHC
33. Kyuji Fujikawa, CHC

Janssen and Madson haven't healed as expected and could be seeing their jobs slip away. Should they manage to gain a certain hold on their jobs before Opening Day, both would be worth taking among the 15th-16th tier.

Marmol will have the job as long as he's a Cub--how else to keep his trade value up? The bad news for anyone who drafts him is that the Cubbies might have him traded by Opening Day. If that happens, bump Fujikawa way up this list, as he won't have much competition for saves. I would take him around the 15th or 16th round.

23rd and Beyond

34. Joaquin Benoit, DET
35. Al Alburquerque, DET
36. Bruce Rondon, DET
37. Frank Francisco, NYM 

I don't know what will happen in Detroit's bullpen, but all three of these guys have a chance to close, and a chance to keep the job if they get it. Maybe Francisco will keep his job.

Quality Non-Closers 

38. Vinnie Pestano, CLE
39. David Hernandez, ARI
40. David Robertson, NYY
41. Luke Gregerson, SDP
42. Sean Marshall, CIN
43. Santiago Casilla, SFG
44. Ryan Cook, OAK
45. Andrew Bailey, BOS
46. Drew Storen, WAS
47. Johnny Venters, ATL
48. Mike Adams, PHI
49. Antonio Bastardo, PHI
50. Tyler Clippard, WAS
51. Jacob McGee, TBR
52. Trevor Rosenthal, STL
53. Koji Uehara, BOS 

Some of these guys have a decent shot to close, thanks to a shaky or injury-prone incumbent (Pestano, Hernandez, Robertson, Gregerson, Cook, Bailey, Uehara), while others might vulture some saves along the way (Casilla, Marshall). Some are just worth rostering on their skills alone (Bastardo, Storen). All of these guys are probably best left for deeper leagues.

This year's closer picture is murkier than it has usually been in the recent past. More teams have unresolved questions surrounding the back end of their bullpens: the Angels, Dodgers, Tigers, Mets, Blue Jays, and Cubs are all without a certain closer. Expect to get quite a few saves off the waiver wire, and in the meantime, draft a few backup closers. Your relievers don't have to be the best to get the most saves.





Site Map     Contact     About     Advertise     Privacy Policy     MLB Trade Rumors     Rss Feed