I have a very strong opinion about closers in fantasy baseball, and that is they are the most overrated position in the game. Much like defenses in football, closers are very often drafted many rounds too soon. Relievers contribute little to most pitching stats, and there are often plenty of valuable options lower down the rankings. With that in mind, there is still great talent and depth when looking for saves. There are two obvious guys that go into the “elite” category, while the rest of the top 10 fills out nicely.
2014 Projections: 47 SV, 111 K, 1.66 ERA, 0.88 WHIP
Simply put, Kimbrel is the one closer who is worthy of his hype. He is an elite closer, and while I am one that hates to pay for saves, Kimbrel is worth taking in the 5th(ish) round if you have the chance. I don’t think anybody objects, right?
2014 Projections: 44 SV, 125 K, 2.28 ERA, 0.94 WHIP
I’m going to make a statement, and you have every right to disagree: “Aroldis Chapman is overrated.” He is pretty much unanimously ranked as the #2 closer in fantasy, but why is that? Yes, he gets strikeouts and has the devastating fastball, but that’s about it. He had 2.54 ERA last year and averaged more than a base runner per inning pitched. For reference, seven closers in the top 15 had a better WHIP than Chapman. I understand that I'm in the minority here and I wouldn't blame anybody for drafting him, but I don’t see the value in drafting him as early as he is ranked.
2014 Projections: 43 SV, 118 K, 2.41 ERA. 0.94 WHIP
Probably the rightful #2, the only thing that separates Jansen form Kimbrel is the array of sharks waiting to take his spot. The Dodgers and their blank-checkbook ways have acquired Brandon League, Brian Wilson and now Chris Perez in the bullpen; still, fantasy owners shouldn't worry about that, considering just how solid Jansen is. After officially taking the job from League last June, Jansen racked up 28 saves, and he will only grow from there. Additionally, he stayed completely healthy in 2013 after a heart issue cut his 2012 short.
4. Greg Holland
2014 Projections: 42 SV, 105 K, 1.99 ERA, 1.01 ERA
Most of Holland’s 2014 production will rely on Kansas City’s starters and offense providing save chances for the top-tier closer. Also a problem is that Holland has had trouble getting out of the gate, with a 7.04 April ERA in April that actually saw him lose the ninth-inning job for a bit in 2013 (which makes his 42 saves even more remarkable). Holland might be overvalued at #4, considering who he plays for, but if the young Royals team can find their footing this year, Holland will produce saves.
5. Jim Johnson
2014 Projections: 42 SV, 50 K, 2.92 ERA, 1.11 WHIP
After leading the league in saves the past two seasons in Baltimore, Johnson is arguably in a better place now with Oakland. An extreme groundball pitcher, he doesn’t rely on strikeouts to get him out of jams, and with a bigger home park in 2014, the Coliseum will hold in more long balls than Camden Yards did, thus leading to an improvement in Johnson's unimpressive 2.97 ERA in 2013.
6. Joe Nathan
2014 Projections: 42 SV, 67 K, 2.76 ERA, 1.02 ERA
Joe Nathan is sitting pretty as the closer on arguably one the best team in the majors. He’s not so bad himself, with a 2013 season during which he racked up 43 SV and a 0.90 WHIP against a less-than-stellar AL Central. While he is not likely to repeat those stellar numbers, the 39-year-old is making the most of the back end of his career, and he has ample opportunity to pick up saves in the Motor City.
7. Glen Perkins
2014 Projections: 39 SV, 74 K, 2.57 ERA, 1.05 WHIP
Simply put, Perkins is in a bad situation, as he is a great closer on a bad team. Minnesota will not contend this year, and will likely be battling with Chicago for 4th place in the AL Central. That said, the save chances will come, and Perkins will get them just as he did in 2013. Nobody is threatening his job, and even if he goes through a rough patch, will still get the necessary reps in the ninth inning.
8. Addison Reed
2014 Projections: 39 SV, 70K, 2.91 ERA, 1.10 WHIP
Reed has been part of a solid offseason for Arizona, who are slowly emerging as an NL West contender. He had a great 40-save season with the White Sox in 2013, and we should see his 3.79/1.11 ERA/WHIP improve in the NL. I like Reed for his stuff, but his problem could come from the D-Backs bullpen depth. With experienced closers Brad Ziegler and J.J. Putz both waiting, a small hiccup could force Kirk Gibson's hand as he faces an uphill battle against the Dodgers in the NL West.
2014 Projections: 37 SV, 86 K, 2.51 ERA, 1.03 WHIP
The defending NL Champs are in a nice spot, and so is Rosenthal. After Edward Mujica signed with Boston and with Jason Motte still recovering from Tommy John surgery, Rosenthal now has no serious contenders to take away his job. After dominating the 8th inning, Rosenthal showed he was just as dominant in the 9th towards the end of last season; he led St. Louis with four saves and 11.2 scoreless innings in the playoffs. His one downfall is inexperience-- this will be his first year as a starting closer, and he's still just 24 years old. Motte is projected to be back around the middle of the year, but Rosenthal still has the ability and the supporting cast put up elite closer numbers.
10. Sergio Romo
2014 Projections: 37 SV, 70, 2.57 ERA, 0.98 WHIP
Like a lot of closers on this list, Romo’s save total will be skewed based on how the Giants play in 2014. After taking the 9th inning from Brian Wilson, Romo showed he is capable of being a quality 9th-inning option in his own right. With the Dodgers and Diamondbacks looking to be the favorites of the division heading into Opening Day, Romo can produce some saves, and if San Francisco can go on a run, he might well overproduce and represent a nice mid-round steal.
That's it for now. Follow @RotoBaller and me @JustBerglund for all your fantasy baseball news and insights.