Closer is an important spot on any fantasy baseball roster, but you should avoid spending too much on draft day, because as many as a third of Opening Day closers are replaced by the end of each season. RotoBaller says to keep an eye on the setup men that sit behind some of the shakier or more injury-prone guys, and you could score a huge waiver-wire victory by beating other fantasy baseball managers to the punch on the guy who will be getting those save opportunities going forward.
As much as I love Mariano Rivera, the facts are that he is 43 years old and coming off ACL surgery. Even if he stays healthy for the entire season, he's going to need days off. Robertson has clearly passed Joba Chamberlain as the Yankees' choice for save opportunities when Rivera isn't available. I like him to save 10 games this season and become the full-time closer next year as the Yanks let Joba walk. Robertson is a must for keeper leagues and I wouldn't rule out a trade involving Chamberlain that could line him up for some saves elsewhere.
9. Joaquin Benoit (DET)
Bruce Rondon is a flamethrower and should start the year as the Tigers' closer. That said, the club has been actively pursuing other avenues, showing their distrust in him. The problem is that he doesn't throw nearly enough strikes right now to be effective in the ninth-inning role. Unless he figures things out soon, Jimmy Leyland will have no choice but to look for a more reliable option. That option could be veteran Joaquin Benoit who rarely has a bad year and usually sports a WHIP around 1.10 with more than 1.0 K/IP.
8. Mark Melancon (PIT)
Melancon has been tabbed “closer of the future” for three teams so far in his short career and he really hasn't lived up to the hype. If you look past a dreadful ERA in 2012, he actually had pretty good numbers, and moving to the NL Central will definitely help him as well. Jason Grilli was spectacular last year and has the stuff to close, but you never can tell how a 36-year-old career setup
man will perform in the role of closer. If Grilli can’t hack it, Melancon is your man.
7. Sean Marshall (CIN)
Although the Reds signed Jonathan Broxton to a sizeable new deal, he's still not the dominant pitcher he once was. Marshall has already proven he can close games and with Aroldis Chapman moving to the rotation, he is the clear choice to close in the event that Broxton falters. The only red flag with Marshall is that he is left handed. I wonder if the Reds would go to a RHP at times for better ninth-inning match ups.
6. Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard (WAS)
Boy, that Washington bullpen is solid. I’m not listing these two players because I think Rafael Soriano will fail. I’m listing them because they have both been successful closers in the past, and when teams around the league start losing their closers, or realizing that their bullpens stink, the Nats will begin to get calls about Storen and Clippard. I could also see the Nats in a position where trading a reliever for another piece to the puzzle could put them over the top in the NL East.
Bobby Parnell is as shaky as they come. His stuff is awesome, but whenever he is put into the ninth inning role, things fall apart. Frank Francisco is out indefinitely with an injury, so my guess is that the Mets would turn to the the veteran Lyon to close out games if Parnell is ineffective. He's not lights out, but he knows how to finish games and has faced the pressure before.
4. Kelvin Herrera (KC)
Greg Holland did a pretty decent job as the Kansas City closer last year, but he did blow 4 of 20 save opportunities. He is still a relatively unproven commodity, and if he struggles early, the Royals may look to Herrera, who was lights-out in his rookie campaign. The 23-year-old Herrera is a converted starter who sports a 100 mph fastball and the demeanor to close.
3. Anyone in Houston's Bullpen (HOU)
This is going to be a fluid situation all year. The one thing I am sure of is that Jose Veras will not be the closer for long. He has pretty good stuff, but has never thrown enough strikes in his career. Look for names like Rhiner Cruz and Wesley Wright to get in the ninth-inning mix, but don't rule out anyone in the Houston bullpen form receiving a chance.
Houston Street is a damned good closer when healthy, but he's injured fairly often. In the last three seasons, Street has spent a bunch of time on the DL, and he hasn’t saved 30 games since 2009. In the event that he gets injured again, Luke Gregerson will be there to pick up the pieces, and he is a very capable replacement. In 280 major league relief innings, Gregerson has allowed only 228 hits and has struck out 288 batters. His career WHIP of 1.11 and ERA of 2.92 are a very respectable and downright closer-worthy.
1. David Hernandez (ARI)
While J.J. Putz has been rock-solid for the D-Backs, he makes a lot of money and will hit free agency at the end of next season. Arizona will no doubt look into moving him before the trade deadline, opening the door for Hernandez, who has been stellar in the setup role for the last two seasons. In his 137 IP in Arizona, Hernandez has allowed only 97 hits while striking out 175 batters. Those are solid closer numbers.
And if you've missed them, be sure to also check out RotoBaller.com's other pre-season 2013 fantasy baseball positional rankings for more in-depth analysis:
- Catcher - Fantasy Baseball Rankings (C)
- First Base - Fantasy Baseball Rankings (1B)
- Second Base - Fantasy Baseball Rankings (2B)
- Third Base - Fantasy Baseball Rankings (3B)
- Shortstop - Fantasy Baseball Rankings (SS)
- Outfield - Fantasy Baseball Rankings (OF)
- Starting Pitcher - Fantasy Baseball Rankings (SP)
- Closers - Fantasy Baseball Rankings (RP)