Early Top 10′s for 2011: Closers

San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Brian Wilson (38) reacts to making an out in the 9th inning against the Atlanta Braves during Game 2 of their MLB National League Division Series baseball playoff game in San Francisco, California October 8, 2010. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith  (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)
The closer carousel can be a fun and painful ride. Whether you like to grab some studs early on or wait for bargains later in the draft, one thing is for certain. There will be plenty of turnover once again in 2011.
 
1. Brian Wilson SF – Fear the beard…and also his top-notch K/BB numbers should he shave the beard, which would be awful.
 
2. Heath Bell SD – Steady as he goes.
 
3. Joakim Soria KC – The Mexicutioner continues to be one of the elite closers in the game.
 
4. Mariano Rivera NYY – A big drop in strikeout rate is a little concerning and he’ll be 41 in 2011. Still, he continues to saw bats in half and keep the ball on the ground or hit weakly in the air.
 
5. Neftali Feliz TEX – Command has been great as a reliever to go with a solid strikeout rate. His one negative is a high fly ball rate, which is risky in Texas.
 
6. Rafael Soriano FA – The only worry here is an extremely low .212 BABIP in 2010 with a drop in strikeout rate. However, his command was spot on.
 
7. Carlos Marmol CHC – Insanely good strikeout rate (16 K/9) masked a very high walk rate (6 BB/9). Any regression in strikeouts could lead to more trouble in 2011 and a higher ERA/WHIP.
 
 
9. Jonathan Broxton LAD – Even with a late season collapse, Broxton still has new manager Don Mattingly’s confidence. Perhaps the combined 82.2 innings from 2009 (including the playoffs) can help explain his drop in velocity in 2010 and lead to a bounce-back season in 2011.
 
10. Francisco Rodriguez NYM – Before he decided to lay a beat-down on his father-in-law, K-Rod was having a fine season, cutting down on a worrisome walk rate in the process. He’ll be back with the Mets in 2011 and back closing out games as a mid-tier fantasy option.
 
10a. Matt Thornton CWS – Bobby Jenks may not be out the door just yet, but it seems as though the White Sox brass are showing him the way. Thornton was arguably one of the best relievers in the bigs last season. Imagine his 2010 numbers with 35 saves attached to them.
 
Injury watch
 
Joe Nathan MIN – Keep an eye on his velocity this spring as he is aiming to be able to perform in all normal activities by then.
 
Andrew Bailey OAK - Missed some time with injury in 2010, specifically an elbow problem that ended his season. There was no structural damage in the elbow and he should be ready to go by spring training. 
 
Potential sleepers
 
Jonny Venters/Craig Kimbrel ATL – With Billy Wagner calling it a career, I could see either of these two taking over ninth inning duties and either doing a fine job. Venters was with the big club longer and has better control, but Kimbrell is right-handed and has the highest strikeout potential. My gut says Kimbrell ends up with the most saves in 2011.
 
Joel Hanrahan PIT – For the past three seasons, Hanrahan has seen a progression in his strikeout rate. In 2010, he improved his walk rate as well. If he can continue to limit his walks, he can turn himself into a solid number two fantasy closer.
 
Sam Demel ARI – Though his ERA wasn’t pretty in 2010, Demel posted a solid 8 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 37 innings with the D-Backs. There aren’t many good options in Arizona’s bullpen, so Demel is a good spring training away from taking the closers job in 2011.
 
Jordan Walden LAA – The Angels have Fernando Rodney, but he’s turrble. I’ve liked Kevin Jepsen in the past, but Jordan Walden may be the real sleeper here. A highly ranked prospect as a starter, Walden struggled with consistency and was moved to a permanent bullpen role this past season. Upon his call-up to the big leagues he struck out 23 in 15.1 innings with a blazing 100 mph heater and a slider.