Positional Ranks: Closer

If you think starting pitchers are volatile from year to year, just look at the change in closer rankings.  Throughout the season I’ll be keeping track of the closer carousel in a series I like to call, “Death, Taxes and Closer Turnover” or “DT/CT” for short.  For now we have drafts to prepare for and closers to draft.  Here is the FB365 closer rankings broken down into tiers.  Keep in mind that I will be doing a separate article focusing on “setup men” later on. 
 

Tier one

 
1. Joe Nathan
2. Jonathan Papelbon
 
I wouldn’t be surprised if Papelbon starts next season as the number one guy, but Nathan’s great track record keeps him at number one for now.
 
Tier two
 
3. Jonathan Broxton
4. Mariano Rivera
5. Joakim Soria
6. Andrew Bailey
 
Broxton, Rivera and Soria are all close to being top tier arms, but there are small question marks with each that keep them out.  Broxton’s walk rate, Rivera’s age and Soria’s past rotator cuff soreness.  Andrew Bailey should continue to thrive in his bullpen role given his strong K/BB rate.
 
Tier three
 
7. Brian Wilson
8. Heath Bell
 
Both Wilson and Bell had breakout season’s in 2009 and should continue to build on that in 2010. 
 
Tier four
 
9. Carlos Marmol
10. Francisco Rodriguez
11. Francisco Cordero
12. Rafael Soriano
13. Jose Valverde
14. Houston Street
15. Kerry Wood
16. Chad Qualls
17. Brian Fuentes
18. Trevor Hoffman
 
This is where things get a little crazy.  Marmol at the top of the list may be surprising, but remember that his 2009 season started with the WBC, which certainly affects some players.  His walk rate should improve in 2010, making his strikeout rate even more impressive.  Francisco Rodriguez suffered from leaving the Angels “ultimate save system”, but some of his pain was also self-inflicted.  His walk rates over the last few seasons have been nothing to brag about and in 2009 his BB/9 ballooned to over five per nine.  He’s more BB-Rod than K-Rod these days.  Kerry Wood needs a simple adjustment in control to get back on track.  The two arms at the end of this tier (Fuentes and Hoffman) are both getting older and losing some stuff.  There are plenty of backup plans in Anaheim, so buyer be ware.
 
Tier five
 
19. Mike Gonzalez
20. Scott Downs/Jason Frasor
21. Bobby Jenks
22. Brad Lidge
23. David Aardsma
24. Frank Francisco
25. Billy Wagner
26, Ryan Franklin
27. Matt Capps
28. Octavio Dotel
 
Scott Downs looks like he could become the next B.J. Ryan given full health.  David Aardsma may seem a bit low here, but his 4.29 BB/9 last season is not only unimpressive, but it was his career best as well.  Regression seems likely. Similar to Brian Fuentes’ situation in Anaheim, Aardsma has some competition ready to take his job.  Frank Francisco also features little job security.  C.J. Wilson and Chris Ray may want the closer duties, but if Texas’ Rotation can solidify itself I wouldn’t be surprised to see Neftali Feliz snag the job by mid-season.  Billy Wager’s injury concerns and age are too much for me to rank him higher.  Ryan Franklin is a middle reliever in closer’s clothing.
 
Tier six
 
29. Leo Nunez
30. Matt Lindstrom
31. Brandon Lyon
 
Unimpressive strikeout rates make Leo Nunez a risky pick.  The closer situation in Houston may take a while to work itself out, but I’ll take Lindstrom over Lyon.  Why no love for Brandon Lyon?  See: Franklin, Ryan.
 
The Master List
 
1. Joe Nathan
2. Jonathan Papelbon
3. Jonathan Broxton
4. Mariano Rivera
5. Joakim Soria
6. Andrew Bailey
7. Brian Wilson
8. Heath Bell
9. Carlos Marmol
10. Francisco Rodriguez
11. Francisco Cordero
12. Rafael Soriano
13. Jose Valverde
14. Houston Street
15. Kerry Wood
16. Chad Qualls
17. Brian Fuentes
18. Trevor Hoffman
19. Mike Gonzalez
20. Scott Downs
21. Bobby Jenks
22. Brad Lidge
23. David Aardsma
24. Frank Francisco
25. Billy Wagner
26, Ryan Franklin
27. Matt Capps
28. Octavio Dotel
29. Leo Nunez
30. Matt Lindstrom
31. Brandon Lyon