The last in the series of my ranks this season. I’m going to skip the DH’s because I’m specifically not for targeting them. I don’t want a guy on my team who’s official position is “UTIL”. Jesus Montero is the lone exception to this rule since he is going to gain catcher eligibility at some point this season…so there. I just ranked the DH’s in this article too.
1. Jesus Montero
2. David Ortiz if you are desperate and he falls far enough in the draft.
On to the relief pitcher ranks. For the most part everyone on my list is a current closer, however there are a few guys who come up here that are setup men or middle relievers. They could be ranked because they are either strikeout machines, next in line for the closer role if the guy ahead falters, or in the case of two of them, both.
Complete ranks can be found on my Google Spreadsheet here. Player notes after the “read more”…
I have John Axford ranked #1. 46 Saves last year and only blew 2. He was over 10 K/9 and cut down on his walks by 3%. He also picked up speed on his fastball and averaged that at 95.5 mph. His fastball, slider and curve all grade out as plus pitches. He increased his First pitch strike rate by over 3% from the prior year. The Brewers may not have Prince anymore, but they are still a competitive team and Axford isn’t in any danger of losing his job soon
Ryan Madson is 2nd with his new team in Cinci. No stranger to playing in hitter friendly parks, Madson is the man with his new team and no longer has to worry about aging veterans taking his job from him with one slip up like he did in Philly. Over a strikeout per inning and one of the lowest HR/FB rates given up by any pitcher on this list, Madson’s talent is for real. He is experiencing some elbow soreness this spring, but he’s also said it’s something he has dealt with in springs prior. If he isn’t worried, I’m not either.
Craig Kimbrel comes in next, and after a spectacular rookie season, rightly so. He had his fair share of rookie struggles, and despite a forgettable September (for him and the Braves) he actually pitched better in the 2nd half than the 1st. I would expect the strikeout rate to come down some, but so should the walks.
Mariano Rivera needs no introduction. Best closer of all time. So what if he’s old? I’m not betting against him anytime soon.
Skipping down some we come to the 9th ranked pitcher, Raphael Betancourt. He wasn’t the closer last year so he isn’t on everyone’s radar, but with Colorado moving Houston Street to Sand Diego Betancourt’s value is through the ceiling. He posted K/BB ratios the last two years of 11.13 and 9.13. Absolutely ridiculous. His WHIP’s the last two seasons were 0.96 and 0.87. I would not be shocked to see him finish ranked in the top 5 of closers this year.
Kenley Jansen isn’t the Dodger’s closer…yet. I’m convinced he will be at some point, and I am more than willing to draft him and wait it out based on his 16.1 K/9 last year. His 2.85 ERA last year was accompanied by a 1.74 FIP and 2.09 xFIP, generally a good sign.
Joakim Soria is ranked 11th here, but in actually, shouldn’t be drafted by anyone. Since these rankings were made he has been experiencing elbow pain that is scaring even him, and there is talk he will probably need another TJ surgery.
Don’t be alarmed by Heath Bell’s supposed decline in strikeouts last year. K/9 can usually be inflated by high BABIP’s. In 2010 he posted an 11.06 K/9 with a .322 BABIP. In 2011 they were 7.32 and .261. We care about K % which went from 30% to 19.9%…wait… OK… maybe worry some.
The thing I love most about Jordan Walden is his delivery. He pushes so hard off the rubber he jumps. He would be ranked higher on this list if he didn’t have Scocia for a manager. I feel like he is a bit of an over manager, which is really hard to do in the AL. As for Walden’s actual ability, he hovers around that strikeout per inning mark but I’d like to see him get his walks down some. I want my relievers to be a boon to my WHIP. Walden’s career 1.26 is a little high for my liking.
I’m not touching Joe Nathan with a 10 foot pole.
Jose Valverde being ranked so low isn’t necessarily a knock on his ability but more of an advisement to let someone else over pay for a really really good season.
Chris Perez will not hold the closer job all year, and has been hurt all spring. Vinnie Pestano is the handcuff here. 12 K/9 with a low BABIP to boot. 1.05 WHIP last season is much more friendly to my team blueprint.
Brandon League, Huston Street, Frank Francisco… saves are saves, right?
Tyler Clippard, Johny Venters, Addison Reed, Sean Marshall, Mike Adams… all guys that aren’t closing, but could get chances at some point, but all post strikeout numbers worthy of late round draft picks and players that can pad the ERA and WHIP for your rosters. If your league counts Holds, even better.