Here are my updated closer rankings for 2011 fantasy baseball. Players that moved from the prior rankings are shown with an up or down arrow, with relevant notes about the change. Also make sure to check out the AL Tiers and NL Tiers of Relief Pitching for detail on how I came up with the original rankings.
Mariano Rivera is on schedule for another productive season, although the presence of Rafael Soriano could mean less work than in the past, and much fewer four and five-out saves.
Carlos Marmol is a risk because of his checkered history, but he’s still nasty. Hence, he’s worth the risk. And he’s looked good this spring.
Neftali Feliz is still unsure of what his role will be with Texas. The informed opinion is that a starting pitcher has more value than a closer (especially in fantasy), although some “classic” baseball minds might disagree. If Feliz ends up as a starter – a decision that could come later this week – Alexi Ogando is probably the best ninth-inning option for the Rangers. Either way, Feliz has plenty of fantasy value.
Brian Wilson underwent an MRI on Saturday which revealed a mild strain of his left oblique muscle, a situation that could land him on the DL to start the season. He felt the injury during his most recent appearance Thursday against the Angels. I’ve dropped him to the second tier as a result. Stay tuned.
A week after Andrew Bailey walked off the mound clutching his elbow, the diagnosis isn’t nearly as bleak as first proposed. Dr. James Andrews, who cleaned up Bailey’s elbow in September, said it’s just torn scar tissue and a forearm strain. While it looks as if he’ll throw later in the week and could be ready by Opening Day, he’s clearly an injury risk in 2011. The A’s primary backup is Brian Fuentes, so… do with that what you want. I don’t like the guy.
Because of fears surrounding his return from last season’s Tommy John surgery and a possible closer time-share with Matt Capps, Joe Nathan could be the most underrated closer in baseball this season. He retired all six batters he faced during a minor league game Monday, and while there’s chatter about a split of the closing duties, I think that’s just speculative rubbish. Nathan’s the guy.
Francisco Cordero has thrown four consecutive scoreless innings in spring training, but he’ll have a tight leash with Aroldis Chapman in the same bullpen. The veteran reliever showed up to camp in much better shape, possibly because he knows his job hangs in the balance.
Craig Kimbrel’s shaky start has led to speculation that the Braves will, in fact, split closing duties between Kimbrel, a righty, and Jonny Venters, a hard-throwing southpaw. If they were both righties, I’d think this plan was ridiculous, but I’m of the opinion that the best guy for the moment should be in the game in those situations, so a lefty-righty split makes sense. There’s still a chance one guy emerges and takes the job, but for now, it’d be wise to keep them close in your rankings, and down in this tier.
Kevin Gregg has struggled this spring, trying out some new mechanics that didn’t work out. He’s still the team’s closer, and with Koji Uehara battling elbow discomfort, the job could eventually go to Mike Gonzalez. Personally, I think Gonzalez is the best man for the job.
Aroldis Chapman will open the season in the bullpen, but the Reds still envision him as a future starter. Walt Jocketty admits that while the fireballer could be a top-of-the-rotation guy, he’s also a possible closer. He’s not a setup guy, so look for him to move in one direction or the other as soon as June.
With the breaking news of the Brian Wilson injury, Sergio Romo vaults to the top of Tier 5. He’d be a great late-round snag in deeper leagues, and I’d spend a few extra bucks on him in NL-only leagues.
Kyle Farnsworth is still the apparent closer in Tampa Bay, but Jake McGee is listed on the World Wide Leader’s closer chart as the first-stringer. While I don’t trust ESPN, I do trust these guys.