Update Closer Rankings – Brian Wilson Injury Concerns

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.

Rank Player Team
Tier 1
1 Heath Bell SD
2 Joakim Soria KC
3 Mariano Rivera NYY
4 Carlos Marmol CHC
5 Neftali Feliz TEX
  • 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.
Rank Player Team
Tier 2
6 Brian Wilson SF
7 Jonathan Papelbon BOS
8 Jonathan Broxton LAD
9 Andrew Bailey OAK
10 John Axford MIL
  • 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.
Rank Player Team
Tier 3
11 Francisco Rodriguez NYM
12 Joe Nathan MIN
13 Jose Valverde DET
14 Matt Thornton CHW
15 Huston Street COL
16 J.J. Putz ARI
17 Chris Perez CLE
18 Brad Lidge PHI
19 Drew Storen WAS
20 Francisco Cordero CIN
  • 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.
Rank Player Team
Tier 4
21 Ryan Franklin STL
22 Daniel Bard BOS
23 Rafael Soriano NYY
24 Brandon League SEA
25 Aroldis Chapman CIN
26 Craig Kimbrel ATL
27 Jonny Venters ATL
28 Joel Hanrahan PIT
29 Leo Nunez FLA
30 Frank Francisco TOR
31 David Aardsma (injured) SEA
32 Brandon Lyon HOU
33 Fernando Rodney LAA
34 Kevin Gregg BAL
35 Matt Capps MIN
  • 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.
Rank Player Team
Tier 5
36 Sergio Romo SF
37 Kyle Farnsworth TB
38 Hong-Chih Kuo LAD
39 Chris Sale CHW
40 Jake McGee TB
41 Evan Meek PIT
42 Luke Gregerson SD
43 Kenley Jansen LAD
44 Joaquin Benoit DET
45 Ryan Madson PHI
46 Koji Uehara BAL
47 Octavio Dotel TOR
48 Brian Fuentes OAK
49 Scott Downs LAA
50 Clay Hensley FLA
  • 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.

AL West News Roundup, Fantasy Notes

Continuing my news roundup series, here is the AL West. It is a short one, as I’m running out of time before my NFBC draft, tonight.

  • Kendrys Morales will start the season on the DL. This is one long rehab from a broken leg. He can hit and field, but can’t run. At this point he could be back soon, but who knows? I think I’ll let someone else play the waiting game, while I wouldn’t mind Mark Trumbo late to see if he can continue his great spring into the start of the season.
  • Coco Crisp has missed a bit of action with a hamstring strain. Speedy guy, stealing bases and hamstring injury – those things really do not go together well. I picked up Crisp off waivers last year and he went well above and beyond the call of duty, but colour me skeptical he can continue that this year.
  • Maybe it is Erik Bedard who is worth a taking a shot on late in drafts instead of Jake Peavy. Peavy’s comeback ground to a halt, while Bedard has another strong start in Spring Training action against the San Diego Padres. He says he is throwing without pain for the first time in three years.
  • The Texas Rangers are really riding the fence as to whether Neftali Feliz will be a starter or the closer this season. Right now I’m not ready to make a stand it will be one way or the other, so I will just pass on him in drafts either way. Alexi Ogando is one possible closer if Feliz becomes a starter, but if I’m the Rangers I would be looking to acquire a closer from another team. I won’t be putting much draft stock in Ogando, or any other closer candidate currently on the roster as a result.

2011 Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitcher Rankings

Last week we posted the Tiers of Starting Pitching, including rankings for the top 89 starting pitchers for fantasy baseball this season.

Lost in the 19,000 words of starting pitcher profiles, was the thought to summarize the pitcher rankings in a nice looking cheatsheet format. That is, until one of our readers suggested it to us. Great suggestion, and here it is presented below.

Note these rankings were compiled before recent news of Neftali Feliz more than likely moving to the Texas Rangers’ starting rotation, although there is a profile on Feliz as a projected starter (some time in the future) and speculative play in Part 4 of the Tiers.

[Editor’s Note: Rankings updated March 21st. They now go to 90 thanks to Neftali Feliz moving up from an unranked “speculative play” in the first edition Tiers of SP to 58th in the updating rankings.]

Rank Player Team
1 Felix Hernandez SEA
2 Roy Halladay PHI
3 Tim Lincecum SF
4 Clayton Kershaw LAD
5 Cliff Lee PHI
Tier 2
6 CC Sabathia NYY
7 Mat Latos SD
8 Justin Verlander DET
9 Jon Lester BOS
10 Josh Johnson FLA
11 Tommy Hanson ATL
12 Jered Weaver LAA
Tier 3
13 David Price TB
14 Ubaldo Jimenez COL
15 Chris Carpenter STL
16 Dan Haren LAA
17 Cole Hamels PHI
18 Francisco Liriano MIN
19 Yovani Gallardo MIL
20 Matt Cain SF
21 Daniel Hudson ARI
22 Wandy Rodriguez HOU
23 Max Scherzer DET
24 Roy Oswalt PHI
25 Chad Billingsley LAD
26 Shaun Marcum MIL
27 Madison Bumgarner SF
28 Colby Lewis TEX
29 Clay Buchholz BOS
30 Brett Anderson OAK
Rank Player Team
Tier 4
31 Hiroki Kuroda LAD
32 Jonathan Sanchez SF
33 Ryan Dempster CHC
34 C.J. Wilson TEX
35 Johnny Cueto CIN
36 Jaime Garcia STL
37 Ted Lilly LAD
38 Ricky Romero TOR
39 Gio Gonzalez OAK
40 John Danks CHW
41 Javier Vazquez FLA
42 Josh Beckett BOS
43 Ricky Nolasco FLA
44 Ian Kennedy ARI
45 John Lackey BOS
46 Gavin Floyd CHW
47 Brett Myers HOU
48 Brian Matusz BAL
49 Zack Greinke MIL
50 James Shields TB
51 Phil Hughes NYY
52 Jeremy Hellickson TB
Rank Player Team
Tier 5
53 Brandon Morrow TOR
54 Edinson Volquez CIN
55 Homer Bailey CIN
56 Jhoulys Chacin COL
57 Mike Minor ATL
58 Neftali Feliz TEX
59 Ervin Santana LAA
60 James McDonald PIT
61 Tim Hudson ATL
62 Scott Baker MIN
63 Edwin Jackson CHW
64 Kyle Drabek TOR
65 Matt Garza CHC
66 Randy Wolf MIL
67 Travis Wood CIN
68 Carlos Zambrano CHC
69 Brett Cecil TOR
70 Clayton Richard SD
71 Aaron Harang SD
72 Cory Luebke SD
73 Derek Holland TEX
74 Brad Penny DET
75 Bronson Arroyo CIN
76 Kevin Slowey MIN
77 Jon Niese NYM
78 Jair Jurrjens ATL
79 Jake Peavy CHW
80 Jorge de la Rosa COL
81 Bud Norris HOU
82 Anibal Sanchez FLA
83 Derek Lowe ATL
84 Joel Pineiro LAA
85 Jeff Niemann TB
86 Jordan Zimmermann WAS
87 Michael Pineda SEA
88 Mark Buehrle CWS
89 Randy Wells CHC
90 Wade Davis TB