The Closer Monkey contributors pooled our collective personal closer rankings together and averaged the results; below is our composite list, sorted into tiers for your drafting convenience. Enjoy!
Tier 1 – The Elite
1. Aroldis Chapman
2. Craig Kimbrel
3. Greg Holland
Analysis: Not a lot needs to be said about this trio, but we’ll gush about them a bit anyway. They’re dominant, they have high strikeout rates, and they have proven track records of success.
The “maybe we should move him to the rotation” discussion that normally follows Chapman around all spring has finally dissipated this year, and he’s ready to follow up on what many considered his best season. Kimbrel continues to do his thing (look otherworldly), while Holland is coming off a year where he actually earned a few MVP votes.
Depending on your league size, an early round pick on one of these guys might mean you can ignore closers until the very last few rounds, where you can speculate on Tier 6 guys or middle relievers and still have a solid composite bullpen.
Tier 2 – The Very Good
4. David Robertson
5. Mark Melancon
6. Dellin Betances
7. Cody Allen
Analysis: The main player to watch here is Betances, who just had one of the best seasons any reliever has ever had. His ridiculous numbers would have been enough to push him into the Elite tier, except for the fact that he hasn’t won the job yet. We think he will, though, so we’ve included him in our second tier alongside three guys who we universally like.
Robertson has yet to fully recapture his magical 2011 season, but he’ll be great on the South Side, and could log 40 saves and 100 strikeouts. Thanks to his great control, Melancon has put up 2 straight years with a sub-2 ERA and figures to get lots of chances on a solid Pirates team. And Allen emerged last year as one of the top young stoppers in baseball whose best years are ahead of him.
Tier 3 – The Reliable
8. Trevor Rosenthal
9. Koji Uehara
10. Huston Street
11. Drew Storen
12. Zach Britton
13. Kenley Jansen
Analysis: This tier contains our two favorite veterans (Uehara and Street) mixed in with some promising youngsters.
Rosenthal had some bumpy moments and an unsightly WHIP last year, but did more than enough (45 saves, 11.1 K/9) to be included here. Storen’s deceptive delivery and good control led him to a 1.12 ERA last season. And Zach Britton’s nasty sinker suggests that he’ll still be able to get outs even if he’s not striking out the world.
Finally, this tier was a good spot for Kenley Jansen, an absolutely dominant stopper on a Dodgers team that’s going to win a lot of games. But Jansen, of course, is likely to miss the first month of the season, and might need some time to get up to speed.
Tier 4 – Safe-ish
14. Steve Cishek
15. Glen Perkins
16. Hector Rondon
17. Fernando Rodney
18. Sean Doolittle
19. Jonathan Papelbon
Analysis: Save for Cishek, who is really a Tier 3/Tier 4 tweener, there are minor concerns with every player listed here, from staying healthy (Perkins, Doolittle); to inexperience (Rondon); to past volatility (Rodney); to the fact that literally no one likes you including your own fan base (Papelbon).
But it seems likely that at least four of these six players will be perfectly fine and will hold their jobs for much or all of the season. If you’re going with a cheap saves approach — minimal draft investment combined with waiver wire dominance — you might want to think about snagging someone from this tier to keep you afloat until you can accumulate enough players through free agency.
Tier 5 – Hold on for the ride
20. Santiago Casilla
21. Joaquin Benoit
22. Jake McGee
23. Francisco Rodriguez
24. Addison Reed
Analysis: We’ve now reached the point where every remaining player has a moderate-to-major concern. It’s also where we’ll kick up our analysis a bit, since these players are always the most interesting.
Casilla is okay, but he’s far from dominant and will probably be on a short leash, since Sergio Romo has ample experience in the closer role. Benoit still hasn’t pitched in a spring training game, and can’t go three days in a row even when perfectly healthy. Jake McGee is great, but he’s coming off elbow surgery and is targeting a late April return. Even if he gets up to speed quickly, Brad Boxberger or Grant Balfour could be locked in to the role by then.
Francisco Rodriguez started hot last year, but tailed off significantly down the stretch and still hasn’t reported to camp. Finally, Addison Reed is just kinda bad, plus he’s dealing with shoulder soreness. Pick your poison here, as there are probably only two 30+ save guys in this fivesome.
Tier 6 – Yikes
25. Neftali Feliz
26. Joe Nathan
27. Luke Gregerson
28. Jenrry Mejia
29. Brett Cecil
30. LaTroy Hawkins
Analysis: This tier is where fantasy seasons are sometimes made, as there’s always a closer or two at the bottom of everyone’s list who goes on to defy expectations and have a great year. Obviously, it’s just hard to figure out who that player is.
Our bottom six starts with Neftali Feliz, whose velocity vanished last season. Though he’s put in a lot of work in the offseason, he also talked about not needing — or seemingly even wanting — to raise his strikeout rate. Yikes.
Joe Nathan is 40 years old, and had a 4.81 ERA and 1.53 WHIP in 2014. Yikes.
Luke Gregerson was solid last year, but his numbers were a bit inflated by a lucky BABIP. Additionally, he plays for the terrible Astros and hasn’t even won the job yet. Yikes.
Jenrry Mejia also doesn’t have the gig for sure yet; in fact, Terry Collins has said that he needs to be “lights out” to prevent Bobby Parnell from taking over upon his return. Yikes.
Brett Cecil is the presumed frontrunner in Toronto, but megaprospect Aaron Sanchez is breathing down his neck and the Jays are clearly unsettled about their closer situation, having kicked the tires on Jonathan Papelbon. Yikes.
And finally, though we adore LaTroy Hawkins as a human being, nobody at Closer Monkey thinks he can pull off last year’s magic trick, where he saved 23 games and had a 3.31 ERA, despite the fact that he only struck out 5.3 hitters per 9 innings, and played half his games in Coors Field. Yeah. Yikes.
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