The closer position only helps in a few categories so it’s important to get one of the earlier closers who can help in ERA and saves but also get a high number of K’s.
1. Francisco Rodriguez – Rodriguez is definitely the premiere closer. Rodriguez led the league in saves and notches more strikeouts than other closers. All that while the Angels weren’t as good as the teams that had other top closers. If the Angels can improve K-Rod could widen the gap even more.
2. Joe Nathan – Nathan is one of the top closers but it depends on how well the Twins play. When the Twins struggled to start last season Nathan only notched six saves in a month and a half. Once the Twins got out of their slump Nathan saved twenty-nine games the rest of the season.
3. Mariano Rivera – Don’t let Rivera’s fewest amount of saves in years fool you. Rivera didn’t get to save as many games because the Yankees struggled the first half of the season. Rivera should be back to saving 40 games at least.
4. Billy Wagner – Wagner is the easy first pick in the National League. Wagner notched the most saves in his career last year and there is no reason the Mets can’t be as good as last year. The Mets also have a great bullpen so the setup men will hold leads that other teams might lose.
5. B. J. Ryan – Ryan is one of the reasons that the Blue Jays actually passed the Red Sox in the standings. Ryan was one of the leaders in saves last year and also had a great 1.37 ERA and 86 strikeouts.
6. J. J. Putz – If you can’t get one of the elite closers you might have to hope that the other fantasy baseball owners don’t realize how good Putz was last season. Putz had 36 saves and 104 strikeouts last year and wasn’t even the closer to start the season.
7. Huston Street – Street missed part of last year with a chest and a groin injury. Street still managed 37 saves and had a fantastic 1.090 WHIP. Street only walked three batters in his last 21 appearances.
8. Brad Lidge – I seem to be alone in thinking that Lidge can turn back into a dominant closer this year. At the very least Lidge is going to provide you with a lot of strikeouts.
9. Chris Ray – After losing B. J. Ryan to the Blue Jays, Chris Ray came in and did a very good job for the Orioles. Ray accumulated 33 saves for a team that wasn’t winning a whole lot. Ray should do fine if you can’t find a closer who is going to get more opportunities to save.
10. Bobby Jenks – It looked like Jenks’ closer job was in jeopardy but he pitched really well to end the season. Jenks only blew four saves last year and notched 41 saves and 80 strikeouts. Definitely expect similar stats except a lower ERA.
11. Trevor Hoffman – Hoffman notched his eighth 40 save season. As good as he’s been I have to question how much he has left since he is now 39 years old. This could be the year he finally falters, or he could save another 40 games.
12. Chad Cordero – Cordero took a step back last season, partly because his setup man was injured and partly because the Nationals took a step back. The loss of Soriano could be another step back for the Nationals and less save opportunities for Cordero but when Cordero does get the opportunities he’ll be a good option.
13. Brian Fuentes – Fuentes might now wow you with strikeouts like some other closers but something has to be said about the first closer to ever save 30 games in consecutive seasons for the Rockies. The Rockies have a good young offense, if they bloom this year Fuentes could get a lot more opportunities and approach 35 – 40 saves.
14. Takashi Saito – The good news is Saito played very well in his rookie season with the Dodgers. The bad news is Saito might not be the closer all season. If you draft Saito and have the extra room, draft Jonathan Broxton too in case he takes over the closer duties.
15. Tom Gordon – Tom Gordon first year back in the closer role was a successful one and he should play well again. The big question is how many save opportunities will he get? Will the offense score enough runs for Gordon be brought in for the ninth inning. Or will the middle relief blow every chance Gordon gets to notch a save.
16. Jose Valverde – Valverde didn’t look good when the Diamondbacks brought him up last year but after a trip the minors he returned to play well late in the season. He closed out the season with a 1.93 ERA in his last 18 2/3 innings pitched.
17. Francisco Cordero – Cordero is hard to figure out because he has been very up and down the past couple of seasons. We’re at the point in the closer rankings where the player you draft could be a good option or he could lose his closer job by June.
18. Eric Gagne – Gagne had another injury-plagued year and a lot of people are going to avoid him. I say if you don’t have a closer at this point then take a chance on him. You might want to get Otsuka as backup though.
19. Solomon Torres – Torres took over the closing role when Mike Gonzalez got injured and shared time with him to end the season. Now that Gonzalez is gone Torres will be the closer. Torres might eventually lose the closer job to Matt Capps but Torres might keep the job longer than other struggling closers because the Pirates won’t be contending.
20. Bob Wickman – The good news for Bob Wickman is that the Braves are trying to beef up the pitching in order to win another pennant. The bad news is beefing up the Braves pitching might include Mike Gonzalez taking Wickman’s closer position.