Forgot Log-in or  Password? |  Help  Not a member, Register Now!
      
Fantasy Football Today
Fantasy Football Today Blog
Gameday Inactives
2014 Draft Prep Guide
Downloadable Draft Kit
Mock Drafts
Get Your Draft Board
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Scores
Fantasy Games
Playoff Challenge
Commissioner
Prize Leagues
Free
Office Pool Manager
Game Pick'em
Player Challenge
Fantasy Baseball Today
Fantasy Baseball Today Blog
2015 Draft Prep Guide
Mock Drafts
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Rankings
Projections
Schedules
Probable Pitchers
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injuries
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Message Boards
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Downloadable Draft Kit
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
No Fantasy Teams Found
 
 
 

Bullpen Report: Re-ranking the closers

Senior Fantasy Writer
  •  

I know it's always fun to have a long, rambling intro to the Bullpen Report. From what I can tell, it's the highlight of many readers' weekends. But this week's concept is so simple, it would just waste time.

What follows are my closer rankings, updated at 3:07 p.m. on June 14. They're coupled with intermittent explanations of why they are where they are.

1. Aroldis Chapman, Reds
2. Craig Kimbrel, Braves

As has been the case all season, Chapman and Kimbrel are essentially tied for the top spot. I like Chapman slightly better right now, just because Kimbrel has been rather un-Kimbrelly this year. He's still dominant -- and hasn't given up a run since May 7 -- but his WHIP is up, strikeouts are down, and he's already tied his career high for home runs. The case can be made for flip-flopping the duo; I just happen to prefer Chapman at the moment.

3. Jonathan Papelbon, Phillies
4. Mariano Rivera, Yankees

If you want to talk straight points accumulation, Papelbon has been a major disappointment, with fewer points than Jerome Williams on the season. It's basically been the result of him not pitching much -- Papelbon has appeared in 23 games, with just 12 saves. The reason I'm not worried? Through June 14 last year, Papelbon pitched in just 26 games, with 17 saves. He finished the season appearing in a career-high 70 games and saved 38 games. I'm not sure if he's a slow starter, if the Phillies do this purposely to save his arm, or if it's just some happy accident that he's done this two years in a row, but Papelbon currently has the lowest WHIP of his career and his lowest ERA since 2006. If the Phillies catch fire -- and with their pitching staff and bats, it's entirely possible -- Papelbon won't have a problem repeating his strong second half performance from last year.

5. Kenley Jansen, Dodgers

Is it crazy to move Jansen up to No. 5 in the ranks, just a few days after being named the closer? I don't think so. His 14.2 career K/9 is one of the best in baseball. He saved 25 games in what was essentially a half-season's worth of chances last year. He has a career WHIP of 0.95. Jansen went through a mid-May stretch of two games giving up two runs, but has been pristine ever since, giving up no runs and striking out 17 in 11 2/3 innings while sporting a 0.69 WHIP -- and this is with a .364 BABIP in that stretch.

There are going to be obvious concerns -- what if Don Mattingly works League in here and there? What if Jansen's heart issues pop up again? Jansen's talent wins out for me, and I'm willing to take what I consider a relatively minor risk in order to claim a potentially large reward.

6. Greg Holland, Royals
7. Joe Nathan, Rangers
8. Sergio Romo, Giants
9. Jason Grilli, Pirates

I took a lot of heat for still having Holland sixth in my closer rankings back in April, when he gave up four runs in his first three games and emerged from the first week of the season with an 18.00 ERA. But since then, Holland has given up one run (0.41 ERA) and sported a 0.82 WHIP, saving 12 games and striking out 34 batters in 22 innings.

No analysis here, just wanted to point that out.

10. Kelvin Herrera, Royals

#muahahahahahaaaa

But seriously, on Holland, I think it's also important to note that the Royals staff is really in a groove right now, and with the offense slowly coming around, you're going to see Holland get more chances. He already has five saves and a win in June, and has dropped his ERA from 2.50 to 1.88 in seven appearances this month. While he's the 18th-ranked reliever in Head-to-Head leagues this season, Holland is the second-best reliever in H2H leagues over the last 14 days, behind only Hisashi Iwakuma.

10. Grant Balfour, Athletics

You could make the case that Balfour is Fantasy's most underrated closer. I think it goes back to last season, when Balfour was replaced as closer in May, sporting a 4.70 ERA, with most of the damage coming in back-to-back games where he gave up five total runs in 1/3 of an inning. From the time between his seventh save and his eighth save (May 8 to August 8), Balfour had a 2.09 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. He then went on a crazy run to end the season, saving 17 games from August 11 on, with a 2.08 ERA, 0.70 WHIP, and 27 strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings.

This season, Balfour's been even better, with a 1.26 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in his first 29 games, with 17 saves and a 9.1 K/9. And I think that demotion to middle relief last year still has some Fantasy players thinking either it could happen again this year, or that he's just not very good. Based on trade questions I get, he's being viewed as little more than a throw-in as part of much larger deals. If you can work that to your advantage in a deal, go for it -- Balfour doesn't get enough respect. Since 2010, he has a 2.28 ERA and 1.02 WHIP, with about a strikeout per inning. In short, he's been excellent over a long enough period of time to merit inclusion in the top 10 of Fantasy closers.

11. Rafael Soriano, Nationals
12. Andrew Bailey, Red Sox
13. Jim Johnson, Orioles
14. Addison Reed, White Sox

Time for comeuppance. I can't fight Jim Johnson any longer. He had 51 saves last year. He has 23 already this year. Forget about his 4.18 ERA right now -- that's the result of two blowups in a couple of May games. Since the second one, Johnson has allowed one run in 8 1/3 innings, with eight saves. Baltimore is going to play, and win, these close games. Johnson is probably not going anywhere. I'm still holding onto my Tommy Hunter, because any kind of injury (or me being wrong about being wrong) could result in a windfall of saves for any Orioles closer, but I'm man enough to move Johnson up to the top 15. "No strikeouts!" be damned! At a certain point, you just have to jump aboard and be happy for a guy bucking a trend.

On a smaller "I was wrong" level, Rafael Soriano has gotten all but one save for the Nationals this year, and it was only because he blew a save in mid-May and Drew Storen finished off the game in the 10th inning. Starting in the preseason, I had worked off a theory that Davey Johnson would work in Tyler Clippard and Storen throughout the season to keep Soriano fresh. He had used this tactic throughout his managerial career, dating back to the 1980s when he was with the Mets. But so far, it's been pretty much all Soriano. So, because I believed that the only thing holding Soriano back from being a top 12 closer was Johnson's tendency to mix in other relievers for saves, I'm giving the Nationals closer a nice run up the rankings.

15. Tom Wilhelmsen, Mariners

I have no idea what's wrong with Wilhelmsen right now. In six June games, he's pitched 4 2/3 innings and given up 10 earned runs. He's walked seven and struck out four. He sports a .500 BABIP and 19.29 ERA. And he hasn't given up a home run in that span; in fact, Wilhelmsen hasn't given up a home run all year. His velocity took a curious one-game dip on June 1, but he's been pretty consistent otherwise. So what does a ranker do?

I left Wilhelmsen where I had him. In this column alone, there have already been three closers who have gone through some rough patches but emerged on the other side just fine. While it makes sense to worry a little about Wilhelmsen, there's also a decent track record of him having success as the closer. Moving him down may result in me just having to move him back up if he goes the next 11 2/3 innings allowing just one run, while striking out 19. So he stays at 15th, but I reserve the right to drop him more if the struggles continue for another week or so.

16. Glen Perkins, Twins
17. Huston Street, Padres

Looking at what Street can do from June 14th forward, I think he stays at 17. He's already out on a rehab assignment and the Padres are getting better -- especially if you factor in Chase Headley turning his season around, Kyle Blanks playing every day, and Jedd Gyorko eventually returning from his groin injury. This should all result in more saves for Street, who has been disappointing so far this season, but could work his way up this list with a strong couple weeks back from injury.

18. Edward Mujica, Cardinals
19. Ernesto Frieri, Angels
20. Casey Janssen, Blue Jays

Mujica reminds me of Eddie Guardado. Nothing especially fancy or overpowering, just able to get the job done without much flash. Frieri is getting higher in the ranks as Ryan Madson's return keeps getting pushed back. I might be issuing a mea culpa on Frieri in the future, but while the strikeouts have been solid, he has been giving up more hits and walks this season than before. When I play the Trade Game with my rankings (would I trade Frieri for anyone ranked above or below him?) he ends up right at 19th, because I don't want to give up a full season of someone like Mujica for a Frieri who might -- MIGHT -- be in middle relief by late July. Adding up all the factors, I'm keeping him in the low teens until I hear "Ryan Madson" and "August" in the same sentence.

21. Chris Perez, Indians
22. Rafael Betancourt, Rockies

I had to drop Perez significantly in the rankings after his shoulder started bothering him for the second time this season (he missed a chunk of spring training with a shoulder strain). Predicting an injury is fruitless, but there's nothing wrong with building yourself a little safety net just in case there's a setback in his rehab, or he experiences soreness after a couple games back. I like Perez. I had him ranked high to begin the season. With the Indians improved, he stood to see a jump in saves. But I can't ignore the fact that in the span of three months, Perez has been sidelined twice with shoulder issues.

Betancourt has been stellar this year, but with the Rockies starting to fade a little bit, it's not out of the question to think that the team could trade Betancourt to a contender and just go with Rex Brothers. Betancourt is in the last year of his contract and is 38 years old. Brothers made a seamless transition into the closer role. So if the Rockies slide, I could see Betancourt heading to another team to pitch middle relief. I'm keeping him higher than some other closers because the Rockies could surge and just not make any kind of move, but pushed him down far enough in case the trade winds start blowing.

23. Fernando Rodney, Rays
24. Bobby Parnell, Mets
25. Jose Valverde, Tigers
26. Heath Bell, Diamondbacks
27. Kevin Gregg, Cubs

My personal favorites in this group are actually the two at the bottom -- Kevin Gregg and Heath Bell. I keep wanting to push Gregg up the list, but I get the feeling that the Cubs have a tradeable asset in him and they could ship him off to a contender and go with Carlos Marmol or Rafael Dolis as the closer to finish the season. Gregg has a bit of Mujica in him (not overpowering but gets the job done) and also has a track record that many Fantasy players are quick to dismiss -- he averaged 29 saves per season from 2007-2011 pitching on four sub-par teams.

Bell has the threat of J.J. Putz looming, but he has a 3.14 ERA and 11 saves since being installed as the closer on May 7. It's not quite vintage Bell, but it hasn't been a 2012-style implosion, either. If there's an announcement Putz will need surgery at any point, Bell gets elevated up at least ahead of Rodney.

28. Jose Veras, Astros
29. Steve Cishek, Marlins
30. Francisco Rodriguez/Jim Henderson, Brewers

Veras and Cishek could see their save opportunities rise as the Astros and Marlins improve deeper into the season, but probably not enough to move them up much in the ranks much. The situation in Milwaukee, however, has managed to drag two closers down below Cishek and Veras, at least until one emerges victorious.

The Brewers are 11 1/2 games out of the second wild card spot, so they have some room to toy with the closers. There was some belief that they would try to get Francisco Rodriguez his 300th career save (he's at 298) at the expense of Jim Henderson, who had a 0.87 ERA before giving up two runs last week against the Marlins (raising it to 1.66). Henderson and Rodriguez have both been great this season. And it makes sense if the Brewers are trying to showcase Rodriguez for a possible trade. But showcasing K-Rod means pushing Henderson aside from time to time (or entirely), and the two will continue to cannibalize one another to the point of neither having more value than Cishek.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

Get player news notifications, manage your team and check scores
- all updated in real time. Download the CBS Fantasy App.

  •  
 
CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
COMMENTS
Conversation powered by Livefyre
 
 
Player News
Pirates SS Jordy Mercer doubles, scores twice on Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:58 pm ET) Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer went 2 for 3 with a double and two runs scored in the 8-4 win over the Tigers on Thursday. 

Mercer is on fire at the plate all of a sudden. He is in the midst of an eight-hame hitting streak, during which he is batting .444 (16 for 36) with five doubles. 


Brad Miller out of lineup Thursday after Mariners recall Chris Taylor
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:56 pm ET) Mariners shortstop Brad Miller was held out of the starting lineup Thursday against the Athletics for the first time in 18 games and just the fourth time since May 24. Chris Taylor, who was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma on Thursday, replaced Miller in the starting lineup at shortstop.

Since June 1, Miller is batting .256 with one triple, two home runs, three doubles, eight RBI, eight runs, 10 walks, 19 strikeouts and three stolen bases in his last 27 games.


Pirates 2B Neil Walker posts another four-hit game on Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:53 pm ET) Pirates second baseman Neil Walker went 4 for 5 with a double and three RBI in the 8-4 win over the Tigers on Thursday. Walker now has back-to-back four-hit games. He is 14-for-26 over his current six-game hitting streak. 

In 10 games since returning from a stomach illness, Walker is hitting .444 with two home runs and seven RBI. 


Padres RP Dale Thayer may make rehab appearance this weekend
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(5:52 pm ET) While Padres pitcher Dale Thayer is eligible to come off the disabled list Thursday, he may need to make a rehab appearance in the minor leagues this weekend, reports MLB.com.

Thayer has been sidelined since June 16 with a strained right shoulder.


Tigers' Ian Kinsler busts out of slump with three-hit game Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:49 pm ET) Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler went 3 for 5 with a double, an RBI and a run scored in the 8-4 loss to the Pirates on Thursday. This was Kinsler's first three-hit game since June 16, and he is batting .239 with one home run and six RBI over his last 10 games. 

Tigers RF J.D. Martinez goes deep again on Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:44 pm ET) Tigers right fielder J.D. Martinez slugged a three-run home run on Thursday, but it wasn't enough to avoid the 8-4 loss to the Pirates. Martinez's eighth-inning blast, his 21st of the season, cut the Pirates' lead to 4-3. But Pittsburgh would put up a four-spot in the ninth inning, keeping the Tigers at bay.

Martinez now has eight home runs in his last nine games, and he is batting .359 with 16 RBI over that stretch. 


Pirates C Francisco Cervelli blasts solo home run on Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:41 pm ET) Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli got the scoring started on Thursday, as he launched a solo home run in the top of the fourth inning to give his club the early 1-0 lead. Cervelli also singled and scored later in the game, as the Pirates defeated the Tigers 8-4.

The home run was Cervelli's fourth of the season, and he now has 10 hits in 40 at-bats over his last 10 games. 


Pirates' Mark Melancon needs one out to get 25th save Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:39 pm ET) Pirates closer Mark Melancon was called upon to get one out in the ninth inning on Thursday, and Melancon obliged accordingly to pick up his 25th save of the season. The Pirates entered the bottom of the ninth against the Tigers with an 8-3 lead. 

But, Vance Worley gave up a run on three hits while recording two outs. So, with the possible tying run in the on-deck circle, Melancon was summoned from the bullpen, and was able to get Victor Martinez to ground-out, securing the 8-4 Pirates win.

Melancon is now working on a 23-game scoreless streak, as his ERA now sits at 1.66 on the year.


Dodgers OF Carl Crawford to miss rehab game with flu
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5:38 pm ET) Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford will not play on Thursday for Class A Rancho Cucamonga because he is suffering from flu like symptoms, per the team's media relations department.

Crawford left Wednesday's game for Rancho Cucamonga because he was hit by a pitch, but was able to leave the field under his own power.

Crawford is on the disabled list with a right oblique injury.


Tigers SP Kyle Ryan walks five batters in loss on Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:33 pm ET) Making his fourth start of the season, Tigers left-hander Kyle Ryan lasted four-plus innings in an 8-4 loss to the Pirates on Thursday. Ryan allowed two runs on three hits, but he walked a season-high five batters on the afternoon, while recording four strikeouts. 

Ryan (1-2) gave up a solo home run to Francisco Cervelli in the fourth inning to kick off the scoring. He started the fifth inning by wallking the first two batters to face him. He was then lifted for a reliever, but one of the runs came around to score, charging Ryan with his second run of the game.

Ryan last pitched two-thirds on an inning in relief on June 24. He was supposed to start last Saturday, but the game was postponed due to rain, and he did not make another appearance until Thursday's start. 


 
 
 
Rankings