In a dynasty league, relievers are rarely more than a necessary evil. You’re way behind the eight-ball without them, and it’s the most difficult position to project over the course of a year or more. As you’ll notice much more in my overall rankings, relievers are extremely devalued in a dynasty league for this reason. And you don’t need to go very far back to see what I’m talking about.
The year was 2010 (literally, just 27 months ago) and the season had just come to a close. There were 20 closers that year who finished the season with 25 or more saves. Want to take a guess as to how many of those 20 relievers currently are projected to be closers in 2013? Seriously, think about it for a second. Do you have a number in your head? Great. The answer is four. Seriously, four. And one of those four is Carlos Marmol, so it’s essentially three and a half. Here is your full list of closers who received 25 or more saves during the 2010 season:
Brian Wilson (48), Heath Bell (47), Rafael Soriano (45), Joakim Soria (43), Matt Capps (42), Neftali Feliz (40), Francisco Cordero (40), Carlos Marmol (38), Billy Wagner (37), Jonathan Papelbon (37), Kevin Gregg (37), Mariano Rivera (33), David Aardsma (31), Juan Oviedo (30), Bobby Jenks (27), Ryan Franklin (27), Brad Lidge (27), Jose Valverde (26), Francisco Rodriguez (25) and Andrew Bailey (25).
So if you’re wondering why I’m not delving too deep with the commentary on this piece, that should tell you everything you need to know. It’s also why you should always deal your closers first when you’re rebuilding. I can’t stress this enough. They should always be the final piece to the puzzle. Finally, remember that this list is for standard 5×5 value, so these rankings are not done with holds leagues in mind – adjust accordingly if you use that category.
And now your top 75 dynasty league relievers, with sporadic commentary:
#1 – Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves
If you were ever going to make an exception to the closer valuation rule, it would be for Kimbrel.
#2 – Jason Motte, St Louis Cardinals
#3 – Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia Phillies
The second tier of closers is very brief, as Motte and Papelbon both have relatively consistent performance and a pretty long leash.
#4 – Rafael Soriano, Washington Nationals
#5 – Addison Reed, Chicago White Sox
I’m still a huge fan of Reed’s. I think he takes a step forward in 2013 and becomes a no doubt top-10 closer. He’s got more upside in the strikeout department than he showed in 2012.
#6 – Joe Nathan, Texas Rangers
You’ll notice that because of the shelf life of closers, age plays much less of a role in this ranking than in positional rankings. Nathan was pretty great last year (2.80 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 10.9 K/9, 1.8 BB/9) and I like him to continue that for at least another year or two.
#7 – Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay Rays
Are you going to be the one that pays the price to see if 2012 outweighs his entire previous career history? Also, the Rays have never had a pitcher lead the team in saves two years in a row under Joe Maddon.
#8 – Ryan Madson, Los Angeles Angels
He could be healthy and he could resume being great. Or he could not.
#9 – Joel Hanrahan, Boston Red Sox
#10 – Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees
I don’t care if Rivera is coming off a torn ACL and he’s only going to be pitching for one more year, I still expect him to be a top-5 closer this year. And who knows how long some of these other guys below him will keep their jobs anyway.
#11 – Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals
#12 – Jim Johnson, Baltimore Orioles
#13 – Tom Wilhelmsen, Seattle Mariners
Like these three. Are you confident that all three of these guys will be closing in 2014?
#14 – Huston Street, San Diego Padres
On the other hand, Street probably will be closing, and in a great park for his skill set, he just may still only be throwing 40-50 innings a year.
#15 – Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers
In my first iteration of this list (before the Brandon League signing), Jansen was #4 behind Papelbon. Unfortunately, the role won’t be his. I’m less concerned about League keeping the job than I am the thought process that went into signing a closer when they already had Jansen in house. Maybe they just don’t see him as the answer in the ninth.
#16 – Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers
He’ll miss most of the 2013 season, and his role is undetermined upon his return, but he will still only be 25 on Opening Day in 2014. Forget about him at your own peril.
#17 – Trevor Rosenthal, St Louis Cardinals
#18 – J.J. Putz, Arizona Diamondbacks
#19 – Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins
#20 – Chris Perez, Cleveland Indians
#21 – John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers
#22 – Rafael Betancourt, Colorado Rockies
#23 – Casey Jannsen, Toronto Blue Jays
These guys are fine as targets in 2013, but it’s not hard to see routes for them to lose their jobs by the end of July. Putz is an injury risk, but is pretty solid. Perkins, Perez and Betancourt are all trade candidates with perfectly capable replacements behind them. Axford is making a habit of losing his job and Jannsen will just be trying to hold off Sergio Santos.
#24 – David Robertson, New York Yankees
#25 – Alexi Ogando, Texas Rangers
I’m still not a huge fan of Ogando in the rotation, but if he does get moved there again, his value shoots up even if he’s a tick down from what he was in 2011.
#26 – Jarred Cosart, Houston Astros
#27 – Arodys Vizcaino, Chicago Cubs
#28 – Jonathan Broxton, Cincinnati Reds
Broxton was surprisingly good last year, but will have competition from both sides in 2013. A not so great Chapman performance in the rotation or a very great Sean Marshall performance in the bullpen both could spell him of his role.
#29 – Vinnie Pestano, Cleveland Indians
#30 – Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays
#31 – Jason Grilli, Pittsburgh Pirates
#32 – Grant Balfour, Oakland Athletics
#33 – Sergio Romo, San Francisco Giants
Neither Bay Area closer is especially likely to be long for the closer role. Balfour has a ton of competition in that ‘pen and I don’t think Romo can hold up over a whole season in the role.
#34 – Jake McGee, Tampa Bay Rays
If you’re speculating on Rodney crashing back down to Earth, I think it’s McGee and not Peralta.
#35 – Brandon League, Los Angeles Dodgers
#36 – David Hernandez, Arizona Diamondbacks
#37 – Steve Cishek, Miami Marlins
#38 – Drew Storen, Washington Nationals
#39 – Ernesto Frieri, Los Angeles Angels
#40 – Sergio Santos, Toronto Blue Jays
#41 – Frank Francisco, New York Mets
#42 – Mark Montgomery, New York Yankees
#43 – Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs
#44 – Ryan Cook, Oakland Athletics
#45 – Bruce Rondon, Detroit Tigers
I’m not a believer. He’s got one plus pitch (a super heater) and very little idea where anything is going. Stay away from the Tigers bullpen situation if you can.
#46 – Brian Wilson, Free Agent
#47 – Jose Valverde, Free Agent
If you think one of these two guys won’t get another shot in the closer role, you are underrating how prevalent the concept of the “closer mentality” is. Which, for the record, I do think exists on a reasonably small level.
#48 – Luke Gregerson, San Diego Padres
#49 – Kyuki Fujikawa, Chicago Cubs
It could be a matter of weeks before he relieves Marmol in the closer role in Chicago.
#50 – Phil Coke, Detroit Tigers
#51 – Kelvin Herrera, Kansas City Royals
#52 – Bobby Parnell, New York Mets
#53 – Jeurys Familia, New York Mets
#54 – Wilton Lopez, Colorado Rockies
#55 – Andrew Bailey, Boston Red Sox
#56 – Joakim Soria, Kansas City Royals
#57 – Tyler Thornburg, Milwaukee Brewers
#58 – Carter Capps, Seattle Mariners
#59 – Joaquin Benoit, Detroit Tigers
#60 – Joel Peralta, Tampa Bay Rays
#61 – Sean Marshall, Cincinnati Reds
#62 – Heath Bell, Arizona Diamondbacks
#63 – Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates
#64 – Stephen Pryor, Seattle Mariners
#65 – Jared Burton, Minnesota Twins
#66 – Sean Doolittle, Oakland Athletics
#67 – Mike Adams, Philadelphia Phillies
#68 – Jonny Venters, Atlanta Braves
#69 – Tyler Clippard, Washington Nationals
#70 – Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians
One of my favorite sleepers for AL-only and super, super deep mixed leagues. Allen has the stuff to be Vinnie Pestano redux.
#71 – Eric O’Flaherty, Atlanta Braves
#72 – Heath Hembree, San Francisco Giants
#73 – Jordan Walden, Atlanta Braves
#74 – Octavio Dotel, Detroit Tigers
#75 – Jim Henderson, Milwaukee Brewers
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