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RPs are everyone's least favorite position to draft, and as with most years this position once again looks like a bit of a crapshoot. Also, one very big name has fallen off the top of the heap due to suspension. Choose your strategy: Either go with the names you know and take them early, or wait until late and gamble on unproven arms that nevertheless will see many save chances with good squads.
1. Craig Kimbrel, BOS.
Coming off his worst year as a pro, though it sure doesn't sound like it: 39 saves, 87 strikeouts in 59 IP, 2.58 ERA, 1.04 WHIP. Move to a better team helps, but not as much a slam dunk as you might think. This ranking is more about his reliability than anything else.
2. Trevor Rosenthal, STL.
Don't know why others rank him outside the top 5 after a career-high 48 saves, also second-most in MLB in 2015. Cards may not win 100 again, but they're always good and a stingy starting rotation will hand him plenty of leads.
3. Jeurys Familia, NYM.
My logic is the same here - NL-best starting rotation will hand him a pile of leads. Had 43 saves, five blown saves in 2015 in his first full season as a closer, and 1.85 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 86 strikeouts in 78 IP. Wouldn't be surprised at all if he leads MLB in saves.
4. Kenley Jansen, LAD.
Quietly untouchable last year with a 0.78 WHIP and 36 saves. 80 strikeouts in 52 IP, the latter number reflecting time lost to injury. Is he stronger, more durable this year?
5. Aroldis Chapman, NYY.
Might be the easy No. 1 choice were he not such a damn fool. Even suspended for 30 games, he has a definite shot to be MLB's best closer. Coming off a season of 33 saves, 116 SO in 66 IP (!) and 1.63 ERA, but 1.15 WHIP hints at occasional disastrous outings.
6. Mark Melancon, PIT.
MLB-best 51 saves last year reflected how many close, low-scoring games the Pirates had on the way to 98 wins. Not sure that will happen again, and 62 strikeouts in 76 IP leaves him outside the top tier, but certainly reliable and not a real injury or character concern.
7. Ken Giles, HOU.
One of the toughest calls on the list, as he flashed brilliance closing for the hapless Phils with a 1.80 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 70 IP, and now gets a much better squad to feed him leads. But relatively unproven, as evidenced by five blown saves in 20 chances.
8. Wade Davis, KC.
Plenty of people ranking him No. 1, and he showed some gaudy stats last year: 0.94 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 78 strikeouts in 67 IP, but hasn't had a full season as a closer yet, and maybe I'm starting to believe all this stuff about the World Champs being lousy this year.
9. Jonathan Papelbon, WAS.
If Nats somehow revive under Dusty Baker, he could end up with 50 saves, but he's not as reliable as he used to be and you can do better above than his career-low 56 strikeouts last year. Still, a decent RP-1 for teams that wait until late to draft closers.
10. Hector Rondon, CUBS.
Ranking is more a reflection of how Joe Maddon uses pitchers than of any disbelief the Cubs will win 100 games. Rondon deserves more work after 30 saves, 1.67 ERA, 1.00 WHIP in 2015, but I bet we still see Travis Wood and others in the 9th inning mix.
11. David Robertson, WHITE SOX.
He had 34 saves, blew seven chances, and had a 3.41 ERA last year, but 0.93 WHIP and .196 batting average against were solid, which is why he's getting top five consideration elsewhere. Like Sox, however, too much uncertainty for me to get excited.
12. Zach Britton, BAL.
His 2015 stats of 36 saves, 1.92 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 79 strikeouts in 65 IP suggest a possibly underrated closer. Bu, my top 19 closers are all on teams I see contending or at least posting winning records, As with Robertson and Sox, hard to know which way BAL is heading.
13. Cody Allen, CLE.
Was a bit hyped last year after 24 saves in 2014, and certainly delivered some better numbers - 34 saves and 99 strikeouts in 69 IP - though ERA, WHIP and BAA all rose slightly. If CLE contends, he's probably a bargain at this ranking.
14. Houston Street, LAA.
32-year-old veteran has had 40+ saves two straight years, but ERA ballooned from around 1.50 in 2014 to 3.18 last year and 57 strikeouts in 62 IP is definitely outside of RP-1 stat benchmarks. Also, just not clear LAA puts together a winner this year.
15. Andrew Miller, NYY.
36 saves and 100 strikeouts in 61 IP as NYY closer in 2015, but he makes the list only because Chapman is suspended. Could prove interesting to hold if either A) Chapman proves rusty on his return, or B) Yanks trade him to a team that gives him the closer job outright.
16. Santiago Casilla, SF.
35-year-old had career-high 38 saves last year after SF finally let him handle most of the chances. He could get a lot of opportunities with improved SF starting rotation. Yet, 62 strikeouts in 58 IP and a somewhat high 1.28 WHIP limit his attractiveness.
17. Francisco Rodriguez, DET.
"K-Rod" is ironically no longer much of a strikeout pitcher, but still a really reliable closer who managed a career-best 0.86 WHIP last year and .189 BAA (best since 2005) on the way to 38 saves for a pretty lousy MIL squad. DET looks at least a little better.
18. Brad Boxberger, TAM.
His 41 saves last year were fourth-most in MLB and an impressive feat for a team with just 80 wins, but ugly 3.71 ERA, six blown saves and 10 losses as a closer are not at all reassuring, and he's not enough of a dominant strikeout pitcher to get a higher rank.
19. AJ Ramos, MIA.
Notched 32 saves and 87 strikeouts in 70 IP. Six blown saves don't help his case, and MIA was making him compete for the closer job this year against Carter Capps, who, lucky for Ramos, is now out for the season. Still, makes his hold on the job seem tenuous.
20. Shawn Tolleson, TEX.
First-time closer last year had 35 saves and blew only two chances, and did a lot of it in a hitter-friendly park. Bottom line is he'll be a good option again if TEX contends again, though 2.99 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 72 IP are more RP-2 level.
Sleeper: Roberto Osuna/Drew Storen, TOR.
As a 20-year-old last year, Osuna saved 20 games in the heat of a pennant race. TOR will be great again, and Osuna is looking at potentially a great year, though I think he's still wet behind the ears and may need to be handcuffed to Storen, a proven closer foolishly swept out of his job last year in WAS before getting traded.
Previously in the Fantasy Fix Baseball Draft Guide:
* The (Tied At The) Top 40.
Dan O'Shea is our fantasy fixer. He welcomes your comments.
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Posted on Jan 11, 2021