The closer position is one of the hardest to draft every year. Many owners target the big names early and let the up-and-comers fall by the wayside. In the meantime, the other owners are filling in their hitter and starting pitcher spots and end up taking closers late in the draft. Those are the two ways of thought that go into drafting a closer. You either take a top-tier guy earlier than others and have your No. 1 closer set or you worry about the other nine or 10 positions and fill in closers last.
Heading into last season, the top five closers were Craig Kimbrel, Jonathan Papelbon, Aroldis Chapman, Jason Motte and Rafael Soriano. Kimbrel and Chapman pitched well all season. Motte ended up on the DL and Edward Mujica took over the job. Soriano and Papelbon finished outside the top 10.
The final 2013 rankings, according to Tristan H. Cockcroft, were Kimbrel, Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Greg Holland and Mariano Rivera. Kimbrel was tied for the lead with 50 saves. Holland was third with 47. Rivera, in his final season, recorded 44 and Soriano was right behind him with 43.
The top five closers for the 2014 season are Kimbrel, Chapman, Jansen, Holland and Trevor Rosenthal. Other rankings have Koji Uehara as the No. 5 closer, but it is very close. These five or six closers will be taken way ahead of what their value to fantasy teams is. Closers are only valuable for saves (obviously), ERA and WHIP. Mostly any relief pitcher can help in two of the three stats.
In your draft, the time will come that you will be deciding on whether to draft a second catcher or draft your first closer. Would you rather draft Joe Nathan with an ADP of 93 or Jason Grilli at 140? Nathan finished with more saves only because Grilli missed multiple weeks with a forearm strain.
The second thing to note is that any bullpen guy can become the closer at a moment’s notice, whether it’s because of injury or poor performances. Rosenthal replaced Mujica toward the end of the season because Mujica was not playing to expectations.
At the end of the day, the closer position can either win or lose your league. A struggling or demoted closer ends up being a wasted draft pick. However, drafting a great closer early can solidify that position, allowing you to focus on your bench. Of all the stats, saves is one of two stats that can be found very late in drafts. Save your picks for closers (no pun intended) and keep tabs on your hitters.