Ranking All 30 MLB Closers
Ranking All 30 MLB Closers
If someone were to try and list the most important features that must be present on ever MLB team in 2014, the position of the closer would have to rank towards the top. In the opinion of some the closer is something that can be done by the best guy the manager figures is able but most can agree that is not true. As it becomes clearer each year how big of a part the closer plays on each successful team, it appears the position is more important than having three guys to man the outfield.
That is why every team has one right now. Each and every manager has in his mind right now the guy that will close baseball games for him on Opening Day. For one or two teams there could be some competition but this is not a position to be taken lightly and tossed around by a manger who wants to succeed. Considering that, which closer is the best in MLB? That is the purpose of this slideshow.
A few things need to be said right away. First of all this is not a list ranking good or bad relief pitchers. Relief men have to be very good just to be considered for the closer role. This will simply rank 30 of the most successful pitchers in baseball from the most dominant to the ones who still have something to prove.
Secondly, Mariano Rivera is no longer an active player so the number one spot will be filled by someone other than him for the first time in forever. There seem to be three categories in this list. First you will see closers who have a lot or something at least left to prove this season. Then will come the extremely tough guys who rarely give up a save opportunity.
After that and towards the top of the list will be the guys that make hitters wish they hadn’t even carried a bat to the plate it’s so hopeless. Everyone on this list has blown a save. Even the great Rivera blew a save now and then so one or even a small few blown saves does not mean a closer is not dominant. Please comment below if you have something to add.
30 – Josh Fields – Houston Astros
In their unique situation the Astros have not really chosen a closer as of yet. They are one of the few if not the only teams in MLB who have a good excuse to not have one right now. That doesn’t mean they won’t try to sign one more guy or move someone else into the spot in a surprise but for now it appears Fields has as good of a chance as anyone. Replace him with Chin-Jen Lo or anyone from that pen and they would still have this spot for the same reason: they are unproven. Fields did convert 5 of 6 in 2013 so there is potential there.
29 – Darren O’Day – Baltimore Orioles
It is still possible that the O’s could sign a closer from the few remaining capable of that on the free agent market but all signs point to them filling the role from within. O’Day looks to be the best choice as Tommy Hunter is even less experienced and successful in the role. O’Day has a good chance to be successful but time will have to tell us for certain.
28 – Nate Jones – Chicago White Sox
When the White Sox traded Addison Reed away they already had Jones in mind as the replacement at the closer position. They have confidence in his ability to throw strikes in the ninth inning pressure that comes from the closer position. Most of their moves have been good so far over the past year. They hope the promotion to Jones proves well worth it and well deserved.
27 – John Axford – Cleveland Indians
The Indians have had a lot of trouble from their closer spot in the past little while and they hope Axford can be the answer for them. His 0 for 7 from 2012 looks really bad but he has proven by saving 46 of 48 in 2011 that he has the ability to be a dominant closer. The Tribe certainly hope he can regain that form.
26 – David Robertson – New York Yankees
Robertson converted 3 of 5 chances in 2013 and had a good WHIP of 1.04. He has the stuff and the potential to get the job done. Unfortunately for him he also has the unenviable task of following the greatest closer to ever breathe Mariano Rivera. If anyone can get the job done in an admirable fashion it will be Robertson.
25 – Ernesto Frieri – Los Angeles Angels
Though Frieri did convert 37 of 41 chances at a save in 2013, he also has a WHIP of 1.24 which is kind of high for an untouchable closer. Basically that means he is good and almost nasty enough to climb this list but has a little work to do this season if he plans to take that next step into solidifying his spot.
24 – LaTroy Hawkins – Colorado Rockies
Hawkins is a quality relief pitcher and has been for quite a while. Though his time has never been consistently spent in the closer role, he has proven on numerous occasions that he can do the job well. Last season he closed 13 of 15 chances for the Mets in limited closing chances.
23 – Neftali Feliz – Texas Rangers
Because the Rangers do not like to spend a lot of money on the closer position they did not re-sign playing-legend Joe Nathan. If Feliz can regain his form from 2010 and 2011 that could look like a genius move by them. There have been signs he can still do the job but he will have to go out and prove he is still as good as he was. Chances are good that he will do just that.
22 – Bobby Parnell – New York Mets
Parnell has not spent a ton of time as the closer for the Mets but he did do admirably in the role last season to say the least. By converting 22 of 26 chances he proved that he can do the job really well. If he gets more chances by a better team in 2014, he could prove himself worthy of a higher spot on this list.
21 – Jose Veras – Chicago Cubs
Veras spent time last year with the Astros and the Tigers, closing for both. While the veteran is not a sure thing every time out of the closer spot, he does a very solid job all season long. He was good enough with the Astros for the Tigers to grab him last season so that should tell you something. The Cubs should be a very nice place for his skills to shine as brightly as ever.
20 – Aroldis Chapman – Cincinnati Reds
Though some still believe Chapman should one day by transferred back to a starting role, the Reds really like his up-side as a closer. He converted 38 of 43 chances in each of the last two seasons believe it or not. That is plenty good enough control over the position to make him a top closer if he continues at that pace.
19 – Jonathan Papelbon – Philadelphia Phillies
Papelbon is third on the active closers list which tells you he has proven over the long term that he can do the closer job very well. He converted 29 of 36 last season however and blowing 7 of only 36 chances is a little high to be called completely dominant. Some believe Papelbon will bounce back and others believe his time is slipping away slowly. We’ll see what he does in 2014.
18 – Steve Cishek – Miami Marlins
Cishek is one of the very good younger closers in MLB right now. The Marlins have to be very pleased with his performance thus far with them. If they are lucky he will provide them a ton of reasons to consider him one of their core players for their intended rise towards the top. He saved 34 of 36 in 2013 and looks to do more if the Marlins win more this season.
17 – Jim Henderson – Milwaukee Brewers
Henderson is one of the underrated closers in the game. In 2013 he saved 28 of 32 chances with a WHIP of 1.18. If the Brewers gave him more chances, he could well become one of the elite closers in MLB within the next year.
16 – Addison Reed – Arizona Diamondbacks
When the DBacks traded for Reed to be their closer, many people acted like that was a bigger deal for their success this season than the deal that brought them Mark Trumbo. Though Reed has dominant stuff and certainly top closer potential, his 8 blown saves of 48 chances seems a little high. Still, his up-side puts him in this spot and could well mean more success for the DBacks this season.
15 – Fernando Rodney – Seattle Mariners
Though no one has said the deal to bring in Rodney is a bigger one than the Cano signing, it certainly should prove more important over the course of a successful season. Cano can do a great deal but he cannot save games from slipping away and Rodney can. He has been a tad inconsistent with a dominant 2012 and 8 blown saves in 2013 looking a little less dominant. To be sure his 2013 season, if duplicated would mean the world to the Mariners.
14 – Jason Grilli – Pittsburgh Pirates
In 2013 Grilli saved 33 of 35 for the Bucs on his way to looking like one of the MVP’s of their success one year ago. He remains a little bit unproven over more than just one season but suffice it to say by his rank that we all expect similar dominance from him this season as well.
13 – Sergio Romo – San Francisco Giants
Romo succumbed to the same virus that the rest of the Giants had in 2013 as his numbers took a hit. He must have gotten a light strain however because his 1.08 WHIP suggests he was still near the top of his game in the midst of the Giants’ struggles. Five blown saves is a tiny bit high in only 43 chances but Romo has proven himself dominant over time and you can expect him to be just that once again.
12 – Rafael Soriano – Washington Nationals
The veteran closer for the Nats is successful enough that he has his own signature move. The ‘Last out, shirts out’ move happened 43 times out of 49 chances last year. While he does have a struggle now and then, he is one of the few that can most of the time be considered rarely touchable. He is likely to produce upwards of 50 saves this season.
11 – Kenley Jansen – Los Angeles Dodgers
When Jansen took the mound against the Braves in game four of the NLDS, everyone already knew the game was as good as over. He can have that level of assured dominance and looks better every year. His 28 saves came in 32 chances last season. Look for his 2014 to produce 45 to 50 saved gems.
10 – Huston Street – San Diego Padres
You might not hear his name mentioned all of the time but Street is among the best closers in the game. As a matter of fact his 234 career saves ranks fifth among active closers. Last season all he did was convert 33 of 35 chances with a 1.04 WHIP in the process. Because 2014 is another season with games to be saved for the Padres, you can bet Street will be out there saving them. He is one of the best for a reason.
9 – Grant Balfour – Tampa Bay Rays
Even though the Orioles decided they didn’t like something about Balfour this offseason, the Rays had no problem bringing him back into the fold. Though his temper became the news of the postseason for many, his ability to close out baseball games for his team should be where the focus lies. Balfour is awesome at the end of the game and has neared the 50-save mark each of the last two seasons. Look for that to happen again in 2014.
8 – Trevor Rosenthal – St. Louis Cardinals
Right about now there are a few Cardinals fans that want to curse me up one side and down the other. That is all because of what we saw at the end of the season and in the postseason however. Chances are that he will show himself to be one of the top two or three in the game this season. Until he has more than 3 of 8 saves like he did in the 2013 regular season, he just cannot be higher than this. Look around him though because he is certainly in good company because of the dominance he showed when the pressure was on.
7 – Glen Perkins – Minnesota Twins
There is a reason that everyone wanted the Twins to trade this guy around the middle of last season. He has the potential to be the next great closer without a doubt. His 36 saves shows one thing but his WHIP of 0.93 tells you even more. That stat is important because baserunners are critical in the closer situation. Perkins tends to allow less than one on average and that will lead him to complete dominance.
6 – Greg Holland – Kansas City Royals
There are a few reasons that the Royals know they can win it all in 2014 but this guy right here is one of the top reasons. Holland is a premier closer right now. He isn’t headed there. When you convert 47 of 50, you are in the top few closers conversation. Look for him to be key to their success going forward.
5 – Casey Janssen – Toronto Blue Jays
If you happen to be unaware of this guy, let me tell you a little bit about him. He allows 0.99 walks or hits per inning or WHIP and only blew two saves last season. Many teams wanted a piece of Janssen over the offseason and rumors suggested the Jays might trade him. Something tells me when he closes 40-something games this season they will be glad they held on.
4 – Jim Johnson – Oakland Athletics
The loss of the Orioles was the Athletics’ gain as far as Johnson is concerned. They needed a closer and the trade that brought this man over actually increased their position both on this list and if you look at the number of saves by the closer. Johnson has a couple of 50-save seasons in a row and you can look for that kind of dominance to keep going.
3 – Koji Uehara – Boston Red Sox
When Uehara got the call there was nothing short of complete shutdown dominance that came from him. He did blow a few saves during the season in only 24 chances but we all saw what his craft was perfected into by the time the World Series rolled around. He needs to prove he can do it over an entire season and he will compete for the top spot on this list next season.
2 – Joe Nathan – Detroit Tigers
All the Tigers have wanted for what seems like forever has been a closer. Well, short of bringing Rivera out of retirement they could do no better as far as a proven track record than Nathan. His 341 career saves makes him the active saves leader. Saving 43 of 46 chances last season shows you he still has what it takes to dominate with the best of them.
1 – Craig Kimbrel – Atlanta Braves
Kimbrel will turn 26 years old during the 2014 season and you can already see 137 saves to his credit in only three seasons. Each of those seasons has seen him make the All-Star team and get MVP as well as Cy-Young votes. The first of the three year run added the NL Rookie of the Year to his list. With a career WHIP of 0.90 and one season of 0.65 WHIP, you can clearly see why anyone and everyone brags any time they get a piece of this guy. With the retirement of Rivera there is basically no question who the best closer in the game is. It is Kimbrel.