Ranking the new closers

It’s times like these where I wish I posted more than once a week so that my articles can be a bit more timely. Alas, it is not the case—and to the readers, I apologize for the analysis being a bit late. However, I couldn’t help but weigh in on the new closer situations across the major leagues.

Here’s my rankings of the new guys who have stepped into the role.

1) Kenley Jansen, LAD

Earlier in the season I mentioned that I thought Kenley Jansen would outperform half the league’s closers, even if he never claimed the full-time job.

Now that he has the job, I think its fair to say he’s the No. 2 closer in fantasy from here on out. Craig Kimbrel is the only guy in the league who can challenge him, and it’s mostly a toss-up between the two.

Don’t let the walks scare you, Jansen is a special pitcher. He racks up the Ks like few others, he will post elite ERAs, and now he has the closer’s spot. The sky is the limit.

I’ve got him at a 2.248 ERA, 1.108 WHIP, 102.99 K (14.26 K/9), and 37 saves over 65 inningbs. At 3.05 points above average, he and Kimbrel are in a league of their own.

Closer comparable: Craig Kimbrel, ATL—3.329 points above average

2) David Robertson, NYY

Robertson took over the closer’s role last Thursday after Mariano Rivera tore his ACL fielding fly balls at Kaufman Stadium. Even for me, a lifelong Red Sox fan, this injury was difficult to take. Few in the game have been so good for so long, and carry themselves in such respectable fashion. Baseball would lose something if one of its all-time greats went out like this. Whatever happens, it has been a privilege to watch him pitch all these years.

On to Robertson.

If you were a Rivera owner and managed to snatch up Robertson, congratulations! Your team may have just gotten better! Robertson has the upside to challenge Kimbrel and Jansen as the two most valuable closers. Robertson is one of the best strikeout pitchers in baseball and closers can contribute a huge amount of value with those extra Ks. And with extra Ks comes a better ERA and WHIP, not to mention a better save conversion rate.

I feel confident penciling him in for a 2.664 ERA, 1.109 WHIP, 84.124 K (11.648 K/9), and 37 saves over 65 innings. Pencil in 3.5 wins and all of a sudden he’s a 2.01 point reliever in 12-team leagues. That’s elite!

This guy is a bona fide top five closer. I’ve got him as No. 3 in fantasy the rest of the way—an elite reliever who falls just a bit below the super-elite of Kimbrel and Jansen. I’d give up quite a lot to get him and would feel comfortable offering an established, top-15 closer in a trade if I thought it could net me Robertson. He and Jansen are the perfect players to target in trades. They have immediate value, owners might not know what they have, and there are plenty of ways to get creative and work them into multi-player deals.

Closer comparable: Jonathan Papelbon—1.987 points above average

3) Chris Sale, CHW

The Incompleat Starting Pitcher
The end of the nine-inning start and how we got here.

Another stud who has claimed the role in the last week, Sale is a game-changer for those owners lucky enough to have him.

That said, there is still debate as to whether the job is actually his. Though the White Sox publicly stated he will return to closing, he pitched in the eighth inning Tuesday night and is scheduled for an MRI today (Thursday).

Assuming that he does, in fact, have the role—and if that elbow is healthy—he’s a top 10 closer with upside in the top five. I’ll forecast a 2.637 ERA, 1.142 WHIP, 76.701 K (10.303 K/9), 35 saves and 1.363 points over 65 IP.

Closer comparable: Jonathan Papelbon—1.985 points above average

4) Steve Cishek, MIA

The Marlins want Heath Bell to reclaim the role, so you have to assume he’ll get another opportunity and that Cishek is a temp and nothing more. This could also be a committee, with Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb in the mix, but Cishek seems to be the leader. He was loosening in the ninth on Monday with a four-run lead and Webb threw in the eighth of a tie game on Tuesday, so indications are he’s first in line.

Assuming he does get the job, he has the makings of a solid-above average closer. He gets a nice amount of Ks, has a great ground ball rates, and has better command than his walk numbers suggest.

If he were to hold onto the role over a full season, I’d see him posting a 2.848 ERA, 1.158 WHIP, 63.028 K (8.727 K/9), and 0.695 points above average.

He’s a good player, but long-term, the organization will likely push him out of the role. Every save counts, though, and a minimal investment in the short term can do some good for your saves totals. Don’t shoot for him thinking he’s anything more than a short-term option and enjoy it while it lasts.

Closer comparable: J.J. Putz—0.698 points above average

5) Rafael Dolis, CHC

Now that Carlos Marmol’s reign of terror has ended, management has called upon Dolis to finish games for the Cubbies.

Though owners should always be in pursuit of saves, don’t feel obligated to rush to the wire to grab Dolis. He’ll be valuable because of the saves, but all in all, there isn’t much of a pitcher here. He doesn’t tally enough Ks, he doesn’t hit the zone with regularity and, all-in-all, he’s thoroughly mediocre—to the point where I don’t think he’ll last long in the role.

I don’t see much here: 3.688 ERA, 1.369 WHIP, 32 SV, 52.839 K (7.316 K/9), and —1.420 points below average.

Closer comparable: Chris Perez, —1.348 points below average

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A Bostonian
A Bostonian

Thanks, Mike.  Just curious, where would you place Scott Downs among this group?

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

Sale… hilarious!  the over/under on his saves this year is 1.


Interesting piece Mike. I’m still kicking myself for not adding Jansen when he was available. 

Where would you rank Addison Reed if he is ever given a chance to close full-time?