Bullpens in Flux: 2014 Closer Rankings

Craig Kimbrel - Scott Cunningham

Let's take a look at the current closers for each team and how they rank for fantasy purposes.

The state of the closer position has been altered dramatically yet again this off-season. The Athletics traded for Jim Johnson to fill the role left by free-agent Grant Balfour. Balfour is now being heavily rumored to be replacing his replacer in Baltimore. The Diamondbacks recently acquired Addison Reed to fill their closer role. This leaves the White Sox with a current hole to fill. The Astros signed Chad Qualls, and the Rockies signed Latroy Hawkins, with both clubs touting their late inning experience and ability to close. Add in the greatest closer in the history of baseball retiring, and the closer position is in flux once again. With Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, and Fernando Rodney still available on the free agent market, along with the Phillies said to be currently shopping Jonathan Papelbon, there should be plenty of moves still on the horizon. But for now, let’s take a look at how the current closers for each team rank for fantasy baseball leagues, along with what we might be able to expect from the each club’s closer in 2014.

1. ATL – Craig Kimbrel – The #1 closer in baseball, hands down. A great weapon to have in innings cap leagues for the strikeouts.

2. CIN – Aroldis Chapman – Craig Kimbrel lite. But not very lite, very close actually. Forget about the talk of a return to the starting rotation.

3. LAD – Kenley Jansen – The Dodgers should provide plenty of save opportunities. Durability has been an issue, but if healthy could rival the top 2 in value.

4. KCR – Greg Holland – The top closer in the AL in my opinion. Still young, durable, and plays for an up-and-rising team. Sounds good to me.

5. DET – Joe Nathan – Think of the save opportunities pitching behind this rotation and offense. He has come back just as good as ever after missing the 2010 season.

6. BOS – Koji Uehara – Took over the closer’s role for the 2013 World Champions and posted 101 K’s with a other-worldly 0.59 WHIP. Can’t wait to see what Uehara can do in the role for all of 2014.

7. SFG – Sergio Romo – He plays in a pitcher’s park, gets plenty of save opportunities, and has proved to be very durable. Should be in line for another nice season.

8. STL – Trevor Rosenthal - The Cardinal’s new closer has looked dominant in his brief time with the big league club. Should run with the role and never look back.

9. MIN – Glen Perkins – The closer in Minnesota has been stellar over the past few years and should be good once again in 2014.

10. PHI – Jonathan Papelbon – The Phillies are rumored to be trying to move him, along with their other older, over-priced players. I expect his large contract to keep him in Philly for 2014.

11. WSH – Rafael Soriano – The Nationals’ closer has been stellar in the role over the past few years. If he can remain healthy, should provide nice value.

12. PIT – Jason Grilli – The injury concerns will still be there, but we saw how dominant Grilli can be when healthy in 2013. Drafting Mark Melancon as a hand-cuff to Grilli isn’t a bad idea.

13. NYY – David Robertson – The Yankees could still bring in a free-agent or make a trade, but if the $189 million dollar salary cap rumors are true, then the Yankees will likely go with their cheaper in-house replacement for Mariano Rivera.

14. ARI – Addison Reed – After the closer carousel of 2013, the D-backs made sure they got their guy here. Reed is young and has what you look for in your prototypical closer. Should fit in well in the desert.

15. OAK – Jim Johnson – Was shaky at times in Baltimore last year, but the front office in Oakland decided to let Balfour walk and traded for this closer that already makes $10 million a year. Johnson should benefit from pitching in the AL West and in the spacious Coliseum in Oakland.

16. TEX – Neftali Feliz/Joakim Soria/Tanner Scheppers – Management is touting all 3 as possible closers, but a healthy Feliz seems to have the inside track. Monitor this situation during spring training. Whoever takes the role could be a nice option in 2014.

17. SDP – Huston Street – There are rumors that the Padres have a contract offer out to Joaquin Benoit, which would make for an interesting situation in San Diego. When healthy, Street has been more than adequate.

18. MLW – Jim Henderson – The Brewers have a nice, cheap option that makes for a great choice for the small-market club to fill their closer role. Henderson proved in 2013 that he can handle to job.

19. LAA – Ernesto Frieri – Management has said he is their guy in 2014. Still, if the Angels decided to bring back Fernando Rodney, he could help provide the bullpen with some much needed stability.

20. CLE – John Axford – The Indians just signed their closer for next season. If things go south for Axford like they did in Milwaukee, Cody Allen could provide nice value if he gets a chance to close.

21. SEA – Danny Farquhar – The Mariners are said to be looking for an upgrade at closer. They would be better served to worry about all of the holes in the offense first. Farquhar was able to get the job done in 2013, and could provide nice value in 2014 if he continues to close.

22. TOR – Casey Janssen – Was decent in 2013, but the bullpen in Toronto has plenty of other options if Janssen blows a few saves early.

23. BAL – Tommy Hunter – I guess the guy that filled in for Jim Johnson a few times last year would be the current leading candidate. It sounds like the Orioles could be close to a deal to sign Grant Balfour. If Balfour becomes the closer in Baltimore, bump him up about 10 spots on this list.

24. NYM – Bobby Parnell – The Mets turned to Parnell after Frank Francisco was lost to injury. Long touted the closer of the future, I wouldn’t be surprised if that label sticks and the Mets sign someone like Fernando Rodney to take over. If that were to happen, Rodney would move up a few spots on the list.

25. FLO – Steve Cishek – Cishek is one of the least exciting closers in baseball, and he pitches for one of the worst teams in the National League. A.J. Ramos has the skill-set to eventually take over the closer's role.

26. CHW – Nate Jones – Jones has been rumored to be the leading option to take Reed’s spot after the trade. I think the Sox were more concerned with finding a 3B than with cutting payroll, which is why I believe they could still make a run at a free agent, possibly Joaquin Benoit.

27. TBR – Heath Bell - The Rays brought in Heath Bell to fill their closer role vacancy left by Fernando Rodney. We saw how Bell’s tenure in Arizona ended. The Rays are great are recycling relief pitchers, but this is still Heath Bell! If he were closing with any other team, he would rank even lower. Maybe the Rays magic can rub off on Bell, but current in-house options Jake McGee and Joel Peralta are much more talented at this point.

28. CHC – Pedro Strop – Strop is the leading candidate. James Russell might also be in the mix. There have been rumblings that management has checked in on the availability of Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard. If the Cubs could pry either of them away from the Nationals, this situation would be greatly improved.

29. HOU – Chad Qualls – The Astros spent the money on Qualls to provide the bullpen with some much needed help. Management loves his “late-inning experience.” Qualls isn’t a lock to get the closer’s job, but his current competition is Josh Fields and Chia-Jin Lo, who both failed during auditions in the 9th inning last year.

30. COL – LaTroy Hawkins – Even if Hawkins opens the season as the Rockies closer, it will only be a matter of time before Rex Brothers takes back over. Once Brothers is closing, he can be bumped ahead of about half the names on this list.

I’m sure we are just moments away from the next signing, trade, or injury that will shake up the landscape of the closer position once again. Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, and Fernando Rodney promise to stir things up even more when they sign. For a more in-depth look at the volatility of the closer position from year-to-year, click here to read Ray Guilfoyle’s take on the closer carousel.

What draft strategy will you take into 2014 when drafting your closers?

Who will you be targeting and avoiding for your bullpen in 2014?

Make sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below…

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