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Closer Rankings: A lot can change in spring training

If you drafted early in spring training, there's no telling WHAT your closer situation is like now.

Nick Laham

Whenever I (or anyone, really; I'm not special) espouse the "don't pay for saves" draft strategy, the point is that saves always come into the league. Guys like Koji Uehara, Kenley Jansen, Jim Henderson didn't enter 2013 with the closer jobs, so the astute fantasy player could have really capitalized on some waiver claims.

There is another side to the strategy, though. In the standard 10-team league, there are (basically) 1.5 players at each infield position - the starter and the CI/MI player. Across baseball, that's 15 second basemen, 15 shortstops. Fewer in Yahoo!, where there aren't devoted CI/MI slots. Give or take, sure, but you get the idea.

Meanwhile, Yahoo! has two reliever slots plus some other generic pitchers. ESPN calls for a bunch of generic pitchers, but rest assured there are closers in there. So basically, at minimum, your league is going to utilize 20 relievers, and more likely 30 or more. Sure, there will be the occasional Mark Melancon or Rex Brothers, guys who provide middle-relief value, but in short, your fantasy league is going to utilize every available save-getter, every guy who is his position's equivalent of Gordon Beckham or Justin Smoak.

Well, in the Fake Teams' 20-team dynasty draft (which took approximately seven forevers to complete, but that's neither here nor there), Neftali Feliz went in Round 11 - 203 overall - on Jan. 29. In my longtime ten-team keeper league, he went March 15 in Round 21 - 210 overall. A couple days later, another keeper league (12 teams) saw him go with the last pick in Round 16 - 192 overall.

Basically, a baseline for Feliz's 2014 value was established. He was somewhere around the 200th pick in fantasy, a lower-tier-but-still-viable closer.

Neftali Feliz is in AAA right now. Joakim Soria is the closer for the Texas Rangers.

The same story can be seen a few different places. Chad Qualls was thought to be the Houston closer, and might still be, but Bo Porter has been doing a lot of "committee" talk that could skew that. Aroldis Chapman had that ugly injury. Addison Reed and Jose Veras were officially announced as their team's closers, while we're still waiting and wondering if Tommy Hunter, for one, will hold the job for his team.

In a position with only 15 or so guys owned, this isn't devastating, because - injuries aside - the guys whose jobs are up in the air aren't really guys you're drafting to begin with. But with closers, virtually every guy with the "job" is getting drafted, and often we don't really know who has that "job."

Maybe that's an argument for paying for saves. Craig Kimbrel and Greg Holland - again, injuries aside - aren't likely to get replaced. On the flip side, if you did use a 200-ish pick on Feliz, Soria is right there for a quick add/drop. Really, the moral of this little story is that something like two-thirds of closers drafted are little more than darts thrown, and you just have to hope.

With that in mind, this is an update on the preseason top 30 closers from a few weeks ago, with some brief updated thoughts on each:

Rank Player Team Previous Rank Thoughts
1 Craig Kimbrel ATL 1 The best out there; nothing is apt to change that right now.
2 Kenley Jansen LAD 2 Seriously, 14 K/9 over 222.1 career IP. Ridiculous as all get-out.
3 Greg Holland KCR 3 Best closer in the American League. Not really close.
4 Glen Perkins MIN 6 Uehara will get more opportunities, but Perkins will get the strikeouts.
5 Koji Uehara BOS 5 There will be some regression in 2014, but how much?
6 Trevor Rosenthal SLC 7 I'd much rather see him as a starter, but whatever, he'll be good.
7 Joe Nathan DET 9 Can there really be another forever-closer after Hoffman and Rivera?
8 David Robertson NYY 10 In any other organization he'd have 100 career saves by now, not 8.
9 Sergio Romo SFG 8 Spring was rough, but springs are never indicative.
10 Casey Janssen TOR 11 I trust him. Sergio Santos is there if needed, but I don't expect it.
11 Aroldis Chapman CIN 4 Best bet is he'll be good upon his return, whenever that is.
12 Addison Reed ARI 13 Susceptible to the big inning, and J.J. Putz is always lurking.
13 Huston Street SDP 15 Health is always the worry; he's great when healthy.
14 Rafael Soriano WAS 12 I trust him more than most, but the team does have replacement options.
15 Bobby Parnell NYM 16 Will be babied early in the year, but should be ultimately fine.
16 Grant Balfour TBR 17 Can I use my "Balfour"/"Strikthree" joke again? No? Damn.
17 Jonathan Papelbon PHI 14 No idea how good he'll be, but how many chances will the Phils have to offer?
18 Jim Johnson OAK 18 You'd certainly like more strikeouts here, but he gets the job done.
19 Steve Cishek MIA 20 Team's sub-mediocrity is the only thing holding him back.
20 Jason Grilli PIT 19 I do think Melancon gets a few shots eventually this season.
21 Jim Henderson MIL 21 Out-of-nowhere closers often go back there.
22 Jose Veras CHC 24 Confirmation of job ownership was enough to boost him a bit.
23 John Axford CLE 25 If early 2013 was really him, he's awful, but people do seem to think otherwise.
24 J.J. Hoover CIN NR Looks like the early candidate to fill in while Chapman is out.
25 Nate Jones CWS 23 Count me as a disbeliever.
26 LaTroy Hawkins COL 29 I don't trust him, but the Rockies certainly seem to.
27 Joakim Soria TEX NR Clarity in Texas is nice, but it's tough to have faith in anyone here.
28 Ernesto Frieri LAA 26 Oh look, he (probably) just gave up another home run.
29 Tommy Hunter BAL 27 Can he get lefties out? We'll see, but it's far from a sure thing.
30 Fernando Rodney SEA 28 One good season and a bunch of mediocrity-at-best otherwise.