Ray Guilfoyle opened Reliever week here at Fake Teams with the landscape of the position for fantasy purposes earlier this morning. Today we bring you our consensus fantasy closer/reliever rankings for 2016. We used a points system for each of the 40 closer/relievers ranked by each of the Fake Teams writers who participated in the consensus rankings series.
The writers who participated in this series are:
We feel that providing you our consensus position rankings, you get an average ranking from the Fake Teams writers, rather than one writers' opinion, which inherently includes some biases.
Each of the position rankings will be split into two parts, rankings and player profiles for closers/relievers ranked 1-20in part 1, and rankings and player profiles for closers/relievers ranked 21-40 in part 2 to be published on Tuesday morning.
In addition, our rankings are based on the standard 5 x 5 fantasy/roto baseball league scoring, including: batting average, runs scored, home runs, RBI and stolen bases for the hitters, and wins, saves, ERA, WHIP and strikeouts for the pitchers, relievers and closers.
1. Wade Davis, Royals
Davis is the clear cut closer in Kansas City on Opening Day for the first time, and while he doesn't strike out as many batters as Chapman, Jansen or Kimbrel, he is still very dominating. He has given up just three home runs over the last two seasons, and while he is very tough to hit, his strikeout and ground ball rates dropped last season, so I am not ready to anoint him as the top closer in the game as I have seen elsewhere.
2. Kenley Jansen, Dodgers
I ranked Jansen as my #1 closer for 2016, as I see him racking up 40+ saves and striking out over 100 batters once again this season. The owner of the devastating cutter is prone to the home run ball now and then, but reduced his walk rate to just over one every nine innings last season, while maintaining his high strikeout rate.
3. Craig Kimbrel, Red Sox
Kimbrel moves from spacious San Diego to Fenway Park in 2016, where he is coming off the "worst" year of his career. His 39 saves marked the first time in his career he saved fewer than 40 games, and his strikeout rate dropped while his home run rate jumped to nearly one per nine innings. He gave up six home runs last season pitching in Petco Park the same total he gave up in the previous two seasons combined. We should once again see him save more than 40 games this season, but I am curious if there will be an adjustment period for him moving to the American League.
4. Jeurys Familia, Mets
Familia took the Mets closer job and ran with it in 2015, helping the Mets to get to the World Series, and he was dominant, saving 43 of his 48 save chances, while striking out almost ten batters per nine, walking just over two batters per nine, and inducing ground balls at a 56% clip. He should continue to dominate in 2016, so invest with confidence.
5. Aroldis Chapman, Yankees
Chapman may be suspended for 30 games to start the season for his off field behavior, but he is still the most dominating closer in the game. While he can be a bit wild, as evidenced by his higher than normal walk rate, he struck out nearly 16 batters every nine innings. He has struck out over 100 batters in four of his five seasons, and should still have a solid chance to exceed 100 Ks once again in 2016.
6. Mark Melancon, Pirates
Melancon led all closers with 51 saves last season, but the elite ground ball pitcher saw his strikeout rate drop from a batter per inning to just over seven per nine innings. He remains the Pirates closer, but they saw what we all saw in the reduced strikeout rate and made him available in a trade this offseason with no takers. Hmmmm.
7. Ken Giles, Astros
Giles moves from the last place Phillies to the contending Astros, a team that I think can run away with the AL West this season, and Giles will be a big reason as he SHOULD be closing games in Houston this season. Giles is coming off a dominating 2015 season, where he saved 15 games with a sub-2.00 ERA, while striking out 11 batters per nine, walking just over three batters per nine and inducing ground balls at a 44% rate. He doesn't give up the long ball, so if he can reduce the walk rate, he could be one of the better closers in the game in 2016.
8. Zach Britton, Orioles
Britton owns an out of this world 79% ground ball rate, and saw his strikeout rate jump from about seven batters per nine to just over ten batters per nine last season. His strikeout rate has more than doubled over the past two seasons, as he has increasingly relied on his 95 mph fastball. He is one of the more underrated closers in the game.
9. David Robertson, White Sox
Robertson saved 30+ games for the second consecutive season, and while his walk rate dropped, so did his strikeout rate and ground ball rate. He is prone to the home run, as he has given up seven in each of the last two seasons, which lead to his 12 blown saves over the same period. He has the closer job in Chicago, but the leash may get shorter if he blows a few saves in the early going.
Rosenthal has saved 45+ games in back to back seasons, but ended the 2015 season badly, struggling in September with an ERA over 6.00. Allen was the best closer in baseball according to FanGraphs WAR, saving 34 games and striking out 99 batters over 69.1 innings. He did a great job limiting the home run ball last season and enters this season with an improved left side of the infield. Rondon quietly put up a solid year in his second season as the Cubs closer, saving 30 games with a sub-2.00 ERA, and striking out nearly a batter per inning.
Tolleson was dominant in his first full season as the Rangers closer, saving 35 games in 37 opportunities, while striking out just over a batter per inning and limiting the free pass.He is pone to the long ball, as he gave up nine bombs in 72.1 innings last season, so make sure you grab Keone Kela as his handcuff the moment he starts to serve up home runs. Boxberger might be the scariest closer in our Top 15 as he blew six saves last season, lost 10 games, walks more than four batters per nine, and gives up more than a home run every nine innings. Safe to say grabbing Boxberger's back up is a good strategy on draft day. Street is the veteran of the group here, as he has saved a total of 315 games in his career, and has saved 40 or more games in each of the last two seasons. Like the other two closers in this grouping, he serves up plenty of home runs, but should have a long leash in the Angels pen.
16. Jonathan Papelbon, Nationals
When someone mentions Papelbon's name, most people think about how he choked teammate Bryce Harper in that September game near the end of a disastrous season for the Nationals. Papelbon opens the season as the Nationals closer, especially since GM Mike Rizzo traded Drew Storen to the Blue Jays in the offseason. Papelbon's second half was worse than his first half, so there may be struggles in the early going. That said, there is really no one with closer experience behind Papelbon, so he should have a long leash should he struggle.
Speaking of veteran closers, K-Rod turned 34 in January, and is 15 saves away fro 400 in his career. He does't blow batters away like he used to, but is still effective and should have a long leash in the Tigers bullpen this season. Ramos was being pushed by Carter Capps before Capps went down with Tommy John surgery, and is now the favorite for saves in the Marlins bullpen. He had a bad stretch in July and August last season, so a repeat of that performance could result in Ramos losing the job for good. Doolittle is coming off a shoulder injury, so I am a little worried that it might creep back up again in 2016. When he is healthy, he is one of the better lower-tier closers. Perkins saved 30+ games for the third consecutive season, but was prone to the home run ball, allowing 9 in 57 innings last season.
21. Andrew Miller, Yankees
22. Drew Storen, Blue Jays
23. Santiago Casilla, Giants
24. Will Smith, Brewers
25. Brad Ziegler, Diamondbacks
26. Jake McGee, Rockies
27. Dellin Betances, Yankees
28. Roberto Osuna, Blue Jays
Here is a group of closers and elite set up men, some of which are moving into new roles in 2016. Miller and Betances were two of the most dominant closers/relievers over the last few seasons, but now they both take a back seat to Aroldis Chapman in the Yankees pen. Either could close almost anywhere in MLB, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the Yankees deal one of them at some point in the next year. Storen moves to Toronto where he will battle Osuna for the Blue Jays closer job. I think Storen eventually wins the job fwiw. McGee moves to Colorado after the offseason trade that sent Corey Dickerson to the Rays. McGee should start the season as the Rockies closer, but I see him as a good trade candidate by July 31st. The Rockies would be smart not to wait till July 31st to deal him, as he is a fly ball pitcher moving to the best home run park in baseball. Smith is one of the more underrated relievers in the game, and should start the season as the Brewers closer, and like McGee will probably be traded in July.
The Braves closer role is still up in the air, but if Grilli proves he's healthy this spring, he should start the season as the closer, but like McGee and Smith above, he will probably get traded by the deadline, opening up the role for Arodys Vizcaino and his 100 mph heat. The other four closers in this grouping will start the season as the closer, but their history shows that their stay in their respective roles could prove to be short. Cishek and Vizcaino are the guys I want to own among these six closers. The Reds have better options than Hoover in their pen, but will hold an audition at set up to see if they have a long term option to close among all of their young arms.
35. Carson Smith, Red Sox
36. Kelvin Herrera, Royals
37. Luke Gregerson, Astros
38. Joaquin Benoit, Mariners
39. Darren O'Day, Orioles
40. Hunter Strickland, Giants
The remaining guys on this list are some of the top set up men in the game, and there are a few future closers here in Strickland and Smith. Strickland's path to saves is much easier with Casilla and Romo both becoming free agents after the 2016 season. Smith would need an injury or just a classic blowup from Kimbrel to wrest the job away from him.
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