When preparing for your fantasy baseball drafts, it is a must to have a strategy before going into your draft. To assist you in your strategy, we have provided you with our Consensus Top 40 Closer rankings for 2016, tiered rankings, and NL-only and AL-only rankings as well.
Now that we have provided you all these tools you need to prepare for your drafts, your fantasy draft preparation would be incomplete without some relievers/closers to target and avoid, which we provide you today.
We asked each of the fantasy baseball writers to provide you with the closer/reliever they would target in fantasy drafts this season, and you can find them along with their reasoning below.
Closers/Relievers to Target in 2016
A 34-year-old closer in the final year of his contract (though the Tigers likely will pick up the $6 million option for 2017) does not qualify as the sexiest "target." Rodriguez, however, will have sneaky value in the middle rounds. In 2015, while pitching for a dreadful Brewers team, Rodriguez tied for 5th in the National League with 38 saves. If he can squeeze that many saves from a 68-win team with one of the worst rotations in the league--they were 13th in starters' ERA--imagine what he might do with an above-average rotation on a resurgent Tigers team expected to contend. Detroit's bullpen has been a train wreck for as long as anyone can remember, but the additions of setup men Mark Lowe and Justin Wilson should stabilize things. Even when the bullpen was horrendous, the Tigers' closer had value. I don't expect the bullpen to be horrendous in 2016, and I do expect Rodriguez to challenge for the American League lead in saves.
Hector Rondon, Cubs (Daniel Kelley)
There were 37 pitchers with at least 10 saves last year. Of those, the only ones with a higher K/9 and lower BB/9 than Hector Rondon (8.87 and 1.93, respectively) were Francisco Rodriguez, Zach Britton, Kenley Jansen and David Robertson. Jansen is my No. 1 closer. Rodriguez is 34, and you'd guess he's 44 just off the top of your head. Britton and Robertson are on two teams that, frankly, I expect to finish last (the Orioles) and second-to-last (the White Sox). Meanwhile, the Cubs inexplicably took their sweet time making Rondon the closer last year, but he's starting off with the role this year. On top of that, if there's a weakness on this Cubs' team, it is its relative lack of bullpen depth. There's no random Jason Motte or Rafael Soriano to undeservedly unseat Rondon this year. It's his role, getting saves for maybe the game's best team, and he'll provide fantasy value commensurate with that.
Arodys Vizcaino, Braves (Domenic Lanza)
There is a fair bit of inherent risk with Vizcaino. He missed all of 2012 and 2013 with injuries (and has dealt with injuries throughout his career), and spend the first-half of 2015 suspended for PED use. And, as it stands, he is not first in-line for saves on a fairly awful Braves team - that 'honor' belongs to Jason Grilli, until he is (probably) dealt to a contending team. That being said, Vizcaino was excellent once getting his call to the show last season, posting a 1.60 ERA (2.48 FIP) and striking out 9.89 batters per nine in 33.2 IP. He also converted 9 of his 10 save opportunities, and and picked up 3 holds. The 25-year-old righty has excellent stuff, with a 97-plus MPH fastball and a 12-to-6 curves that sits in the mid-80s, and he picks up plenty of swings and missed - and that's what made him a top-100 prospect every year from 2010 through 2014. So long as he's healthy, he will be a force in the bullpen. If Grilli is hurt or ineffective, he will be next up for whatever save opportunities the Braves provide.
Ken Giles, Astros (Ray Guilfoyle)
Giles should start the season as the Astros closer, as they gave up a boatload of prospects for his services. Giles is coming off a 2015 season where he won 6 games and saved 15 more while striking out 11 batters per nine innings. He was also able to keep the ball in the hitters park that is Citizen's Bank Park, as he gave up just two home runs in 70 innings of work last season. He is currently being drafted as the ninth closer off draft boards according to NFBC ADPO rankings, and I prefer him over several of the closers being drafted ahead of him right now, including Mark Melancon, Trevor Rosenthal and a few others. He has the potential to be a top 5 closer, and I can see him saving 35-40 games this season.
Zach Britton, Orioles (Tim Finnegan)
Britton is the 9th closer off the draft board in Yahoo ADP, at pick 104, and that's too low for me. Britton has a 1.60 ERA in his last 2 seasons spanning 140 IP/531 opp PA. He had a surge in strikeouts last season, up to 31%, on the back of a 16.4% swinging strike rate. That swinging strike rate was higher than Craig Kimbrel's last year, for reference. He also generates an absurd amount of ground balls (79%) with his 96 mph two seamer. I would draft Britton over any closer after the top 4 guys: Jansen, Davis, Kimbrel and Familia.
Cody Allen, Indians (Rob Parker)
I don't think most people realize just how good Allen has been as a closer. His save totals have not really reflected just how dominant he has been. He has three straight seasons of about 70 innings, 88 or more strikeouts, and ERAs and FIPs in the 2s. His strikeout rate has increased in each of those years. He had a 2.36 SIERA last season. I think many are hesitant to put him in the group of elite closers, but he certainly belongs there with Britton, Giles, and Familia. He had the sixth best K% last season and the 11th best K%-BB% among all relievers. If you can get him after those names I mentioned earlier and maybe even after Rosenthal and Melancon, you are getting a steal on draft day.
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