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Coffee’s for Closers: Early 2018 Closer Rankings

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With 2017’s regular season just about over, it’s time to take a way-too-early look at 2018’s closers

Chicago Cubs v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Welp, another fantasy baseball season is in the books. To all those newly-crowned champions, congratulations! To everyone else, congratulations, you had some fun, tore your hair out, made some deals, built for next year, and participated in the best fantasy sport there is (sorry footballers).

With the season now behind us, I thought I would take a look at the projected closers for each team in 2018 and how I would rank them right now. There will be injuries, trades, and free agent signings to mess this all up over the winter and spring, but this is a start.

As a reminder, here’s the list of free agent relievers this winter. You will have to scroll to the bottom. I’m going to list the “big” names here for convenience.

Wade Davis

Matt Belisle

Greg Holland

Brandon Kintzler

Pat Neshek

Bud Norris

Seung-Hwan Oh

Addison Reed

Fernando Rodney

Joe Smith

Anthony Swarzak

Jake McGee

Mike Minor

Tony Watson

That’s a lot of names that were relevant this season. Most of them will probably change teams this winter. Let’s try to predict where they’ll go as I rank the closers for 2018.

The Closers

  • Craig Kimbrel - BOS
  • Kenley Jansen - LAD
  • Corey Knebel - MIL

Cadillac Eldorados

  • Ken Giles - HOU
  • Felipe Rivero - PIT
  • Roberto Osuna - TOR
  • Raisel Iglesias - CIN

The Good Leads

  • Sean Doolittle - WAS
  • Aroldis Chapman - NYY
  • Brad Hand - SD
  • Wade Davis - ARI
  • Edwin Diaz - SEA
  • Cody Allen - CLE
  • Zach Britton - BAL
  • Greg Holland - COL

The Weak Leads

  • Alex Colome - TB
  • Arodys Vizcaino - ATL
  • Blake Treinen - OAK
  • Jeurys Familia - NYM
  • Hector Neris - PHI
  • Mike Minor - KC
  • Addison Reed - STL
  • Fernando Rodney - CHC
  • Bud Norris - MIN
  • Blake Parker - LAA

The Timeshares (these are just the lowest tier, they aren’t all in true committees)

  • Shane Greene - DET
  • Mark Melancon - SF
  • Alex Claudio - TEX
  • Brad Ziegler - MIA
  • Brandon Kintzler - CHW

Some of my ranks or free agent assignments may be controversial, but I’m ok with that. I do want to explain my choices a little bit down here in this space, though.

Let’s start at the top and work our way down. The top three were clearly the best closers in baseball this year and show no signs of changing that. Rivero and Iglesias joined the elite closers group this year with their dominance as well. Chapman’s control issues really caught up to him this year and the fact that the NYY bullpen is so loaded means his job security is kind of low for a guy with his talent.

I think Wade Davis ends up in Arizona. I don’t have a good reason, that’s just my thought. They are clearly contenders and might be looking to swap out their 41-year-old closer for a slightly younger model. Or not, I don’t have any intel on this. I think Britton’s injury this year has caused some permanent damage to his skills. That’s why I have him in the middle of the pack for 2018. Greg Holland has done well in Denver and I think they will re-sign him. Again, no good insider info on why. It’s just a hunch.

Despite leading baseball in saves this year, Alex Colome was shaky when you look under the hood and I expect him to lose his job sometime next year. Going into the year, he will have the job, but don’t draft him! He’s a ticking time bomb.

Familia should be back as closer after a full offseason of rest for the Mets and Ramos will be back to a setup role. Mike Minor has a mutual option with KC and plans on staying. He says he will prep to start, but I think he is destined to remain their closer. Kelvin Herrera has lost his job for good, I think.

Now, we come to a batch of free agents. St. Louis needs to find a reliable closer after not having one all season. Trevor Rosenthal’s TJ surgery means they don’t have an in-house option that’s reliable. I think they get one of the better FA relievers out there in Addison Reed.

Joe Maddon has a history with Fernando Rodney and I have Wade Davis going to Arizona, so why not have them swap teams? Rodney’s probably got one more season left in him, so I think the Cubs give him a chance. This prediction could look very foolish come spring.

Minnesota will probably let Belisle go, meaning they need a new closer. Glen Perkins and Trevor Hildenberger are there as in-house options, but Hildenberger has only a small track record and Perkins can’t stay healthy. Therefore, I think they sign Bud Norris (who, admittedly, has his own health issues) because he has the “Proven Closer” label now. Maybe they re-sign Brandon Kintzler instead, who knows.

With Huston Street and Bud Norris leaving, Blake Parker should only have to compete with Cam Bedrosian. It’s going to be close since both are talented, but Bedrosian is pre-arbitration and they might want to keep him cheap, while Parker already has saves on his stat sheet, so the arbitration hit is already taken.

What’s former All-Star closer Mark Melancon doing down here? He hasn’t looked right all year and I’m just being cautious about his overall health. I don’t think he will return to what he was.

Texas is tough to figure out. Maybe Keone Kela or Matt Bush, two guys that have closed games, will win the job. I guess I’m betting on the unconventional Alex Claudio, who has been their most reliable option this year. I think it is a toss-up among those three.

Finally, the non-contending White Sox need someone to close out games. They probably don’t want to spend too much, but Juan Minaya won’t get it done. I think they will get one of the low-cost options like Norris, Joe Smith, Neshek, Swarzak, or, my pick, Kintzler. They have to do something.

That’s the list. I hope you enjoyed reading Coffee’s for Closers this season. It was fun to write and put together each week, and I learned a lot about relievers in the process. Thanks again, and Tschus!