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2018 Closer Rankings Update - January

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With many free agent relievers signed to new deals, I thought it would be a good time to update my 2018 closer rankings.

San Diego Padres v Colorado Rockies Photo by Russell Lansford/Getty Images

Now that we are two months into the offseason, many of the free agent relievers I listed here have signed with new teams. That means we have a little bit more clarity on who will be closing where next season. That’s as good a reason as any to update my 2018 closer rankings. Right? I mean, it’s a pretty decent reason to go to this trouble.

And yes, many of the big closer names like Alex Colome (likely trade), Bud Norris, and Greg Holland haven’t moved yet so I will have to pick their destinations for them. That will lead to some mocking of my selected destinations, surely. Anyway, let’s do this. Here are my early-January closer rankings for the 2018 season.

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
  • Archie Bradley - ARI
  • Wade Davis - COL
  • Edwin Diaz - SEA
  • Cody Allen - CLE
  • Brandon Morrow - CHC

The Weak Leads

  • Greg Holland - STL
  • Arodys Vizcaino - ATL
  • Blake Treinen - OAK
  • Brad Brach - BAL
  • Jeurys Familia - NYM
  • Hector Neris - PHI
  • Kelvin Herrera - KC
  • Fernando Rodney - MIN
  • Blake Parker - LAA

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

  • Juan Minaya - CHW
  • Shane Greene - DET
  • Alex Claudio - TEX
  • Mark Melancon - SF
  • Dan Jennings - TB
  • Brad Ziegler - MIA

Ok, so now let me defend some of the changes I’ve made since September when I last did this. First, let’s talk about the signings that have happened already. Brandon Morrow was impressive in LA this season and I believe the Cubs signed him to be their closer. Time will tell, but they’ve seen what Carl Edwards and Pedro Strop can do and I think Theo and Maddon like Morrow. The Twins clearly hired Rodney to be their closer. They are possible contenders this year and wanted a proven closer. Wade Davis is the new closer in Colorado. Easy.

Ok, now on to the decisions that haven’t been made. I think Alex Colome will be traded. The Rays are in a full rebuild after moving Longoria and Colome has little value to them. The twist here is that I think he will move to a team that won’t use him as a closer. I could only see one team that is a contender that could still use a proven closer and that’s the Cardinals. However, I think they will go with the flashier, higher ceiling pick in Holland. Luke Gregerson is their current closer candidate and he has closed games before, but he doesn’t have the raw talent of Holland. That leaves no team for Colome to be closer for. Tampa will move to their next-in-line guy, Dan Jennings as a stop-gap.

Just like Colome, I don’t see a closer job for Bud Norris. He did well as the closer (when healthy) in 2017 for an Angels team that really needed bullpen help. He will probably land somewhere in a setup role. With Mike Minor out of the picture in Kansas City and officially listed as a starter for Texas, Kelvin Herrera should get his old job back for a team that needs a rebuild and won’t be very good.

Brad Boxberger came to Arizona this offseason to compete with Archie Bradley for the closer job. I think Bradley is the favorite due to his much better recent track record. Similarly, I think Blake Parker wins the closer battle in Anaheim over Cam Bedrosian and Jim Johnson, even though it will be a tough battle.

Finally, I want to mention a few names in this list that I think could move way up this season. Blake Treinen had a very good year in Oakland in 2017 and has always had raw talent. His fastball has been compared to Zach Britton’s at times and he’s always been a groundball machine. I think a top 5 closer season is in play at some point. What a steal by the A’s.

Next up is Brandon Morrow. You might say he had his breakout last year as a reliever, which is partially true. The difference is that he wasn’t a closer. With my prediction that he will close in Chicago, he gets his chance to prove he can be a top tier option with that 100-mph fastball.

Finally, and I’m really reaching here, I think Juan Minaya, closer for the rebuilding White Sox, could have a breakout season as their closer. He won’t get many saves on an awful team, but he could put up great rates. His September showed promise, with 9 innings with nine strikeouts and two walks. His 0.417 BABIP led to four runs allowed, but his xFIP of 3.68 at least showed some cause for hope. He put up a 14.9% SwStr% that month as well. He has a 95-mph fastball and a hard 87-mph slider to go with a curveball. His exit velocity data from Statcast supports that he can limit hard contact. That’s all I’ve got to defend this pick, but there you go. Juan Minaya, breakout closer in 2018.

Finally, I have some personal news to give you if you are still reading this. After three years on Fake Teams and four years total writing about fake baseball on the Interweb, I am walking away. There’s no one reason for it, just a collection of things related to my day job, my family, and my church. It feels like it is time to step away and make room for some new writers here. I will write a more complete farewell post soon, but I wanted to give you all a heads up. You are reading my penultimate post on faketeams dot com. Tschus!