Best NL Fantasy Baseball Closers for 2013
The following is a list of the top National League fantasy baseball closers for the 2013 season. The rankings are based on personal opinion formed while watching a tremendous number of National League baseball games. They will be updated as the off season progresses, trades are made, and spring training rolls around.
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12. Jason Grilli, Pittsburgh Pirates
The Bucs traded Hanrahan to the Red Sox and it sounds like Grilli will take over the closer role. Grilli wasn't on the radar in the 2012 spring training, but an injury to Evan Meek opened the door and he seized the opportunity as the set-up man for Joel Hanrahan. During the season he appeared in 64 games, 58 2/3 innings, had a 2.91 ERA, 1.142 WHIP, an amazing 90 strike outs, and 32 holds. Age is a concern as he is 36 years old and could decline at any time. Plus 2012 was his best season in 10 year major league career. The Pirates should be competitive again and have a solid starting rotation, so look for the aggressive Grilli to again have another solid season. However, don't expect a complete repeat of his over the top 2012 season. He just signed a two year extension with the Pirates.
11. Kyuji Fujikawa, Chicago Cubs
The Cubs will be acquiring Fujikawa this off season. The 32-year-old Japanese right hander had 24 saves with a 1.32 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 58 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings last season for the Hanshin Tigers in Nippon Professional Baseball. In a six-season career for Hanshin, Fujikawa amassed 202 saves with a 1.36 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 510 strikeouts in 369 2/3 innings. He's an elite closer in Japan. The Cubs signed Fujiikawa to replace Carlos "Gas Can" Marmol, who had a wild year in 2012.
10. Brandon League, Los Angeles Dodgers
League has been tabbed as the Dodgers' closer for 2013 after his solid performance at the end of last season. The 29 year old came over from Seattle and took over as the closer after an injury to Kenley Jansen. With the Dodgers he appeared in 28 games and 27 1/3 innings and had 6 saves, a 2.30 ERA, 1.134 WHIP, and 27 strike outs. Other than 2011, when he saved 37 games for the Mariners, he has been mostly a set-up guy with a career 3.60 ERA and 1/276 WHIP, so nothing special. I have trouble believing he will finish the season as the closer.
9. Huston Street, San Diego Padres
The 29 year old Street had another typical season, he pitched well when he was healthy, but he struggled to stay healthy. He missed more than a month late in the season due to a strained calf (at least it wasn't an arm problem). Up until his injury he was arguably the best closer in the NL and finished the season with 23 saves, a 1.85 ERA, 0.718 WHIP, and 47 strike outs in 39 innings. San Diego management believes in him and extended his contract for another two seasons, with a team option for a third year. The Padres are poised to be a surprise in 2013 with an improved offense and a healthy Street is going to be key to their chances at contending.
8. J.J. Putz, Arizona Diamondbacks
Putz will be 36 at the start of the season and along with his age he is also injury prone. When healthy he is one of the more dependable closers, but if you decide to draft him be sure to pick up David Hernandez, the Diamondbacks's set-up man, for insurance. In 2012 he had 32 saves, a 2.82 ERA, 1.031 WHIP, and 65 strike outs in 54 1/3 innings. If he can stay healthy he should be able to compile similar numbers in 2013.
7. Sergio Romo, San Francisco Giants
Romo has quietly amassed some amazing statistics in his career with the Giants. In five seasons starting in 2008 he has 20-9 record with a 2.20 ERA, 17 saves, 83 holds, 277 strike outs in 233 1/3 innings, and a 0.883 WHIP. Pretty incredible stuff, but what is more astounding is that we don't hear more about him. In 2012 the 29 year old pitched in 69 games and had 14 saves, 23 holds, 1.79 ERA, 0.849 WHIP, and 10.2 SO/9. Expect more of the same in 2013. There is a chance the Giants won't resign Wilson. If that is the case, then Romo could be the closer from day one of the new season.
6. John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers
Axford killed me last season. I had him on a team with no bench spots so I had to suffer through his 8 blown saves, 5.25 ERA, and 1.50 WHIP through early August. He finally righted the ship and finished strong to end the season with 35 saves, but it was too late for both my fantasy team and the Brewers, who just missed the wild card spot. The early struggles seemed to be related to control issues for Axford, which led into confidence problems. Based on his late season surge it appears he is back and primed for a strong 2013.
5. Rafael Soriano, Washington Nationals
The Nationals acquired Soriano in early January and now have one of the strongest bullpens in baseball with Storen, Clippard, Mattheus, and now Soriano. I imagine he will start the season as the 8th inning guy, but with the way bullpens change over the course of a long season he could be the closer by September. There is even talk now that he will start the season as the closer, so pay attention to this situation during spring training. Anyway it works out he will be a solid choice to fill one of the reliever spots on your roster. Last season the 33 year old had an outstanding campaign for the Yankees accumulating 42 saves, 4 holds, and 69 strike outs in 67 2/3 innings of works while maintaining a 2.26 ERA and 1.167 WHIP.
4. Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia Phillies
The 32 year old Papelbon had a good 2012 in his first season with the Phillies. Overall, he ended up with 38 saves in 70 appearances with a 2.44 ERA, 1.0577 WHIP, and 92 strike outs. He has had at least 31 saves in 7 straight seasons and there is no reason to suspect he won't have at least this many again. A safe choice for your closer, but he may command too high a price for many.
3. Jason Motte, St. Louis Cardinals
In his first season as the Cardinals' closer Motte had an outstanding season and ended up tied for the NL lead in saves with 42. He also had a 2.75 ERA, 0.917 WHIP, and struck out 86 batters in 72 innings of work. The 34 year old from Port Huron, Michigan should be the closer again for the Cardinals and should have another outstanding fantasy season.
2. Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds
There is no doubt the Cuban Missile had a season for ages in 2012, but for me it was tarnished slightly by his tired arm spell in September. Because of a drop in velocity he missed about 2 weeks late in the year to rest his arm. He came back strong, but it puts a little doubt into my mind regarding his durability and ability to pitch two or three games in a row. Overall he had 38 saves and struck out an incredible 122 batters in only 71 2/3 innings (15.3 SO/9!). He also sported an ERA of 1.51 and WHIP of 0.809. He will be 25 at the start of the season and should be able to put together another tremendous season. There is talk that Chapman will move into the starting rotation. If that is the case Jonathan Broxton will most likely close for the Reds. We are only two weeks away from the start of the season and as usual Dusty is making a mess of the situation. Chapman wants to close but the Reds' management wants him to start and at this point it's still up in the air what will happen. Stay tuned to this one.
1. Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves
Lost in all the Chapman hoopla is the fact that the mild-mannered Kimbrel had a better season. The 24 year old finished the season with a league-leading 42 saves and 116 strike outs in only 62 2/3 innings (for a 16.7 SO/9!!) along with a 1.01 ERA and 0.654 WHIP. Pretty amazing statistics. He also comes out on top because of his consistency. His stuff is every bit as good as Chapman's thanks to the combination of his slider and overpowering upper 90's fastball, but his steadiness is what makes him the top choice for me. Draft Kimbrel with confidence as he will have another great season with the Braves.
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