Best NL Fantasy Baseball Closers for 2014
The following is a list of the top 15 fantasy baseball closers in the National League for the 2014 season. This list is intended to be used as a cheat sheet for your fantasy baseball draft. The rankings are based on personal opinion formed while watching a tremendous number of National League baseball games. The list will be updated as the off season progresses, trades are made, and spring training rolls around.
1. Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves
The best closer out there and he is just entering his prime at 26 years of age. The numbers are just staggering. Kimbrel has led the NL in saves three straight seasons with totals of 46, 42, and 50. In his three full seasons he has averaged 70 appearances, 1.48 ERA, 46 saves, 114 strike outs, and 0.871 WHIP. The Braves will have a strong group of starters in 2014 so there should again be plenty of save opportunities. Estimated 2014 Totals: 45 saves, 0.98 WHIP, 105 strike outs.
2. Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers
The only reason the 26 year old Jansen isn't number one on the list is his limited time as a closer. The numbers he put up last year boggle the mind: 1.88 ERA, 28 saves, 0.861 WHIP, 111 strike outs (13.0 SO/9). Remember that he wasn't the closer at the beginning of the season so he save total is a little depressed. He will start 2014 as the closer and is lined up for a phenomenal year. Estimated 2014 totals: 43 saves, 0.90 WHIP, 115 strike outs.
Highest Avg Fastball for NL Closers in 2013
1. Aroldis Chapman, 98.3 mph
2. Trevor Rosenthal, 97.3 mph
3. Craig Kimbrel, 96.9 mph
4. Jim Henderson, 95.3 mph
5. Bobby Parnell, 95.0 mph
6. Rex Brothers, 93.4 mph
7. Jason Grilli, 93.4 mph
8. Kenley Jansen, 92.4 mph
9. Steve Cishek, 92.3 mph
10. Jonathan Papelbon, 92.0 mph
3. Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds
The 25 year old Cuban Missile was slightly more hittable last year than he had been previously as indicated by his 2.54 ERA, 7 home runs surrendered, and 5 blown saves. Don't let this concern you, though, as he is still one of the best closers in the game. He finished 2013 with 38 saves, 1.037 WHIP, and 112 strike outs (15.8 SO/9). There is still silly talk coming out of Cincinnati that the Reds may move Chapman to the starting rotation. Hopefully, this will dissipate as he is best-suited in the closer role. Estimated 2014 Stats: 42 saves, 0.98 WHIP, 120 strike outs
4. Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis Cardinals
The 23 year old flame thrower started the year in a set-up role, but ended the year as the closer as Edward Mujica wore out at the end of the season. His totals from 2013 include a 2.63 ERA, 74 appearances, 75 1/3 innings pitched, 3 saves, 29 holds, 1.102 WHIP, 108 strike outs (12.9 SO/9). He should have the closer duties to start the season. He faltered a bit in the role in 2013 when he was given an opportunity to claim it early on, so there is some concern he may lose the job again, especially with Jason Motte, Edward Mujica, and Jon Axford waiting in line. If he is successful, however, he should ride his 97 mph heater to a huge year. Estimated 2014 Stats: 1.05 WHIP, 38 saves, 110 strike outs.
5. Sergio Romo, San Francisco Giants
Romo has proven his doubters wrong that he could be a full-time starter with his slight frame, only 5'10" and 185 pounds, but he has performed well in the role the past two seasons for the Giants. He finished 2013 with 38 saves, a 2.54 ERA, 1.077 WHIP, and 58 strike outs (8.7 SO/9) in 65 appearances. His only weakness is his performance against lefties, who hit .279 with 3 homers off him last year. Only 31 when the season starts and with the strong Giants starting staff he should have another solid campaign in 2014. Estimated 2014 Totals: 35 saves, 2.10 ERA, 0.98 ERA, 65 strike outs.
Who is the best closer in the NL?
6. Addison Reed, Arizona Diamondbacks
The 25 year old Reed moved up to the ranks of dominant closers in 2013 with his performance for the lowly White Sox. He went 5-4 with 40 saves, a 3.79 ERA, 72 strike outs (9.1 SO/9), and 1.107 WHIP in 68 games. He was traded to the Diamondbacks in the off season and will take over as closer in the desert. Estimated 2014 Stats: 38 saves, 3.30 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 75 strike outs.
7. Jason Grilli, Pittsburgh Pirates
Other than a stint on the DL for a forearm strain, the fiery 37 year old had a remarkable season for the Bucs in his first year as a closer after pitching set-up and bouncing around from team to team since 2000. He had 33 saves, a 2.70 ERA, 1.060 WHIP, and 74 strike outs (13.3 SO/9) in 54 appearances. He will start 2014 as the closer for the Pirates, but age and injury is a concern and Mark Melancon is waiting in the wings if he should go down. Estimated 2014 Stats: 30 saves, 2.10 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 65 strike outs
8. Rafael Soriano, Washington Nationals
Soriano seemed a little off in 2013, but the 34 year old still ended up the season with solid statistics finishing with 43 saves, a 3.11 ERA, 1.230 WHIP, 51 strike outs (only 6.9 SO/9 vs a career mark of 9.1). He will start the season as the National's closer, but with expectations high in Washington, he will be on a short leash. Estimated 2014 Stats: 35 saves, 2.90 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 55 strike outs.
2013 NL Save Leaders
1. Craig Kimbrel, 50
2. Rafael Soriano, 43
3. Sergio Romo, 38,
3. Aroldis Chapman, 38
5. Steve Cishek, 34
6. Huston Street, 33
6. Jason Grilli, 33
6. Kevin Gregg, 33
9. Jonathan Papelbon, 29
10. Two tied at 28
9. Steve Cishek, Miami Marlins
Cishek was one of the few bright spots for the Marlins in 2013 with his solid slider and 92 mph fastball. The old adage is true, bad teams still provide save opportunities. The 27 year old righty had 34 saves, a 2.33 ERA, 1.077 WHIP, 74 strike outs (9.6 SO/9) in 69 appearances. He should be available in the bargain bin on draft day. Estimated 2014 Stats: 32 saves, 2.50 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 75 strike outs.
10. Jim Henderson, Milwaukee Brewers
John Axford imploded in April and May last season, taking down any chances the Brewers had of contending. When the dust settled, the 31 year old Henderson emerged as a stabilizing force in the closer role. He was briefly replaced by K-Rod as closer, to give him an opportunity to reach the 300 career save mark. Overall, Henderson performed well in the role notching 28 saves, 2.70 ERA, 1.133 WHIP, and 11.3 SO/9. He should be the man in the 9th for Milwaukee to start the season. Estimated 2014 Stats: 34 saves, 2.50 ERA, 1.15 WHIP 80 strike outs
11. Rex Brothers, Colorado Rockies
When Rafael Betancourt went down with an injury, many were concerned with how Brothers would handle the pressure of the closer role. He performed surprisingly well going 2-1 with 19 saves, 1.74 ERA, 1.292 WHIP, and 10.2 SO/9. The lefty has an excellent fastball and slider, but throws plenty of walks. He would be higher on the list if not for command issues. Estimated 2014 Stats: 30 saves, 90 strike outs, 1.20 WHIP, 2.10 ERA.
12. Huston Street, San Diego Padres
The 30 year old Street finished 2013 with 33 saves, a 2.70 ERA, 1.024 WHIP, and 7.3 SO/9. You can bank on it, there will be at least on DL stint for the fragile Street in 2014, and maybe two. It has been his pattern for years. He is also not a classic closer in that his fastball only averages 89.4 mph and he relies more on his slider and change to get people out. Consequently, don't reach for him, but he makes for a solid choice in later rounds as a lock for around 30 saves. Estimated 2014 Stats: 29 saves, 3.25 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 50 strike outs.
13. Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia Phillies
The warning signs are flashing for the 33 year old Papelbon. His SO/9 dropped to 8.3, the lowest of his career, he had 7 blown saves, and his save percentage was only 81%. Overall, he finished 5-1, with 29 saves, a 2.92 ERA, and 1.135 WHIP. He will probably go higher than you are willing to pay because of name recognition, so it may be best to look elsewhere. Estimated 2014 Stats: 32 saves, 3.10 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 62 strike outs.
14. Bobby Parnell, New York Mets
The 29 year old Parnell finally became the closer after flirting with the job for years. He performed well until his season ended early due to a herniated disc in his neck. He finished the season 5-5, with 22 saves, 2.16 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, and 44 strike outs (7.9 SO/9). He may not be ready to go this spring, so stay tuned to reports on his health. Estimated 2014 Stats: 28 saves, 2.32 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 52 strike outs.
15. Pedro Strop, Chicago Cubs
The 28 year old is on his third team already since arriving in the majors in 2009. He can hit the high 90's with his fastball and is the front runner for the closer role heading into spring training. Pay attention to his performance as he has been frustratingly inconsistent over his career. Last year he went 2-5, with 1 save, 17 holds, 4.55 ERA, 1.238 WHIP, 66 strike outs with the Orioles and Cubs. Estimated 2014 Stats: 24 saves, 3.30 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 65 strike outs.