Before my wife and bought our first and only home, we made it a point to ask the opinions of many people. Our parents, friends, bank officials, home inspector, Realtor and numerous others were included in the process.
We didn’t want to leave anything to chance, and figured the more input we got from different perspectives, the better overall decisions we could make on one of the biggest investments of our lives.
So, why would you draft a fantasy baseball team without getting multiple opinions?
Going into your draft with a cheatsheet based off one website’s rankings, opinions and analysis is like going into battle with just one other person covering your back. I’d much rather have a collaborative opinion on who the best players are at each position.
So, below you’ll find the first of a series of composite rankings, which factor in lists and projections from some of the most revered fantasy baseball sources in the business.
The closer rankings below are a composite of rankings provided by Fanball, Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, ESPN and Yahoo (which itself is a composite ranking of all four fantasy writers in the organization). I’ve included in parenthesis with each player the overall composite score and some feedback.
2010 Closers Composite Rankings
*1. Joe Nathan, Minnesota (6 pts). Notice the asterisks before Nathan’s first overall ranking? No, he wasn’t caught with the sauce in his system … he instead is facing a serious injury sustained recently during spring ball. He has a torn ligament in his elbow. The Twins are waiting two weeks for the swelling to go down before deciding what to do … but there is a good chance he could need season-ending surgery. Be sure to watch the situation closely, especially if your draft is sometime in the next several weeks.
2. Jonathan Broxton, Los Angeles Dodgers (9). At 6-foot-4 and 290 pounds, Broxton intimidates batters before he ever throws a pitch. He has lived up to several years worth of hype in the Dodgers system that he’d be the closer of the future, and there is no reason to think he’ll slow down anytime soon.
3. Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees (14). Very few have accomplished what Rivera has done during his career. Many would assume that the loaded Bronx lineup would negate many close game opportunities that Rivera would face on a lesser club. Not so. He continues to plug along onne of the most prolific clubs in baseball. At some point he’ll break down, but for now you have to ride the reputation he has built for himself.
4. Jonathan Papelbon, Boston (18). The last of four closely-scoring players at the top of the closer ranks, Papelbon has become a force for the Red Sox. He has saved at least 35 games in each of the last four seasons and during three of those campaigns, he has finished the season with an ERA below 2.00. You can’t ask for much more.
5. Joakim Soria, Kansas City (30). One would think that the Royals wouldn’t provide a whole lot of winning opportunities for Soria, but he continues to produce even after a shoulder injury scared off many of his fantasy supporters last year. His increasing strikeout totals signal continued good things to come from one of just a few worthwhile fantasy options on the Royals roster.
6. Heath Bell, San Diego (38). Stepping into the colossal shoes left by future hall of famer Trevor Hoffman, Bell was incredible. He saved 12 more games than Hoffman did in 2008, while compiling a 2.71 ERA and 1.12 WHIP, all on a team that has historically underachieved.
7. Andrew Bailey, Oakland (42). Call him opportunistic, Bailey made the most of his situation last year filling in for the injured Joey Devine and faltering Brad Ziegler by producing top-flight production at a waiver wire price. He had the best WHIP of all closers who saved at least five games and his second-half stats were markedly improved from the first half.
8. Francisco Rodriguez, New York Mets (45). K-Rod was a dominant closer for years with the Angels and posted his fifth consecutive season of 35 or more saves in his first campaign last year with the Mets. However, Rodriguez’s 35 saves were the lowest he’s produced in quite some time (coming off 62 in 2008, 35 is a stark dropoff). Much of his dropoff could be attributed to an injury-ravaged and underachieving Mets lineup. The rest to a quietly diminishing skill set that saw him post career-worst K/9, BB/9 and WHIP. K-Rod presents some definite risk, in my humble opinion.
9. Brian Wilson, San Francisco (52). Some may look at the slight drop in overall saves Wilson compiled in 2009 over 2008 (38 to 41) and think there is room for concern. However, Wilson was much more improved last season than what his end-game saves indicate. He struck out well over a batter an inning, allowed just three home runs all season and saw his ERA drop from 4.62 in 2008 to 2.74 in 2009.
10. Francisco Cordero, Cincinnati (57). In his second season with the Reds, Cordero recorded five more saves and an impressive 1.17 drop in his ERA. However, I’m a little concerned about his gradual, yet noticeable drop yet again in strikeouts … from 86 in 2007 with the Brewers to 78 in 2008 with the Reds and 58 last season.
11. Jose Valverde, Detroit (59). He missed more than a month with a calf injury, but was en fuego upon returning with a 1.64 ERA and 17 saves after the All-Star break. Not many other closers could match those numbers, and they were with the lowly Houston Astros. Now with a vastly improved supporting cast in Detroit, Valverde could find his way up these rankings fairly quickly if he can stay healthy.
12. Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs (60). If you know nothing else about Marmol, know that he has averaged 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings over the past three seasons. His stuff is just downright wicked. He just needs to keep his pitches over the plate and not a foot out of the strike zone. If he can harness his abilities, 2010 could be a nice breakout platform for the Cubs closer.
13. Trevor Hoffman, Milwaukee (63). One of the truly amazing players at this position … he continually cheats Father Time. He easily posted three-year lows in ERA and WHIP last season with the Brewers, while recording a three-year high in strikeouts. That’s without factoring in the vastly improved lineup he has behind him in Milwaukee vs. those he had in San Diego in 2007 and 2008. It would be easy to look at Hoffman’s age (42) and wave red flags, but it is just impossible to look past what this future hall-of-famer has accomplished lately.
14. Huston Street, Colorado (70). Compare Street’s 2008 season with the A’s with his campaign in 2009 with the Rockies, and you’ll notice an improvement across the board in saves, WHIP, ERA and strikeouts. The only concerning factors with Street include an inflated home run rate and injury questions. If he can keep himself on track, there is no reason to think that Street won’t continue to provide some decent numbers.
15. Brian Fuentes, Los Angeles Angels (72). In one season with the Angels, Fuentes nearly matches his combined save totals from 2007 and 2008 with the Rockies (48 in 2009, 50 the other two seasons). But a word of caution … Fuentes also recorded his worst ERA and WHIP since 2004 and had a career-low strikeout rate of 7.5. Add in that the Angels took some steps backward in personnel this offseason, and it is pretty likely that Fuentes may see a backslide, at least somewhat, in numbers in 2010.
Others just missing the cut: David Aardsma, Frank Francisco, Bobby Jenks, Brad Lidge, J.P. Howell, Rafael Soriano, Billy Wagner.
Be sure to check out the closer value players mentioned here.
What are your opinions of the top 15 closers in 2010 fantasy baseball circles? We’d love to hear your comments below!