So far, our 2011 fantasy baseball composite rankings ( Top 50 | C | 1B | 2B | SS ) have followed a certain pattern. The composites, which have merged rankings from MLB.com, ESPN, CBS, Yahoo and CNNSI, have each seen a consensus No. 1 option, followed by a pecking order that made for really easy visuals on where talent dropped off.
But the 2011 fantasy baseball composite closer list? Not so much. The rankings were all over the place. Four different pitchers received No. 1 ranks. The one who did get the top slot is starting the season on the DL. The fourth-highest composite closer spent most of the spring thinking he’d be a starter.
As with all our composites, be sure not to miss the sortable rankings chart at the bottom of this story.
1. Brian Wilson, SF. Elite number of saves last year on a team that wins close games should mean he’s ready for a repeat. Except an oblique issue will make him miss at least the first week of the season.
2 (tie). Heath Bell, SD. Seems to be the real deal in a pitcher-friendly park and with a contract on the line.
2 (tie). Mariano Rivera, NYY. Just keeps racking up the stats in spite of his age. At some point Father Time catches up. Not sure I’m betting against Rivera just yet.
4. Neftali Feliz, TEX. The Rangers took a good long look at him as a starter this spring. For the time being, he was declared the club’s closer. If he sticks in that role all season, he could easily be the best in the business.
5. Joakim Soria, KC. Gotta love a closer on a team that isn’t going to win by a whole lot. The Royals fit that category.
6. Carlos Marmol, CHC. Seems to consistently fall in this range in most rankings. His strikeout potential gives him extra value.
7. Jonathan Papelbon, BOS. Last year was a disappointment for Papelbon, and there is talk he may not last the season in the closer role if he doesn’t get back on track. He was ranked as high as third by SI, as low as 10th by Yahoo. Like I said, these rankings are all over the place.
8. Jonathan Broxton, LAD. There is little denying his overall potential, but his consistency wavered last season.
9. Francisco Rodriguez, NYM. Still averaging well over a strikeout per inning, K-Rod should be an elite closer if not for the Mets’ continued struggles on both sides of the ball.
10. Huston Street, COL. There are few places more savory for a closer than with the Rockies, a club that should win plenty of close games. The key here is avoiding all the junk that seemed to derail him in 2010.
11. Francisco Cordero, CIN. Some inconsistency this spring is not what Cordero needs with phenom Aroldis Chapman gunning for his job. For the time being, Cordero has the gig, but none of us know how long that leash really is.
12. Chris Perez, CLE. One of my value closers for the season, Perez is going criminally low for a guy with his potential and lack of real competition behind him.
13 (tie). Jose Valverde, DET. I’ve always like the Tigers as a location for closers, but Valverde underperformed my expectations for him in 2010. I’m still buying at the right price this spring. Ranked as high as ninth by SI and MLB, as low as 20th by Yahoo.
13 (tie). Joe Nathan, MIN. He’s one of the best closers in the game when healthy. The question is how he’ll be after missing all of the 2010 season. Plus, he struggled some in spring ball while Matt Capps has done really well. I still think all this means Nathan will be a draft day bargain, not a guy to totally avoid.
15. (tie) John Axford, MIL. Some of the inconsistency he exhibited the second half of 2010 showed up in a big way this spring, with an 8.44 ERA through seven outings. He finds himself in a good spot for a closer, but needs to find more consistent control.
15 (tie) JJ Putz, ARI. Back issues during the spring have raised questions about his early season availability. For the time being, it looks like he’ll be on hand for opening day. Ranked as high as 6th by Yahoo, he fell out of the top 20 altogether in SI’s rankings.
17. Matt Thornton, CWS. Don’t look now, but a potential top 10 closer can be had for half the price. Thornton has secured the White Sox’s closer role and has little competition after Chris Sale has yet to even lock down a bullpen spot.
18. Andrew Bailey, OAK. Look closely at Bailey’s numbers. A sub-1.00 WHIP two straight seasons. An ERA that dropped from 1.84 in 2009 to 1.47 in 2010. The only thing holding Bailey back was his run support, which should improve in 2011. Now only if he was healthy. He’ll likely miss the couple weeks of the season with a forearm malady.
19. Ryan Franklin, STL. Franklin is officially the Cardinals’ closer. He is playing for a new contract and has stated back in January he’d consider retiring if he doesn’t get the contract he wants. Not sure how this will play out over the course of a full season.
20. Joel Hanrahan, PIT. The only real stat you need to know: Hanrahan struck out 100 batters in 69.2 innings last season. How cool is that? He’s the closer for now, and I’m a big fan of strikeout-heavy closers. He does have Evan Meek breathing over his shoulder if he falters for the Pirates.
Who’s missing from this list? Two of my value closers (Craig Kimbrel and Drew Storen) … showing just how good a value they really are!
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