The Closer Chronicle: 2014 Rankings

Instead of a final ranking for 2013 (because that would be of little use with only four days left in the regular season), I’ve decided to look ahead with a *very* early set of 2014 rankings at the closer position. Some of it is guess work, but I’ve put a lot of thought into who’s going to be where and whose contracts are up after the season. It’s been a long year but, as always, it flew by way too fast. Thanks for sticking around. And good luck keeping yourselves busy until Opening Day ’14.

Tier 1

Craig Kimbrel, ATL
2013: 4 W, 49 SV, 4 BS, 96 K, 1.25 ERA, 0.89 WHIP

Aroldis Chapman, CIN
2013: 4 W, 38 SV, 5 BS, 112 K, 2.54 ERA, 1.04 WHIP

Kenley Jansen, LAD
2013: 4 W, 28 SV, 4 BS, 109 K, 1.90 ERA, 0.85 WHIP

If you’ve followed my ranks, then it’s no surprise to see Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen as my one, two and three for 2014. Any one of the three can take the No. 1 overall spot and it’s not even a sure thing that Chapman stays in the bullpen – although it would be foolish to remove him from his current role. My gut says Jansen, who actually has the second most mileage of the three with 221 1/3 career innings, emerges as fantasy’s No. 1 closer in 2014. But my overall take on the trio is to draft the one who drops the furthest. Since being named the Dodgers closer on June 11, Jansen has 26 saves in 29 chances with a 1.44 ERA, 0.73 WHIP and 65 strikeouts in 43 2/3 innings. Over a full season, he could put up record-breaking numbers in Los Angeles.

Tier 2

Greg Holland, KC
2013: 2 W, 45 SV, 3 BS, 99 K, 1.25 ERA, 0.83 WHIP

Koji Uehara, BOS
2013: 4 W, 21 SV, 3 BS, 99 K, 1.12 ERA, 0.57 WHIP

Glen Perkins, MIN
2013: 2 W, 36 SV, 4 BS, 76 K, 2.34 ERA, 0.94 WHIP

Jason Grilli, PIT
2013: 0 W, 32 SV, 2 BS, 74 K, 2.76 ERA, 1.06 WHIP

Trevor Rosenthal, STL
2013: 2 W, 3 SV, 5 BS, 106 K, 2.66 ERA, 1.09 WHIP

Sergio Romo, SF
2013: 4 W, 37 SV, 5 BS, 57 K, 2.62 ERA, 1.10 WHIP

I’m going to resist the temptation to rank Greg Holland as a Tier 1 closer in 2014, but he isn’t far behind. The strides Holland took in 2013 were astonishing, starting with a drop in his walk rate from 11.8 percent in 2012 to 6.9 percent in 2013. Holland led the American League with a 40.4-percent strikeout rate and you can’t knock his 1.25 ERA, given a 1.38 FIP and 1.69 xFIP. I just want to see him do it again – even if it’s not this good – before I go all in. Koji Uehara and Sergio Romo are probably the safest options in Tier 2, with Uehara having the most upside of the two. Overshadowed by Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey for much of the early season, Uehara saved Boston’s ninth-inning woes with a career year. He’s been worth 3.3 WAR, according to FanGraphs, and how about that 0.57 WHIP? Mercy! Romo, meanwhile, had a very successful year in his own right, picking up 37 saves in 42 chances with a solid, but not spectacular 2.62 ERA/2.87 FIP/3.17 xFIP. He’s legit, but his ceiling isn’t as high as some of the others. Glen Perkins made himself some extra money with a huge 2013. The Twins closer has a solid 76:15 K:BB ratio in 61 2/3 innings and he’s held opposing batters to a .196 BA. Jason Grilli looks like his old self again and it’s possible he’s undervalued in 2014 drafts. Don’t write him off because of injuries. Trevor Rosenthal is the first new name to appear on the list. Edward Mujica was fantastic for the Cardinals, but he succumbed to fatigue when St. Louis needed him the most. Rosenthal, who throws 97, has taken over for Mujica in the meantime and I think he takes and holds the job in 2014. Jason Motte is still there, but you can’t count on him coming back at 100 percent. On the season, Rosenthal has 106 strikeouts in 74 1/3 innings. He’s the future in St. Louis.

Tier 3

David Robertson, NYY
2013: 5 W, 2 SV, 2 BS, 76 K, 2.10 ERA, 1.07 WHIP

Steve Cishek, FA
2013: 3 W, 33 SV, 2 BS, 72 K, 2.39 ERA, 1.08 WHIP

Jim Henderson, MIL
2013: 5 W, 26 SV, 4 BS, 71 K, 2.64 ERA, 1.14 WHIP

Bobby Parnell, NYM
2013: 5 W, 22 SV, 4 BS, 44 K, 2.16 ERA, 1.00 WHIP

Rex Brothers, COL
2013: 2 W, 17 SV, 2 BS, 72 K, 1.80 ERA, 1.28 WHIP

Joakim Soria, TEX
2013: 0 W, 0 SV, 0 BS, 26 K, 4.09 ERA, 1.36 WHIP

Someone has to take over for Mariano Rivera, and I’m guessing its David Robertson, who has a career 2.78 ERA and 31.2-percent strikeout out rate 327 career innings. This ranking is on the optimistic side, but the 28-year-old has 97 holds over the last three years and I think he transitions to the ninth just fine. Don’t forget about Steve Cishek and Bobby Parnell in the NL East. Cishek is a proven commodity while Parnell is a bit of a question mark after undergoing surgery on a herniated disk in his neck earlier this month. It’s very possible Cishek leaves the Marlins in the offseason, but he could just as well close anywhere else. And make sure you keep a close eye on Parnell, whose injury status will make or break his 2014. Jim Henderson is a favorite of mine and I’m really hoping he gets a chance to close in Milwaukee next season. Henderson spent years and years in the minors before getting the call in 2012 and he’s found success in his first extended look at closer in 2013. He throws hard, gets a lot of swings and misses and isn’t overly wild – although his first-pitch strike rate needs a lot of work. With Rafael Betancourt no longer in the picture, Rex Brothers has a chance to reach top-10 closer status as soon as 2014. Brothers has enjoyed a breakout season, posting a 1.80 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 65 innings. He’s slowed down after a terrific first half (0.91 ERA with 41 strikeouts in 39 2/3 innings), but he’ll be ready to take on a full workload next season. I think Joakim Soria takes over for Joe Nathan, who has a $9 million club option for 2014. Soria was an elite closer in Kansas City, collecting 143 saves from 2008-2011. This one is totally a hunch, but with news that Texas was reportedly willing to deal Nathan at the trade deadline, I think the team moves in another direction. Neftali Feliz – if things don’t work out as a starter – is another possibility.

Tier 4

Addison Reed, CHW
2013: 5 W, 39 SV, 8 BS, 71 K, 3.84 ERA, 1.11 WHIP

Jim Johnson, BAL
2013: 3 W, 47 SV, 9 BS, 53 K, 2.94 ERA, 1.26 WHIP

Ryan Cook, OAK
2013: 6 W, 2 SV, 7 BS, 66 K, 2.62 ERA, 1.30 WHIP

Casey Janssen, TOR
2013: 4 W, 34 SV, 2 BS, 50 K, 2.56 ERA, 0.99 WHIP

Jonathan Papelbon, PHI
2013: 5 W, 29 SV, 7 BS, 56 K, 2.52 ERA, 1.07 WHIP

Rafael Soriano, WSH
2013: 3 W, 42 SV, 6 BS, 50 K, 3.15 ERA, 1.22 WHIP

Huston Street, SD
2013: 2 W, 33 SV, 1 BS, 44 K, 2.43 ERA, 0.95 WHIP

Addison Reed has endured a lot of ups and downs, but, at 24, he’s still learning the ins and outs of being a big-league closer. He’s upped his strikeout rate (24.4 percent, up from 22.7) while holding opposing batters to a .210 BA, down from .261 in 2012. The strides aren’t huge, but they’re there. With a sluggish finish, he’s setting up to be a value pick on draft day. The contract of Jim Johnson is up after 2013 (Hallelujah!), so the Orioles could end up moving on from their much embattled closer, but I think he sticks in Baltimore and frustrates owners one more time. I really thought Ryan Cook had a chance to win Oakland’s closing job in spring training and run away with it, but Grant Balfour, at 35 years of age, put up a hell of a fight. It’s the way of the Athletics to go cheap at closer when they can, and Cook, who has 44 holds over the last two years, will get his shot. Casey Janssen should continue to hold down the ninth inning in Toronto. Since 2011, the 32-year-old righty is 58-for-65 in save chances with a 2.56 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. With an affordable price tag of $4 million, there’s no reason for the Blue Jays to make a switch. I’ve hated on Jonathan Papelbon and Rafael Soriano all season, but it’s going to be hard for either team to get out of the overpriced commitments they both signed in the offseason. Both pitchers are on the downturn of their careers and will be hard to fully trust heading into 2014. It certainly feels like Huston Street is a lot older than 30. The Padres closer has opened eyes since the All-Star break, posting a 0.36 ERA and 0.59 WHIP with 26 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings – after posting a 4.15 ERA and 1.25 WHIP with 18 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings in the first half. San Diego could shop Street in the offseason, but I see him wearing the same jersey on Opening Day.

Tier 5

Danny Farquhar, SEA
2013: 0 W, 15 SV, 4 BS, 77 K, 4.28 ERA, 1.21 WHIP

Joel Peralta, TB
2013: 3 W, 1 SV, 3 BS, 71 K, 3.26 ERA, 1.13 WHIP

Chris Perez, CLE
2013: 5 W, 25 SV, 5 BS, 54 K, 3.71 ERA, 1.37 WHIP

J.J. Putz, ARI
2013: 3 W, 6 SV, 5 BS, 36 K, 2.43 ERA, 1.29 WHIP

Danny Farquhar could end up much higher in my rankings next year, but he’s just a rookie and the Mariners have a lot of options at their disposal, including Carter Capps. Farquhar has electric stuff (77 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings) and he could be the steal of 2014 drafts. Fernando Rodney is a free agent at the end of the season and the Rays would be smart to explore all of their options. That’s why Joel Peralta, who is signed for $3 million in 2014, is a good bet to at least have a crack at the closing job. He’s been a workhorse for Tampa Bay since joining the team in 2011, posting a 3.27 ERA and 1.01 WHIP with 216 strikeouts in 203 2/3 innings. I wish the Indians would go in a different direction, but I think Cleveland sticks by Chris Perez, who has played a big role in the team’s playoff hunt. It’s not always pretty, but he gets the job done more often than not. J.J. Putz is a bit of a forgotten man in Arizona, but he’s signed for $7 million in 2014 and the Diamondbacks will try to get the most out of him. He’s been injured all year but has a long track record of success. I don’t see Arizona abandoning Putz in the desert.

Tier 6

Francisco Rodriguez, LAA
2013: 3 W, 10 SV, 0 BS, 54 K, 2.70 ERA, 1.20 WHIP

Pedro Strop, CHC
2013: 2 W, 1 SV, 3 BS, 65 K, 4.45 ERA, 1.22 WHIP

Bruce Rondon, DET
2013: 1 W, 1 SV, 2 BS, 30 K, 3.45 ERA, 1.36 WHIP

Kevin Gregg, HOU
2013: 2 W, 33 SV, 5 BS, 56 K, 3.48 ERA, 1.37 WHIP

This is a total shot in the dark, but I think the Angels sign Francisco Rodriguez – he of a career 304 saves – to take over in 2014. It’s a team in a managerial transition and they’ll want someone relatively safe at the backend of the bullpen. With Kevin Gregg gone next season, Pedro Strop should get plenty of leash in 2014, at least to start the year. Since coming over to the Cubs from Baltimore, Strop has posted a 2.62 ERA and 0.90 WHIP with 41 strikeouts and 10 walks in 34 1/3 innings. He could be a long-term answer for the Cubs. Many thought Bruce Rondon (and his 99 mph heater) was a lock in Detroit, but he never really had a chance to take the job. Should he take the job in 2014 – and that’s far from certain – Rondon possesses a ton of upside ranked this low. He’s shown improvements in his walk rate and has three holds in the last 30 days. Chalk this one up to I have no idea who will be closing in Houston, but I predict Kevin Gregg finds another team in 2014. And who better than the Astros? I have no faith in Josh Fields or Chia-Jen Lo (and neither should the Astros), so expect Houston to sign a veteran to fill the void.

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3 Responses

  1. Bryan Curley says:

    Any thoughts on Hanrahan taking the job back next year?

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