Today we conclude our tier rankings with relief pitchers. We’ve already taken a look at our catcher rankings, first base rankings, second base rankings, third base rankings, shortstop rankings, outfield rankings and starting pitcher rankings. Closers are more of a fluid position and need to be closely monitored throughout the season but for now here is how they break down to start the season.
Mariano Rivera (NYY), Joakim Soria (KC), Heath Bell (SD), Brian Wilson (SF), Neftali Feliz (TEX), Carlos Marmol (CHC), Jonathan Papelbon (BOS)
Rivera shows no signs of slowing down and has had a sub-2.00 ERA and sub-1.00 WHIP for three straight years. … Soria has a career WHIP of 0.99 and has proven that he can save 40 games on a bad team. … Bell has had 40-plus saves for two straight years and his K/9 last year was 11.06. … Lowering his ERA and WHIP from a year ago, Wilson led the league with 48 saves. … Feliz could become a starter but the Rangers trade of Frank Francisco makes their bullpen thinner. … Marmol had 18 more strikeouts than Clay Buchholz in 2010. … Even in a down year, Papelbon increased his strikeout rate and saved 35-plus games for the fifth straight year, not to mention he’s playing for a contract.
Joe Nathan (MIN), Jonathan Broxton (LAD), Andrew Bailey (OAK), Jose Valverde (DET), J.J. Putz (ARZ), Francisco Rodriguez (NYM), John Axford (MIL), Francisco Cordero (CIN)
Coming off of Tommy John surgery, Nathan expects to have no limitations in Spring Training. … Broxton struggled last year, but still has elite stuff and will be the Dodgers opening day closer. … Bailey has posted a sub-2.00 ERA and sub-1.00 WHIP in each of his two major league seasons. Durability issues are all that plague him. … Valverde induced a ton of grounders last year, finishing the year with a GB% of 54.7 percent. His previous high was 40.6 percent. … With his 2010 numbers reminiscent of his glory days in Seattle, Putz will try to prove he can put up those elite numbers again as Arizona’s new closer. … Minus the save totals, Rodriguez actually had a better year last year than in 2008 when he saved 62 games. … Axford walks a lot of batters but he makes up for it with a low opponents’ average and a lot of strikeouts. … Cordero has averaged 39 saves over the past four years but his WHIP hasn’t been under 1.30 since 2007.
Huston Street (COL), Brad Lidge (PHI), Craig Kimbrel (ATL), Drew Storen (WAS), Leo Nunez (FLA), Ryan Franklin (STL), Chris Perez (CLE), Brandon Lyon (HOU)
If Street could just stay healthy for an entire season, he’d be in the second tier. … Inconsistency and arm trouble surround Lidge but he has his manager’s confidence. … Sleeper alert! Kimbrel, Atlanta’s new closer, struck out 17.42 batters per nine innings last year. … Despite struggling late in the year, Storen had a solid rookie campaign and should be firmly entrenched as Washington’s present and future closer. … Nunez has quietly put together two straight 25-plus save seasons and had a 2.86 FIP last year. … Franklin had a very good K:BB ratio of 4.20 last year despite a low K/9 of 5.82. … With a walk rate over four and a FIP much higher than his ERA, Perez likely won’t duplicate last year’s success. … Lyon won’t wow you in any category but all the saves are his.
Kevin Gregg (BAL), Chris Sale (CHW), Fernando Rodney (LAA), Joel Hanrahan (PIT), David Aardsma (SEA), Frank Francisco (TOR), Joel Peralta (TB)
Gregg is being paid closer money by Baltimore but Mike Gonzalez and Koji Uehara have had success in the closer’s role. … Sale most likely will get save chances for Chicago but Matt Thornton will get some as well. … The save chances will be there for Rodney but at a cost to your ERA and WHIP. … Hanrahan struck out 100 batters last year but will he win the closers job over Evan Meek? … Aardsma won’t be ready for Opening Day as a result of hip surgery but should resume the closer’s job by mid-April. Watch out for Brandon League in the mean time. … Francisco will be battling Octavio Dotel, Jon Rauch and Jason Frasor for the closers role, but he has excelled in the position before. … Tampa Bay’s closer situation is a mess right now. I’d take my chances with Peralta but don’t count out J.P. Howell once he returns from injury at the end of April.