Closer Rankings & Tiers

I’m not going to lie. I’m being a little selfish as today’s article is a ranking I needed to personally work through and it’s now an article for everyone. I am grouping and ranking actual/potential closers to know who to reach for on draft day when it comes to Saves.

Note: I’m going to call all these pitchers closers even though some won’t close this season. All these pitchers have the potential to accumulate Saves though the chances for some are slim to none.

I went through the guidelines I use to value closers detailed in my book, The Process. For me, closers have three factors adding to their value:

  1. Talent: Bad pitchers rarely become closers.
  2. The Job: Possession is 9/10ths of the law.
  3. Contending Team: Losing teams trade away their closers at the deadline.

If a closer has all three factors, they make my top tier. Every closer below them is missing one or more of the three traits. Some owners may want to mix tiers or use ADP to find values. Each owner should find the rankings they are the most comfortable using.

For each of the closers, I’ve included their NFBC ADP, min and max pick, my rankings based just on projected stats, my adjusted rankings, and a composite stat projection. Let the disagreements begin.

Just as a note, I will update these rankings in my spring training spreadsheet which contains quite a few bits of useful information.

All Three Traits

These are the best of the best and I at least want one of them.

Closer Rankings Group 1
Name Proj Rank My Rank Min ADP Max IP Ks Wins ERA WHIP SV
Edwin Diaz 1 1 30 49 72 70 106 4 2.50 0.98 38
Kenley Jansen 2 2 52 75 98 67 85 3 2.96 1.00 38
Blake Treinen 3 3 42 61 79 75 84 5 2.75 1.12 34
Craig Kimbrel 4 4 53 70 93 63 96 4 2.82 1.05 33
Roberto Osuna 5 5 66 83 103 65 71 4 3.03 1.02 37
Brad Hand 6 6 67 83 102 69 88 3 3.17 1.15 37
Aroldis Chapman 7 7 49 73 99 58 91 3 2.91 1.10 34
Sean Doolittle 10 8 85 102 131 56 70 3 2.91 0.97 33
Jose Alvarado 13 9 124 157 190 65 78 4 3.06 1.21 30

I’m not paying up for the top seven and will grab Doolittle after a closer run or pick up Alvarado later.

Small issue

Closer Rankings Group 2
Name Proj Rank My Rank Min ADP Max IP Ks Wins ERA WHIP SV
Felipe Vazquez 8 10 62 88 106 72 87 4 3.02 1.16 34
David Robertson 14 11 97 168 225 66 92 4 2.92 1.09 23
Kirby Yates 9 12 102 118 142 67 91 4 3.18 1.08 32
Corey Knebel 17 13 92 132 163 67 98 3 3.13 1.17 24
Jose Leclerc 15 14 75 113 135 67 89 3 3.31 1.24 30
Raisel Iglesias 11 15 82 107 141 72 80 3 3.21 1.18 33
Will Smith 19 16 146 187 239 56 71 3 2.95 1.13 27
Pedro Strop 38 17 164 220 280 62 66 4 3.29 1.21 11

These closers have 2.5 of the three traits. I could see Vazquez, Yates, or Leclerc get traded mid-season if their team struggles. Knebel is dealing with Hader. Iglesias is supposed to be stretching out for going two innings. They each have a small chip from being perfect.

Job Yes, Talent No (Rob Silver Specials)

Closer Rankings Group 3
Name Proj Rank My Rank Min ADP Max IP Ks Wins ERA WHIP SV
Ken Giles 16 18 93 130 156 64 76 2 3.55 1.16 32
Cody Allen 18 19 84 152 213 66 81 3 3.77 1.23 31
Wade Davis 12 20 90 116 143 62 74 3 3.76 1.24 35
Mychal Givens 21 21 160 216 276 73 79 3 3.75 1.21 25
Shane Greene 26 22 186 252 336 66 66 3 4.28 1.32 28
Hunter Strickland 66 23 196 286 440 53 47 3 4.16 1.36 12

My podcast partner, Rob Silver, loves dipping into these closers to get his Saves and says to hell with his WHIP and ERA. Rob probably cares about his rate stats but he’s just not going to pay a premium on Saves.

Another obvious trend is that these closers are generally on bad teams so their Save totals will be low.

Closer Roulette

Closer Rankings Group 4
Name Proj Rank My Rank Min ADP Max IP Ks Wins ERA WHIP SV
Jordan Hicks 35 24 158 203 271 68 65 3 3.75 1.37 20
Matt Barnes 22 25 205 290 386 65 88 4 3.51 1.24 21
Trevor May 40 26 190 251 296 59 70 3 3.88 1.23 14
Arodys Vizcaino 27 27 142 182 224 55 62 3 3.67 1.28 25
Andrew Miller 20 28 121 210 267 62 85 4 2.77 1.05 18
Josh Hader 24 29 75 96 137 81 116 4 2.93 1.12 8
Archie Bradley 28 30 152 189 262 67 71 3 3.56 1.26 22
Drew Steckenrider 29 31 179 240 309 67 79 3 3.41 1.23 19
Brad Boxberger 34 32 157 363 573 59 68 2 4.22 1.36 23
Alex Colome 36 33 169 225 279 67 69 3 3.45 1.21 14
Ryan Brasier 37 34 230 396 521 64 58 3 3.69 1.20 15
A.J. Minter 39 35 158 227 292 62 72 3 3.65 1.24 13
Sergio Romo 43 36 243 473 592 64 69 3 3.75 1.19 10
Kelvin Herrera 45 37 169 318 370 62 59 3 3.76 1.21 11
Jared Hughes 85 38 452 568 595 70 53 4 3.58 1.29 3
Blake Parker 48 39 225 341 415 63 66 3 3.89 1.23 10
Nate Jones 62 40 388 527 591 50 55 3 3.44 1.22 7
Greg Holland 78 41 178 359 512 51 55 2 4.20 1.43 11
Wily Peralta 141 42 242 350 459 60 52 2 4.75 1.57 9

These pitchers are, at a minimum, a potential closer. The key word here is potential. I could come up with a scenario of why each could get 30 Saves. I could also see how each one gets none. Someone on this list will end up with a being a top-five closer, I just don’t know for sure who.

Talented Setup Men

Closer Rankings Group 5
Name Proj Rank My Rank Min ADP Max IP Ks Wins ERA WHIP SV
Seranthony Dominguez 30 43 151 197 266 66 80 3 3.09 1.13 14
Brandon Morrow 25 44 107 249 354 47 48 2 3.44 1.24 24
Dellin Betances 33 45 164 266 355 68 109 4 2.84 1.11 3
Jeremy Jeffress 41 46 188 303 356 67 69 4 3.32 1.26 11
Ryan Pressly 44 47 250 397 459 69 83 4 3.14 1.13 2
Taylor Rogers 46 48 314 485 554 67 69 3 3.37 1.17 6
Craig Stammen 47 49 398 556 582 76 77 4 3.32 1.17 3
Jeurys Familia 52 50 259 437 458 68 78 3 3.12 1.22 3
Joe Jimenez 64 51 277 411 405 67 78 3 4.06 1.27 6
Anthony Swarzak 69 52 275 479 561 61 62 2 3.95 1.28 8
Ty Buttrey 79 53 259 440 448 64 66 2 3.79 1.30 6
Joe Kelly 83 54 424 537 596 66 71 3 3.57 1.31 2

These pitchers have skills but not a closer’s job. They are the pitchers who will step in if a closer gets hurt or struggles. Personally, I’m not targeting them in a draft. I’ll gamble on the Roulette class, see who sticks, and then move to this group once the season starts. These arms can be nice fill-ins if a team needs to sit a starter (e.g. at Colorado start).

Damn Yankees

Closer Rankings Group 6
Name Proj Rank My Rank Min ADP Max IP Ks Wins ERA WHIP SV
Chad Green 50 55 344 489 500 67 81 4 3.18 1.12 0
Adam Ottavino 51 56 222 318 451 65 84 3 3.41 1.23 4
Zach Britton 68 57 276 433 428 58 55 3 2.92 1.25 4

If any team needs a lights-out-closer, the Yankees have five right now.





Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR once, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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cavebirdmember
3 years ago

How can Kimbrel being in the top tier now as you define it? He literally has no job at all.

Buhners Rocket Armmember
3 years ago
Reply to  cavebird

I’d be knocking Kimbrel down a tier every 2 weeks from now until he signs. If he signs between now and week into March (presumably with a closer’s gig) then he’d be a Tier 1 for sure. If mid-March rolls around before he signs I would without hesitation knock him down a tier. If he doesn’t sign on until late March he turns into just a guy who has the job until he loses it due to ineffectiveness because he missed spring training. Anything after that and he’s a flier to me.

feslenraster
3 years ago
Reply to  cavebird

He’ll get it sooner than later