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Phew.  The 2009 fantasy baseball rankings come to a semi-close with the top 20 closers for 2009.  (I say semi-close, cause I will tweak them from time to time and I’m going to have a top 100 and 300 overall soon too.)  The top 20 closers are a bit different than all of the other lists.  The closers on the top of this list you should not draft and there are closers that aren’t on this list that you should be targeting.  The 2009 projections are a bit wonky too since you can’t predict how many saves a closer is going to get.  I mean, you just can’t.  To the point where some well-respected projections…ers don’t even attempt to.  Saves come down to opportunity.  Also, I’ll have a separate post shortly for every team’s closer.  For a broad idea of where players are in relation to each other, see the 2009 Fantasy Baseball Player Rater.  Anyway, here’s the top 20 closers for 2009 fantasy baseball:

1. Jonathan Papelbon – This is the top tier.  This tier goes from here to K-Rod.  I call this tier, “These guys are terrific, but I’m not going to own any of them.”  Familiarize yourself with commandment number one — SAGNOF.  In this case it’s Saves Ain’t Got No Face.  This means that if someone is getting saves then they are worth owning.  It’s like you’re going hogging — all the time.  You’re never going for pretty, high-priced closers.  They’ll get you in trouble.  2009 Projections:  6-2/1.75/.95/80, 45 saves

2. Joe Nathan – There’s no reason to get a high-priced closer.  Think about it. You just want saves from them. So you care if you get 40 saves from Nathan or 40 saves from Nationals schmohawk closer to be named later?  2009 Projections:  2-3/1.90/1.00/75, 42 saves

3. Brad Lidge – I’ve seen Lidge underrated in some drafts so he might be one top closer I end up with.  Are people worried that Pujols is going to be facing him in every ninth inning of every game?  Lidge offers you close to 100 Ks, that’s worth the high pick alone.  2009 Projections:  5-4/2.50/1.20/100, 40 saves

4. Mariano Rivera – Doode’s going to be 39 for the 2009 season.  I’m not saying this is the year it all falls apart, but I don’t wanna be the last one to shut off the lights on the Mariano Rivera Is A Top Tiered Closer Party.  2009 Projections:  4-3/2.75/1.00/60, 40 saves

5. Francisco Rodriguez – It’s been written so many times before that he’s not going to save 60 games again that I’ll simply say yup. “Yup.”  2009 Projections:  3-2/2.85/1.30/80, 42 saves

6. Joakim Soria – This is a new tier. This tier goes from here to the end of the list.  I call this tier, “I need to get 120 saves total to compete, so I’m grabbing as much value as I can.”  In reality, there’s probably a few tiers in the closer ranks and when I’m going over $12 Salads, Donkey-corns and Brain Freezes, I’ll go into more detail.  As for Soria, I’m worried that he’s slowly becoming overrated as we head towards 2009 drafts.  He’s going to be good, but remember SAGNOF.  2009 Projections:  3-4/2.00/.95/60, 35 saves

7. Jonathan Broxton – Unfortunately, the Dodgers already committed to Broxton for 2009 over Saito.  I say unfortunately because I knew Broxton would be the closer, but with Saito in the picture there was more of a chance to steal Broxton in a draft.  Oh, well.  Gotta pay to play.  2009 Projections:  3-3/3.00/1.15/80, 35 saves

8. Francisco Cordero – Alex, Closers for $200.  The question is, “35 saves looks like what?”  Francisco Cordero.  2009 Projections:  6-4/3.75/1.32/75, 35 saves

9. Bobby Jenks – If someone finds Jenks’s strikeouts, do return them.  2009 Projections:  3-2/3.20/1.14/50, 35 saves

10. B.J. Ryan – Was a surprise to me that Ryan was able to have such a productive 2008, but that’s all in the past and now I’m recommending him.  If he has a personal vendetta against me, then he’ll have a subpar year.  We shall see.  2009 Projections:  3-3/3.15/1.22/65, 37 saves

11. Brian Fuentes – I ran over what I thought Fuentes could do in 2009 and I kept coming up with stats that are near those of Wood, Valverde and others that are below him.  That’s how he ended up here, if you were wondering.  2009 Projections: 3-1/3.75/1.14/70, 40 saves

12. Kerry Wood – Yes, the thought of handcuffing yourself to Betancourt or Jensen Lewis is frightening, but Wood showed he can excel as a closer as long as he stays healthy.  2009 Projections:  4-2/3.70/1.10/75, 37 saves

13. Jose Valverde – I can’t shake the feeling that he’s going to explode at some point, but he’s shown enough the last two years to think I’m just being paranoid.  Did you just say something about me?  2009 Projections: 3-5/3.75/1.20/80, 40 saves

14.  Chad Qualls – This might be my number one closer on every team and I’ll be more than happy with that.  I love guys who have been around the block and are getting their first shot at closing.  They’re almost always underrated.  Throw the Win-Loss projection out the window and look at the ERA, WHIP, Ks and Saves for Qualls.  Those aren’t farfetched numbers.  2009 Projections: 6-3/3.00/1.18/70, 35 saves

15. Carlos Marmol – He’s only this low because no one in the Cubs organization has said Marmol is the Cubs 2009 closer.  When someone says that, he moves up.  Not until then.  2009 Projections: 7-2/2.75/1.00/80, 20 saves

16. Heath Bell – Heath falls into the same category as Chad Qualls.  Guys that you think aren’t worth anything because they’ve never been the closer before.  Just grab Bell late and collect his 30 saves.  2009 Projections: 4-1/3.75/1.20/65, 30 saves

17. Joey Devine – Devine falls into the same category as Marmol.  He’ll shoot up these rankings if he’s officially appointed the A’s 2009 closer.  And Brad Ziegler will magically replace him if he’s named the closer.  2009 Projections: 4-2/2.75/1.00/65, 20 saves

18. Brian Wilson – Really the only thing that has him on the list and not lumped with Lindstrom, Corpas, etc in Huston Street’s blurb is the season Wilson just had in 2008.  And saves are not really a stat that translate well from year to year… Well, what I’m saying is I think I overrated Wilson.  Closers lose their jobs all the time and I think Wilson loses his in 2009, but that’s more of a hunch than anything.  2009 Projections: 3-4/4.00/1.32/65, 32 saves

19. Matt Capps – If Rinku and Dinesh can get the ball to Capps, all will be right in Steel City.  Gabaz!  2009 Projections:  1-4/3.15/1.00/45, 20 saves

20. Mike Gonzalez – He could be one of those late round fliers that ends up giving you 35 saves.  Or, um, 25 saves.  Recognize!  2009 Projections: 3-1/3.15/1.30/65, 25 saves

After the top 20 closers for 2009 fantasy baseball, there’s lots of guys, but these two stand out:

Huston Street – Yes, he’s injury prone. Yes, he lost the A’s closer job last year.  If he’s the Rox closer, none of that should matter to you.  As I’ve repeatedly repeated for this entire post, SAGNOF — If someone’s getting saves, you should be drafting him.  That goes for Lindstrom, Corpas, Ray, Hoffman, Chris Perez, Lyon, Percival, Jim Belushi in a gorilla costume, etc.  2009 Projections:  1-4/3.75/1.10/17 saves

Joel Hanrahananananan – What if I said during last year’s preseason Brian Wilson could save 41 games, would you have believed me?  Remember that when looking at Hanarahananananan at the end of your draft.  2009 Projections:  Saves, who cares what else?

  1. Steve says:
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    I’m riding up front with the driver on on the SAGNOF Express, but, speaking from experience, if you’re drafting Hanrahan, you need to be emotionally and physically resilient.

    I’m just about back to where I was before I grabbed him off the wire last year.

  2. BSA says:
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    @Steve: Now with top 20 closers as the topic I thought I would see the Baron with the first comment of the day. Good morning (or is it afternoon) Steve.

    As to the closers from last year I did pretty well feathering my bed with those in the mid tier and using Papelbon as trade bait as I got into the stretch run. It gets difficult, until you step away from the team performance, to see that a closer on a weak team will end up coming close in value to other closers on winners.

    February 5, 2009 I am not quite up to the closer stress. Heck I plan on the RCL again in which I shouldn’t be looking at many if any closers being available, especially if I am picking after Hippo and Baron.

  3. Rob says:
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    @Grey: I agree 100% with the SAGNOF theory anf grabbing closers late. But to say you just want saves from them isn’t totally true. Last year I got B Wilson for a $1 and loved the 40+ saves (or whatever). But his ERA and WHIP combined with Webb’s numbers turned my Webb into like Matsuzaka or something. I think you have to be ready for something like that when going with SAGNOF. I’ll still do it every time, but cust kayin’ (am I allowed to say that?)
    By the way, love the ‘Trading Places’ reference.

  4. Tony says:
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    Yeah saves are saves, but you don’t want Joe BLOWrowski on your team. Might get you 40 saves, but also might blow your Whip/Era out of the water every other week.

    I grabbed Krod in the 7th in 2008, then grabbed some george sherrills, etc late. It worked out great. Traded Victorino for Rivera, which i regret now especially since i love the flying hawiian but i was so stacked offensively it didn’t matter!

    Saves are a dime a dozen. Draft em late, let some other schmohawk take them early! While they’re taking papelnuts and joe nathans hot dogs, you can be taking someone of value like Kemp, markakis, etc.

    Two hour delay today boys, gotta love being a teacher.

  5. Baron Von Vulturewins

    Baron Von Vulturewins says:
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    I’m as saves whorey as anyone (CORRECTION: I am more saves-whorey than anyone) but I am curious to run the numbers and see what 65 IP of Papelbon does to a team as compared to 65 IP of Doug Jones. This will be very easy to do and I will do it later today, after I finish my homework.

    Extra bonus assignment: Identify the Soria of ’09. Picking Soria last year in the 12th was the best and only good decision I made on Draft Day. (Well, that and Longoria late.) I will not pick him this year.

    I will, like the hearty Dutchman who left Amsterdam for New Amsterdam 400 years ago, set my sights on New Soria who, I suspect, also goes by either the name Joey Devine or Chris Perez. I’m thinking Perez.

  6. BigFatHippo says:
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    @Baron Von Vulturewins: You take Perez, I’m taking Joey You’re So Fine.

    Everything in Cardinal land reeks of CBC, ala Ken Dayley and Jeff Lahti. Where’s Bruce Sutter when we need him?

  7. sean says:
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    I appreciate these rankings, but more so letting me know it’s OK not to draft top closers. Imagine the guy who drafted Putz in the 5th round last season… oh wait, that was me.

    They try to make me go to rehab…

    @rudy: any way to do a quick analysis of what carrying two or more SAGNOFer relievers plus a donkey corn does to ERA/WHIP? I’d believe this tactic a bit more if we could see some numbers behind it.

    Seemingly, 65 innings of Hanrahan isn’t going to turn Haren into Randy Wolf, but just how much effect does it have on a staff?

  8. sean says:
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    @BVV: He’s not on this list, but keep an eye on Frank Francisco. Any guy whose name is so good he got it twice is worth a pickup. Plus, he’s only half a CJ Wilson outting away from the closer’s job. Unlike Wilson, he’s got the ability to dominate hitters…

  9. Tony says:
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    @sean: Thats a good question, in my h2h league we have a 32 inning minimum. So guys try to throw their 32 and bench if the stats are swell enough. So an RP with crap ERA/WHIP really hurts under those parameters.

    This is a great article, def’ly copy/paste/print going into the fantasy binder for 2009.

  10. I love Frankie Franks this year.

  11. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @Steve: Tough skin, they* call it.

    *No idea who they are.

    @BSA: That’s actually a fair point. If you know you can’t compete for closers, throw in the towel in February and draft Papelbon.

    @Rob: Yeah, you have some sleepless nights because of 4 ER outings in a 1/3 of an inning, but if one of your closers goes down, don’t you scramble to pick up his replacement? Usually the replacements are just as harrowing.

    @Tony: Papelnuts… I kinda like that. Someone who drafts closers early. “Jimmy just skipped Matt Kemp for a closer?! He’s Papelnuts!”

    @Baron Von Vulturewins: Thinking the Dutchman might want to consider Capps.

    @sean: It’s not a very hard thing to figure out. Rudy already did (http://razzball.com/groaning-at-bad-punditry-%e2%80%93-when-to-draft-closers/) He actually likes to draft a top closer. This is one of the few points we disagree on.

  12. Josh says:
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    @sean: take 2 closers, both pitch 65 innings, one with a 4.20 era (call him hanhrahan), the other with a 2.20 era (call him nathan). suppose your team has a 3.70 era with the Nathan. if you had the Hahnrahan, you’d have a 3.80 ERA in a 1250ip max league, or 3.79 in a 1500ip max league. in a H2H i’d imagine it’s worse because there’s a greater chance Hanhrahan implodes and ruins your week.

    but you prob had to take nathan in the 6th or 7th, and you could’ve taken a guy like Chad, Shields, Oswalt, or Erv that would replace your worst SP, and potentially lead to better ratios when coupled with Hanhrahan

  13. IowaCubs

    IowaCubs says:
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    Hong-Chi Kuo could battle for saves in L.A., no? The MR.B in me wants to believe.

  14. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @IowaCubs: Not without an injury to Broxton.

  15. IowaCubs

    IowaCubs says:
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    @Grey: So you’re saying there’s a CHANCE? I’m totally drafting Kuo.

  16. Tony says:
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    @Grey: I like adding nuts to about anything, my icecream, salads, you know and peoples names. Add nuts to the end of a name and it just makes it better. Paplenuts has a great ring to it tho.

    You’re freaking Paplenuts!

  17. Baron Von Vulturewins

    Baron Von Vulturewins says:
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    @sean: I feel that is a good tip. I usually stay away from Texas closers (and Texas pitchers) but Frank “Frankie” Francisco is hard to resist. Didn’t CJ Wilson blow a save last year on his own bobblehead night?

    I hope when they make Francisco the closer, his in-from-the-bullpen song is the jingle from Rice-A-Roni.

  18. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @Tony: …Girl’s faces.

  19. Tony says:
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    @Grey: YES, nice….

    and speaking bobble heads i lived near Pittsburgh and went to a few Pirates games (only because i love baseball and they were the closest) and they gave out Ronny Paulino Bobbleheads! Ronny didn’t even start that night I think Doumit did and when we left the stadium there was like 14 bobbleheads in their boxes piled on every trashcan…. LOL seriously how bad is your team when you have Ronny Paulino Bobblehead night!? And then everyone pitches it in the trash!

  20. peter says:
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    @IowaCubs: I like it – taking a flier on Kuo at the end of a draft isn’t a bad move even if he’s *not* getting save opps (which I don’t think he is).

  21. IowaCubs

    IowaCubs says:
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    @peter: You, sir, have a special spot in the MR. B afterlife.

  22. IowaCubs

    IowaCubs says:
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    @Grey: We Razzballers expect a post on the top 20 setup men. You have to admit that the Mr. B in you wants to do it bad.

    For years, I’ve tried to find one of you ‘perts to project holds.

  23. Steve says:
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    @Grey: I’m with Iowa. I’m prolly going to play in my old H2H league as well as an RCL this year and that counts holds.

    You’ll recall my (ahem) fondness for the middle reliever, Grey?

    The video works fine for me, BTW.

  24. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @Steve: Cool, I’ll do a top 20 MR post.

  25. Baron Von Vulturewins

    Baron Von Vulturewins says:
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    @Grey: I am pre-boycotting this post.

    Holds are to fantasy baseball as the rouge is to CFL football.

  26. Steve says:
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    @Grey: Gentleman. Scholar.

  27. big o says:
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    @IowaCubs:

    considering how weak the dodgers starting line-up is ,
    kuo is a fantastic addition to your bullpen.
    vulture wins , saves , and holds (as applicable).

    balfour , also , should be considered .

  28. TBone says:
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    New reader. Dig the site. The wife digs it too! I shall return frequently to kill brain cells over the delicacies known as fantasy baseball nerdism (yes, I made up a word, not as good as papelnuts but hey, what is?)

  29. TBone says:
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    Wow. We will certainly look into it. She decided to support me one year and try out a fantasy team and never looked back. BTW, cannot praise your site enough, its the equivalent of the Lost City of Atlantis!

  30. Simply Fred

    Fred Barker says:
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    Grey, see that you have Fuentes #11. Don’t understand why he isn’t at the top. Angels seem to have set a strategy of not fixing it if it isn’t broken. If setup men the same, why won’t Scioscia run Fuentes out there regularly. Understand not to expect record performance of Rodriguez, but, still, why not as good, if not better, than any other reliever? (Rudy, can you weigh in?)

  31. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @Fred Barker: In 2007, K-Rod saved 40 games, the Angels didn’t give him 60+ every year. Fuentes’s most saves in a season is 31, K-Rod has closed double that. Who knows if Fuentes can hold up his end of the bargain for 35 saves or 45 saves or 50? In 2007, Fuentes lost the Rox closer role to Manny Corpas. Fuentes has a career ERA of 3.41; K-Rod is 2.35. Fuentes should be fine, and I wouldn’t hesitate to draft him, but he shouldn’t be much higher on the list.

  32. @Fred Barker: I’m still finalizing my final Point Shares. I think Fuentes will probably come out somewhere in that neighborhood – maybe as high as 8th? Will keep you posted…

  33. Simply Fred

    Fred Barker says:
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    RE: Fuentes. Thanks for the input. I needed something to get me back to reality. More than enough. Will drop back to SAGNOF.

  34. papasmurf says:
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    Am I the only one who thinks B Wilson is pretty good? His FIP last year was under 4. What seems to have hurt him most was that the out converted percentage on balls in play was only 67.5% despite just an 18.6 LD% (for comparison, Papelbon’s was 19.7%) and a high HR/FB ratio.

  35. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @papasmurf: If he could cut his walks, I’d like him more. On the bright side, his HRs will probably come down a bit this year. He’s fine as a late reliever but my projections don’t feel off from what I’d expect — about a 4 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and 30 Saves.

  36. papasmurf says:
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    Well, I just drafted Wilson and Qualls (in the 170’s). Hopefully it will work out. I was tempted to go with Hoffman instead of Qualls since Q might be on a short leash with Rauch and Pena around, but my league counts HLDs so at least I have a fallback.

  37. Adam says:
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    Why on earth is Jenks being drafted ahead of Broxton? I think Broxton is a borderline 1st tier closer you can get in the 11th i.e. great closer to target.

  38. Bob says:
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    Hey everybody, if you go to the Yahoo StatTraker, you can see that there’s still a brown furry animal attached to Chad Gaudin’s chin. I called the SPCA about it the last time he pitched, but I guess they haven’t detached it yet.

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