It’s time to take our beginning of the month look at all the major league closers.  Before we get to that, I want to clear up a potential misconception.  Donkey-corns are not the only closers I’ll draft for my 2009 fantasy team.  I’ll more than happily draft closers from the Brain Freeze category.  Cause, see, I’m a save vulture.  It is what it is.  I’ll take saves from anywhere, except probably from the $12 Salad category.  I think those guys are great.  I just don’t believe in paying for saves.  I said “probably” because at the right draft spot, everyone’s worth looking at it.  Some of these closing jobs aren’t finalized just yet.  That wouldn’t stop me from grabbing both guys if I had room and the price were right.  Just because everyone thinks Brandon Lyon should be the closer doesn’t mean Fernando Rodney has no place on a team until Leyland makes a formal announcement.  Anyway, here’s all of the closers for your 2009 fantasy baseball draft, as of right now:

$12 Salads

You know that restaurant your girlfriend/wife/what-have-you likes to go to that charges, like, $12 for a salad?  Every time you go there, you have a thoroughly solid meal.  No complaints, except you just paid $12 for a salad when you could’ve went to McDonald’s and stuffed you and your woman for ten schmools and had $2 in quarters left over to make the hotel bed vibrate.  These closers are $12 salads.

1. Jonathan Papelbon, BOS (Hideki Okajima, Takashi Saito)
2. Joe Nathan, MIN (Jesse Crain)
3. Brad Lidge, PHI (Ryan Madson)
4. Mariano Rivera, NYY (Damaso Marte)
5. Francisco Rodriguez, NYM (J.J. Putz)


Imagine you’re following a donkey, who’s wearing a wool cap, through a desert for 1700 miles.  Why are you following a donkey?  Because he promises you something wonderful and you just need to trust him.  Does the donkey talk?  Yes.  Yes, he does talk.  So when you and the donkey in the wool cap arrive at his destination, he removes his the wool cap to reveal a horn.  The donkey is a unicorn and his gift to you for your trust is saves.  These closers are Donkey-corns.

6. Joakim Soria, KAN (Joel Peralta, Kyle Farnsworth)
7. Jonathan Broxton, LAD (Hong-Chih Kuo, Cory Wade)
8. Francisco Cordero, CIN (Jared Burton)
9. Bobby Jenks, CHW (Octavio Dotel, Matt Thornton, Scott Linebrink)
10. B.J. Ryan, TOR (Jesse Carlson)
11. Brian Fuentes, LAA (Jose Arrendondo, Scot Shields)
12. Kerry Wood, CLE (Jensen Lewis, Rafael Perez, Rafael Betancourt)
13. Jose Valverde, HOU (LaTroy Hawkins)
14. Chad Qualls, ARI (Jon Rauch, Tony Pena)
15. Carlos Marmol/Kevin Gregg, CHI (If it’s Marmol alone, he moves up these rankings. If it’s Gregg, he moves down.)
16. Heath Bell, SDG (Mike Adams)
17. Joey Devine/Brad Zielger (Santiago Casilla)
18. Brian Wilson, SAN (Bob Howry, Jeremy Affeldt)
19. Matt Capps, PIT (John Grabow)
20. Mike Gonzalez, ATL (Rafael Soriano)


I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing apples, bananas and Troy Percival– Wait, he just gave up 12 earned runs and hit Pena in the head with a pickoff throw.  Brain freeze!  Make it stop!  Use the following closers at your own risk.

21. George Sherrill, BAL (Chris Ray)
22. Trevor Hoffman, MIL (David Riske, Carlos Villanueva)
23. Troy Percival, TAM (Dan Wheeler, Grant Balfour)
24. Brandon Lyon, DET (Fernando Rodney, Joel Zumaya)
25. Chris Perez, STL (Jason Motte)
26. Huston Street/Manny Corpas, COL (Taylor Buchholz… As soon as the Rockies pick a closer, I’d move the guy up a bit.)
27. Joel Hanrahan, WAS (Saul Rivera)
28. Matt Lindstrom, FLA (Leo Nunez, Scott Proctor)
29. Frank Francisco, TEX (C.J. Wilson)
30. Tyler Walker, SEA (Roy Corcoran, Miguel Batista, Brandon Morrow, Richie Zisk, the Mariners Moose)

  1. 101 M.P.H. says:

    Grey, I’m glad you posted this. I’ve been pondering a couple of questions lately concerning closers, and this seems like the opportune time to ask:

    1) Is there such a thing as a Cobb Salad? In other words, a closer who will be ridiculously expensive but could actually justify the cost (in terms of his contribution not only in saves, but also Ks, ERA and WHIP?)?

    I’m in a 14 team auction league with a payroll of $260, and a maximum of 15 free agent acquisitions. You can’t purchase even a semi-respectable donkey-corn in this league for under $15. Given these circumstances, could you rationalize $20+ on a Papelbon/Nathan type as your anchor for saves, and then scrape the bottom of the barrel for a brain freeze? Of course there’s always the free agent pool during the season, but with limited acquisitions we have to be a bit more conservative in our approach.

    I like the idea of having a premier closer anchor my pitching staff for saves, but I also pay considerable deference to your advice to avoid this strategy. Your thoughts, sir?

    2) Can you think of any red flags that might steer you away from drafting Brad Ziegler this season? Was there anything about his 2008 season that screams “FLUKE!!”, or does his exceptionally low ERA and WHIP appear to be sustainable? I worry about pitchers who have a lower ERA than WHIP. It’s just weird….

  2. IowaCubs

    IowaCubs says:

    @101 M.P.H.: I could almost see this in an NL or AL only league. In my NL only keeper, there are 14 teams with 30 man rosters. I KNNNNNOOOOOOW (in my best Craig Ferguson voice)! Huge rosters; it’s absolutely silly to think that someone has to start Reed Johnson, but it happens. We use a cap of $270 preseason, and $300 as the season starts and free agent bidding happens.

    In this case, you get three different type of people. 1) The guy who pays $35 for Brad Lidge. He’s an absolute douche bag, and usually the same guy who pays $45 for Carlos Beltran. 2) The guy who pays $15 for a Heath Bell-type, and $9 for Chris Perez. This is usually the guy who wins the league, ergo, me. 3) The guy who punts saves and has to overpay on the wire anyway when bidding happens for FAAB. This is usually the guy who has to trade away WAY too much for saves, and ends up paying too much for Joel Hanrahan anyway.

    What am I trying to say? Hmm… maybe it’s just wise not to ever overpay for a Cobb Salad. What if everyone in your league was a saves punter? Or a number 2 type guy, who only buys mediocre closers? In this case, if you can get a bargain on Lidge et al, then do it, otherwise, go for value over substance.

    What do the rest of you think?

  3. sean says:

    @grey: “The donkey is a unicorn and his gift to you for your trust is saves. These closers are Donkey-corns.” Glad that I didn’t see this ‘graph trail off into how toothpaste is made…

  4. sean says:

    In one cash league last year I was lucky enough to get Soria, Lidge, and Fuentes without spending any single digit draft picks on saves. Sometimes it just comes together…

    All in all, I think avoiding the $12 salad is right on. Although they might be the only “known” commodity, there’s always one (’07 BJ Ryan or ’08 JJ Putz) waiting to ruin your season when they don’t deliver. In other words, it’s a pretty high draft pick to have to make on a commodity that is damn near impossible to project. To me, it’s like drafting an elite TE or DEF in the 4/5 round of a FFL draft; you’re only leading yourself down a path riddled with disappointment…

    I’d much rather take a 15th round gamble on Jenks or Kerry Wood and hope that they perform rather than having to grab Rivera in the 7th round or Papelnuts, Nathan’s, or K-Rod even earlier.

  5. 101 M.P.H. says:

    @IowaCubs: Thanks! I appreciate the input. And you’ve obviously given the matter considerable thought.

    I should have added in my fact scenario that my league is a mixed league.

    Although you can’t purchase a donkey corn for under $15 in this league, it’s also highly unlikely that any closer would go for more than $28-$30 (a fella took Eric Gagne back in 2005 for $35, and Gagne went on the DL for most of the season). I should also add that 113 saves won the category last season, with 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finishes of 111, 106 and 100 respectively. I was fortunate enough to win the category, having purchased Francisco Cordero for $17 and Eric Gagne (I just threw up in my mouth) for $10. I was fair to middling until I negotiated mid-season trades for Soria and Valverde, and picked up Ziegler as a free agent.

    It occurs to me as I write this that I -did- win the category with $27 invested at auction, and one of my pitchers completely shit the bed.

    Cubs, you seem to be advocating a strategy of a $15 closer and an under $10 closer. That was more or less my strategy last season and it worked, Gagne’s struggles notwithstanding. Since it works for you, and it worked for me, then I think this is likely the direction I’ll take.

    Thanks again for the advice!

    ps- this then begs the question: which of these “brain freeze” closers offers the greatest potential for return on a $10 investment (factoring in base skills, injury risk, and save opportunities)?

  6. I heart donkey corn.

  7. lincecumshot says:

    Great work, as always. One small thing: won’t Saito (rather than Okajima) be the next in line for saves in Boston? Unless you think “they” all look alike…*cough* RACISTS *cough*

    I’d also say that Howry, being a righty, would be in the mix for saves in SF if Brian Wilson’s off-season throwing regimen with Barry Zito imparts Zito’s distinct patina of suck. Did you hear this? They’re building arm strength by throwing across a 200-foot canyon. Who knew they could get Alyssa Milano to lie down spread eagle for so long? Hi-yo!

  8. Grey

    Grey says:

    @101 M.P.H.: I believe this is going to be answered by the latest next Tuesday with a post. You just have to trust me like the donkey-corn. If it’s not answered in totality, I’ll field it then. Or see IowaCubs’s answer.

    @IowaCubs: Yeah, that’s why you win. Cause you don’t pay for saves. And read Razzball.

    @sean: Nice on the ‘graph.

    Yeah, I said this yesterday in the Top 20 closers. You cannot project saves properly. (The Royal You.)

    @101 M.P.H.: I like all the Donkey-Corns to give you value and the whole thing is, any of them could lead the league in saves as Valverde did last year. That’s why they’re Donkey-Corns. And any Brain Freeze closer could give you value, another reason why closers are fickle. I ranked them in the order I think they will give you value but that could change dramatically.

    @Fman99: Me too!

    @lincecumshot: Ha! Nice on Alyssa. I think it’s Okajima first but I think you might be right about Howry and I’m updating the post. Thanks!

  9. Eric W says:

    How Mariano Rivera is still a top closer baffles me seems like i have been predicting him to break down for the last 5 years so ill do it again coming off surgery Mo falls apart and joba is closing by the all star break

  10. peter says:

    Thank you for keeping Matt Capps so low on the list. I don’t like to play favorites w/ closers (SAGNOF!), but I want him and his sub-1.00 WHIP all for myself.

  11. Grey

    Grey says:

    @Eric W: Yeah, it is baffling. I think he might be one of those that goes from good to retired.

    @peter: You’re welcome!

  12. peter says:

    @Grey: re: your recommendation to Baron… yeah, I think you may be right. Capps doesn’t profile as a strikeout pitcher like Soria, but his strong control could arguably put him in that Soria-like dominant sleeper category. In 54 innings last year he gave up 5 (five) BB. Recognize!

  13. Grey

    Grey says:

    @peter: Yeah, I really like Capps in 09. Sorry if I’m ruining your sleeper.

  14. Joe says:

    Joba as closer? That’d be a waste. I think he’s much more valuable to the Yankees as a starter. Not to mention to my fantasy team! :)

  15. BigFatHippo says:

    @Grey: Soria is almost a $12 Salad Lite, don’t you think?

    If one could get him in the 8th or 9th it’s a no-brainer.

    @peter: Just nudged Capps up a bit on my board, thanks.

  16. i never knew capps was sick nasty til about a week ago, boomshakalaka

  17. Grey

    Grey says:

    @BigFatHippo: Yeah, I’d draft Soria around there, definitely.

  18. Cory says:

    Wow Capps did come back strong. I had no idea.

    I’m high on Chris Perez this year. Good team, park and solid rookie numbers. And I will sell my soul for Carlos Marmol if hes the sole closer. Even with the mid-season horrors he finished with sub-1 whip. I must have those Ks.

  19. BigFatHippo says:

    @Cory: Don’t make Perez your #1 closer though, Tony’s still talking Closer by committee.

    Watch closely in the spring.

  20. Petr says:

    Kyle Farnsworth should be listed as next in line for the KC Royals, not the Detroit Tigers. I know the teams seems interchangeable based on last season’s performance, but come on!

  21. Grey

    Grey says:

    @Petr: Brain fart on my part. Thanks for pointing that out.

Comments are closed.