By David Kerr

2013 Relief Pitcher Rankings

1. Craig Kimbrel
2. Jonathan Papelbon
3. Jason Motte
4. Aroldis Chapman
5. Rafael Soriano
6. Joe Nathan
7. Mariano Rivera
8. J.J. Putz
9. Greg Holland
10. Tom Wilhelmsen
11. Fernando Rodney
12. Sergio Romo
13. Jim Johnson
14. Joel Hanrahan
15. John Axford
16. Chris Perez
17. Rafael Betancourt
18. Kenley Jansen
19. Addison Reed
20. Ernesto Frieri
21. Jonathan Broxton
22. Jason Grilli
23. Huston Street
24. Bruce Rondon
25. Casey Janssen
26. Glen Perkins
27. Grant Balfour
28. Steve Cishek
29. Carlos Marmol
30. Bobby Parnell

UPDATED 3/20/13:
Fernando Rodney rises from #13 to #11.
Ernesto Frieri makes the list for the first time at #20.
Bruce Rondon rises from #28 to #24.
Grant Balfour falls from #22 to #27
Ryan Madson fell off the list.

Overall Thoughts

There’s only one Closer in the Majors that will save over 40 games, strikeout over 110 batters, and post a WHIP under 1.00. That pitcher is Craig Kimbrel. He is coming off of a year where he allowed only seven earned runs in 62.2 innings pitched. That’s just dominate for a 24 year old guy in high pressure situations. Relief pitchers can vary from one year to the next, but Kimbrel should stay on top for a long time. He has a flat out ridiculous 15.9 K/9 over three seasons in the big leagues and has kept the ball in the park, giving up only six homers in the same time frame. He’s a stud, but if you want him, you’re going to have to pay for him. It’s doubtful he’ll last past the sixth round in any 12-team mixed draft. If you want him badly enough, you’ll have to pull the trigger relatively early.

Jonathan Papelbon had an excellent season in 2012. I expect more of the same in 2013. He’s be a very consistent Closer over the past seven years and much like Kimbrel, he keeps the WHIP low, the strikeouts high and the saves aplenty. He saved 38 games last season and should repeat or exceed that number with ease.

In his first season as full-time Closer for the Cardinals, Jason Motte raised his numbers across the board. He had a career high 86 strikeouts, a career low 0.92 WHIP, and a 10.8 K/9 which is his best number since his 12 game cup of coffee in 2008. He’s an elite Closer and should be drafted as one.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m worried about Aroldis Chapman and Pitchers and Catchers just reported. I don’t know if it’s the transition into the starting rotation, Dusty Baker, or his overall violent delivery. I feel like Chapman is best suited in the Closer’s role. I mentioned his violent delivery for two reasons. Number one, I fear he is going to get hurt. Throwing a baseball 105 MPH is definitely not natural, especially the way he does it. The other reason is that a delivery like his is better suited in short situations. I think that he has less of a chance of getting hurt if he isn’t pitching seven innings a game. He proved last year that he was a lights out closer when healthy. I’m afraid that his excellent control of last season will falter in a Starter’s role. It’s an interesting thing to watch in Spring Training as Chapman hasn’t even been guaranteed a starting job. The strikeouts are going to be there regardless of which role he has, but I think he, the Reds, and fantasy owners are best suited with Chapman in the Closer’s role.

I expect good things out of Rafael Soriano as he will be closing for the Washington Nationals. He had solid numbers across the board for the Yankees last year and now he’s moving to the National League. Expect 40 plus Saves with good K and WHIP numbers.

Joe Nathan has fully recovered from Tommy John surgery and is a great option for 2013. He had the lowest BB/9 (1.8) of his career in 2012 and upped his K/9 to 10.9. Ironically, that number is identical to the K/9 he averaged for seven years in Minnesota. Don’t worry about his age, he’s going to put up fantastic numbers.

Remember the name David Hernandez. If J.J. Putz goes down with some type of injury, Hernandez will be closing for Arizona and he is very, very good. Hopefully Putz stays healthy because he has been excellent in the Closer’s role for Arizona. He doesn’t walk many batters and has had a K/9 of 10.1 in two season’s for the D’Backs.

A couple of guys that I’m high on for 2013: Greg Holland, Tom Wilhelmsen, and Addison Reed.

A few guys that I’m low on for 2013: Fernando Rodney, Joel Hanrahan, and Ryan Madson.

I just can’t convince myself that Fernando Rodney was for real last year. It was amazing to watch him dominate, but it was a blip on the radar compared to his career numbers. Coming into last season, he had a 1.46 career WHIP. Last year that number was 0.78. Something just doesn’t add up. I’m siding with his career numbers and say that he’ll come back to earth in 2013.

Joel Hanrahan posted a 5.4 BB/9 in 2012. He’s going to have to improve that number pitching in the American League or he could be in for a long season.

Ryan Madson is already hurt… go figure.

Finally, keep an eye on Bruce Rondon throughout the spring. He is likely to break camp as the Tigers’ Closer and he throws triple digit gas. He could be a very dominate Closer in just a few years and he’s going to make for a very good late round pick in 2013.

This completes my Positional Rankings, but I’ll have a Top 250 out on Monday!

Thank-you for taking the time to check out my Rankings. It is greatly appreciated! Agree with my Rankings? Disagree? Please leave a comment. I’d love to interact with you. Click below to follow me on Twitter where you can ask me your Fantasy Baseball question’s and receive instant answers!



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