"There's magic in this beard! No, you can't touch it!" You couldn't touch Carlos Marmol in 2011 either. Sure, Brian Wilson nailed down 48 saves but Marmol struck out 138 batters in 77 IP. That's almost as sexy as Jennifer Lopez (I'm 32 so I have to stay within my age range) and that's why I like Marmol over Wilson. A solid closer strategy on draft day can make or break your season. Do you draft an elite closer early and get great ERA/WHIP/K along with your saves or do you wait until the end of the draft and get cheap saves with terrible ERA/WHIP/K? It's always a debate. I prefer drafting a closer earlier rather than later, but that's just me.
Below are my top 30 Closers for 2011. I apologize in advance if I don't go along with the rest of the experts/analysts in the fantasy industry but this is how I am ranking them for my personal drafts. I also separated another group of middle relievers, all of whom have saves opportunity potential, and ranked them.
1. Carlos Marmol - 138 K in 77IP in 2010
2. Brian Wilson - 48 Saves and World Series hero, video game cover, livin' the dream
3. Heath Bell - Traded or not, he'll notch 40+ saves easy
4. Mariano Rivera - He's older but hasn't shown he's hittable yet, always a great value on draft day
5. Joakim Soria - Elite closer on a team that won't win much, so expect about 30 saves but great ERA/WHIP/K
6. Neftali Feliz - Could easily be #1 on this list, could end up starting, high risk/high reward
7. Brad Lidge - iI he stays healthy and his head is right, he'll be fantastic
8. Jose Valverde - The Tigers look solid this year, should rack up 35+ saves easy
9. Jonathan Papelbon - Save opps are there, but ERA/WHIP taking a hit, could be traded but solid draft value this year
10. Andrew Bailey - Needs to stay healthy and could be top 5
11. John Axford - Can he follow up a terrific 2010? he saved 24 of 27 games in the second half!
12. Jonathon Broxton - Down year last year but probably won't repeat 2009, should notch 35+ saves
13. Huston Street - This guy is always hurt and the reason I don't rank him higher, otherwise he's solid
14. Francisco Rodriguez - Should drop late in drafts and should provide excellent value
15. Matt Thornton - Sounds like Ozzie wants him to win job, could be top 10 by end of season, big sleeper
16. Drew Storen - Still unproven, tremendous upside, but possibly tough on save opportunities
17. Joe Nathan - If he's healthy should return to form at a nice value
18. David Aardsma - May miss the first few weeks of the season
19. Fernando Rodney - Should be a serviceable #2 and get you 30-35 saves
20. Leo Nunez - I think he'll get more opportunities considering the pitching staff is intact
21. Ryan Franklin - May retire at end of season, super risky, handcuff with Motte
22. Francisco Cordero - I expect a solid first half actually, then it becomes the Chapman show
23. Octavio Dotel - He's 37, in the A.L. East but on a great staff. I say 30-35 saves but ERA/WHIP could suffer
24. J.J. Putz - If he's healthy, is a sleeper to return to form. Probably in the 30-35 save range
25. Joel Hanrahan - Same as always, tough to get more than 30 or so save opps in Pittsburgh
26. Craig Kimbrel - Pick your poison between Kimbrel and Venters. So much hype here one is bound for disaster
27. Brandon Lyon - I'll pass
28. Koji Uehara - I'll pass
29. Chris Perez - Save opportunities will be limited
30. Kyle Farnsworth - Reminds me of Armando Benitez, cover your eyes and pray!
Saves Potential - The following relievers have an opportunity to wrestle the job away eventually or vulture saves...
31. Aroldis Chapman - if Cordero doesn't last all season
32. Johnny Venters - if Kimbrel craps the bed
33. Matt Capps - if Nathan isn't ready to start seaosn
34. Danial Bard - if Red Sox trade Papelbon
35. Jake McGee - if he beats out Kyle Farnsworth
36. Mike Adams - if Bell gets traded its Adams or Gregerson
37. Luke Gregerson - See Adams
38. Jason Motte - Franklin will retire at end of season (sleeper keeper)
39. Evan Meek - backs up Hanrahan
40. Frank Francisco - Dotel is older, Francisco is insurance
41. Kevin Gregg - he could still beat out Uehara for the job
42. Hung-Chih Kuo - I think Broxton will be fine
43. Takashi Saito - if Axford suffers the sophomore slump
44. Grant Balfour - does Bailey's elbow hold up?
45. Ryan Madson - if Lidge to falters