Today, we conclude our series of previewing the 2016 season from a fantasy baseball standpoint. With that in mind, here are the 2016 closer fantasy rankings for the upcoming season.
1) Craig Kimbrel, RP, Boston Red Sox
2) Aroldis Chapman, RP, New York Yankees
3) Wade Davis, RP, Kansas City Royals
The top of the closer rankings is AL-exclusive. Kimbel saved thirty-nine games last year and had a 2.58 ERA with the San Diego Padres. These were actually the worst totals he has put up in his career. Chapman will be suspended for the first thirty games of the season. While I refuse to draft him due to the allegations against, him he should still receive plenty of save opportunities and he is likely to continue providing ridiculous strikeout totals (15.4 K/9 in his career). Davis will be in his first full season as close. Even when factoring out the good luck he experienced last season (.200 BABIP) Davis, is on track to be a top-shelf closer (2.29 FIP).
4) Ken Giles, RP, Houston Astros
5) A.J. Ramos, RP, Miami Marlins
6) Jeurys Familia, RP, New York Mets
7) Zach Britton, RP, Baltimore Orioles
8) Andrew Miller, RP, New York Yankees
9) David Robertson, RP, Chicago White Sox
This will be Giles first season with the Astros and his first full season as closer. With a 1.82 career FIP and an 11.75 career K/9, Giles is one of the better options available if you miss out on the top three closers. Ramos shined in his first closing opportunity on his way to thirty-two saves and a 2.30 ERA. While he provides plenty of strikeouts, elevated walk rates and an FIP slightly over three the last two seasons tempers his value.
Familia was better than Ramos ERA/FIP-wise and is likely to have more save opportunities. However, his ceiling for striking out batters is significantly lower. Britton’s 2015 numbers were out of pattern last year (in a good way), as he saw vast improvements in K/9 and FIP. Another season similar to 2015 would move him into the top five for next year.
Miller may have a limited save ceiling after the first thirty games of the season have come and gone, but he still has plenty to offer due to a low ERA and a very strong K/9 rate. On the surface, there is concern for Robertson in that his ERA has gone up the last couple of seasons. However, his FIP and K/9 rates have both been very strong.
10) Cody Allen, RP, Cleveland Indians
11) Mark Melancon, RP, Pittsburgh Pirates
12) Trevor Rosenthal, RP, St. Louis Cardinals
13) Hector Rondon, RP, Chicago Cubs
Allen had a career high in saves (34) last year and a 1.82 FIP. While his strikeout totals are strong, he has a 3.47 career BB/9. Melancon earned a career high in saves last year (51), but had a 2.82 FIP (2.23 ERA) and only had a 7.28 K/9 last year. Rosenthal is another closer that will give you strong K/9 and ERA but needs to improve his walk rate to move himself toward a higher tier. Rondon is coming off a strong season (thirty saves, 1.67 ERA), but has never had a K/9 rate above nine.
14) Shawn Tolleson, RP, Texas Rangers
15) Brad Boxberger, RP, Tampa Bay Rays
16) Jonathan Papelbon, RP, Philadelphia Phillies
17) Huston Street, RP, Los Angeles Angels
18) Glen Perkins, RP, Minnesota Twins
19) Jake McGee, RP, Colorado Rockies
20) Sean Doolittle, RP, Oakland Athletics
Tolleson saved thirty-five games for the Rangers last season. While his K/9 and BB/9 rates improved, his 3.44 FIP was still high for a closer. Boxberger racked up forty-one saves last season, but was lucky not to lose the closer job, as he had a 4.57 BB/9 and 4.26 FIP.
On the surface, Papelbon put up solid numbers (twenty-four saves, 2.13 ERA), even if he wasn’t the best teammate at times. However, a combination of age (35), a 3.70 FIP, and a declining K/9 rate do not bode well for his value. Street is another player whose sole value is in the fact that he’s closing (forty saves). His FIP was 3.73, indicating even his modest numbers from last year were the product of good fortune. Perkins has shown similar trends with his numbers in that his high save totals are obscuring lesser returns in other categories.
McGee saw his season shortened by injury last season (which does his value no favors). However, he did pitch well (11.57 K/9 and 2.33 FIP) in the thirty-nine games he appeared in. As long as Coors Field doesn’t negatively impact his numbers, he could ultimately out-perform his pre-season ranking. Doolittle gets the last spot on the list due to Will Smith’s bizarre injury (originally Smith was ranked 15th). Speaking of injuries, Doolittle’s season was significantly shortened due to DL time last year and he will be looking to regain the form he had in 2014.