Preseason Position Power Rankings: Couch Side’s Top 10 closers for 2013
BY SEAN SCHOONOVER, Couchsideshow.com blogger
When identifying the top closers of the MLB, one must consider players whom possess the ability to handle pressure, whom can pitch to location while maintaining velocity, and whom can still throw that filthy off-speed pitch 3-2 for strike three. They are dealt with some of the most nerve racking moments, and the game rest in their hands during that final half inning, a run given up usually leads to defeat. The following list includes the 10 best closers going into the 2013 season, starting with players 10-6 and their 2012 statistics. Players left off the list and who most likely make up the 11-15 spots include: J.J. Putz, Joel Hanrahan, Huston Street, John Axford, and Tom Wilhelmsen. With that here are your projected ten best closers for the 2013 season:
10. Joe Nathan, Texas Rangers (2.80 ERA, 37 SV, 78 Ks, 1.057 WHIP, 1.9 WAR): At 38 years old he is an oldie but goodie. Nathan last year converted 37 of his 40 save attempts, while posting a career best 6:1 K/BB ratio and striking out 10.9 batters per 9 innings. Even at his older age he is one of the best closers in the game, and should be just as successful in his 2013 campaign.
9. Greg Holland (Kansas City Royals (2.96 ERA, 16 SV, 91 Ks, 1.37 WHIP, 1.7 WAR): Holland suffered from a rib injury during the first half of the season last year, but after he fully recovered he lit it up as first the setup man and then the closer. His numbers last season were superb considering the injury, with converting 16 of his 20 save attempts, while posting a 12.2 K/9 innings ratio to go with a 2.68 K/BB ratio. I’m predicting a 30 save season for this youngster especially with a revamped Kansas City Royal squad.
8. Sergio Romo, San Francisco Giants (1.79 ERA, 14 SV, 63 Ks, ,849 WHIP, 1.8 WAR): Romo filled in impressively after Brian Wilson was shelved with another Tommy John injury, helping lead the Giants to their second World Series title in three years. Romo has one of the best combinations of command and filth in the hyper-strikeout era we are in today, it also helps that he is on a very successful Giants squad.
7. Jim Johnson, Baltimore Orioles (2.49 ERA, 51 SV, 41 Ks, 1.019 WHIP, 2.3 WAR): Johnson had a breakout season in 2012, leading Major League Baseball with a stunning 51 saves. He is definitely against the norm when it comes to an ideal closer as he is anything but a strikeout pitcher, posting a rather pedestrian 5.4 K/9 innings last season. I believe Johnson will be a very effective closer for the Orioles this season but don’t expect him to post a duplicate 50 save season.
6. Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees (2.16 ERA, 5 SV, 8 Ks, .960 WHIP, 0.4 WAR): Yes I know he is 43 years old, and coming off a major knee injury. However he is hands down the best closer of all time, and I am predicting another great year from him. What amazes me about this guy is that only one season out of his illustrious career as a full time closer did he fail to reach 30 saves in a season, not counting last season. He is for real.
5. Jonathan Papelbon, (Philadelphia Phillies (2.44 ERA, 38 SV, 92 Ks, 1.057 WHIP, 1.6 WAR)
Papelbon is definitely back in full force as a dominant closer. His first year with the Phillies last season he posted career highs in both innings pitched and strikeouts with 70 and 92 respectively, to go with an 11.8 strikeout per 9 inning ratio, which is above his career average . One thing that he brings to the table is consistency; he has now posted 7 straight seasons of better than 30 saves and at least a 10 K/9 inning ratio. Papelbon might have been the biggest bright spot for the Phillies last year, and I am expecting him to produce another career year in 2013.
4. Rafael Soriano, Washington Nationals (2.26 ERA, 42 SV, 69 Ks, 1.167 WHIP, 2.6 WAR)
Soriano’s 45 save season in 2010 landed him with a big deal in 2011 with the New York Yankees as the set-up man for Mariano Rivera, in which at first he didn’t pitch as well as expected. However when Rivera was shelved with an ACL injury, he stepped up big time saving 42 out of his 46 opportunities for the Yanks. He now finds himself as the starting closer with the Washington Nationals, a team whom could allow for career highs in saves this season, considering they had the best record in baseball last season.
3. Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds (1.51 ERA, 38 SV, 122 K, .809 ERA, 3.6 WAR)
Chapman might be the most talented relief pitcher in all of baseball, and the scariest part is that he keeps improving. He lead all closers with 122 strikeouts to go with only 23 walks last season, which is amazing when taking in effect that in 2011 he walked almost twice as many batters while pitching in 14 less games. Expect Chapman to have even better numbers this year as the Reds continue to improve, I predict at least a 40 save season with a sub 1.5 ERA.
2. Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay Rays (0.60 ERA, 48 SV, 76 Ks, .777 WHIP, 3.7 WAR)
Many analysts are already tabbing Rodney as a one year wonder, however, I personally believe in this guy. After the dominating performances he gave last season with the Tampa Bay Rays, as well as with team Dominic Republic during the World Baseball Classic this year, how could you not believe in him? Last season Rodney posted one of the most dominating seasons ever as a closer, leading all of baseball with an unheard of 0.60 ERA and 0.78 WHIP in 74.2 innings, to go with successfully completing 48 saves out of 50 opportunities, which was second in the MLB. What makes me fully believe in this guy is that he was no slouch when it came to striking guys out either, posting a 9.2 K/9 ratio to go with a 5.07 K/BB ratio. I fully believe that Rodney will have similar numbers when it comes to saves this season, however, his ERA and WHIP will most likely rise a little. They have to right?
Craig Kimbrel is the best closer in all of baseball, period. How dominant is he? So dominant that he struck out over half the batters he faced last season, with an amazing 16.7 K/9, a 8.29 K/BB ratio, as well as a batting average of .126 against him. He allowed only 7 earned runs all last year, while successfully completing 42 saves out of the 45 attempted, which was tied for the most in the NL. What is even more shocking is that it did not matter whether it was a left or right handed hitter he faced, because he dominated both sides of the plate equally. Kimbrel will be pursuing his third season in a row of over 40 saves and 100 strikeouts, there is no chance this 24 year old is slowing down anytime soon, so expect another great year.