Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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Relief Pitcher Keeper Rankings

Thursday, August 18, 2011

This year's final set of Strike Zone player rankings focuses strictly on 2012 and beyond. I'm looking mostly at the next two years in these keeper rankings, though I am providing a little credit for 2014 and '15. As always, there are position rankings with notes and an overall top 250 list.

Click to see other Keeper rankings:
Top 250 | SP | RP | OF | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | C | DH

  • I'm largely looking for closing potential here, so those pitchers likely to remain setup men have slipped in the rankings from where I had them for 2011.

  • I decided to try Kimbrel at the top of the rankings. He's in a great situation in Atlanta, and he certainly has the stuff to rack up a few 100-strikeout seasons in a row. There is the injury possibility, but I think it's there for several of the other candidates here, too. Closers don't have the longest of shelf lives, and I'm taking that into account in the top 250.

  • Free agency also led to a bunch of question marks. Papelbon and Bell may not be quite as valuable if they exit Boston and San Diego, respectively, this winter. Madson is another free agent. I think he'll remain a closer, though some large-market teams could throw big money at him to serve as an eighth-inning guy. Other free agent closers include K-Rod, Cordero, Nathan, Broxton, Capps and Lidge.

  • Some of my guesses: I think Papelbon will stay with the Red Sox, which is why I don't have Bard in the top 20. I think the Phillies either re-sign Madson or replace him with Bell or Papelbon, so I didn't put Bastardo in the top 30. K-Rod and Cordero should get closing gigs somewhere, but I'm not so sure about the others. I think Nathan either re-ups with the Twins or goes to a large-market team as a setup man to chase a ring. Broxton could bounce back if healthy, but no team is going to put all of its eggs in that basket.

  • A handful of teams will have to decide whether to sign a veteran or trust internal options to close. I think the Dodgers stay the course, and I expect Jansen to overtake Guerra in time. The Mets will probably sign someone (Lidge maybe) to battle Parnell for the job. The Cards have plenty of potential long-term closing options in Salas, Sanchez, Motte and Lynn, but they might add a K-Rod or Cordero anyway. The Twins could also try for one of those two if they can't come to terms with Nathan.

  • I feel safe in assuming that Chris Sale will be in the White Sox rotation next year, so I listed him with the starters. Chapman was a tougher call. There's no one else in position to step in for Francisco Cordero in Cincinnati, so it's possible Chapman will slide into the closer's role next year. That's not how I expect it to happen -- my guess is that he'll be in the rotation -- but I did decide to leave him with the relievers for now. I would have had him in the 40-50 range as a starter. I also kept Feliz in the relief rankings, but I dropped him some based on the possibility that he could go to the rotation. I think he has terrific upside as a starter as well, but given his struggles this year, I'm not sure that he'd dominate right away next year.

  • RankPlayer NameTeam
    1 Craig Kimbrel Braves
    2 Jonathan Papelbon Red Sox
    3 Brian Wilson Giants
    4 Mariano Rivera Yankees
    5 Jordan Walden Angels
    6 Heath Bell Padres
    7 Neftali Feliz Rangers
    8 Andrew Bailey Athletics
    9 Drew Storen Nationals
    10 Carlos Marmol Cubs
    11 Ryan Madson Phillies
    12 Joakim Soria Royals
    13 Joel Hanrahan Pirates
    14 John Axford Brewers
    15 Jose Valverde Tigers
    16 Sergio Santos White Sox
    17 Francisco Rodriguez Brewers
    18 Aroldis Chapman Reds
    19 Chris Perez Indians
    20 Francisco Cordero Reds
    21 Huston Street Rockies
    22 J.J. Putz Diamondbacks
    23 Mark Melancon Astros
    24 Leo Nunez Marlins
    25 Kenley Jansen Dodgers
    26 Daniel Bard Red Sox
    27 Joe Nathan Twins
    28 Brandon League Mariners
    29 Bobby Parnell Mets
    30 Fernando Salas Cardinals
    31 Jonathan Broxton Dodgers
    32 Matt Capps Twins
    33 Kevin Gregg Orioles
    34 Eduardo Sanchez Cardinals
    35 Jonny Venters Braves
    36 Brad Lidge Phillies
    37 David Hernandez Diamondbacks
    38 Aaron Crow Royals
    39 Kyle Farnsworth Rays
    40 David Robertson Yankees
    41 Antonio Bastardo Phillies
    42 Josh Spence Padres
    43 Rex Brothers Rockies
    44 Frank Francisco Blue Jays
    45 Tyler Clippard Nationals
    46 Jake McGee Rays
    47 Javy Guerra Dodgers
    48 Jon Rauch Blue Jays
    49 Sean Marshall Cubs
    50 Mike Adams Rangers
    51 Scott Downs Angels
    52 Jesse Crain White Sox
    53 Fautino De Los Santos Athletics
    54 Jason Motte Cardinals
    55 Matt Thornton White Sox
    56 Matt Lindstrom Rockies
    57 Lance Lynn Cardinals
    58 Edward Mujica Marlins
    59 Koji Uehara Rangers
    60 Greg Holland Royals
    61 Brad Boxberger Reds
    62 Evan Meek Pirates
    63 Chance Ruffin Mariners
    64 Eric O'Flaherty Braves
    65 Sergio Romo Giants
    66 David Aardsma Mariners
    67 Tanner Scheppers Rangers
    68 Rich Thompson Angels
    69 Glen Perkins Twins
    70 Luke Gregerson Padres

    Matthew Pouliot is the Executive Editor of and has been doing the site's baseball projections for the last 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @matthewpouliot.
    Email :Matthew Pouliot

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