Relief Pitcher Keeper RankingsThursday, 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.