Early Closer/Reliever ADP

The debate is both old and tiresome and one that I simply choose to avoid when it comes up. And it comes up each and every year. For those who fail to see the benefits of investing in decent closers rather than spend the year chasing saves that are usually accompanied by mediocre ratios and average strikeout totals, there’s probably little I can do to change your mind. Sure, every year at least one closer loses his job and the team finds a replacement, but is that how you want to walk out of your draft? Knowing that at some point during the year you’re going to have to invest a hefty chunk of your FAAB budget to chase one category? Why not make the smart investment early, especially when starting pitching is so insanely deep?

With the wealth of starting pitching at your fingertips, the ability to wait in drafts until the middle to later rounds to build your rotation is much more prevalent. You can continue to build up your offense with the early picks, and when the opportunity comes to grab someone like Craig Kimbrel, Greg Holland or Aroldis Chapman comes up, you take him. With one of these guys, you don’t need to use a high pick or big auction dollars on a guy like Clayton Kershaw. Sure, he’s an amazing pitcher, but he’s costing you a first or second round pick. Why not grab Holland in the eighth and Jeff Samardzija in the 14th and come out ahead all over? Will Kershaw have more wins? Maybe. But the combined strikeouts and ratios from a Holland/Samardzija tandem is going to be better than a Kershaw/Jose Veras tandem for sure. Not to mention the added saves you’ll have.

Premium closers also do not come with a premium price tag. It would be one thing if you had to use a top five draft pick to secure one of them, but they don’t. In almost every mock draft I’ve done recently, it’s the seventh or eighth round, at the earliest, when people start to look for their ninth-inning help. The price tag allows you to go after the high-end closers without sacrificing much else. The ADP numbers you’ll be looking at here may not reflect that, but let’s look first and then explain.

Relief Pitcher ADP – Top 40

1 Craig Kimbrel Atl 40.31 29 57
2 Aroldis Chapman Cin 60.9 38 80
3 Kenley Jansen LAD 65.17 46 89
4 Greg Holland KC 67.1 41 95
5 Trevor Rosenthal StL 83.83 50 105
6 Koji Uehara Bos 88.95 72 118
7 Joe Nathan Det 93.98 61 123
8 Glen Perkins Min 115.02 85 143
9 Sergio Romo SF 120.45 88 151
10 Jim Johnson Oak 135.45 95 178
11 Rafael Soriano Was 136.93 84 181
12 Addison Reed Ari 137.88 105 171
13 David Robertson NYY 139.07 93 188
14 Ernesto Frieri LAA 140.79 89 190
15 Jonathan Papelbon Phi 141.95 98 174
16 Casey Janssen Tor 142.33 106 170
17 Jason Grilli Pit 146.29 104 177
18 Steve Cishek Mia 146.31 115 180
20 Huston Street SD 166.98 117 200
21 Jim Henderson Mil 172.88 131 251
22 Grant Balfour TB 187.07 97 301
23 Danny Farquhar Sea 195.55 139 266
24 Bobby Parnell NYM 196.17 136 289
25 Fernando Rodney TB 205.57 127 285
27 Rex Brothers Col 220.76 166 279
28 LaTroy Hawkins Col 268.5 178 369
29 John Axford Cle 271.31 164 658
30 Joaquin Benoit SD 288.12 168 400
31 Jose Veras ChC 293.48 184 586
32 Heath Bell TB 304 189 704
33 Cody Allen Cle 316.52 185 443
36 Joakim Soria Tex 334.17 191 450
37 Nate Jones CWS 337.9 196 708
38 Mark Melancon Pit 353.57 238 423
40 Tommy Hunter Bal 365.05 201 582
41 Carlos Martinez StL 372.74 196 451
42 Pedro Strop ChC 380.95 253 521
43 Brian Wilson LAD 392.83 144 527
44 Josh Fields Hou 393.95 278 677
45 Brad Ziegler Ari 406.88 181 600

On the surface, the ADP numbers for the high-end relievers such as Kimbrel, Holland and Chapman (and even Kenley Jansen, though I still have my doubts about him) don’t exactly make my case here, but if you understand that you’re looking at 12 and 15-team drafts/mocks where there is no trading allowed, the numbers illustrate my point perfectly. No trading means the FAAB budget for the season becomes increasingly more valuable. Wasting your in-season funds chasing saves, when you can use it on a bevy of call-ups to keep your offense and rotation strong, is not a winning formula and those currently drafting for NFBC games, both real and mock, are very well aware of this. So the fact that these four closers are coming off the board within the first 70 picks should speak volumes as to their importance. Even the second tier of closers goes significantly higher in the NFBC than they do in regular drafts.
After that, say, closers from Jim Johnson through Steve Cishek, they tend to go right about the same time as the typical closer runs you’ll see midway through your draft. The top four or five will go in scattered spots in earlier rounds, but once the next tier has been moved through, you’ll start to see bigger runs at the position. In a few 12-team mocks that I’ve done already, the big closer run tends to come somewhere between rounds 12 and 16, depending on the people drafting and their views towards closers. Simply gauge your leage-mates interest in closers and you’ll know when it’s most likely coming.

Now here are a few guys I’m watching this spring…

Trevor Rosenthal, STL – From the time Jason Motte injured his elbow and headed for Tommy John surgery early last year, Rosenthal’s name has been in the discussion for closing in St. Louis. However, the team still wanted him to try his hand as a starter first. Edward Mujica eventually ran away with the job until the end of the season when he faltered and the Cards opted to finally give Rosenthal a try. He was outstanding down the stretch and even more impressive during his four post-season save appearances. His 12.90 K/9 and 1.91 FIP have fantasy owners drooling this season and he’s already listed amongst the top names at the position. There’s no doubting his talent, but the fact remains that you should always stay a bit wary of unproven players, especially when they’re going this high in drafts. If you’re a fan, you have to commit early in comparison to the rest, so you should make sure you always have a legitimate contingency plan in place.

David Robertson, NYY – He’s already failed in the closer’s role for the Yankees back in 2012 when Mariano Rivera was lost to a torn ACL, so there’s an obvious hesitancy when it comes to drafting him as the successor once again. But the Yankees really don’t have anyone else in the pen who should be doing the job, so Robertson and his 10.45 K/9 with a 50-percent ground ball rate are in place once again. While being a Yankee seems to make everyone hate you on a personal level, they are also likely to elevate you as a closer, figuring all that high-cost power they brought in will lead to more wins and/or save situations. His 139.07 ADP puts him in the middle of the pack at the position, but he’s at the higher end of that group and a strong spring could push him slightly forward. Of course once he’s in for the regular season, be careful as the leash may not be as long as you’d like.

Ernesto Frieri, LAA – His 37 saves and 12.84 K/9 last year were fantastic, but the 3.80 ERA with just a 3.72 FIP are certainly cause for some alarm. He saw a spike in home runs allowed (1.44 HR/9) which obviously didn’t help and he lost more off his ground ball rate which landed into his fly ball rate. There are actually two schools of thought with Frieri as many saber-friendly folk look at his 2.70 SIERA (Skill Interactive ERA) which they feel is better than FIP because it includes balls in play more and weighs strikeouts a little heavier. The other half look at him and understand that while he may miss plenty of bats, those he doesn’t miss, crush him. If you believe in him, then you probably feel like he’s a bargain at 140.79. If you don’t, well then it doesn’t really matter where he goes. But no matter which side of the fence you are on here, it’s a situation that bears monitoring as Mike Scioscia has never been a patient man.

Bobby Parnell, NYM – There’s no doubting his talent. Parnell has a mid-90’s fastball, a knee-buckling curve, and also mixes in a 90 mph changeup that keeps batter off-balance whenever he’s on the mound. He’s hovered around an 8.00 K/9 over the last two seasons since he stopped throwing his slider and moved to the curve, but his command during that time has been much better. He is listed as the Mets closer and, if healthy, will be the man they turn to in the ninth. But “if healthy” is the big thing now as he continues to deal with the recovery from September neck surgery to repair a herniated disc and while the reports have been positive, one has to be concerned. His 196.17 ADP is a testament to people’s hesitancy, but he could prove to be a fantastic bargain should he be ready for Opening Day and beyond. Just make sure that you own Vic Black, as he’ll be the one to pick up the pieces should Parnell’s neck be a problem.


Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for nearly two decades on a variety of web sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him directly at


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