Using tiers rankings can be very beneficial when drafting and when forming your draft strategy. A strategy of using a tiers ranking is to not reach for one player if you think that you can get another player in the same tier in a later round. I think that these rankings are especially useful for drafting 1B, OF, and SP this year, seeing that these positions are very deep and you will have many opportunities to pass up one player for another similar player in a later round.
My general rule of thumb on closers is that I won’t draft any early unless it is an elite closer that I know will produce, such as Mariano Rivera or Jonathan Papelbon. I think that there is too much risk in other closers, and saves tend to fluctuate a lot so you don’t really know what you are getting. Also, drafting a closer on a losing team doesn’t necessarily mean less saves; look at Heath Bell and Francisco Cordero. Many gems can be found later in the season based on injuries and such, you just have to keep an eye on the situation that clubs are in.
Tier 1: Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Broxton, Jonathan Papelbon
Rivera and Papelbon are proven elite closers, and should have ERAs in at least the 2.00 to 2.50 range. Broxton may have a bit of a higher ERA, but will make up for that with his strikeout numbers.
Tier 2: Joakim Soria, Francisco Rodriguez, Heath Bell, Brian Wilson, Francisco Cordero, Andrew Bailey
These closers all had sub 3.00 ERAs other than K-Rod, and are good bets to do the same again this year. All are very solid choices, and you should have confidence drafting one of these relief pitchers as your closer.
Tier 3: Carlos Marmol, Rafael Soriano, Jose Valverde, David Aardsma, Brian Fuentes, Trevor Hoffman, Bobby Jenks
Have been able to post very good numbers, but some sleep may be lost over having some of these guys on your team. Marmol had terrible control problems last season, giving free passes to 65 batters in 74 innings pitched. Fuentes saw his ERA rise to 3.93 and strikeout rate lower tremendously with a move to the American League, and seems a little shaky. Hoffman is 42 years old, and after having an injury riddled season in 2008 and high ERA, was somehow able to post a 1.83 ERA last season; be cautious when drafting him as he may be an injury risk. Aardsma was outstanding last season, but came out of nowhere so I am still a bit skeptical. Jenks had his ERA reach 3.73, and his strikeout rate isn’t too impressive, but Ozzie will stick by him so I think he should be a safe pick.
Tier 4: Ryan Franklin, Mike Gonzalez, Billy Wagner, Frank Francisco, Huston Street, Chad Qualls
These closers are pretty good, and you shouldn’t worry about any of them losing their jobs. Franklin had an amazing season last year, but I think that an ERA around 3.50 is more reasonable this season. Wagner should be solid as long as he can stay healthy. Street is down here because he is starting on the season on the DL, and is going to miss about 4 weeks.
Tier 5: Leo Nunez, Brad Lidge, Octavio Dotel, Jason Frasor, Matt Capps, Brandon Lyon
The closers in this group have all been named closers for opening day, but are on a short leash, and could see their jobs lost if they do not produce.
Tier 6: Matt Lindstrom, Kerry Wood, Chris Perez, Franklin Morales, Ryan Madson, Matt Thornton, Jon Rauch
Pretty good relief pitchers here, but most of them are vying for closer jobs. Wood is starting the season on the DL, so Chris Perez will get the nod; not sure who will get the job once Wood comes off the DL.