RELIEF PITCHER (RP) RANKINGS 2009
1. Jonathan Papelbon – Boston Red Sox (28)
Papelbon’s age, dominance, durability, and the team he plays for, make him the safest closer option in all of fantasy baseball for the 2009 season. 35-40 saves, 70-80 strikeouts, 1.90-2.10 ERA, and a WHIP around 0.90 seems likely for Papelbon in 2009.
2. Francisco Rodriguez – New York Mets (27)
Much like Papelbon, K-Rod has the same trio of factors on his side; he’s young at just age 27, he’s proven to be dominant and durable, and he plays for a winning team. After posting an unprecedented 62 saves during the 2008 season, it is very unlikely Rodriguez posts even close to that number in 2009. Something along the lines of 35-40 saves, 90 strikeouts, a 2.30 ERA, and a 1.20 WHIP seem reasonable to expect from Rodriguez in 2009.
3. Joe Nathan – Minnesota Twins (34)
Nathan is simply dominate as a closer, and now entering the pinnacle of his career at age 34 for the 2009 season, Nathan could once again finish the 2009 season as a top 5 overall fantasy baseball relief pitcher. 35-40 saves, 70-80 strikeouts, 1.50 ERA, and a sub 1.00 WHIP is a great bet for Nathan in 2009.
4. Brad Lidge – Philadelphia Phillies (32)
Coming off of a perfect season from a saves perspective, Lidge once again showed he is a top 5 overall closer in the major leagues. And while a perfect saves season isn’t likely to happen again in 2009, the Phillies should post enough wins to give Lidge the opportunity to save 40 plus games. A final stat line in 2009 could include 40 saves, 90-100 strikeouts, an ERA around 2.00, and a WHIP close to 1.20.
5. Joakim Soria – Kansas City Royals (25)
Even on a Royals team that won just 75 games during the 2008 season, Soria posted 42 saves out of 45 chances. At just age 25 for the 2009 season, Soria is quickly becoming one of the best and most dominate closers in all of baseball. 35 saves, 60 strikeouts, an ERA around 2.00 or lower, and a WHIP under 1.00 is possible for Soria in 2009.
6. Mariano Rivera – New York Yankees (39)
Even though Rivera posted a downright terrifyingly dominate season in 2008 (1.40 ERA and 0.67 WHIP), his age at 39 for the 2009 season makes it hard to expect a repeat performance from him in 2009. Still the Yankees should post their share of wins this year, so if Rivera can stay healthy, he will have a great chance of once again notching 35-40 saves. If all goes as best as it could in New York and for Rivera in 2009, his final stat line could include 35-40 saves, 70 strikeouts, a sub 2.00 ERA, and a WHIP around 1.00.
7. Brain Fuentes – Los Angeles Angels (33)
As the new closer for the Angels, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Fuentes have a career year in Los Angeles in 2009. His stats could reach 35 saves, 80 strikeouts, a sub 2.75 ERA, and a WHIP around 1.10.
8. Bobby Jenks – Chicago White Sox (28)
Jenks is clearly one of the most dominate closers in all of baseball, however in terms of his fantasy baseball value, his recent decline in strikeouts over the past three years is somewhat concerning. In 2006 Jenks posted 80 strikeouts in 69 innings, however in 2007 he posted just 56 strikeouts in 65 innings, and then in 2008 he posted just 38 strikeouts in 61 innings. If this trend would continue in 2009, Jenks’ fantasy baseball value could go down considerably. However a return to 60 strikeouts seems very possible in 2009, with Jenks also posting 30-35 saves, an ERA around 2.50-2.75, and a WHIP close to 1.10.
9. BJ Ryan – Toronto Blue Jays (33)
Ryan proved in 2008 that he appears to be fully recovered from Tommy John Surgery in 2007. A very solid fantasy baseball year could be in store for Ryan in 2009. 30-35 saves, 70-80 strikeouts, 2.50 ERA, and a 1.20 WHIP seem likely for Ryan by the end of the 2009 season.
10. Carlos Marmol – Chicago Cubs (26) BREAKOUT
Marmol is young and relatively inexperienced in the closers role, which makes up his biggest downfall. However in reality, his young age is actually a good thing, and his inexperience is really just an assumption that he ‘might’ not be ready for the full time closers role in 2009. On the upside, Marmol has outstanding strikeout ability, which he has clearly proven over the past two years. And considering the Cubs are the early favorite to win the division, another 90 plus win season is likely in Chicago for 2009, which means Marmol has the potential to post 35-40 saves, 100 strikeouts, an ERA around 2.25, and a WHIP under 1.00.
11. Francisco Cordero – Cincinnati Reds (34)
After a very effective first year with the Reds in 2008, Cordero should once again be a top 15 overall fantasy baseball relief pitcher by the end of the 2009 season. Expect numbers around 30-35 saves, 80 strikeouts, 3.25 ERA, and 1.30 WHIP.
12. Jose Valverde – Houston Astros (30)
Valverde reaffirmed last year in Houston that he can be a top 15 overall fantasy baseball relief pitcher and closer for the 2009 season. Valverde offers excellent strikeout totals for a closer which boosts his fantasy baseball value, and stats in the range of 35-40 saves, 80 strikeouts, an ERA around 3.50, and a WHIP around 1.20 is possible for Valverde in 2009.
13. Trevor Hoffman – Milwaukee Brewers (41)
Now a Milwaukee Brewer, Hoffman should be given enough save opportunities in Milwaukee to make him a very valuable fantasy baseball relief pitcher in 2009. Numbers in the range of 35-40 saves, 50 strikeouts, a 2.80 ERA, and a WHIP around 1.10 are realistic for Hoffman in 2009.
14. Jonathan Broxton – Los Angeles Dodgers (25) BREAKOUT
Broxton is young and he has been considered the closer of the future for the Dodgers for a couple of years now. And with no sure bet closer on the Dodgers roster to begin the 2009 season, it looks like Broxton will finally be given the opportunity to claim the closers role full time in 2009. Broxton has the potential to become a top 10 overall fantasy baseball relief pitcher by the end of the 2009 season. He has excellent strikeout ability which pushes his fantasy baseball value even higher then most relief pitchers. 30 saves, 80-90 strikeouts, 2.80 ERA, and a WHIP around 1.15 are realistic expectations for Broxton in 2009.
15. Kerry Wood – Cleveland Indians (32) BUST
After finally staying healthy for an entire season in 2008, Wood will enter the 2009 season as the closer for the Cleveland Indians. And while injuries are always possible with Wood, he looks to have a safe job and the ability to post 30-35 saves, 80 strikeouts, an ERA around 3.25, and a WHIP around 1.15 for the 2009 season. Just make sure you don’t rely on Wood too much, since his injury history could pop up at anytime.
16. Heath Bell – San Diego Padres (31)
The emergence of Bell was one of the main reasons the Padres decided to let the hall-of-fame-to-be closer Trevor Hoffman go in free agency this off-season. As a premiere relief pitcher over the past two seasons, Bell should take over the closers role in San Diego and notch 30 saves, 70-80 strikeouts, a 3.25 or lower ERA, and a WHIP around 1.10 or below.
17. Matt Capps – Pittsburgh Pirates (25) BREAKOUT
As odd as it may seem, Capps who has been tagged as an up-and-coming fantasy baseball closer for a couple of years now, has yet to post the saves totals that fantasy baseball teams covet. And because of this fact, Capps’ value entering the 2009 fantasy baseball season is extremely low among other relief pitchers and closers. Yet when you look at his peripherals, Capps holds a career 3.06 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 217 innings pitched! With this type of pitching performance, there is no reason why Capps can’t pull a Joakim Soria and notch 30 plus saves on a bad Pirates team during the 2009 season.
18. George Sherrill – Baltimore Orioles (32)
In his first year as a full time closer, Sherrill posted a very good 31 saves. However the bigger story that is he completely dominated in the 1st half of the 2008 season, and he was completely awful in the 2nd half of the 2008 season. Assuming Sherrill was just wearing down from not ever having pitched that much before, you can expect him to bounce back in 2009 and post another 30 saves with 60 strikeouts and a much better ERA and WHIP around 3.50 and 1.20 respectively.
19. Mike Gonzalez – Atlanta Braves (31)
Injuries limited Gonzalez’s playing time and effectiveness during the 2008 season, however he is the clear cut favorite to be the Braves closer for the 2009 season. On a much improved Braves teams, 30 plus saves, 70-80 strikeouts, a 3.25-3.50 ERA, and a WHIP around 1.20 seem likely for Gonzalez in 2009.
20. Chad Qualls – Arizona Diamondbacks (30)
The fact is that the Diamondbacks should win their share of games during the 2009 season with their excellent starting pitching staff. However who decides to claim the closers role is still up for grabs entering the 2009 season. As of now, Qualls, Tony Pena, and Jon Rauch all are possibilities for the Diamondbacks at this point. However after an extremely solid 2008 season, Qualls seems like the odds on favorite to win the job. If he does, Qualls has the ability to post 30 plus saves, 70 strikeouts, an ERA under 3.00, and a WHIP around 1.15 during the 2009 season.
21. Matt Lindstrom – Florida Marlins (29) BREAKOUT
Lindstrom could have easily been the Marlins full time closer in 2008, however now that Kevin Gregg is out of town, Lindstrom should slide nicely into the closers roll for the 2009 season. 30 saves, 60-70 strikeouts, an ERA around 3.25, and a WHIP around 1.25 could be in store for Lindstrom in 2009.
22. Joey Devine – Oakland Athletics (25) SLEEPER
Once tagged the closer of the future in Atlanta, Devine never panned out as had hoped for the Braves. Yet with a second chance in Oakland, Devine definitely has not disappointed thus far. After posting a 0.59 ERA and 0.83 WHIP in 45 innings pitched for the Athletics in 2008, expecting that type of performance would be unrealistic. However even with Brad Zeigler doing a great job as the closer last year, Devine should be the favorite to win the closers job in Oakland for the 2009 season. If Devine does manage to steal the closers job from Zeigler, he could be looking at 25-35 saves, 80 strikeouts, a 2.25 ERA, and a WHIP around 1.10 or below for the 2009 season.
23. Chris Perez – St. Louis Cardinals (24) SLEEPER
Perez is clearly the closer of the future for the Cardinals, however manager Tony LaRussa likes to play his veterans over his younger players, meaning the 24 year old Perez could enter the 2009 season as a set-up man rather than the closer. However Perez’s strikeout ability and good ERA and WHIP numbers, along with the potential to become the closer later in the 2009 season, make him a late round gamble worth taking in your 2009 fantasy baseball draft. If Perez is the closer on opening day expect 30 plus saves, 70-80 strikeouts, an ERA around 3.30, and a WHIP around 1.25.
24. Joel Hanrahan – Washington Nationals (27)
As a fireballer who throws in the mid to upper 90’s consistently, Hanrahan has the ideal pitching ability to be an elite closer in the major leagues. And if Hanrahan could just throw strikes whenever he wanted to, he would be an all-star for the 2009 season. However as it stands, Hanrahan could post 25 saves, 90-100 strikeouts, a 3.75 ERA, and a WHIP around 1.35. Once Hanrahan improves his walk totals and his WHIP, he will be a great fantasy baseball relief pitcher because of his high strikeout numbers.
25. Brian Wilson – San Francisco Giants (27) BUST
After emerging onto the major league scene during the 2007 season, the Giants decided to hand the reigns of closer over to the 26 year old Wilson for the 2008 season. And with his new job title, Wilson posted a career high 41 saves and 67 strikeouts. Unfortunately the downfall for Wilson came in his high ERA and WHIP numbers. If Wilson can manage to lower those numbers, he will be a lot more valuable at the end of the 2009 season than he is entering the 2009 season for fantasy baseball teams. While it is possible that Wilson’s bad ERA and WHIP cost him the closers role in 2009, it is also possible that he keeps the job and posts another 30 plus saves season in 2009. As of right now, Wilson is an extremely volatile fantasy baseball relief pitcher entering the 2009 season. The potential for 30-35 saves, 70 strikeouts, an ERA around 3.80, and a WHIP around 1.25 is possible for Wilson if everything goes as best as it possibly could for him in 2009.
26. Troy Percival – Tampa Bay Rays (39) BUST
Percival’s age and inability to pitch on back to back nights consistently, make him a liability as a top closer and relief pitcher in fantasy baseball leagues for the 2009 season. However on a very good Tampa Bay Rays team, Percival should still be able to notch 20 plus saves and 30 strikeouts, but his ERA will likely be around 4.00, and his WHIP around 1.25.
27. Manny Corpas – Colorado Rockies (26)
Corpas lost his closers job last year, however now that Brian Fuentes is gone, Corpas will enter the 2009 season in a battle with Huston Street to reclaim the full time closers role. If you have to choose between Corpas and Huston Street, I would go with Corpas for the 2009 season. But it is a very close battle, and the winner will be decided on during spring training. 20-25 saves, 60 strikeouts, an ERA around 3.25, and a WHIP around 1.20 is possible for Corpas in 2009.
28. Brandon Lyon – Detroit Tigers (29)
After signing with the Tigers as a free agent, Lyon will enter spring training in a battle with Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya for a chance to claim the closers role to begin the 2009 season. Odds are likely that Lyon will begin the season as the closer, with Zumaya eventually claiming the role halfway through the season. 20 saves, 50 strikeouts, an ERA around 3.25, and a WHIP around 1.30 is possible for Lyon in 2009.
29. JJ Putz – New York Mets (32)
Putz is no longer a closer, but his combination of excellent ERA and WHIP numbers along with his high strikeouts totals, make him a very valuable piece of any 2009 fantasy baseball team. If your league counts holds as a scoring category, Putz will likely lead the league in holds for the 2009 season. And more importantly, if you draft Francisco Rodriguez, you better make sure you draft Putz later in your draft as a must have backup. 5-8 wins, 5 saves, 100 strikeouts, an ERA around 2.00, and a WHIP around 1.00 seem like great possibilities for Putz in 2009.
30. Kevin Gregg – Chicago Cubs (31)
Depending on whether or not the Cubs want to hand the closers role over to Carlos Marmol yet, Gregg will be the backup choice. He is proven and dependable, and if the Cubs are going to win the division again, they will need a closer who can make sure they win 90 plus games in 2009. If Gregg manages to steal the closers job from Marmol to begin the 2009 season, expect him to keep it for the entire year and post 35 saves, 70-80 strikeouts, an ERA around 3.50, and a WHIP around 1.25.
31. Frank Francisco – Texas Rangers (29)
After taking over the closers job from CJ Wilson at the end of the 2008 season, Francisco did an excellent job finishing out the season, and will now enter the 2009 season as the favorite to win the closers job outright in spring training. If Francisco keeps the closers job, he could post 25-30 saves, 80-90 strikeouts, a 3.50 ERA, and a WHIP around 1.20.
32. Grant Balfour – Tampa Bay Rays (31) SLEEPER
With Troy Percival not having much left in the tank, it doesn’t seem like a question of ‘if’ but rather ‘when’ Balfour will take over the closers role for the Rays. And considering the Rays could easily win 90 plus games again in 2009, the closers roll in Tampa Bay is extremely important for fantasy baseball teams. If Balfour can claim the closers roll on opening day, he has the potential to post 35-40 saves, 90 strikeouts, an ERA around 2.50, and a WHIP around 1.00. Otherwise expect Balfour to get save opportunities on the days Percival can’t pitch back to back nights. As insurance, if you draft Percival, you better draft Balfour also.
33. Brad Ziegler – Oakland Athletics (29)
After his first major league call up at the end of May last season, Ziegler completely dominated opposing hitters and took the fantasy baseball world by storm. As the eventual closer for the Athletics during the second half the 2008 season, Ziegler produced 11 saves, 3 wins, 30 strikeouts, a 1.06 ERA, and a 1.16 ERA in 59 innings pitched. However with competition from Joey Devine for the closers role in 2009, Ziegler’s draft ranking will fluctuate until his role is better defined once the season starts. Either way however, Ziegler and his outstanding ERA and WHIP numbers can help any fantasy baseball team in 2009. If Ziegler wins the closers job for the Athletics, he could post 25-30 saves, 60 strikeouts, an ERA around 2.50 or below, and a WHIP around 1.15.
34. Huston Street – Colorado Rockies (25)
Once considered an up-and-coming elite closer, Street has lost value at a rapid pace over the past year in fantasy baseball leagues. Unfortunately landing in Colorado isn’t the most ideal place to pitch, however Street will be given an opportunity to win the closers job for the 2009 season, so he is worth drafting in the late rounds of your 2009 fantasy baseball draft as a sleeper pick.
35. Mark Lowe – Seattle Mariners (26) SLEEPER
With no clear cut closer in Seattle to begin the 2009 season, Lowe will be given an opportunity to claim the closers job in spring training. At age 26 for the 2009 season, Lowe has virtually zero experience closing games, but now that Aaron Heilman is out of town, he should be given the first chance to win the full time closers job in 2009. Right now, just keep Lowe on your radar if he has a good spring training, as he could easily be the closer of the future for the Mainers.
36. Ryan Franklin – St. Louis Cardinals (36)
Franklin got a taste of closing games last year for the Cardinals, and if Chris Perez doesn’t claim the job in spring training, Franklin will likely enter the 2009 season as the Cardinals closer. Keep an eye on him as spring training finishes and the regular season begins.
37. CJ Wilson – Texas Rangers (28) BUST
Even though it appears Frank Francisco will begin the 2009 season as the closer in Texas, Wilson has the ability to reclaim the closers job if he has a good spring training and pitches well during the season. If Francisco stumbles at all, Wilson will be given a chance to be the closer once again in Texas for the 2009 season.
38. Joel Zumaya – Detroit Tigers (24)
Injuries have really decimated Zumaya’s fantasy baseball value over the past two seasons, and the beginning of the 2009 season will likely be a readjusting period for Zumaya to prep for taking over the closers job sometime later in the season. Assuming Zumaya takes over the closers job sometime at midseason, he could post 20 saves, 70 strikeouts, an ERA around 2.50, and a WHIP around 1.20.
39. Chris Ray – Baltimore Orioles (27) SLEEPER
Entering the 2009 season a year and a half removed from Tommy John Surgery, Ray will challenge George Sherrill to be the Orioles full time closer in 2009. With a 33 saves and 2.73 ERA season already under his belt from the 2006 season, Ray has plenty of potential at just age 27 to rebound into a top 20 overall fantasy baseball closer during the 2009 season. Ray is a great late round sleeper pick, and if you draft Sherrill earlier, you should really also consider drafting Ray as your backup plan.
40. Fernando Rodney – Detroit Tigers (32)
With the signing of Brandon Lyon, Rodney’s fantasy baseball value went down tremendously as the 2009 season nears. It is unlikely Rodney begins the 2009 season as the closer in Detroit, but if Lyon stumbles, Rodney will be given the next opportunity until Zumaya is healthy.