The closer position changes a lot.  As long as you have someone who is actually recording saves, you will be fine.  Saves are highly inconsistent and can’t be relied upon.  There are just too many factors that determine whether or not a closer will get a save.  For the most part it’s out of their hands.  So how important is it to get good closers?  Unless your in a league where you have an innings cap, closers aren’t very important at all.  The Fantasy God never ever drafts high closers.  Every single year I’m able to wait until the end of the draft and still wind up with elite closers.  Last year instead of taking guys like Rivera, Papelbon, and Valverde, I waited until the end of the draft to get Craig Kimbrel.  He was one of the bottom feeding last round closers in 2010.  Mainly because he hadn’t proved anything yet, and because he was a rookie.  I was also able to pick up Jordan Walden once the job was his.  How do you think I fared with Kimbrel and Walden?  Both were All-Stars.  And I didn’t waste a pick above round 20 to get one.  Are there guys like that this year?  Sure there are.  Read ahead.

2012 Fantasy Closer Rankings:
1. Jonathan Papelbon (PHI)
2. Craig Kimbrel (ATL)
3. Mariano Rivera (NYY)
4. Jordan Walden (LAA)
5. John Axford (MIL)
6. Brian Wilson (SF)
7. Jose Valverde (DET)
8. Rafael Betancourt (COL)
9. Carlos Marmol (CHC)
10. Heath Bell (MIA)
11. Joel Hanrahan (PIT)
12. JJ Putz (ARI)
13. Drew Storen (WAS)
14. Jason Motte (STL)
15. Javy Guerra (LAD)
16. Andrew Bailey (BOS)
17. Chris Perez (CLE)
18. Matt Thornton (CWS)
19. Sergio Santos (TOR)
20. Joe Nathan (TEX)
21. Sean Marshall (CIN)
22. Matt Capps (MIN)
23. Kyle Farnsworth (TB)
24. Brandon League (SEA)
25. Huston Street (SD)
26. Jonathan Broxton (KC)
27. Brett Myers (HOU)
28. Jim Johnson (BAL)
29. Frank Francisco (NYM)
30. Grant Balfour (OAK)

I see Papelbon being relied upon more heavily than he even was in Boston. If there’s one thing we learned this week in the baseball world it’s that the Phillies are in trouble. We all know that the Phillies will still be a winning team though. Which means they will be playing a lot more close games than other years. For this reason I believe Papelbon will lead the league in saves this season. Kimbrel is a young stud and deserve to be #2. You have to trust Rivera so he easily in the top 3.

Walden is underrated despite being an All-Star rookie last year. I have him ranked higher than other sites…because he’s really good. Axford, Wilson, and Valverde all play for good teams. So they get plenty of opportunities. They are all pretty much perfect closers with low ERA’s too.

I really like Rafael Betancourt this year. He was perfect down the stretch last year and the Rockies are going to be a much improved team. I see him getting a lot of opportunities and he could very well be in the top 5 in saves this season. It wouldn’t shock me if he were in the top 2. He’s much less expensive than most of the guys who I have ranked behind him. Carlos Marmol has fallen this year because of prior injuries. He’s still a solid pick in my book and offers better K’s than any other closer.

Bell, Hanrahan, and Putz are all a little scary for me. I’m not sure how much I like an aging Bell outside of that huge Petco Park. I believe Hanrahan is legit, but he doesn’t get as many opportunities as the higher guys. Putz could explode and be out for the season at any point. I really like Drew Storen but his recent injury concerns scare me. He may already miss the beginning of the season. That’s never a good thing coming in.

Motte and Guerra are more unproven guys who I think will be highly proven by the end of the year. They are both late round guys that I would certainly target.  Andrew Bailey and Chris Perez seem to be injury prone. Bailey gets hurt a lot. I love his new situation, but not his injury ridden past. Perez is already banged up and may not be ready for the start of the season. Joe Nathan is another guy in this category.

Matt Thornton could also be a sleeper. Sean Marshall also qualifies in this category. You can get both of these guys at the end of the draft, both of them play for a decent team, and both of them are in a good position to break out.

The rest of the guys are still fine to have as long as they get saves, but don’t expect a whole lot from them.  They will blow some saves, maybe get injured, and maybe lose their jobs.  They are the kind of guys that you’ll find yourself using moves over.  Always watch out for closing situations to change.  Already this year we’ve lost Joakim Soria and Ryan Madson for the year.  If a guy struggles they to will be out as closer.  There are plenty of young studs waiting in the wings.

So who are the guys that you can get late that can give you a top tier closer committee?  Rafael Betancourt, Jason Motte, Javy Guerra, Matt Thornton, and Sean Marshall are the guys that could break out the way Kimbrel and Walden did last year.

You can get my thoughts on every player in the league immediately with my fantasy cheat sheet.  It uses a unique color coded system that tells you exactly who to draft.  If you want to dominate your draft, it’s a must have.  If your interested in that you can click here.

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