Early bullpen shakeups bring drastic changes to closer rankings
You hear that? Yeah, me neither. It is the sound, or the silence, of Closer Gate 2012. It seems the roller-coaster first weeks' dust might have finally settled at the unsettled position. (Knocking on wood, not the retired Kerry Wood.)
Naturally, after Aroldis Chapman has taken his rightful place at the closer's throne in Cincy and Kenley Jansen and Addison Reed are in the stopper roles where they belong -- perhaps for years -- we have to sort through the wreckage. Fernando Rodney and Jim Johnson cannot possibly be the best closers in fantasy, although their numbers to date say otherwise.
Rodney and Johnson just haven't had their market corrections (read: implosions) yet. They will come and knock them down a peg, or 10.
We take a breath -- like the anxious one baseball's managers take every time to go to the bullpen -- cross our fingers it doesn't change drastically yet again (it certainly will) and re-rank the closers of fantasy baseball for the rest of the season.
Things look different almost all the way through, most notably with Chapman near the top. Heck, he can make a case for No. 1, if not for some uncertainty with manager Dusty Baker on his usage. Only the Braves' Craig Kimbrel and the Phillies' Jonathan Papelbon have held their elite value. Chapman, Jansen, the Giants' Santiago Casilla and the Yankees' Rafael Soriano (for now) are top-10 fantasy options.
Even if all these closers pitch perfectly -- yeah, right, dream on -- we are still going to see some significant adjustments in the closer landscape.
With a few more weeks of steadiness, previously struggling John Axford, Heath Bell and Jose Valverde can return to their once lofty status. Then, over the next couple of months, Drew Storen (elbow), Sergio Santos (shoulder), David Robertson (ribs), Huston Street (lat), Andrew Bailey (thumb), Kyle Farnsworth (elbow), Carlos Marmol (hamstring) and even Brad Lidge (abdomen) can come off the DL to strengthen the position's depth, yet complicate things for fantasy owners.
It is not an easy science, this closer roulette, but it at least seems to be calming down and making something a tad closer to making sense.
Here is how we would rank the top 40 relievers in fantasy right now (with their preseason rank in the right-hand column):
Now, to next week's starters ...