In honor of the All-Star break, the Closer Report has decided to hand out some accolades of its own.
The rookie hurler, who, in most drafts, came off the board after Joe Nathan, Jonathan Broxton and Brad Lidge, has provided the best return for owners who took a chance on him. He leads the majors with 28 saves (a first-half rookie record) along with 70 punch-outs in only 46 innings. His workload may catch up with him (he's on pace for 76 innings), but in the meantime, enjoy the surprise of 2011.
Despite some late-season struggles in '10, Broxton was a consensus top-10 reliever entering this year. When he has pitched, however, he's been far from it. The burly Dodgers' reliever, who was placed on the DL on May 6 with discomfort in his right elbow, has a 5.68 ERA in 12.2 innings in '11. And the Dodgers aren't optimistic he'll pitch again this year. All that said, owners are still keeping the faith: Broxton remains owned in over 50 percent of leagues.
This award could easily go to Kimbrel, but why not spread the love around? Hanrahan entered the season with 20 career saves and a tenuous hold on the Pirates' closer job. By June 22 he had matched that saves total and established himself as one of the premier ninth-inning options. Hanrahan has always had great stuff (career 9.98 K/9) but mastering the strike zone (1.79 BB/9 in 2011) pushed him to another level. A trade to a contender would kill his value, but the Pirates are intent on competing this year. Consider yourself lucky if you were able to nab him for cheap on draft day.
The Oakland A's closer has been stellar since he was activated from the DL in late May, allowing only four earned runs in 15 innings. Bailey's skills look sharp (7.80 K/9, 1.80 BB/9), and the A's boast one of the league's worst offenses (28th in runs scored), making the Oakland closer a solid bet to surpass his first-half saves total (eight saves).
Adams' value hinges on a Heath Bell trade. If the Padres deal Bell -- which they are expected to do; the Phillies, Angels and Rangers
Lopez, a popular sleeper entering the season, spent some time on the DL earlier this year, but the Astros' reliever is healthy and hurling entering the All-Star break. Since he was activated from the DL on May 3, Lopez is sporting a 2.23 ERA and a spectacular 60.3 percent ground-ball rate. With current closer Mark Melancon struggling (he's given up eight earned runs in his last 7.2, innings), Lopez may be netting save opportunities by the end of the month. He's worth a speculative add in all NL-only leagues.
Is the Giants' closer hiding an injury? San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy
Soria reportedly can
Walden has been another pleasant first-half surprise. The rookie closer has notched 20 saves with a 2.84 ERA since taking over for Fernando Rodney on April 5. Expect him to continue compiling saves for the Halos in the second half.
Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson said he expects
Backups who will ensure you're banking saves even if your closer goes down: