1. Craig Kimbrel: Atlanta Braves. This was an easy pick. Kimbrel is worth every penny (and then some) of his 4 year extension he signed this offseason. He has been great since making his MLB debut and hopefully has many more years to perform at this level. 1.21 ERZ, 50 saves, 98 Ks in 67 IP in 2013.
2. Aroldis Chapman: Cincinnati Reds. In my opinion, Kimbrel's stiffest competition. A case could be made last season that Chapman is better and though it still may prove to be true, Kimbrel is at another level at the moment. 2.54, 38, 112, 63 2/3 in 2013.
3. Joe Nathan: Detroit Tigers. Nathan seemed like he was not the same since before his TJ surgery. He proved the neigh sayers wrong in 2013. No question he is back to where he was in Minnesota. 1.39, 43, 73, 64 2/3 in 2013.
4. Koji Uehara: Boston Red Sox. Uehara was the best reliever in the entire game for the last two months of the 2013 season, including the playoffs. His numbers speak for themselves, but this will be his first season as a flu time closer in the big leagues. He is ranked this high because of what he has done, but cannot go higher at this point. 1.09, 21, 101, 74 1/3 in 2013.
5. Trevor Rosenthal: St Louis Cardinals, Rosenthal showed he can close at the end of September and in the postseason. His strikeout numbers are outstanding and as of now, deserves the edge over many who have proven more. He has Kimbrel like stuff. 2.63, 3, 108, 75 1/3 in 2013.
6. Greg Holland: Kansas City Royals. Holland is the most underrated late game reliever in the entire game right now. Outside of Uehara and Nathan, he is the best closer in the AL right now. I expect him to dominate for many seasons to come. 1.21, 47, 103, 67 in 2013.
7. Kenley Jansen: Los Angeles Dodgers. Jansen is another pitcher few give the credit he deserves. He will be the man again this season with the beard setting him up. The Dodgers expect to win a lot of game again this season, so Jansen will have a lot of action again. 1.88, 28, 111, 76 2/3 in 2013.
8. Jason Grilli: Pittsburgh Pirates. Grilli's story is great as he has been able to come back in the way he has. After 2012, it was a reasonable thought that Grilli could be a top ten closer. He came through and there are fewer in the game that I am happier for. 2.70, 33, 74, 50 in 2013.
9. Grant Balfour: Tampa Bay Rays. Balfour has also recovered from major arm injuries, but did have his contract taken away by the Orioles because of a failed physical. He has gotten better with age, and is expected to produce as he returns to Tampa. 2.59, 38, 72, 62 2/3 in 2013.
10. Neftali Feliz: Texas Rangers. Here is my first debatable one. I think there is a little drop off after 11 on this list as the remaining pitchers have more questions that the one above. Feliz was a top closer until the Rangers made him back into a starter. That did not work out and possibly contributed to his injury which destroyed his 2013. I am predicting a breakout season, where his K/9 IP % will be at a career high. And it helps that the Rangers have a good team and he got to watch Nathan over the past couple seasons. 0.00 (4 2/3 IP), 0, 4 Ks in 2013.
11. David Robertson: New York Yankees. Robertson has the task of taking over for the greatest closer in the history of the sport in a city that has no margin for error. As a reliever, Robertson has performed amongst the best in all the game. The transition to closer is a different one. Interesting to see how it works out. 2.04, 3, 77, 66 2/3 IP in 2013.
12. Rafael Soriano: Washington Nationals.Soriano left the Yankees to be the Nationals closer after a very good 2012 filling in for Mo. Yankees fans are going to be monitoring Soriano's performance in 2014 wondering if the Yankees should have found a way to keep him. (It was Soriano's choice to opt out of his deal.) 3.11, 43, 51, 66 2/3 in 2013.
13. Ernesto Frieri: Los Angeles Angels. Frieri, in my opinion, is a pitcher on the rise. He has always been a strikeout pitcher and did not do too bad as a closer in 2013. I would predict his ERA will be lower this season as it rose due to a couple of horrible outings. 3.80, 37, 98, 68 2/3 in 2013.
14. Bobby Parnell: New York Mets. I've gained a lot faith in Parnell after his success using his knuckle curve for the first time and having success with it. He showed he can pitch the 9th inning; the only thing that could hold him back is his back injury which required surgery in the offseason. 2.16, 22, 44, 50 in 2013.
15. Steve Cishek: Miami Marlins. Cishek is one of the more quieter young relievers in the game. I used the save stat to say some were overrated, but Cishek checks out with his low ERA and high K percentage. 2.33, 34, 74, 69 2/3 in 2013.
16. Glen Perkins: Minnesota Twins. Perkins is another closer that has performed better than you think. The fact that Minnesota has not been a contender makes him difficult to notice. I would rather have him, Cishek, Parnell or Frieri than some of the more proven relievers listed below. 2.30, 36, 77, 62 2/3 in 2013.
17. Jonathan Papelbon: Philadelphia Phillies. Papelbon has had a great career. Even based on his 2013 numbers, he has plenty left to offer. While many would consider him a top ten closer right now, he has lost some of fastball and does not strike out as many as he did during his best with Boston. 2.92, 29, 57, 61 1/3 in 2013.
18. Sergio Romo: San Francisco Giants. Romo took over for the beard after he got hurt and helped the Giants win the World Series in 2012. Though he is a solid reliever, Romo does not scare the opposition and at some times can be hittable. He'll get his saves, but his K percentage is down. 2.54, 38, 58, 60 1/3 in 2013.
19. Casey Janssen: Toronto Blue Jays. I considered moving Janssen up the list a little bit, but I think he fits well right here. He is still ranked ahead of some proven closers and did an adequate job for the Jays last season. The key is going to be getting him the ball as the Jays starting rotation as a whole was one of the worst in all of MLB. 2.56, 34, 50, 52 2/3 in 2013.
20. Jim Johnson: Oakland Athletics. Despite back to back 50 save seasons, I feel Johnson is the most overrated closer in all of MLB. I found it most puzzling that the Athletics traded for him as his only selling stat is the save. He'll get his opportunities as the A's expect to win a lot of games in 2014. In spite of the most saves over the past two seasons, I still do not trust him in a big spot. 2.94, 50, 56, 70 1/3 in 2013.
21. Fernando Rodney: Seattle Mariners. Rodney had the difficult task of repeating on of the best seasons for a reliever in the modern history of the game. He still pitched well, but was vulnerable from time to time. Factor in his earlier struggles with the Angels, it is tough to expect him to dominate on a consistent basis. His K/ 9 IP is something to bank on. 3.38, 37, 82, 66 2/3 in 2013.
22. Huston Street: San Diego Padres. Street was a lot more dominant during his time in Oakland and Colorado. He can still get the job done, but is not the same pitcher he was 5 years ago. He may have to get off to a very good start to keep his job this season. 2.70, 33, 46, 56 2/3 in 2013.
23. Jimmy Henderson: Milwaukee Brewers. Henderson came out of nowhere to get the Brewers closer job last season. In spite of some quality numbers, he will also have to watch his back this year as his job in the 9th is no guarantee. 2.70, 28, 75, 60 in 2013.
24. Addison Reed: Arizona Diamondbacks. In my opinion, Reed was the most overrated closer in the bigs last season. The Diamondbacks have a good quantity of solid arms in their pen, so Reed may not have a job for long. Not a big time strikeout pitcher, either. 3.79, 40, 71, 71 1/3 in 2013.
25. John Axford: Cleveland Indians. I do feel Axford is due for a bounce back season. Returning to the closer's role should help out as well as the fact he pitched very well in the second half of last season, especially after he was acquired by the Cardinals. I wouldn't be surprised if he has a rejuvenating season, but I wonder what happened to make him so ineffective at the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013. 4.02, 0, 65, 70 2/3 in 2013.
26. Latroy Hawkins: Colorado Rockies. Hawkins was great for the Mets last season. He seemed finished when he signed the minor league deal with them, but had as good of a season as he did 10 years ago. I cannot expect that to carry over especially after he is given a closer's job going into the spring. The altitude of Colorado will not help either. 2.93, 13, 55, 70 2/3 in 2013.
27. Jose Veras: Chicago Cubs. Jose Veras is not a closer. He did get 21 saves for the Astros in 2013 but only because he was the only veteran arm in the pen. He is better suited to be a 7th or 8th inning pitcher, but the Cubs gave him the 9th. I think he will be back in that role before very long. 3.02, 21, 60, 60 2/3 in 2013.
28. Tommy Hunter: Baltimore Orioles. Hunter is in the same position Johnson was a could seasons ago. He should be able to get the job done, but like Johnson, is not a dominant strikeout guy. I would expect the Orioles to look for more relief help before the season starts. 2.81, 4, 68, 83 1/3 in 2013.
29. Nate Jones: Chicago White Sox. Jones takes over for Reed. He is more of a strikeout pitcher, but was less dependable last year. I would expect a short leash on him as well in 2014. 4.15, 0, 89, 78 in 2013.
20. Josh Fields: Houston Astros. Fields is a good young arm the Astros have, but cannot be expected to excel in the closer's role right now. It is a good thing there will not be a lot of games for him to close out as the Astros have similar expectations to the past two season. 4.97, 5, 40, 38 in 2013.
As you can see, I view the save stat as what it is, the least useful stat to judge a player in the game today. Track record is important, but many of the proven closers are getting up there in age and have lost velocity on their fastball. The closer position is becoming a young man's game, as teams are stockpiling young, hard throwing arms. Teams have also lost patience with the guys that are pitching the 9th inning. Last year, many teams switched their closer, as Arizona in particular did so three different times. We'll have to see how this turns out.