MLB Fantasy Baseball Profile: Is Mariano Rivera Still a Top Five Fantasy Closer?

Mariano Rivera had 33 saves last year. Solid number, but there were eleven closers with more saves than Mo last year. Of the 18 closers with 25 or more saves last year, only Ryan Franklin (42) had fewer than Mo’s 45 strikeouts. In fact, the other 16 closers had at least 52 strikeouts. Brian Wilson, Heath Bell, Carlos Marmol, and Jonathan Papelbon rung up at least 76 batters.

Of course Rivera’s ERA of 1.80 and WHIP of 0.83 are what you’re looking for when you take him as one of the first closers off the board. That’s the stuff he’s been doing his whole career, and part of the reason he’s considered the greatest closer of all-time. That, of course, and his postseason heroics.

You, though, aren’t drafting him for what he does in October. You are drafting him to anchor your fantasy bullpen. Save totals can vary from year to year so I wouldn’t put too much weight into that total, especially for a rock like Mo. The strikeouts drop does concern me, but Mo had 55 in 2006 before posting three consecutive 70+ strikeout seasons.

What does concern me though is Mariano’s decreasing innings pitched. His innings have decreased every year since 2004. With the addition of Rafael Soriano, that trend could continue. The Yankees will want a fresh Rivera for the postseason so they could be more conservative with Mo during the regular season. With fewer innings pitched, there is a real concern that the strikeouts and saves will be on the low side once again.

Unfortunately to acquire his services, you’re going to have to take him early. His average draft position, according to Mock Draft Central, is 62 and before every other closer. That’s the sixth round in 12-team leagues. Heath Bell’s ADP is 92. My feeling is that if you’re drafting Mo, you’re paying a premium based on his name. Do yourself a favor and let somebody else pay that and get better value later.

Also check out:

  • 2011 Fantasy Baseball Profiles
  • 2011 Fantasy First Basemen Rankings
  • 2011 Fantasy Second Basemen Rankings
  • 2011 Fantasy Third Basemen Rankings
  • 2011 Fantasy Shortstop Rankings
  • 2011 Fantasy Catcher Rankings
  • 2011 Fantasy Outfielder Rankings
  • 2011 Fantasy Starting Pitcher Rankings
  • 2011 Fantasy Closer Rankings
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