2017 Outlook: Jansen carries this perception of being one of the most consistent, rather than the best, closers in the game, but in the past two seasons, he has refined his control to the point that he's indeed the position's most stable selection. His 9.68:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio from 2015-16 combined was best in the majors (minimum 100 innings), and in each of those campaigns he managed at least a 40 percent strikeout rate and 50 innings, joining only Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller in that group. Like Mariano Rivera, Jansen thrives on a cutter which grants him one of the highest statistical floors of any current closer, and he's the finisher for a competitive team with somewhat weak middle relief sure to maximize his usage, giving him outstanding odds of at least 40 saves and 100 strikeouts. The right time to select the first closer varies significantly by league format -- they can be third- or fourth-rounders in mixed points leagues with daily transactions -- but if you're going to invest at the position, Jansen is one of the rare, "safe" choices.
2017 Outlook: A compelling case can be made for Britton as the No. 1 closer in fantasy, especially in light of his all-time record-setting 0.54 ERA last season, as well as his record streak of 43 appearances without allowing an earned run. He's as low-risk as they come, thanks to a filthy sinker he throws 90-plus percent of the time, one that generates weak, ground ball-oriented contact when hitters do catch up to it. This does put Britton's fate in the hands of his command of the pitch, and he typically doesn't generate the number of strikeouts to lead the position, but in his defense, his approach has been infallible for three years running. Britton should be one of the first three closers off your board in any format, and perhaps the first in a Rotisserie league, where his more ratio-driven value has slightly greater appeal.
2017 Outlook: Chapman's remarkable skill can be summed up with one stat: In the past five seasons combined, he threw 1,583 of the 3,024 total pitches clocked 100 mph or faster, and he threw 98 of the 101 clocked at 103 or faster. "Flamethrower" is an apt description, as he has paced all relievers in strikeout rate (percentage of total batters faced) in each of the past four seasons and owns five of the 22 seasons in baseball history of at least 50 innings pitched and a 40 percent strikeout rate. Back with the Yankees after a brief detour in Chicago to pick up a World Series ring, Chapman should vie for the No. 1 spot among fantasy closers, his odds slightly greater in points-based formats.
2017 Outlook: Only one thing separates Melancon from the very top tier of fantasy closers: Strikeouts, as he typically hovers in the 60-70 (total) and 23-25 percent (rate) ranges. That said, he's one of the safest choices at the position, not simply because he earned a $62 million investment with the Giants this winter, but rather because he's heavily reliant upon one of the game's best cutters, mastering the pitch much in the way Mariano Rivera did during his career. Melancon's statistical ceiling might not challenge Aroldis Chapman's or Kenley Jansen's, but his floor ranks among the position's highest, as he's about as sure a bet for 40 saves, 65 strikeouts and a 2.00-ish ERA as there is. If Chapman, Jansen and Zach Britton represent "Tier 1" among closers, Melancon is in "Tier 1A" by himself.
2017 Outlook: Nicknamed "The Final Boss" during his days in the KBO, Oh appropriately took over as Cardinals closer in June of his first year in the States. Thanks to an elite slider, his stuff was fittingly video game-esque, as from June 25 forward, he had the ninth-most saves (19), a 2.16 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 31.1 percent strikeout rate, numbers that gave him a legitimate claim to a top-five valuation among fantasy closers. Besides a slight fly-ball leaning, only his relatively little big-league experience as well as 34 years of age are legitimate criticisms, as Oh is expected to begin 2017 again as the team's finisher, with next-in-line Trevor Rosenthal perhaps testing his mettle as a starter. If you're paying for saves, Oh is one of the wiser investments in any format.
2017 Outlook: A starter-turned-reliever, Osuna is expected to remain in the Blue Jays' closer role in 2017, giving him an excellent chance at a second consecutive season as a top-10 fantasy closer, whether in Rotisserie or points-based scoring. His appeal in the latter, however, could take a small hit due to subtle changes to his arsenal late in 2016: He leaned more heavily upon his sinker in the final month and during the playoffs, seeming to sacrifice some swings and misses for weak contact. As it was a small sample, Osuna can be considered a rock-solid choice, one of the first eight closers off your board, but it'd probably be better for his fantasy value if he returned to his previous fastball/slider form, giving him a legitimate chance at 40-plus saves and 90-plus strikeouts.
2017 Outlook: In the past three seasons combined, Davis' 1.18 ERA led all relievers with at least 150 innings pitched, his 0.89 WHIP was third-best and 33.1 percent strikeout rate was eighth-best, and now that he's the closer for the defending World Champion Cubs, his perceived value is sure to be sky-high. A pair of DL stints late last season due to forearm injuries provide reason for caution, however, as he lost some velocity and spin on his fastball as well as location of his slider/cutter during the second half, resulting in fewer swings and misses. Davis could enter spring training fully healthy, and by all rights he might be as valuable a fantasy closer as any during his peak-health periods, which is why he makes an easy top-10 pick at the position. Just understand that those forearm issues cast a bit of a shadow, making him a shakier pick than the top-five, known commodities.
2017 Outlook: Diaz's ascension to the upper tiers of fantasy closers was a quick one; he was converted from starter to reliever while with Double-A Jackson in May, made 10 relief appearances there, joined the Mariners in June, took over as closer in August and led the majors in saves (18) with the ninth-most strikeouts among relievers (39) in the final two months. He did it thanks to one of the filthiest sliders in the game, one that gives him excellent odds of a top-10 fantasy closer season again in 2017. Diaz's own admission that he tired in September is slightly alarming, though he also deserves credit for being so quick to adjust to those many changes he experienced last season. Few closers make genuine cases to reach the 40-save and 100-strikeout thresholds, but Diaz belongs in that group.
2017 Outlook: In retrospect, it's difficult to fathom how Duffy failed to crack the Royals' 2016 Opening Day rotation. Thanks to greater reliance upon his sinker, as well as elite fastball velocity that remarkably carried over into his return to the rotation, Duffy put forth a beneath-the-radar run at the American League's Cy Young award, finishing as the No. 24 starting pitcher on the Player Rater and 19th at the position in standard-league points. That delay in his ascension to the Royals' rotation might have been a boon; it assured a gradual, year-over-year ramping up of his annual workload, easing worry that he'll be prepared for a full-time starter's role in 2017. Duffy is due for some regression, especially if he can't replicate his 94.7 mph average fastball velocity, but a potential increase in volume (starts, innings) gives him great odds at similar fantasy value (or perhaps more).
2017 Outlook: Following Wade Davis' trade to the Cubs, Herrera ascended to the Royals' closer role on a regular basis, and don't overlook how productive Herrera was filling in last year during Davis' multiple DL stints. In 45 team games while Davis was sidelined, Herrera managed 11 saves -- that's a 40 save full-season pace -- with a 2.95 ERA and 0.87 WHIP, and over the course of the full year, an increased emphasis on his breaking pitches fueled his career-high 30.4 percent strikeout rate. Those are top-10 fantasy closer numbers, and if Herrera remains in Kansas City all summer -- it's possible he'll be a midseason trade candidate as a player with two years' control remaining if the team doesn't contend -- he shouldn't have much trouble maintaining that status.
2017 Outlook: After paying a steep price to acquire Giles from the Phillies in December 2015, the Astros did everything in their power to keep him from their closer role to begin last season, the product being an especially ugly April (9.00 ERA in 11 appearances) by the flamethrowing right-hander. By season's end, Giles had forced his way into the role, thanks to a 3.23 ERA, 37.6 percent strikeout rate and 29 saves plus holds in 33 opportunities after that bad opening month. He'll begin 2017 there, and while his first year as an American Leaguer might have been an occasionally rocky one, Giles possesses the skills to challenge for a top-five fantasy closer season. His range of outcomes might be somewhat wider than a typical top-10 closer's, but he's the kind of talent to target when paying for saves; he's in fact a slightly more appealing choice in points-based formats thanks to the strikeouts.
2017 Outlook: His first season as a member of the Red Sox was also, unfortunately, the worst of his seven years in the big leagues, but that Kimbrel nevertheless finished among the 20 best fantasy closers using Rotisserie or points-based scoring speaks volume about his talent. For the sixth consecutive season, he managed at least 30 saves, a 35 percent strikeout rate and sub-1.10 WHIP; that's a record number that represented six of the 27 total campaigns in history. A knee injury he suffered in July that required surgery contributed, meaning that his health is worth tracking during spring training to ultimately determine his odds of a return to the position's top five. Kimbrel's raw ability makes him a candidate, but he's also one of the incumbent closers who might be wisely handcuffed to his top setup man (Tyler Thornburg).
2017 Outlook: Few players will have as variable a price point dependent upon league format as Miller, a middle-innings dynamo who is as good at helping stabilize a fantasy team's ERA, WHIP and strikeouts as anyone in the game. These pitchers can be invaluable assets in leagues with daily transactions or start caps, worthy of middle-round picks and/or double-digit auction bids thanks to the flexibility they provide filling in the cracks between your pricey starters and closers. Due to Miller's second-in-command role behind likely Indians closer Cody Allen (or perhaps the shorter end of a partnership), however, he might generate fewer saves, hurting his Rotisserie and points-based value, and could fall short of the big-league holds lead due to mixing and matching with Miller. Make no mistake: Miller is as good a pitcher as the pundits made him out to be when he was the team's postseason workhorse last October; the difference is that during the regular season, he'll endure a more conservative workload of perhaps 70 innings.
2017 Outlook: A late-October domestic violence charge threatens Familia's status to begin 2017, as he might be facing a suspension, but when active, he's expected to once again serve as the Mets' closer. He's a workhorse in that role, the only pitcher with at least 75 appearances and 75 innings pitched in each of the past three seasons, and possesses the combination of swing-and-miss stuff plus an elite ground-ball rate that minimizes big innings and eases worry about his occasionally inconsistent control. During his eligible games, Familia should have an easy time producing top-10 fantasy closer value, and in fact, he might be one of the five best at his craft. As he won't be DL-eligible during any suspension, however, he could be a difficult pitcher to stash in a standard mixed league and faces longer odds of being a top-10 pick at his position.
2017 Outlook: Allen or Andrew Miller, Miller or Allen: Who closes? That is the question, with the answer likely landing in Allen's column, at least judging by the pair's usage during the second half of last season and the playoffs. While Miller is the superior talent, Indians manager Terry Francona appears to prefer deploying him when the situation calls at any stage of the game, saving his second-best reliever, Allen, for the ninth, as Allen succeeded Miller in 22 of their 24 common games. Allen's fly-ball nature does put him at greater ratios risk than Miller, but as the better bet for the Rotisserie- and points-driving saves, he's the one to target as a possible top-10 fantasy closer in those formats. He's as good an example as there is of a successful closer not needing to be the team's best reliever.