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Sunday 17th Dec 2017

When it comes to closers, 2017 has not been a good year for most of my fantasy teams. In Tout Wars Mixed Auction, the demotion of Francisco Rodriguez was soon followed by Aroldis Chapman's injury, leaving me with no closers by mid-May. So, I made the uncomfortable decision to punt saves, waiting for Chapman to return from his one-month absence before swapping him for an offensive upgrade.

In another league, I had the good fortune of drafting Mark Melancon as my top stopper. But that's not all. My second closer is none other than David Robertson, who is now a closer no more after getting traded to the Yankees, one of the few teams that would not deploy him in the ninth inning thanks to the presence of that Chapman guy. And the depressing part is that Robertson was enjoying a strong season as the White Sox ninth inning man, having notched 13 saves in 14 chances while registering a 2.70 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP to go along with 47 strikeouts across 33 1/3 innings. 

Although Robertson was not considered an elite stopper heading into drafts, most owners would have been thrilled to land him as their #2 man in a 12-team mixed league. And, his consensus ranking towards the back-end of the top-15 reflected that view. Well, Robertson's performance has easily exceeded his draft day price tag, making it especially frustrating to lose such a profitable closer. At a position with so much in-season turnover, drafting closers who are able to hold onto their ninth inning gig from start to finish is key, especially when that closer did not require a hefty investment.

The list of non-elite relievers who opened the 2017 campaign as their team's clear-cut closer and have made it to this point without losing their job, either due to ineffectiveness or a trade, is a short one. Limiting my search to those ranked outside the top-12 in this year's "Fantasy Baseball Guide Professional Edition" who have not disappointed relative to draft cost, I came up with this group.  

Brandon Kintzler - Who saw this coming? Generally drafted as a #3 stopper in mixed leagues, Kintzler has been one of the most consistent closers in baseball. The 32-year old has registered an elite ERA and WHIP and is on pace to top the 40-save plateau. The one drawback is his low strikeout rate (5.4 K/9). 

Ken Giles - Giles' first full season as a closer has been an overwhelming success to the tune of 21 saves in 23 chances, a 3.28 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP with well over a strikeout per inning. He's on track to be drafted as a top-10 stopper next spring.

Edwin Diaz - Though not quite as dominant as last year, Diaz has proven that he can thrive in a full-time closer role. Do note that home runs have been an issue, as he's served up eight longballs in 40 2/3 innings this season after allowing only five homers across 51 2/3 frames in 2016.

Jim Johnson - Boring but effective is probably the best way to describe Johnson this season. That said, a 3.92 ERA is a bit high for a closer and 22-for-29 is not a great save conversion ratio. Plus, the Braves could trade the veteran righty before the end of the month to a contender, and he would almost certainly serve as a setup man for his new club.

Raisel Iglesias - Remember when Iglesias entered spring training in a battle with Drew Storen for Cincinnati's ninth inning job? Owners who took a chance on the Cuban import have been rewarded with a 1.55 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP to go along with an 11.3 K/9 rate and 16 saves in 17 chances.

Fernando Rodney - OK, Rodney's ERA (5.23) is ugly. But by now, we know what the deal is with this guy. You don't draft him for his ratios. You draft him for the saves, and he's already collected 22 of them with two-plus months still to play. And seriously, did you spend more than a late-round pick or a few bucks at the auction table for him?

Didn't think so. 

Zach Steinhorn is the 2016 Mixed Auction Tout Wars champion. Follow him on Twitter @ZachMLB 

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