It came as a bit of a surprise this offseason when the Nationals inked right-handed closer Rafael Soriano to a two-year, $28M contract. The former Mariner, Brave, Ray, and Yankee had 42 saves and a 2.26 ERA last season covering for Mariano Rivera after he tore his ACL. Numbers like those in the rugged NL East are nothing to scoff at, but does a team with two relievers who have had 30+ saves in 2011 and 2012 respectively need another closer? Regardless of whether they did or not, the Nats now have one of the game’s top three closers capping off a strong bullpen. In his nine full Major League seasons, Soriano has had an ERA above 3.00 twice: his rookie year in Seattle and 2011 with the Yankees, when he missed a large part of the season with an elbow injury. Soriano has consistently been one of the game’s top relievers, and our projections expect him to maintain that level of performance:
ZiPS: 54.1 IP, 54 K, 18 BB, 1.18 WHIP, 3.31 ERA, does not project saves
MLB.com: 64 IP, 63 K, 23 BB, 1.20 WHIP, 2.53 ERA, 39 SV
CBSSports: 54.1 IP, 54 K, 17 BB, 1.03 WHIP, 2.40 ERA, 41 SV
ESPN Fantasy: 56 IP, 61 K, 19 BB, 1.14 WHIP, 2.89 ERA, 37 SV
Averages: 57.1 IP, 58 K, 19 BB, 1.14 WHIP, 2.78 ERA, 39 SV
It says something about how good Soriano has been that the above stat-line would be one of the worst of his career. Even if he does follow these slightly conservative numbers, he would be one of the league’s top closers and a valuable asset in any bullpen. While his numbers from 2012 may seem unsustainable, given his 3.32 FIP, Soriano’s career ERA is more than half a run lower than his career FIP, meaning that FIP may not be a good indicator for him. He also had a very sustainable baBIP, 25 points above his career mark. These peripheral stats, combined with Soriano’s return to the NL, would indicate that his stats could only improve in 2013. While this might be a bit much to hope for, it’s not unrealistic to expect Soriano to continue being in the conversation for the best closer in baseball. In fantasy he’ll be owned in every league, with all the stats you hope for out of an elite closer. At the end of the Nats’ bullpen, he should stop opponents cold, just like he has his entire career.