(Note: the advice below applies to "standard" mixed leagues (12 team) only. Deep leagues are different. There are almost never any closers in the free agent pool in this format (someone has to lose his job or get traded over from the "other" league for that to happen) and you don't have the luxury of dropping a bad closer if you do have one. The guys I'm down on aren't necessarily closers I think will lose their jobs. Rather, these are the closers who I don't have a good feeling about the rest of the way.)
These are your studs. If you own one of these guys, you probably sleep pretty well at night. They're not all equal - Chapman and Kimbrel are in a class by themselves - but if there is such a thing as "save saves" these guys deliver them.
You could make arguments to put Motte, Putz or Soriano in the rock solid category, but while Putz and Motte have both been hot, I'm looking at performance all year long and not just in the last month. That's not a knock on any of these pitchers; even in a mixed league if you have one pitcher from this group and one pitcher from the first group, your bullpen is probably in great shape.
Steve Cishek, Ernesto Frieri, Greg Holland, Casey Janssen, Wilton Lopez, Carlos Marmol, Glen Perkins, Jose Valverde
This isn't an exciting group, but I think all of these guys are 1) probably going to hold on to their jobs for the rest of the way 2) have produced OK ERA/WHIP/strikeout numbers for their owners. Marmol and Valverde would be ranked higher if not for past failures, while Holland, Lopez and Perkins need some more time in their roles before they move up. But if you're rolling with one of these guys, you're probably OK.
Affeldt and Balfour are in this category just because it's unclear (to me at least) whether they're going to close all year or if they're just placeholders for a week or two. Betancourt and Nathan both make me nervous due to recent performance markers. Betancourt's whiffs are down and in Colorado that's even less of a good thing than usual, while Nathan has been bad lately and Ron Washington is talking about limiting his workload down the stretch. That doesn't mean Nathan's going to lose the job, but it does make me think the save totals are going to drop.
Bail if You Can
These are the guys you have to upgrade if you can. Henderson might not have the job by the time you read this. Aceves is struggling again and the Red Sox only need the flimsiest excuse to put Andrew Bailey in there in the 9th. All of those innings Clippard has thrown the last three years look like they're finally catching up to him. Drew Storen hasn't been any better, but Clippard looks spent. Johnson was already a low strikeout guy but now he's barely whiffing over three per nine. With the Orioles contending, I have to think that Pedro Strop hasn't been ruled out as an option down the stretch. Frank Francisco was never the answer. The Mets are on the hook for $6.5 million with him next year, but he looks like a sunk cost to me.
Dale Thayer (Huston Street out until September).