Look at what fantasy baseball has done to us.  We pore over pre-season rankings, stalk the Internet for live game box scores, pray for injuries just major enough to open up opportunities for sleepers.  All in the hope of compiling enough saves to win the category.

Of course, roto leagues aren’t the only reason for the baseball-loving public’s collective love affair with closers, but they sure do bring out the fanatic in all of us.

Prior to 1969, saves weren’t even and official statistic.  Prior to 1960, they didn’t exist at all.  For roughly 70 years, the sport got along just fine without having a specific way of quantifying close-game, ninth-inning success, but in the decades since its inception, the save has come to dominate the way managers deploy pitching staffs.

As relievers became more popular in the latter half of the last century, the best arms were used more and more in high-pressure situations. Ultimately, that led to the modern “closer”, usually a bullpen’s most reliable arm that could come in and preserve ties or leads at the end of games.

With teams depending so heavily on closers, it’s not enough to have just one established guy.  Each club also needs a closer-in-waiting or two, setup men that, if needed, can step in and get the job done.

So who has staked their claim to the closer-in-waiting spot in 2011?  It’s time to review (in no particular order) the 15 best relievers who aren’t closing now, but could be in line for saves before the season is out.

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