Top 10 bullpens in the majors

Updated: January 5, 2013, 1:42 PM ET
By Buster Olney

In rounding out our series of winter top 10 rankings, here are the top 10 bullpens in Major League Baseball (and I'm hedging a little in this category because of the uncertainty about what role one big-time pitcher will have).

1. Atlanta Braves

To have a shutdown bullpen, you have to have a dominant closer, and the Braves' Craig Kimbrel is coming off one of the greatest seasons ever for a reliever: Opposing hitters had 231 plate appearances against him, and he struck out 116 -- almost exactly half -- in 62 2/3 innings, with just 14 walks and 27 hits. When he threw strike one on the first pitch of the at-bat (147 of those 231 plate appearances), hitters went 16-for-143, with 97 strikeouts and one extra-base hit. Here's one more: After hitters got ahead in the count, they went 5-for-32, with 10 strikeouts. Just one more: With two outs and runners in scoring position, opposing hitters were 1-for-18 with 10 strikeouts.

In other words, Kimbrel is the best closer in the game, and, at the outset of his career, he has established an unprecedented trajectory: Nobody has been this good so soon.