The Dynasty Guru’s Top 75 Dynasty League Relief Pitchers, Nos. 21-75

From the 21st of January to the 20th of February, the writers at TDG will be taking you through our rankings position-by-position. As I mentioned in the primer, this year we’re doing things a little differently. Instead of having my personal rankings up on this site, like last year, these rankings for 2014 are of the consensus variety and being brought to you by all of the TDG staff. Everyone put a lot of work into this project, so we hope you enjoy the end result. And if you are looking for my personal dynasty league rankings, you can find them this off-season at Baseball Prospectus.

So we hope you enjoy the rankings package that we’ve put together here. And if you do, I hope that you will make a donation to show appreciation for the content you’ve seen here at the Dynasty Guru. You can do that through this link, or by clicking the “Donate” button on the top-right corner of the homepage. All donations are truly appreciated.

Now the final 55 best relief pitchers in dynasty leagues, starting with an underrated closer who toils in the midwest in obscurity:

21) Jim Henderson, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 75)

Henderson enters 2014 as the closer for the Brewers and if his 11.3 K/9 in 2013 is any indication, he should be able to hold the gig. One weak point was his propensity to give up home runs (1.2 HR/9), but his only real threat should he stumble is Francisco Rodriguez.

22) Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 16)

Feliz and Joakim Soria will duke it out for the closing rights this spring now that Joe Nathan has sailed. Feliz’s starting experiment seems to be over and now that he is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, he has the stuff to assume the closer role and never look back.

23) Jim Johnson, Oakland Athletics (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 12)

Traded to Oakland this offseason after back-to-back 50-save seasons in Baltimore, Johnson immediately assumes the role of closer for the Athletics. His K/9 topped out at 7.2 last year, which isn’t stellar, but he keeps a ton of balls on the ground and should continue to rack up the saves.

24) Fernando Rodney, Seattle Mariners (Age: 37, Previous Rank: 7)

Rodney recently signed a two-year contract with the Mariners, bumping Danny Farquhar to set-up duty for the time being. In 2013 his walk rate ballooned to almost 5 BB/9, but the bright side was that his K/9 increased as well (11 K/9). He’ll have value as long as he’s garnering saves, but his age makes him less appealing in dynasty formats.

25) Rex Brothers, Colorado Rockies (Age: 26, Previous Rank: NR)

Brothers isn’t likely to start the year as the Rockies’ closer, but he will certainly get his opportunities as the season progresses. The 26-year-old left-hander saved 19 games in 21 chances last year when Rafael Betancourt hit the DL. He’s also got the perfect first name to complement the Rockies’ mascot Dinger the Dinosaur.

26) Danny Farquhar, Seattle Mariners (Age: 27, Previous Rank: NR)

The Rodney signing hurts Farquhar’s value in the short-term, but should Rodney struggle (8 blown saves in 2013) Farquhar would be next in line for save opportunities. I flunked physics, but I think a Farquhar is also a form of measurement. (eg. I applied 3 Farquhars (Fq) of pressure to convert that save.)

27) Nate Jones, Chicago White Sox (Age: 28, Previous Rank: NR)

With Addison Reed out of the picture, Jones is the favorite to win the closer job in Chicago for 2014. He can hit triple digits with his fastball and in 2013 he saw his K/9 climb to 10.3 in 78 innings of work. His 4.15 ERA from last year doesn’t really tell the whole story, as he sandwiched a great June, July, and August between a lousy start and finish.

28) Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 70)

Allen is a great option in dynasty leagues because he’s got youth and talent on his side. John Axford may start the year as the Tribe’s closer, but it’s a safe bet to project Allen as their closer of the future. In his first full season (70 innings), Allen put up some nice numbers with a 2.43 ERA and 11.3 K/9. Definitely one to watch.

29) Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 63)

When Jason Grilli missed time with an arm injury last year, Melancon stepped right in and saved 16 games. He posted a tidy 1.39 ERA and 1.0 BB/9 and he was a big reason why the Pirates’ bullpen was one of the best in baseball last season.

30) John Axford, Cleveland Indians (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 21)

Axford didn’t record a single save in 2013 after racking up 81 in the two years prior, but he’s expected to start the year as the Indians’ closer. One issue was a big dip in his K/9, which went from 12.1 in 2012 to 9.0 in 2013 (a career low). It was also suspected that he was tipping his pitches…clearly the mustache’s fault. Stache culpa.

31) Joaquin Benoit, San Diego Padres (Age: 36, Previous Rank: 59)

Benoit saved 24 games in 2013 and makes an interesting handcuff to Huston Street, whose 1.9 HR/9 and 7.3 K/9 raised some red flags last year. So while Benoit might be 7 years older than Street, his numbers (9.8 K/9, 0.6 HR/9) might lead to a change should Street struggle or get hurt, and the chances of the latter happening are pretty good.

32) Jose Veras, Chicago Cubs (Age: 33, Previous Rank: NR)

The closer situation in Chicago is volatile, but for now it appears that Veras has the job. Pedro Strop and Blake Parker are lurking and while the 33-year-old Veras might appear to be a risky bet for saves, he actually pitched well last year. He made a noticeable improvement in his BB/9 and there is no reason to think he can’t handle the job as long as that carries over into 2014.

33) Joakim Soria, Texas Rangers (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 56)

Soria is coming off of his second Tommy John surgery, but with Joe Nathan gone and Neftali Feliz returning from injury also, there is a window of opportunity for Soria to snag the ninth inning in Texas this spring. He still has the stuff to strike batters out and keep the ball on the ground, so health is really the biggest concern here.

34) Brian Wilson, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 46)

Wouldn’t It Be Nice if Wilson could stay healthy All Summer Long and keep those California Girls swooning with his super-low HR/9 and solid GB%? Don’t Worry Baby, I Get Around and Wilson is going to put up solid numbers setting up Kenley Jansen. After that he may just get into his Little Deuce Coupe and head somewhere to close again.

35) Tommy Hunter, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 27, Previous Rank: NR)

With Jim Johnson gone, there’s a battle for the ninth inning in Baltimore and Hunter seems to be the favorite to win the job. He’s not a strikeout machine like some of the other relievers, but his solid 1.5 BB/9 should keep him out of trouble and in the mix for saves. He made gains across the board in 2013 and it’s worth noting that as a former starter he could continue to improve as he adapts to his new role.

36) Jason Motte, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 2)

Tommy John derailed Motte’s 2013, and now Trevor Rosenthal is going to be the man in the ninth for St. Louis. This leaves Motte in a setup role for the time being. Prior to his injury, Motte was fantastic – posting a K/9 of 11.8 and a BB/9 of 2.1. He should be able to find himself again once the TJ surgery is completely behind him.

37) Tyler Clippard, Washington Nationals (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 69)

Specs falls behind Rafael Soriano in the Nationals’ bullpen and while he’s a great arm, he did see his K/9 fall below 10 for the first time in three years. Still, he’s one of the better options for fantasy among the non-closers and should continue to vulture some wins for the Nats as well.

38) Jake McGee, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 34)

McGee has all of the peripherals, but a crowded Rays’ bullpen might keep from getting a shot to close games. Regardless, he’s a nice option for strikeouts and he keeps the ball in the yard. The Rays are also the type of smart team that will keep putting him in good situations. The left-hander has also been successful against both lefties and righties.

39) LaTroy Hawkins, Colorado Rockies (Age: 41, Previous Rank: NR)

Hawkins is actually going to oil up his joints to start the year as the Rockies’ closer, but he’s not necessarily going to be valuable outside of the saves themselves. In fact, even those might be in jeopardy if Rex Brothers has anything to say about it. You have to respect a guy who has been pitching since ‘95, you just don’t have to invest in him.

40) Ryan Cook, Oakland Athletics (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 44)

Cook is a solid piece to have on a fantasy roster with two straight seasons of a sub-3 ERA, a HR/9 under 1, and solid strikeout numbers. He’ll get a chance to close should Jim Johnson struggle or find himself on the move. He makes a nice play in dynasty leagues at just 26 years old.

41) Luke Gregerson, Oakland Athletics (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 48)

Like Cook, Gregerson may be in line for save opportunities if Jim Johnson moves out of the ninth inning. He’s consistently been one of the best setup men in the game and his new home park in Oakland should treat him as kindly as PetCo did. At 29, Gregerson provides the consistent track record fantasy owners like when investing in an arm.

42) Heath Bell, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 36, Previous Rank: 62)

It’s easy to look at Bell as an arm to avoid at 36 years old and an ERA over 4.00 each of the past two years. He did make some significant improvements with Arizona last year though. He raised his K/9 and lowered his BB/9 and while he’s not going to close games in Tampa Bay with Grant Balfour in town, he should still be able to garner enough strikeouts to be useful in fantasy. He’s in a better park for pitching with a better defense behind him as well.

43) Carter Capps, Miami Marlins (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 58)

The Marlins acquired Capps from the Mariners in the Logan Morrison deal. While he’s still young and has time to develop, last year he was hurt by the walk (3.5 BB/9) and the home run (1.83 HR/9). Those two blemishes showed in his 5.49 ERA. The good news is he moved from one pitcher’s park to another and still has a nice mid-90s fastball to build from.

44) Sergio Santos, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 40)

Injuries have really limited Santos, who missed time in both 2012 and 2013 and now finds himself behind Casey Janssen on the depth chart. Santos probably has the best stuff of the bunch, however, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him closing games for the Jays or another team (via trade) in the near future.

45) Jesse Crain, Houston Astros (Age: 32, Previous Rank: NR)

Crain has been solid over the past three years for the White Sox, but he really turned it on in 2013, earning himself an All-Star appearance with a 0.74 ERA and 11.3 K/9. Now he takes his talents to Houston, where he’ll battle Josh Fields and Chad Qualls for the ninth inning job. He’s a good bet to close there, but it’s also one of the more volatile bullpens around.

46) Drew Storen, Washington Nationals (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 38)
There was a time when Storen looked like the run-away closer in Washington. That was before the Nationals signed Rafael Soriano for two years and $28 million. Storen missed some of 2012 with elbow issues, but came back strong as a set-up man. He appeared in 68 games last season with mixed results, posting a 4.52 ERA.
47) Kelvin Herrera, Kansas City Royals (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 51)
For a very brief moment, Herrera and Greg Holland were sharing saves. A three-homer game at the hands of Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Dan Uggla then gave way to Holland’s ninth-inning reign in Kansas City.
48) Pedro Strop, Chicago Cubs (Age: 28, Previous Rank: NR)
After being traded from Baltimore to Chicago, Strop resembled a quality major-league relief pitcher, striking out better than 10 batters per nine while walking less than three. Unfortunately for Strop, the Cubs signed free-agent Jose Veras to close out games in 2014, moving him to set-up duties.
49) Bruce Rondon, Detroit Tigers (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 45)
Rondon was a popular choice to break camp as the Tigers closer in 2013, but the 275-pounder never got a chance. Rondon can bring the heat at 100 mph, but he needs to improve on his secondary pitches to be considered for the role in the future. With Joe Nathan now in Detroit, it won’t be this year.
50) Tanner Scheppers, Texas Rangers (Age: 27, Previous Rank: NR)  
Scheppers was a reliable reliever for Texas in 2013, recording a 1.88 ERA and 27 holds in 76-plus innings. His strikeouts were down, however, and he’s behind Neftali Feliz and Joakim Soria on the closer depth chart.
51) Arodys Vizcaino, Chicago Cubs (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 27)
 
Very early reports on Vizcaino have been positive. The right-hander missed two consecutive seasons with elbow injuries (2012, 2013), but he has a bright future if he can just stay healthy. He’s a potential closer in 2015.
52) Edward Mujica, Boston Red Sox (Age: 29, Previous Rank: NR)
After Jason Motte went down and Mitchell Boggs imploded, Mujica stepped in admirably for the Cardinals, picking up 37 saves while allowing only five walks in 64-plus innings. He missed most of September with fatigue, and he’ll now pitch in a set-up role for closer Koji Uehara.
53) Ryan Madson, Free Agent (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 8)
Madson last pitched in 2011, saving 32 games for the Phillies. He missed 2012 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, in addition to 2013 with setbacks in his recovery. It’s hard to imagine Madson signing on anywhere with a shot at closing.
54) Sean Doolittle, Oakland Athletics (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 66)
Alongside Ryan Cook and Luke Gregerson, Doolittle will be one of three set-up men for newly signed Jim Johnson. The southpaw can be equally effective against righties and lefties, and that skillset should come in handy if Johnson stumbles in Oakland.
55) Tom Wilhelmsen, Seattle Mariners (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 13)
Wilhelmsen had an up-and-down 2013, including a demotion to Triple-A. He’s collected 53 saves since 2012, but Fernando Rodney and Danny Farquhar are the first and second options, respectively, for saves in Seattle.
56) David Hernandez, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 36)
Hernandez has always had the stuff to close, but he’s never had the chance to showcase his talent in the role. With the Diamondbacks trading for Addison Reed, that’s unlikely to change.
57) Junichi Tazawa, Boston Red Sox (Age: 27, Previous Rank: NR)
Boston’s early-season mess between Joel Hanrahan of Andrew Bailey gave Tazawa the possibility of closing out games, but Koji Uehara took the job and ran away with it. In 68-plus innings, Tazawa struck out 72 and walked 12. He should once again be a valuable reliever to help stabilize your team’s ERA and WHIP.
58) Josh Fields, Houston Astros (Age: 28, Previous Rank: NR)
No one in Houston was able to step up in the ninth last year, including Fields. He picked up five saves and a 4.97 ERA with better than a strikeout per inning, but he also walked more then four per nine. Fields was drafted to be the “closer of the future,” but it’s a situation to avoid if you can.
59) Brian Matusz, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 27, Previous Rank: NR)
With Jim Johnson no longer in town, Baltimore’s closer role is up for grabs. That guy will likely be Tommy Hunter, but Matusz’s name has been mentioned as a consideration. He’s had success as a starter with the Orioles, however, so he could be thrown back into that role depending on how the team addresses the rotation.
60) Steve Delabar, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 30, Previous Rank: NR)
Last year’s “Final Vote” winner in the American League struck out better than 12 batters per nine, but a high walk rate inflated his WHIP (1.35). I wouldn’t trust the veteran to get back to the All-Star Game.
61) Paco Rodriguez, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
Rodriguez appeared in 76 games in his first full season, posting a 2.32 ERA and 0.90 WHIP across 54-plus innings. He displayed OK control to go along with 63 strikeouts, but he remains behind Kenley Jansen and Brian Wilson.
62) Mark Montgomery, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 24, Previous Rank: NR)
A first rounder in the 2008 draft, Montgomery has spent his entire career in the minors. After dominating the competition early on, the left-hander injured his forearm and hasn’t been the same since. Last season in Triple-A, he started 19 games with a 4.72 ERA.
63) Corey Knebel, Detroit Tigers (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
Knebel was drafted 39th overall in the 2013 draft. The hard-throwing right-hander tossed 31 innings in Low-A, striking out 41 batters and allowing only 14 hits. He could be a starter in time, and he’s definitely one to keep a close eye on.
64) J.J. Hoover, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 26, Previous Rank: NR)
Hoover will set up Aroldis Chapman along with Sean Marshall, but Hoover should be the first to see save chances if ever needed. In 96-plus career innings, he has a 2.61 ERA and 9.12 K/9 rate.
65) Nick Wittgren, Miami Marlins (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
Selected in the ninth round of the 2012 draft, Wittgren spent the majority of last season in High-A, posting a 59:10 K:BB ratio in 54-plus innings to go along with a 0.83 ERA. He’ll likely start 2014 in Double-A.
66) Chris Perez, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 20)
Perez picked up 25 saves for the Indians last year, but he’ll forever be remembered as the guy who shipped weed to the family dog.
67) Antonio Bastardo, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 28, Previous Rank: NR)
After back-to-back seasons with 60-plus appearances, Bastardo appeared in 48 games. His strikeout rate decreased from 36.2 percent to 26.3 percent, which is still good, but he continued his trend of four straight seasons with four walks per nine.
68) Joe Smith, Los Angeles Angels (Age: 23, Previous Rank: NR)
Smith signed a three-year deal with the Angels following his third consecutive year of 70-plus appearances and a sub-3.00 ERA. Smith is reliable, if not exciting.
69) Rubby de la Rosa, Boston Red Sox (Age: 25, Previous Rank: NR)
The Dodgers’ 2010 Minor League Pitcher of the Year missed most of 2012 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Now with the Red Sox, he has an outside chance of securing a starting role with a strong spring.
70) Chad Qualls, Houston Astros (Age: 35, Previous Rank: NR)
Qualls is the early favorite to break camp with the closer spot in Houston, but it’s far from a sure thing. Jesse Crain will miss the start of the season following surgery, but Qualls will still have to contend with Josh Fields and Matt Albers.
71) Jordan Walden, Atlanta Braves (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 73)
The dude with the funky delivery arguably had his best season in 2013, with 10 strikeouts per nine in addition to a career-best walk rate. He should be among the Braves leaders in holds.
72) Jake Barrett, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
Taken in the third round of the 2012 draft, Barrett pitched in High-A and Double-A in 2013, recording a 1.23 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in 52 innings of work. He didn’t fare well in the Arizona Fall League, but could find himself in Triple-A by the end of 2014.
73) Vic Black, New York Mets (Age: 25, Previous Rank: NR)
Black made his big-league debut in 2013, tossing 17 innings between the Pirates and Mets, including his first save as a Met. He has a power fastball, but his command can go missing. Black could emerge as a closing option if Bobby Parnell encounters any setbacks in his return from injury.
74) Kyuji Fujikawa, Chicago Cubs (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 49)
Year one of Fujikawa was a complete disaster, as the Japanese right-hander missed the majority 2013 following Tommy John surgery. His earliest return date is June.
75) Heath Hembree, San Francisco Giants (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 72)

Hembree graduated to the big leagues last year, making nine appearances and striking out 12 in seven-plus innings after spending the better part of two seasons in Triple-A. He has nothing left to prove on the farm and has skillset to become a very capable late-inning reliever.

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One comment on “The Dynasty Guru’s Top 75 Dynasty League Relief Pitchers, Nos. 21-75

  1. Bulluck says:

    Joel Peralta?

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