The Dynasty Guru’s Top 200 Dynasty Relief Pitchers Nos. 21-50

Congratulations on surviving another off-season. Now that the new year is upon us, it’s time to spend the next month  traveling across the positional landscape, labeling players with numbers that correspond to their value. It’s the very definition of freedom. A ton of hard work was put into these rankings, and will continue to be put in as we bring you just an ungodly amount of information over the next month. We hope you enjoy the product we’ve created, and if you’d like to show appreciation for that work you can do so through this link, or via the donate button on in the upper right-hand corner of the homepage. All donations are truly appreciated.

The positional rankings begin to conclude with a man who should notch his fair share of saves, and bows and arrows in 2015:

21) Fernando Rodney, Seattle Mariners (Age: 38, Previous Rank: 24)

Rodney used to be a very shaky closer with a low strikeout rate and a high walk rate. Over the years he has drastically improved the strikeout rate to where he has been over 10 K/9 the last two years. The walk rate is still worrisome. He has been remarkably effective at stifling home runs, allowing .41 or less HR/9 in each of the last four years. People keep predicting the 38 year old’s demise but he is still as solid as ever. He won’t repeat the 0.60 ERA of 2012, but he has racked up 48 Saves in two out of the last three years (and 37 in the other). Ride him with confidence.
22) Joaquin Benoit, San Diego Padres (Age: 37, Previous Rank: 37)
Benoit has been one of the best relievers in baseball since 2010. Since 2010 he has averaged 10.3 K/9, only 2.47 BB/9 and a 2.35 ERA. Those are elite numbers. The only thing he hasn’t done is pile up big Save totals. He took over from Huston Street after he was traded to the Angels but only got 11 Saves. He was a part-time closer for the Tigers in 2013 and earned 24 Saves. Before that he never had more than six saves in a season going all the way back to his rookie year of 2001. But a great setup man is likely to be a great closer when given the chance. Benoit is going into this season solidly entrenched as the closer on what is looking to be the first good Padres team in a long time. They are expecting to win now, so if he struggles at any time they may quickly switch to Kevin Quackenbush or Shawn Kelley.
23) Brad Boxberger, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 26 , Previous Rank: NA)
Boxberger has a tremendous breakout season last year. He has always put up some eye-popping strikeout rates, but his 14.47 K/9 last year was off the charts. Prior to last season he had a career 5.6 BB/9, which is awful, but last year he cut it in half to a good 2.8 BB/9. We are looking at a very solid closer if he is given the opportunity. Jake McGee tops the reliever depth chart in Tampa but he is likely going to miss the first part of the year with an injury. Boxberger is expected to close to start the season and he may never relinquish that role.
24) Andrew Miller, New York Yankees (Age: 29, Previous Rank: NA)
Miller was the 6th overall pick of the 2006 draft and reached the majors that same season after only 3 games in the minor leagues. He was an elite prospect but he quickly flamed out as a starter with the Tigers and Marlins. It wasn’t until the Red Sox gave up on him as a starter and moved him to the bullpen that he magically transformed into an elite LOOGY. Soon he earned his way into a key role as a setup man striking out more than 14 batters per nine innings. Now with the Yankees he is expected to set up for Dellin Betances, but he could move into the closer role smoothly if Betances blows a few Saves.
25) Addison Reed, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 8)
Reed went into last year as what everyone assumed was a rock-solid young closer. He struggled mightily early in the season, nearly losing his grip on the role in May before righting the ship in June, then struggled again in September. The strikeout rate and walk rate were fine, the problem was home runs. He allowed 11 long balls last year after allowing only six in each of the two prior years. He is a strong fly ball pitcher in a strong home run park. That is volatile combination. His hold on the closer’s job is shaky right now, but he is likely to pitch well enough to keep it, especially considering the Diamondbacks have nobody else threatening to unseat him.
26) Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 34, Previous Rank: 15)
The Phillies have been trying to get out from under Papelbon’s large contract all offseason. They have Ken Giles ready to take over as closer as soon as Papelbon is traded, but as it stands now the job is still his. His strikeout rate has been quickly eroding the last couple years but it has yet to undermine his bottom-line performance. He is still getting the job done by not allowing walks or home runs. His ERA has not strayed from his career 2.37 average ERA. The Phillies are going to lose 100+ games this year but even on bad teams closers get their Saves, largely because when bad teams do manage a rare win the score is close and presents a Save opportunity. The risk of owning Papelbon doesn’t have much to do with the possibility of poor performance but rather with the fact that he is likely to be traded, possibly to a team where he would not be the closer.
27) Hector Rondon, Chicago Cubs (Age: 27, Previous Rank: NA)
Rondon’s career 8.2 K/9 does not compare favorably with his fellow closers, but he was able to compile a 2.42 ERA with 29 Saves in 33 chances last year. He kept the ball in the yard and didn’t walk many so the Cubs are planning to give him the closer’s job to begin this season. He has to be considered one of the shakiest closers in the league however. He doesn’t have a closer’s pedigree and he kind of stumbled into the role as the last man standing last year. He is not the best pitcher in the Cubs’ bullpen either, with Neil Ramirez and Jason Motte breathing down his neck to take the job away from him. The deep-pocketed Cubs also have to be considered a favorite to sign Raphael Soriano or Francisco Rodriguez, or perhaps trade for Jonathan Papelbon.  Either of those moves would relegate Rondon to setup duties.
28) Santiago Casilla, San Francisco Giants (Age: , Previous Rank: NA)
Here is another closer with some very un-closer-like strikeout totals.  He has averaged a weak 6.9 K/9 the last two years. He was very fortunate on his luck scores too (.211 BABIP and 82.0 percent Strand Rate). He had a great 1.70 ERA but his xFIP was 3.45, and that higher number is what you should expect going forward. Former closer Sergio Romo is waiting in the wings to rip his old job back early in the season.
29) Francisco Rodriguez (Age: 33, Previous Rank: NA)
He currently has no team, but he is likely to be a closer somewhere in 2015. He has 348 career saves, including 44 last year with the Brewers. He has a career 10.83 K/9 and 2.73 ERA and shows no signs of decay. He doesn’t have a job right now, but you still want to own this guy. I am guessing he ends up back in Milwaukee.
30) Jenrry Mejia, New York Mets (Age: 25, Previous Rank: NA)
Mejia entered last year as a starting pitcher, but after the Mets’ bullpen imploded he made the jump right into the closer role and basically ran away with the job, with 28 saves in 31 oppurtinities. As a reliever his ERA was 2.72 after being 4.75 in his career as a starter. He is expected to be the closer this year but the Mets have former closer Bobby Parnell recuperating from injury. They could also bring in a closer from outside.
31) Luke Gregerson, Houston Astros (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 41)
The up-and-coming Astros tried to sign some high-dollar relievers to take over their closer’s job but ended up settling for Gregerson. He has a career 2.75 ERA but it comes with some questions. His career 8.82 K/9 lags well behind the elite closers. You have to wonder how Gregerson is going to do in a hitters’ park after playing his entire career in strong pitchers’ parks in San Diego and Oakland. His ERA at home has been 2.02 while on the road it is 3.60. Similarly his career home run rate on the road is 4x higher than at home! It is easy to keep the ball in the park at Petco but not in Houston. The good news is the rest of the Astros’ suspect bullpen poses little threat to dethrone him at the top.
32) Sergio Romo, San Francisco Giants (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 10)
Romo lost his job to Santiago Casilla last summer after putting up a 4.74 ERA with some blown saves in the first half. But he fixed the problems and yielded a 1.80 ERA in the second half. Romo’s slider is one of the elite pitches in baseball. The Giants gave him a new $15 million contract this offseason.  Romo is simply a better pitcher than Casilla and is very likely to regain the closer job early in the season.
33) Jonathan Broxton, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: , Previous Rank: NA)
Broxton is no longer the fire-wielding monster of his Dodger heyday. His strikeout rate has been around 7.0 K/9 for several seasons now. He somehow managed a 2.30 ERA last year but his xFIP was 3.96 after being 4.50 the previous year. His 2014 BABIP was a very fortunate .234 (career .301) and his strand rate was equally lucky at 83% (career 74%). Simply said, Broxton is not closer material. He is a setup man at best right now. If he is given the 9th inning in Milwaukee this year he won’t have it for long.
34) Bobby Parnell, New York Mets (Age: 30, Previous Rank:19)
Parnell is recovering from Tommy John surgery. Need I say more? People are saying he will regain the closer job when he returns “early in the season”. Don’t believe it. If he returns he will have to prove himself all over again before being entrusted with the 9th inning. Steer clear.
35) Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 25, Previous Rank: NA)
The Reds signed this young Cuban defector to a big money contract this winter. He may begin the season in the bullpen but the Reds see him as a starter in the long run. The recent signing of Burke Badenhop may complete the Reds relief corps and allow Iglesias to begin the season as a starter, either in Cincinnati or in Louisville. Iglesias has thrown a total of 7 innings in this country. Those 7 innings in the Arizona Fall League were very impressive though. As it stands right now he is a high upside flyer until we actually get to see him pitch. He may end up as a mid-rotation starter or a shutdown reliever.

36) Tyler Clippard, Oakland Athletics (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 37)

On this weeks edition of Doo’s Clues, A’s GM Billy Beane explores the trade market for a reliable insurance policy before the club is forced to reveal that their current closer has a “slight” tear in his rotator cuff. Shoulder injuries are bad news for any pitcher, and Doolittle’s absence early in the season opens the door for one of the most reliable relievers in baseball without a closing gig since 2009 to get a crack at the ninth inning.

An extreme flyball pitcher, Clippard should be a perfect fit in the spacious confines of Coliseum going forward. The one issue for Clippard coming into last season was a lingering case of “gopheritis”, which he seemed to cure magically (career-low 6.0 HR/FB rate) while also reducing his walk rate to 2.94 BB/9, and increasing his strikeout rate to 10.49 K/9 last season. Even if he only saves a handful of games before ceding the gig to Doolittle, Clippard is one of the most valuable setup men in fantasy baseball.

37) Brett Cecil, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 28, Previous Rank: NR)

Cecil broke out in a big way north of the border last season, posting a 2.70 ERA with 76 strikeouts in 53 innings of work. The Blue Jays 2008 first round selection saved five contests and is expected to open the 2015 season as the teams closer despite the fact that he’s a southpaw. When Bob Dylan wrote, “The Times They Are A-Changin,” he was clearly talking about the left-handed closer revolution.

The biggest potential impediments to Cecil’s long-term value as the Blue Jays closer, are directly tied to control issues: his own steadily increasing walk rate, which jumped to 4.56 BB/9 last year, and stud prospect Aaron Sanchez’ wildness. Sanchez had more control problems than Ricky Vaughn in the minor leagues, before they suddenly vanished in a 33-inning stint with Toronto late last season, breathing life into the theory that his future is in the rotation, and not the bullpen. If the control issues render Sanchez useless as a starter, he has the talent to supplant Cecil immediately. You’ve been warned.

38) Nick Burdi, Minnesota Twins (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)

Rabid Minnesota Twins fans see a future closer in Burdi, the teams second round selection last season, but if you’ve been paying attention recently, you know that running Glen Perkins out of town right now, just like Norman Dale in Hoosiers, would ultimately be the wrong decision.

The former Louisville closer was downright nasty during his 13 inning pro-debut last season in High-A, and a dominant campaign at Double-A this season would have him knocking on the big league door. He has the pedigree and triple-digit heat that caused fantasy owners to positively drool, but let’s not be in such a rush to move on from the Perkins era just yet.

39) LaTroy Hawkins, Colorado Rockies (Age: 42, Previous Rank: 39)

Hawkins been incredibly reliable ever since arriving in Colorado, saving 23 games last season, and has already announced that he will retire at the end of the 2015 season, closing the door on his 20-year pro career.

As good as Hawkins has been with the Rockies, even Betty Crocker burns the odd cake every now and then, so if Hawkins falters, veterans Adam Ottavino and John Axford will be waiting in the wings, and are more than capable of slamming the door. There should be a Rex Brothers/Hawkins dinosaur joke in here too, but Brother’s hasn’t been good enough to deserve it.

40) Brandon Maurer, San Diego Padres (Age: 24, Previous Rank: NR)

Once Maurer was finally moved from the starting rotation, to the Mariners bullpen in June, he struck out 38, and walked just five batters in his final 37 innings of work last season. Trader A.J. and the Padres gave up a valuable veteran outfielder in Seth Smith, arguably their best hitter last season, to bolster their pen with the acquisition of Maurer. A deep San Diego rotation will likely keep Maurer in relief permanently, where he is seemingly overqualified for the job (I’m looking at you, Luke Hochevar), with a four-pitch arsenal highlighted by a low-90’s fastball and excellent slider. If you are speculating on a future “relief ace” then Maurer fits the bill perfectly.

41) Jairo Diaz, Colorado Rockies (Age: 23, Previous Rank: NR)

The minor league numbers prior to 2014 will make you cringe, so let’s just agree not talk about it, okay. Diaz lit up radar guns last season (97 mph average fastball velocity), while posting an absurd 13.22 K/9 rate in Triple-A, before getting called up by the Angels in September last season. Traded to the Rockies this offseason, Diaz still has to prove he can handle high-leverage innings, but everything about Diaz profile screams future closer, and prime dynasty target.

42) Pat Neshek, Houston Astros (Age: 34, Previous Rank: NR)

How do you think the negotiations went down between Neshek and the Astros this offseason? Wait, don’t answer that. We have the audio courtesy of TMZ Sports.

Jeff Luhnow: “I know you had a 1.87 ERA in 67 innings last season with the Cardinals last season, but we want you to come close games for the Astros. That whole Chad Qualls fist pump celebration thing was a nightmare for us.”

Pat Neshek: “Wait, who is this again? The Astros? Take a look at those numbers again Jeff. I had a 1.87 ERA in 67 innings last year.”

JL: “You know, Pat, there are 12 and a half million reasons why you should come down to Houston and compete with Luke Gregerson for the closers job this spring.”

PN: “Wow, yea you know what Jeff, I almost forgot how much I love Houston.”

43) Jeurys Familia, New York Mets (Age: 25, Previous Rank: NR)

After Jenrry Mejia nailed down 28 of 31 save opportunities, and dabbled with a variety of custom save celebrations (most notably the fisherman debacle) last season, Familia’s odds closing games for the Mets have greatly diminished. Depending on how you feel about Bobby Parnell, he’s the third option in New York’s bullpen right now, but may have the greatest upside of anyone in the mix for saves.

Familia, a former top prospect and failed starter, shined in relief last year, erasing right-handed batters and generating an elite 57 percent groundball rate. Even if he remains mired in middle relief, Familia is worth owning in all dynasty formats going forward.

44) Jason Motte, Chicago Cubs (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 36)

Missed the entire 2013 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery and dealt with a variety of injury issues (back and ebow) last season in St. Louis. A nice buy-low gamble by the division-rival Cubs, Motte was one of the best relief pitchers in baseball over a three-year period from 2010-2012. Somehow Motte is only 32 years old and if he can get back to his previous form, then a gamble this low in a dynasty format will pay off nicely, but there are a lot of health question marks Motte still has yet to answer.

45) Justin Grimm, Chicago Cubs (Age: 26, Previous Rank: NR)

The question of whether or not he is a starter or a reliever was firmly answered last season when Grimm posted a 3.78 ERA with 70 strikeouts in 69 innings of work. His fastball plays up in the mid-90’s coming out of the bullpen, and his slider has improved dramatically since his arrival in the Windy City. His odds of getting any save chances would mean leapfrogging a ton of elite competition in the Cubs pen with Hector Rondon, Neil Ramirez, Pedro Strop and Edwin Jackson (just kidding) still lurking.

If he continues to pitch the way he did in relief last season, it may not be long before he gets the call from notorious bullpen tinkerer Joe Madden and we start referring to him as the “Grimm Reaper”. A fantasy owner can still dream right?

46) Derek Law, San Francisco Giants (Age: 24, Previous Rank: NR)

One of the Giants top relief prospects (I’m more of a Steven Okert man myself in case you were wondering), appeared to be on the fast track to the Majors after posting a ludicrous 45 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio in High-A in 2013. His rapid ascent was put on hold after just 28 innings in Double-A after he tore his UCL and was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery last June.

An excellent dynasty stash, Law has an extremely deceptive delivery, and should have no problem reaching San Francisco by the end of this season if everything breaks right.

47) Adam Ottavino, Colorado Rockies (Age: 29, Previous Rank: NR)

Ottavino is the favorite to inherit the Rockies closer job long-term entering 2015. An inflated .347 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) resulted in an ugly 3.60 ERA and masked the gains Ottavino made in strikeouts (over a batter per inning) and reducing walks (career-low 2.22 BB/9) last season. Fantasy owners worried about the Coors effect should find solace in the fact that he still owns an elite groundball rate (46.7 percent). Ottavino could potentially be closing by mid-season and is worth owning in all dynasty formats going forward.

48) Sam Tuivalaila, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)

Opposing batters and Cardinals broadcasters weren’t as excited as fantasy owners were for his arrival late last season. Tuivalaila barely had time to unpack his bags in Triple-A before St. Louis called him up in September, where the converted position player flashed a consistent high-90’s fastball and power curve. He’s going to spend some time in Triple-A to iron out his major control issues, but there is a good chance we see Tuivalaila in Busch Stadium mid-summer. He’s a work in progress, there’s no doubt, but there might not be anyone more fun to watch develop on this list than Tuivalaila going forward.

49) Kevin Quackenbush, San Diego Padres (Age: 26, Previous Rank: NR)

An eighth round pick in 2011, the minor league numbers became too hard for the Padres to ignore, and finally, Quackenbush got his chance in San Diego last season. He fanned just over a batter per inning in his 54.1 innings of work, and performed admirably when he stepped into the closers role in September, saving six games. The Padres bullpen got a lot more crowded this offseason, so the odds of Quackenbush getting the call in the ninth inning have greatly diminished, but he profiles as an excellent late inning reliever for years to come. If you’re using a duck, duck, goose method to select relievers in the late rounds, settling on Quackenbush is a viable strategy in a dynasty format.

50) Shawn Kelley, San Diego Padres (Age: 30, Previous Rank: NR)

Posted an ugly 4.53 ERA last season with the New York Yankees, but his fielder independent pitching (FIP) was nearly a run and a half lower at 3.02, which means that he had a lot of bad luck after he drank Jobu’s rum.

Shipped to San Diego in the offseason, there is reason for optimism that Kelley, who posted a stellar 11.67 K/9 last season, can be an impact late-inning option when the Padres move on from the elder statesman Joaquin Benoit. In case you were wondering, Kelley edged out fellow deep-league sleeper Josh Tomlin for the final spot in these rankings, and both are late round gems for dynasty league owners to target in 2015.


Commentary by Nick Doran and George Bissell

The Author

Craig Goldstein

Craig Goldstein


  1. […] 2015 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: completes their rankings of the top 40 relief pitchers for dynasty/keeper leagues with #21-40. […]

  2. Bill Bugg
    February 12, 2015 at 10:08 am

    where would rafael soriano fall? (I looked and may have missed him)

  3. NorDub
    February 12, 2015 at 10:17 am

    Title says 21-40, but you gave us through 50. Bonus!

  4. jon
    February 12, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    What about Hunter Strickland? Seems like a young guy with a good future

    • February 12, 2015 at 3:25 pm

      He’s already 26 and he really only has a big fastball. That’s not to say that can’t succeed or become a good reliever, but it’s also not a particularly distinctive profile.

  5. Jack Cecil
    February 12, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    I really want to see what the 200th relief pitcher is looking like. Also, Craig what was the last notable sandwich you had?

    • February 12, 2015 at 4:09 pm

      The 200th reliever is Tommy Layne and I had a Chicken-Steak and Cheese at a cajun restaurant

  6. Sean Doolittle
    February 14, 2015 at 8:02 pm

    So Clippard and only Clippard gets judged by 2.94 BB/8???

  7. Shawn
    February 18, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    Where would Joe Nathan fall in line here?

  8. April 15, 2015 at 11:14 am

    […] our 2015 TDG Consensus Dynasty Rankings, the 29-year-old right-hander graded out as our 47th ranked relief pitcher. He was the Iggy Azalea of our relief pitcher rankings. He doesn’t fit the prototypical mold […]

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