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:
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 O.co 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