The Dynasty Guru’s Top 75 Dynasty League Relief Pitchers, Nos. 50-75
It’s been over two months since the Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years, ending the 2016 baseball season. But if you’re like most fantasy baseball owners, those two months probably feel like two years. Considering it’s still another month until Spring Training even starts, late January has to be the worst time to be a baseball fan. It’s too late to reflect on last year, but next season is too far ahead to look forward to. Luckily, with a little help from The Dynasty Guru, the next month is survivable, as we’ll be ranking and commenting on a whole lot of players over the next six weeks.
The Dynasty Guru’s hard-working staff has spent countless hours crafting these rankings, and we hope you enjoy and continue to support our efforts by showing your appreciation through this link or via the splendid ‘donate’ button located on the upper right-hand corner of the homepage. Donations of any size are greatly appreciated.
You can view our rankings for previous positions, and the dates future rankings will come out, by clicking the link to TDG’s 2017 Consensus Dynasty Baseball Rankings splash page. With that, let’s wrap up our relief pitcher rankings with a 37-save closer in 2016:
51) Jeanmar Gomez, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 29, Previous Rank: NR)
The good news: Gomez enters spring training as the favorite to win the closer role for the Phillies. After saving 37 games in 2016, the gig is his to lose.
The bad news: His HR/FB rate jumped nearly 5% last season and his walk rate rose over 2%. He doesn’t strike out a lot of hitters, so if he keeps issuing free passes and giving up hard contact like he did in 2016, there is a good chance he will lose the gig.
52) Blake Treinen, Washington Nationals (Age: 29, Previous Rank: NR)
With the departure of Mark Melancon, Treinen has a shot to win the Nats’ 9th inning spot to start the season. He has some talented competition for the role and his 4.23 BB/9 over the past two seasons doesn’t bode well. But he puts up solid strikeout numbers (8.6 K/9 since 2015) so he could provide good production in leagues that count holds, even if he isn’t pitching in the 9th.
53) Mychal Givens, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 27, Previous Rank: NR)
Givens had a lot of helium going into 2016 based on a spectacular 30 inning showing the previous season. His strikeout rate remained excellent (96 K’s in 74.2 IP) but everything else went the wrong direction. After walking just 5.1% of hitters in 2016, his walk rate spiked to 11.5% last season. His HR/FB rate nearly doubled. This caused his ERA and WHIP to balloon to 3.13 and 1.27 respectively. Those aren’t bad looking numbers by any means, but they are significantly worse than what he showed previously. Givens is a good speculative add even if your league doesn’t value holds as his strikeout numbers still are valuable and he is most likely the favorite to pick up any saves that slip through Britton’s fingers.
54) Mauricio Cabrera, Atlanta Braves (Age: 23, Previous Rank: NR)
Cabrera enters the season possibly third in line for save opportunities in Atlanta’s bullpen. However, the young fireballer pairs an 80-grade fastball that reaches triple digits with a changeup that has received ratings ranging from average to plus. His command of both could use some work as evidenced by his massive walk rates throughout the minors. But if he continues to refine his command and secondary pitches, there is a chance he will be near the top of this list in a few years.
55) Keone Kela, Texas Rangers (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 36)
The third of the three Rangers relievers who could vie for any save scraps in Arlington, Kela is perhaps the most talented of the bunch. He looked like the favorite to grab the closer role in 2015 but lost out to Shawn Tolleson and then missed three months last season after getting bone spurs removed from his elbow. He boasts a plus fastball that he can push into the upper 90’s and an above average curveball. If he continues to get whiffs at his career 13.1% rate, Kela may be the Rangers reliever you want to own long term.
56) Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins (Age: 34, Previous Rank: 14)
There is still a chance that the 34 year old Perkins will begin 2017 on the DL as he works his way back from the shoulder surgery that cut his 2016 season short. In his 2 appearances last year before going under the knife, he showed decreased velocity across the board and there is no guarantee he will regain what he lost. Minnesota’s bullpen isn’t exactly chock full of future closers but until we see how he looks when (if) he takes the mound this spring, it may be best to exercise caution before investing in the aging reliever.
57) Steve Cishek, Seattle Mariners (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 30)
Another former closer who is not expected to be ready for opening day, Cishek underwent hip surgery this offseason and won’t return to the mound until May. When he does return, he will most likely slot into a 7th or 8th inning role in a talented Mariners bullpen. Assuming he is fully recovered, Cishek should be a good source of holds and strikeouts but probably won’t offer much beyond that.
58) Santiago Casilla, Oakland A’s (Age: 36, Previous Rank: 21)
Casilla sailed across the Bay this offseason and will step into an aging A’s bullpen with a lot of question marks. In 2016, he posted a career high 10.08 K/9 and career best 7.9% walk rate. However, when hitters made contact, 36.1% of it was in the air (3rd highest of career) and 28% of it was hard contact (full-season career high). This equalled out to a full season career-high 1.24 HR/9. Those numbers, coupled with Casilla’s age and undefined role, make for a risky investment.
59) Jake McGee, Colorado Rockies (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 18)
As with most pitchers, the move to Denver was not kind to McGee. Prior to heading to the Mile High City, McGee had career 41.8% fly ball rate. That was a few points lower in 2016, but the Coors effect still worked its magic to the tune of a 16.1% HR/FB rate. This led to career highs in ERA (4.73), FIP (5.29) and HR/9 (1.77).
TL;DR – Fly ball pitcher moves to Coors, predictably pitches poorly. Invest at your own risk.
60) Brad Ziegler, Miami Marlins (Age: 37, Previous Rank: 17)
Ziegler converted 52 saves over the past two seasons for the Diamondbacks but his move to Miami may spell the end of his closer days. The incumbent saved 42 games last season and Ziegler may be third in line behind the talented young Kyle Barraclough. He still may contribute double digit holds, but with mediocre peripherals and a below average strikeout rate, there are many better options to fill that niche in dynasty leagues.
61) Luke Gregerson, Houston Astros (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 40)
A year after saving 31 games for the Astros, Gregerson got “rewarded” with a demotion when Houston brought Ken Giles in from the Phillies. Giles struggled at times, allowing Gregerson rack up 15 saves in 2016. When given the role, Gregerson showed the skills and a track record to perform admirably. Unfortunately for him, he doesn’t have the role. AJ Hinch has already said he’s going to use his bullpen in different ways, so Gregerson still has a chance to rack up some saves…especially if Giles struggles out of the gate again.
62) Koji Uehara, Chicago Cubs (Age: 42, Previous Rank: NR)
For the second year in a row, Uehara battled injuries, which isn’t too big of a surprise for someone north of 40 years old. He also lost his job to Craig Kimbrel shortly before Opening Day, further driving down his value. The peripherals and stats were still solid when he pitched, though. Unfortunately, his role with his new team, the Chicago Cubs, and his declining health are huge red flags.
63) Felipe Rivero, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 25, Previous Rank: NR)
After a solid, if unspectacular, one and a half seasons in the Nationals bullpen, Rivero exploded after his trade to Pittsburgh. In just over 27 innings with the Pirates, Rivero struck out nearly 13 batters per nine innings while keeping his ERA close to 3.00. Unfortunately, his walk rate also shot up, doubling what he had pitching with the Nationals. With just Tony Watson and Daniel Hudson standing in his way, lowering his walk rate while maintaining his strike out rate would go a long way in garnering save chances.
64) Will Harris, Houston Astros (Age: 32, Previous Rank: NR)
The third head of the Astros three-headed bullpen monster registered 12 saves last year, filling in admirably for Houston and fantasy teams alike last year. Over 64 innings, Harris posted solid stats, striking out nearly ten per game, while finishing with a scant 2.25 ERA. But, like Gregorson, Harris is in a muddled situation behind Ken Giles. Depending on how the bullpen is used, and how the other guys hold up, Harris may be able to sneak a few saves in this season.
65) Tony Cingrani, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 27, Previous Rank: NR)
2016 couldn’t have gone much worse for the former top prospect. Despite ending the season with 17 saves, Cingrani posted a career-low strikeout rate while walking over five batters per game. That predictably led to an ERA above 4.00, with peripherals saying even that was too kind. All the while, Raisel Iglesias was making his case to be the Reds closer of the future. Add in the signing of former top closer Drew Storen, and Cingrani’s future outlook is getting worse and worse.
66) Michael Lorenzen, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 25, Previous Rank: NR)
Competing with Cingrani in the back end of the Reds bullpen is another top prospect and former Cincinnati starting pitcher. Lorenzen posted better numbers across the board than Cingrani, but hasn’t had the opportunity to close out any games for the Reds in his short career. As with Cingrani, Lorenzen is going to be fighting for whatever scraps are left over from Iglesias and Storen.
67) Brad Boxberger, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 16)
One year after saving 41 games for the Rays despite so-so stats, the regression monster teamed up with the injury monster to limit Boxberger to 24.1 atrocious innings. Boxberger’s already worrisome walk rate rose to unsightly numbers, while his strike out numbers dropped to career lows. Now, this could have been all because of injuries, and the Rays could easily trade his replacement Alex Colome early this season. So, there’s hope here, but the buyer still needs to beware.
68) Joe Kelly, Boston Red Sox (Age: 29, Previous Rank: NR)
After struggling considerably the past few seasons as a starter, the Red Sox finally placed Kelly in the bullpen and boy, did that ever work (over…an extremely small sample size). During his time in the Boston’s bullpen (17.2 innings), Kelly struck out nearly a batter per inning, while posting a 1.02 ERA. Craig Kimbrel is still locked in as closer for the Red Sox, and newly acquired Tyler Thornburg is going to set him up. But, if Kelly continues to pitch like he did to end 2016, he may make a case to be Boston’s, or someone else’s, closer of the future.
69) Joe Jimenez, Detroit Tigers (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
Jimenez is one of those rare closers you hear whispers about coming up through the prospect ranks. In 2016 alone, Jimenez dominated three separate levels, posting over a dozen strikeouts per nine and posting an ERA around 2.00. Despite being a flame-thrower, Jimenez doesn’t struggle with walks, further making him an intriguing reliever ‘prospect.’ With the ever-aging K-Rod one of the only staples in Detroit’s bullpen, Jimenez may make a case to be finishing games for the Tigers this season. If that’s the case, he will be shooting up this list in no time.
70) Carson Smith, Boston Red Sox (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 34)
Boston was expecting to get their Robin to Craig Kimbrel’s Batman when they traded for Smith in 2016. Instead, all they got was a lousy 2.2 innings in between two injuries, the latter of which ended up requiring Tommy John surgery. Smith is expected to be back sometime this summer, and still is young enough to bounce back from TJS. But, with the Red Sox propensity to spend money to fill holes over exercising patience, Smith might not have a job once he comes back.
71) Michael Feliz, Houston Astros (Age: 24, Previous Rank: NR)
The third Astro in the last eleven players on this list shows just how unclear the Houston bullpen is beyond closer Ken Giles. Feliz didn’t end up with any saves in 2016, but he did finish chip in eight wins for his owners in the deepest of leagues. Bad luck played a role in his high ERA, so make no mistake; his stuff took a giant leap. Feliz ended up striking out over 13 batters per nine in relief, all the while keeping his walk rate in check. No different than Gregorson and Harris, saves are going to be hard to come by for Feliz. But, he’s definitely a reliever to keep an eye on.
72) Carlos Estevez, Colorado Rockies (Age: 24, Previous Rank: NR)
Pitching in Colorado is tough! Estevez learned that the hard way in his first taste of Major League baseball. Despite finishing his rookie year with 11 saves, Estevez struggled with command and hard hits en route 5.24 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP. The backend of the Rockies bullpen is far from a clear picture, and Colorado has shown the willingness to give Estevez the ball to finish games. But, even if he is able to garner save chances, the hit to your fantasy team’s rate stats might not be worth it.
73) Trevor May, Minnesota Twins (Age: 27, Previous Rank: NR)
Another former top prospect on the list, May pitched exclusively out of the bullpen for the first time in 2016. The Twins right-hander struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness, finishing the season with a 5.27 ERA. May’s peripherals point to bad luck possibly factoring in, and he definitely has the stuff to become a big time reliever, evident in his gaudy strikeout totals. The question with May entering 2017, though, is going to be deciding if he is a starter or a reliever, and that’s one question which will drastically affect his value.
74) Nick Burdi, Minnesota Twins (Age: 24, Previous Rank: NR)
After a solid 2015 season, the former second round pick was looking at a potential September call up, and an possibility to bolster the back end of the Twins bullpen in the very new future. A bone bruise in his arm had different plans, limiting Burdi to just three appearances, and delaying him one year of growth. Like many other teams, the Twins are another team whose bullpen is in disarray; Burdi has an opportunity to close out games in Minnesota in the very near future, just don’t expect that to happen in 2017.
75) Bruce Rondon, Detroit Tigers (Age: 26, Previous Rank: NR)
Similar to Jimenez, one of Rondon’s biggest assets is his path to saves. Beyond K-Rod, the Tigers’ big league bullpen lacks big time arms and an arsenal as good as Rondon’s. After spending the first half of the season in Triple A, Rondon put forward his best major league effort, raising his strikeouts while limiting his walks in the process. A low BABIP may have kept his ERA in check a bit, but Rondon definitely has the skills to be a solid closer. Like most people on this list, all he needs now is a chance.
Commentary by Travis Johnson and Jesse Meehan