The Dynasty Guru’s Top 75 Relief Pitchers, #46-75
It’s been a slow off-season. Like, a really slow off-season. With the hot stove frigid, fantasy baseball players haven’t had many ways to quench their thirst, unless they’ve thrown themselves head-first into football, basketball, or hockey. January, February and March can be some of the darkest months of the year (figuratively and literally), but fear not, restless readers. The Dynasty Guru is here to the rescue.
While you were celebrating the holidays and ushering in the New Year, our brave group of writers has been ranking, debating, re-ranking, re-debating, and re-re-ranking over 600 players for dynasty leagues. The fruits of our efforts will be filling January, February, and even some of March with the deepest, most thoroughly and painstakingly selected dynasty baseball rankings on the internet. We have top-50s, top-125s, top-200s, top-500s (of course!), and even ultra-deep prospect rankings.
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.
So I hope you enjoy the package that the TDG team has put together here. If you like it enough, and just can’t seem to wait for us to roll out the rest of our content, you can donate a minimum of $10 to receive exclusive early access to the entirety of our ultra-deep dynasty rankings. That includes Bret Sayre’s Top 500 for standard leagues, Tom Trudeau’s Top 500 for OBP leagues, Jesse Roche’s Top 200 prospects, and our entire rankings series in downloadable form. For more information, click here.
Without further ado, it’s time to continue our 2018 consensus rankings by continuing to look at the league’s top relief pitchers in dynasty leagues, kicking it off with the Next Great Reliever (well, maybe).
46) A.J. Minter, Atlanta Braves (Age: 24, Previous Rank NR)
From the organization that brought you Craig Kimbrel, meet the great reliever of the next generation. The guy is an elite, lights out reliever. He has only two pitches, but that’s all he needs. The heater, which can touch 96 MPH, induces a very high number of swinging strikes. The slider plays off the fastball and was missed 33.3% of the time. The only other reliever to be in that territory during the 2017 season? Kenley Jansen.
I said during internal discussions with the TDG staff, “We need to have A.J. Minter about 20 spots higher or we’re going to look foolish.” Next year, when Minter is a top 25 reliever, I’m going to do my victory lap. (Adam Lawler)
47) AJ Ramos, New York Mets (Age: 31, Previous Rank 20)
It’s hard to believe that Ramos is 31 years old. Last year, after he was dealt from the Marlins to the Mets, there was some hope he would close out games. Not so much. He still has the moxie within his slider-first approach to produce a high level of K/9, but boy howdy does he allow free passes like few others. He’s on the wrong side of 30, in a crowded bullpen with other names I would prefer in higher leverage situations. He’s going to have an upper 3’s ERA and that walk rate makes things a bit too unpalatable for my liking. (Adam Lawler)
48) Zack Burdi, Chicago White Sox (Age: 22, Previous Rank NR)
Like Minter, Burdi could be another generational elite reliever. The former Louisville Cardinal is probably this low due to last year’s Tommy John Surgery, but I wouldn’t let that dissuade you from buying in now. His fastball regularly hits triple digits, he throws a 93 MPH CHANGEUP, and the slider is Brand Hand level dirty. (Adam Lawler)
22 years old. 80 grade fastball. 13.77 K/9 in AAA. What more do you need? (Adam Lawler)
49) Koda Glover, Washington Nationals (Age: 31, Previous Rank NR)
The helium on Koda Glover last year was real. You know what else was real? The achiness of his shoulder and elbow. His talent is something to bet on. Plus fastball. Plus curveball. You know what else is plus? The Nationals bullpen. He might close for the Nationals in two years, but that’s a long ways away. (Adam Lawler)
50) Carson Smith, Boston Red Sox (Age: 28, Previous Rank 70)
Carson Smith is the type of reliever that bums me out. He throws cold water on my passion and excitement for talented relievers. In 2015, he was one of the best relievers in the game, sporting a 2.36 xFIP and a 24.6% K-BB. Since then, he’s thrown 9.2 innings.
Now, he’s firmly settled behind Joe Kelly and some guy named Craig Kimbrel. It’s a shame he won’t get more than a handful of saves (but plenty of holds) as he reaches the peak of his career. (Adam Lawler)
51) Jake McGee, Colorado Rockies (Age: 31, Previous Rank 59)
A 31-year-old extreme fly ball reliever in Colorado? What could go wrong? xFIP (3.95) felt like McGee should have been a little worse than his 3.61 ERA, but his Deserved Run Average (DRA) sat at 4.33. Pair all of that with a very crowded, very expensive bullpen and McGee is fighting for relevance. Pass. (Adam Lawler)
52) Ryan Madson, Washington Nationals (Age: 37, Previous Rank 35)
He’s 37 years old. He’ll be a nice handcuff to whenever Doolittle ends up getting hurt this year. The career-high K/9 and career-low ERA are puzzling. One could point to the .263 BABIP and say there was a healthy dose of luck. It’s a lock for him to wind up in the low-to-mid 3’s. For dynasty purposes, Madson should be a one-year buy with plans for retirement. (Adam Lawler)
53) Anthony Swarzak, New York Mets (Age: 32, Previous Rank NR)
Pop-up reliever pitches well, makes bank, falls apart. It’s a story made for Hollywood. Last year, Swarzak was a bum slayer. He’s going to put up pedestrian numbers in WHIP and K’s, which means you’re relying heavily on a Familia injury and a replication of 2017. Not impossible, just not something I’m buying on when the numbers are average. (Adam Lawler)
54) Tony Watson, San Francisco Giants (Age: 32, Previous Rank 23)
When you’re a pitcher, and you get old, you get old quickly. Watson was never really that good. He was had below average K rates and had an above average swinging strike rate of pitches in the zone. As his velocity diminishes, this is going to be a bad cocktail. Your realistic expectations of Watson should be muted. He’s not bad. He’s just not very good. (Adam Lawler)
55) Matt Bush, Texas Rangers (Age: 32, Previous Rank 46)
Matt Bush wants to start. The Rangers are going to give him the opportunity to do so. His first start was OK and Jeff Bannister said they’re going to give him at least a couple more opportunities. Maybe he doesn’t start and becomes a multi-inning reliever a la Brad Peacock.
Keep an eye on this as it developments and jump in if he’s tagged as a multi-inning guy. (Adam Lawler)
56) Edubray Ramos, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 25, Previous Rank NR)
Kyler Jesanis pointed me to this article from SB Nation’s The Good Phight.
TL;DR: Edubray was bad. Edubray was demoted. Edubray returned. Edubray was better. It could be because of his slider’s plane change. My guess is he learned to hide the ball a little better and they cleaned up his mechanics. (Adam Lawler)
57) Justin Wilson, Chicago Cubs (Age: 30, Previous Rank NR)
Justin Wilson was so bad when he came over to the Cubs that they mostly avoided using him during the playoffs. Chicago cleaned house this offseason, bringing in Jim Hickey to work with the pitchers. I think this is going to have real results. Look for him to round back to 2016 form and potentially earn some saves for a top-3 NL team. (Adam Lawler)
58) Jacob Barnes, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 27, Previous Rank NR)
I really don’t care for Barnes. He’s fine. He’s vanilla. He has room for improvement and could regress to positive levels of BB/9 and ERA, but don’t expect him to overtake Knebel or Hader for prominent positions in the bullpen. (Adam Lawler)
59) Nate Jones, Chicago White Sox (Age: 32, Previous Rank 30)
Nate Jones is a really interesting arm. His 11.59 K/9 was matched with a three-year-low 11.1% swinging strike rate. His 3.12 DRA believes in the stuff and he’s going to be closing for a team that’s improving. He’s on the wrong side of 30 and the previously mentioned Zach Burdi is on the way up, but all things considered, you could do worse for a band aid. (Adam Lawler)
60) Keone Kela, Texas Rangers (Age: 24, Previous Rank 55)
Give me all the shares. Barring injury, if Kela’s not a top-30 RP next year I’ll be floored. He should be closing this year. He should have closed for the Rangers last year. He probably should have closed for them the year before. The Rangers need to stop jerking him around, crown his ass, and let him sit on the throne for as long as his arms allows. (Adam Lawler)
61) Drew Steckenrider, Miami Marlins (Age: 27, Previous Rank: NR)
Kyle Barraclough is so 2016. Drew Steckenrider is the new hotness in Miami. The big, college right-hander was converted to the bullpen in 2016 after four disappointing years starting in the low minors. He’s dominated ever since with an ERA around 2.00 and a strikeout rate at 35%. His control isn’t great, but the 70 fastball makes up for it. He’s also third on the Marlins RP depth chart at the moment, behind a 38 year-old Brad Ziegler and the very tradeable Barraclough, so he’s a true closer-in-waiting candidate. Pick him up if you have the bench space. (EJ Fagan)
62) Trevor Rosenthal, Free Agent (Age 28, Previous Rank: 39)
Big T was once one of the top-5 drafted closers in baseball. He will miss the 2018 season with Tommy John surgery. He was elite in 2017 pre-injury, with 74 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings and a 2.17 FIP, and is still just 28 years old. There are worse bets to save 30 games (plus 100+ strikeouts) in 2019 on this list. (EJ Fagan)
63) Brock Stewart, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age 27, Previous Rank: NR)
Brock Stewart is unlikely to ever serve as a closer for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He’ll likely split the 2018 season between Dodgers the bullpen, starting rotation, and Triple-A squad. That’s too bad, because he has elite stuff when allowed to use it. If the Dodgers pull the trigger and convert him to the bullpen full time, he’s as good a bet as any to emerge as the next Chad Green. (EJ Fagan)
64) Brad Boxberger, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age 30, Previous Rank: 67)
Brad Boxberger isn’t that good. He’s coming off a 3.38 ERA, 3.43 FIP season with a bunch of strikeouts but zero saves. However, he’s a “proven closer” with a salary over the league minimum. He’s competing with Archie Bradley and Yoshihisa Hirano for the closer position, but Bradley’s the favorite and a far more intriguing long-term option. (EJ Fagan)
65) Matt Barnes, Boston Red Sox (Age 28, Previous Rank: NR)
Matt Barnes is fine. He pitched 70 innings for the Red Sox with an ERA in the 3.00s last year. He strikes dudes out. If you’re in a holds league, he gets holds. Somehow, he’s now the Red Sox 8th inning guy behind Craig Kimbrel. He’s one hamstring pull away from saves. Just don’t expect good ratios while he gets them, and be aware that the Red Sox have a half dozen other fine enough options to take his place if he’s not pitching at the top of his very average game. (EJ Fagan)
66) Brandon Kintzler, Washington Nationals (Age 33, Previous Rank: 40)
Brandon Kintzler is not a good major league relief pitcher. In an age where everyone strikes out, Kintzler has a 1980s career strikeout rate of six Ks per nine. However, he is a proven closer who manages to get batters out. He’s perfectly capable of holding a 3-run league in the 9th. Lucky for him, the Nationals are cursed at closer. Sure, Sean Doolittle is good. But the Nationals are the Nationals, and may just throw their hands up in the air if Doolittle gets injured, say, “I guess,” and anoint Brandon Kintzler the closer on a 105-win team. (EJ Fagan)
67) Michael Lorenzen, Cincinnati Reds (Age, 26 Previous Rank: NR)
Michael Lorenzen is more fun than good. The Reds might use him occasionally to pinch hit, but that distracts from bullpen mediocrity. He’s second on their depth chart behind the much better Raisel Iglesias. Should Iglesias get injured, Lorenzen may get saves. Just don’t expect great ratios or strikeouts. But hey, those home runs are fun. It’s probably too late to sell on the hype, but it might be worth a chance if Lorenzen attracts some attention early in April. (EJ Fagan)
68) Tanner Scott, Baltimore Orioles (Age 23, Previous Rank: NR)
Who is Tanner Scott? Until a minutes ago, I had no idea. It turns out that a little team called the Baltimore Orioles can’t decide if Scott, who KATOH thinks can be an elite reliever, should start or not. He’ll start the 2018 season in their Triple-A rotation, but could be a solid relief pitcher if they decide to go that route. Did I mention that he throws 100 mph?
69) Joe Jimenez, Detroit Tigers (Age 23, Previous Rank: 69)
Joe Jimenez is a true relief pitching prospect on a very bad team. The Detroit Tigers hope he will become their closer of the future. He’s ranked 69th on this list because of his disastrous 12.32 ERA, 19-inning MLB debut. A tee could do better. The good news is that his career minor league ERA is 1.56, with 13 K/9 and good control. Buy low. (EJ Fagan)
70) Tyler Thornburg, Boston Red Sox (Age 28, Previous Rank: 25)
Thornburg missed the entire 2017 season with thoracic outlet syndrome in 2017. He will enter the 2018 season healthy, however. If he pitches as well as he did in 2016, he should quickly supplant Barnes as the Red Sox 8th inning guy, and could close if Kimbrel is injured. (EJ Fagan)
71) Andres Munoz, San Diego Padres (Age 19, Previous Rank: NR)
Munoz was an 18 year-old in the Arizona Fall League last season. He pitched 8 2/3 innings, allowing one earned run with 11 strikeouts and two walks. That’s one heck of an impressive performance for someone so young, even in a small sample. However, few dynasty owners will want to roster such a young relief-only prospect, even one as good as Munoz. Keep an eye on Munoz, but he might be more of a 2019 draft pick. (EJ Fagan)
72) Pat Neshek, Philadelphia Phillies (Age 38, Previous Rank: NR)
Seriously, Pat Neshek was really good last year. 1.59 ERA/1.86 FIP good. He signed a two-year deal with the Phillies. Hector Neris was much worse than Pat Neshek last year. Neshek could be a closer for a decent team by the end of April. (EJ Fagan)
73) Carter Capps, San Diego Padres (Age 27, Previous Rank: 31)
Remember this guy? Two seasons ago, Capps was coming off one of the most dominating performances in the major leagues with 17 K/9. We all discussed whether or not the hopscotch delivery was illegal. Two years and one major injury later, Capps is a shell of his former self. Someone in your league is going to roster him and hope. (EJ Fagan)
74) Hunter Strickland, San Francisco Giants (Age 29, Previous Rank: 47)
Marc Melancon is the very well-paid closer in San Francisco. He also has huge injury concerns, going back to his velocity drop in 2016. It might not be a bad idea to take a flyer on one or two Giants closers given the high probability that Melancon will not get all of the saves for San Francisco this year. Strickland? Sure, why not. (EJ Fagan)
75) Trevor Hildenberger, Minnesota Twins, (Age 27, Previous Rank: NR)
Another mediocre closer in waiting?! I feel like I’m in a very strange purgatory at the end of these RP rankings. A pure relief prospect in the minors, Hildenberger was a mainstay of holds leagues last year. In a saves league, Fernando Rodney is currently the Twins closer. Addison Reed is probably next in line for saves, but Hildenberger could very well get the opportunity as well. (EJ Fagan)