2018 Dynasty Baseball Rankings

The Dynasty Guru’s Top 75 Relief Pitchers, #1-45

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.

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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 a guy who is as close to a sure thing as exists in fantasy baseball.


1) Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 1)

Like fine wine, Jansen just keeps getting better with age. He had a spectacular 2017, spinning a 1.32 ERA and 0.75 WHIP while converting 41 of his 42 save opportunities. His 1.31 FIP lead the league while also walking fewer than one batter per nine innings (a career best). A dominant strikeout artist since his debut, Jansen turned into the league’s best reliever by fine-tuning his control. Over the past three seasons, the Dodger cranked out a 293:26 K:BB ratio across 189.1 IP. A big reason behind his success is Jansen’s commitment to getting ahead in the count (72.9% first-pitch strikes, tops in MLB) and not letting hitters breathe when they’re down. Jansen’s especially deadly against righties (49.6% K, 0.37 FIP) thanks to his heavily-used Mariano Rivera-esque cutter and the occasional lethal slider. The Rivera comparison is an apt one and if Jansen continues this elite career trajectory, he’ll join Rivera as one of the all-timers. (Tom Werner)

2) Roberto Osuna, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 6)

With all due respect to Boston and New York, Toronto may have the AL’s best closer. Wait, how can a guy with a respectable-but-not-overwhelming 3.38 ERA last year be ranked this high? Extreme bad luck in the 2nd half (an awful 47.5 LOB% led to 4.97 ERA) masked his overall improvement. Owning a five-pitch repertoire that would make any starter envious, Osuna threw his 4-seamer half as often and ramped up his cutter usage from 3.5% to 27%. He also threw his sinker nearly four times more frequently than last year. Throwing the cutter and sinker more did wonders for his ground ball rate (48%, up from 33.2% in ’16) and cut his homer rate down to 0.42 HR/9. He also sliced his walks down to 1.27 BB/9 while striking out exactly one-third of batters he faced. It all adds up to a rare young closer with a solid track record (1.74 FIP in 2017). Point to his ten blown saves last year to make other owners skeptical, then steal Osuna before he’s recognized for the monster he is. (Tom Werner)

3) Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 3)

Goodness. Coming off arguably the worst season in his illustrious career in 2016, Kimbrel came back with a vengeance in 2017. Kimbrel set a new bar with his fastball velocity (98.3) and had a ridiculous 20.9% whiff rate with that four-seamer. That level of whiff rate with a slider or curve is elite and Kimbrel’s doing that with straight cheese. His knuckle-curve continues to make hitter’s knees buckle, completing possibly the greatest one-two punch of pitches we’ve ever seen. He’s the all-time leader in strikeout rate (42.0%) but he ramped that up to 49.6% in ’17. Kimbrel’s never been a wizard with control, but he dropped his walk rate from 5.09 BB/9 down to 1.83 BB/9 last season. There’s really not much more to say about a man with a career 1.80 ERA and 0.91 WHIP entrenched as the closer for a playoff contender. He’s really good. (Tom Werner)

4) Felipe Rivero, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 63)

One of the fun things about doing these rankings is culling through our TDG archives to see where a breakout player was ranked last year. Using the dewey decimal system, I found the book on Rivero buried at number 63. Armed with a blistering fastball (98.3 average velocity) and a heavy ground ball arsenal (52.9%), all he needed was the opportunity to close, which the Pirates granted him in early June. Both Pittsburgh and Rivero owners struck gold, as Rivero saved 21 games, blowing just two saves en route to a 1.67 ERA and 0.89 WHIP. Though he was a bit fortunate with a .234 BABIP, the lefty still utilized his great slider and change (both pitches had greater than 20% whiff rates) to strike out 10.5 batters per nine. He still has to improve a bit against righties (.571 OPS vs. RHB, .255 OPS vs. LHB) but he has what it takes to be a very good closer for some time. (Tom Werner)

5) Corey Knebel, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 26)

Knebel, much like the silent first letter in his surname, is a sneaky source for K’s. *checks sources* Wait, the ‘K’ is pronounced!? Eff it, I’m keeping that line in there. Knebel enhanced his fastball velocity last year to 97.3, up from his 2016 average of 95.9. He also did a much better job elevating his heater in the zone, a change that, in tandem with the velocity bump, helped to double his fastball’s whiff rate up to 16%. Knebel also froze more hitters with his 80-MPH curveball by doing a much better job hitting the lower outside corner with the pitch, as curves thrown in the strike zone were swung at just 24.8% of the time. Those gains raised his strikeout rate from 26.2% in ’16 up to 40.8% last year. His wildness is still an issue (career BB/9 over four) but his 2.53 FIP shows that he has what it takes to be a high-end stopper. When it comes to owning shares of him, with a Knebel yell, I cry more, more more. (Tom Werner)

6) Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 2)

In an era where velocity reigns supreme, Chapman continues to be the king of the hill. The big lefty easily topped baseball with an average velocity of an even 100 MPH, and he continued to  couple it with a nasty slider and the occasional changeup. For some reason, Chapman seemed more human last year, as peripherals dropped from “jaw-dropping” to “that’s still pretty darn good.” His swinging strike rate (13.5%) and contact rate (73.2%) were career-worsts, suppressing his strikeout rate down to a still-excellent 12.3 K/9. Chapman missed about a month last season to rotator cuff inflammation, which is a bit of a concern moving forward. He’s still going to be a first-rate closer, providing low 2s ERA and around 1.00 WHIP, but there are a few nicks in the armor now. (Tom Werner)

7) Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 16)

Good closers on bad teams can make for excellent value grabs, and Iglesias certainly qualifies. No longer attempting to be a starter, the righty ditched his hittable sinker last year and saw better results to the tune of 2.49 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. He even lowered his homerun rate (0.59 HR/9) and got more grounders without the sinker in tow. Already owning a vicious slider (.354 OPS against), Iglesias coerced hitters to swing at his low changeup more often, getting them to chase it out of the zone almost half of the time (49.5%). Add in an upper-90’s fastball and there’s little wonder in why hitters whiffed on almost 14% of Iglesias’ pitches last year. If he can make some strides against lefties (career .327 wOBA against), there’s no doubt that Iglesias can be one of the premier closers in the game. (Tom Werner)

8) Edwin Diaz, Seattle Mariners (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 5)

Looks can be deceiving. Check out Diaz’s fantasy stats in the past two years:

  • 2016: 2.79 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 88 Ks, 31 SV+H
  • 2017: 3.27 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 89 Ks, 36 SV+H

A little ERA fluctuation but pretty stable, right? Well…let’s take a peek under the hood:

  • 2016: 15.3 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 0.87 HR/9, 46.8 GB%, .377 BABIP, 2.04 FIP
  • 2017: 12.1 K/9, 4.4 BB/9, 1.36 HR/9, 39.1 GB%, .236 BABIP, 4.02 FIP

Diaz definitely struggled relative to his sparkling rookie season in 2016 but got away with it by having fantastic BABIP luck. He started missing his spots with his deadly slider, throwing it out of the zone more (68% vs. 49% in ’16) without getting hitters to chase as often (49% vs. 50% in ’16). Batters began sitting on his heater, helping them generate more elevated contact on the pitch (48% FB vs. 26% FB in ’16). If he regains control of his slider, he’ll be a destructive force in the 9th inning again. If not, he’ll be league-average. Hedge for somewhere between, but know that there’s upside here. (Tom Werner)

9) Ken Giles, Houston Astros (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 8)

The great part about fantasy baseball is that almost all leagues end before the postseason, so no one really got affected by Giles’ October struggles. However, we can’t pretend like Houston’s brass didn’t lose some faith in him. Always bet on talent to prevail in dynasty leagues, and Giles is the best pitcher in a very good bullpen. Over his four-year career, Giles has never been below 11 K/9 or above 3.5 BB/9, and has only once given up more than 0.6 HR/9. He really stepped it up in the 2nd half of last year too (pre-October), producing a 1.19 ERA and 0.96 WHIP with a 44/8 K/BB ratio across 30.1 IP. Giles is a legit top-10 closer, so don’t be scared off by his postseason woes. (Tom Werner)

10) Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 10)

For whatever reason, Allen doesn’t really get the pub that most top closers do. My theory is twofold: 1) owners don’t like that he’s blocking the elite Andrew Miller from saves and 2) people are generally leery of guys with two first names. But Allen has been a stable source of saves and ratios at a volatile position since he began saving games for Cleveland in 2014. He’s pretty bankable for about 30 saves and consistently hovers around 12 K/9 and 3 BB/9. The one red flag to note is that Allen’s been gradually losing fastball velocity, as it’s dropping for four years running (96.1, 95.6, 94.8, 94.3). It hasn’t affected his results yet, but it’s something to monitor. In the meantime, expect to keep seeing results around his 4-year average (2.63 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 92 strikeouts). (Tom Werner)

11) Brad Hand, San Diego Padres (Age: 28, Previous Rank: NR)

It took trading away almost everyone else in their bullpen, but the Padres finally handed the closer job to Brad Hand. After acquiring him prior to the 2016 season, San Diego scrapped his mediocre curve and change for what has become a great slider. In the two years since, that pitch has an absurd 53.4% strikeout rate on the back of an almost 21% whiff rate. It’s held opposing batters to an equally absurd .132/.188/.215 slash line. Oh, and he cut down his walk rate by a third in 2017 too, with only four relievers finishing with both a better K/9 and BB/9 last year. He just signed a three year extension (with a club option) so he’s unlikely to be traded anytime soon, Even if he does, he’ll likely still close given how dominant he’s been. He might be near the bottom of this second tier of closers, but there’s nothing to complain about here. (Jeff Good)

12) Wade Davis, Colorado Rockies (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 9)

Wade Davis turned in another elite relief season with the Cubs last year, but it wasn’t all good news. He posted a career-high walk rate and gave up twice as many home runs (6) as the past three years combined (3). Now he’s moving to Colorado, which will further test his ability to limit the long ball. I don’t expect another 2.30 ERA, but I’m not as down on him as Steamer’s 3.79 projection. He doesn’t rely on a big breaking ball, so I don’t think he’ll be hurt as much by Coors as others, and he has shown an ability to keep the ball in the park. He should be around a 3 ERA with plenty of strikeouts and a decent if non-elite WHIP. (Jeff Good)

13) Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 25, Previous Rank: NR)

Injuries and poor performance as a starter compelled the D-Backs to shift Bradley, a former top prospect, to the bullpen in 2017. The results were almost as dramatic as Hand’s and Davis’ transitions. His four-seamer that gave up a .898 OPS against in 2016 held opponents to a .580 in 2017. Bradley not only got a full 3 MPH spike in velocity, but also started throwing strikes consistently for the first time in, uh, *checks minor league numbers* ever. His curve was better too, giving up far fewer line drives 10.3% vs 30.9% in 2017. I can’t tell you exactly why, but it was good.

Bradley would likely be higher on this list if not for the fact that Arizona may opt to give saves to Brad Boxberger, Proven Closer(tm). But Boxberger hasn’t been able to stay on the field for two straight seasons, so there will likely be save chances for Bradley one way or another. Between that and the projections not believing his improved walk rate, he’s likely to be undervalued in drafts. Jump on board if he’s named the closer before your draft. (Jeff Good)

14) Andrew Miller, Cleveland Indians (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 11)

The man who changed how we think about relievers. The man who keeps Cody Allen owners in a constant state of fear. The man who would be in the same conversation as the top 3 if he was used like a traditional closer. His value is very dependent on your league’s stats, but if you have anything like K/9, Holds, or extra ratio categories, he’s probably even better than this ranking. (Jeff Good)

15) Carl Edwards Jr., Chicago Cubs (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 37)

Carl Jr. is in a similar situation to Bradley, with a big Fastball/Curve combo and only an oft-injured vet standing between him and saves. The big difference is that Edwards didn’t make it out of AA as a starter and still walks the world. That said, he strikes out so many guys that his career K-BB% is still 22.7%. If he gets the walks under control and claims the closer mantle, he’ll flirt with the top-5 next year. If not, the whispers of “Marmol” will only get louder. (Jeff Good)

16) Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 44)

When he’s not getting owned by his wife on twitter, Doo spends his time owning National League hitters. He’s got that K/9 that flirts with 11 we all love, and he keeps his walks down around 5% too. He’s limited homers his whole career too. What’s not to like? Welllll there is the issue of his shoulder, which has landed him on the DL for parts of each of the last four seasons. There’s red flags, but if you don’t mind the missed time, his rate stats are borderline-elite. (Jeff Good)

17) Kelvin Herrera, Kansas City Royals (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 13)

A “Future Closer” for about as long as I can remember, Kelvin finally got the job in 2017, just in time for his skills to regress. I say regress, specifically, because he had near elite walk and strikeout rates in 2016, but 2017 was much more in line with his career. Almost all of this came from his change up, which saw its BB% quadruple over ’16, while both its swinging strike and overall K% were cut fully in half. The fastball is still in the upper 90s and had similar True Outcomes in ’16 and ’17, but all of his pitches saw more contact and worse results on contact. This resulted in negative pitch values across the board for Herrera and a striking level of agreement between his ERA, FIP and xFIP. He dealt with an injury in September, but the job had already gone to a committee situation by then. Red flags abound, proceed with caution. (Jeff Good)

18) Alex Colome, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 18)

Speaking of pitchers who regressed in 2017, Colome also saw both his K and BB rates head in the wrong direction. Only a 6.2% HR/FB kept his ERA respectable. Trade rumors swirled around Colome all off season, but for now he’s the undisputed closer in Tampa. All that said, a mid-3s ERA and a 1.20 WHIP is about what you’d expect from the 18th closer. (Jeff Good)

19) Blake Treinen, Oakland A’s (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 52)

Treinen crashed and burned as the closer in Washington last spring to the tune of a 5.73 ERA that was… okay yeah, it was entirely due to a .381 BABIP. After being shipped back to Oakland in the Madson/Doolittle deal, his BABIP returned to a ho-hum .299 and his ERA settled into the low 2s. As an extreme ground ball pitcher (61.4% career) he is a bit more prone to BABIP flux than most, and that ground ball rate is driven by his fastball. You’d think that a guy who lives in the upper 90s would throw a four-seamer, but no. His sinker, which doesn’t get many whiffs (6.3%) or punchouts (9%), results in a lot of contact with negative launch angles. He relies on his slider for Ks, with 46 of his 74 Ks coming on the breaking ball. It’s best described as NSFW, sitting around 89 mph with a 22.8% swinging strike rate and nearly a 50% K rate overall. It held opposing batters to a .460 OPS, even through the rough first half.  It’s one of the best sliders in any bullpen.

The nature of Treinen’s fastball will keep him out of the top tier of relievers, but with an elite ERA, a good WHIP and around a strikeout per inning I’d still take him over several of the names ahead of him. The good news is that you won’t have to, because he’s currently being drafted outside the top 20 closers. (Jeff Good)

20) Jeurys Familia, New York Mets (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 15)

Familia missed much of 2018 after having surgery for a blood clot in his shoulder. While it was kind of a scary thing at the time, it shouldn’t affect him going forward. As for his role, the latest word is that he’ll get “Most of the saves”, whatever that means. Most spring “bullpen by committee” plans end up with one guy winning the job, but watch out for AJ Ramos, who also comes with a Proven Closer(tm) tag in his jersey. I’m pretty comfortable expecting a high-2s ERA with around a strikeout per inning from Familia. There’s just a little more job risk than the names above, but that brings a discount with it, so there’s profit potential too. (Jeff Good)

21) Addison Reed, Minnesota Twins (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 38)

My go-to statistics for relievers are the Shutdowns and Meltdowns, listed on the Fangraphs Win Probability leaderboards for pitchers. Reed ranked 8th last year in shutdowns (35, against only 8 meltdowns). He didn’t quite turn himself into Andrew Miller, but you can consider him the light, generic version of Andrew Miller with only old man Fernando Rodney in front of him. In the case of Rodney, my other go-to is sending out pictures from Google image searches for bow and arrow accidents every time he blows a save. The text thread I have with a long time friend and leaguemate is filled with these horrific images – I can barely bring myself to look. Needless to say, I’ll take shares of Reed in all leagues, even those that aren’t progressive enough to reward all holds (what are you people doing?), though his value bumps in holds leagues. I’ll likely quietly lay my head down each night on his fluffy pile of holds against those awful AL Central teams. (Jim Melichar)

22) Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 3)

I guess I didn’t even realize that Zach Britton pitched last year. That’s probably a good thing. Can you even hear me talking over all the fart noises your friends are making when you mention his name? I didn’t think so. The former top 3 RP option has been wrecked by injuries and managed only a 7 K/9 while walking e’erybody last year after coming back. Now he’s on the shelf for an Achilles surgery, and I won’t be surprised to see him in the bottom of the Top 75 list next year. (Jim Melichar)

23) Mark Melancon, San Francisco Giants (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 7)

It’s probably not chance that Britton and Melancon are ranked back-to-back and both are probably way too high for the risk they present. Melancon was a dominant reliever for the Pirates, but emphasis on the past tense. Along with Tony Watson, who was one of the first middle relief targets I sourced from the aforementioned Shutdowns/Meltdowns leaderboard, Melancon piled up saves and dominant outings. From 2014-2016 Melancon had the third most shutdowns (110), behind only Tony Watson and Zach Britton. Unless the cost is really low you can find a better way to build your dynasty bullpen. (Jim Melichar)

24) Dellin Betances, New York Yankees (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 17)

So, three guys walk into a bar . . . and then three more . . . all courtesy of Dellin Betances’ shaky ass control. (Jim Melichar)

25) Arodys Vizcaino, Atlanta Braves (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 32)

I’m surprised that Vizcaino didn’t end up with more than 6 meltdowns last year. He should probably be bumped up next to Addison Reed as they share a similar strikeout/homer profile. The difference being that Reed has dialed in the free-pass problem while Vizcaino still dishes them out like delicious candies. He’s not really safe in the Braves role as closer due to the fact that they have other arms that could take his spot if he struggles. He’s definitely got some Hector Neris in him, whom we’ll get to shortly. (Jim Melichar)

26) Chris Devenski, Houston Astros (Age: 27, Previous Rank: NR)

Much has been made of the fantastic April and May that Devenski had last year and many pundits out there will tell you he’s not as good as advertised due to the major slowdown he had in the second half. However, if I may play devil’s advocate here, Devenski was really leaned on heavily early in the year while Houston was trying to figure out where they were going to get all their innings from. Devenski had thrown nearly 50 high impact, max effort innings before the All-Star break. There was almost no chance for success for the second half. I’d hang in there and see what happens now that he can split more of these innings with Peacock this year. (Jim Melichar)

27) Hector Neris, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 28)

Is the splitter splitting? Then sign me up for some Hector Neris. The only trouble is there seem to be no warning signs as to when he’s just going to start hanging those things waist high and letting people crush the ball. Neris shares a very similar profile to the aforementioned Vizcaino. I’m not sure if I’m going to build an elite core of relievers around either guy, but once again, if the price is right, then let’s do it. (Jim Melichar)

28) Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 87 as SP)

He’s the new Andrew Miller, right? Hader appeared in 35 games for the Brewers last year and was normally used in multi-inning stints. It wasn’t uncommon for Hader to throw two or three innings and dominate hitters with a mid-90s fastball and hard breaking slider. There is always a chance that the Brewers use him in the rotation at some point, but for now he looks to reprise his role in the bullpen, coming in to take out a hard-hitting lefty and staying to take on all comers. There’s probably no path to saves for Hader in Milwaukee’s loaded bullpen, but he should notch 70-90Ks depending on how many innings he’s asked to pitch for the Crew this year. (Jim Melichar)

29) Blake Parker, Los Angeles Angels (Age: 33, Previous Rank: NR)

In typical relief pitcher form, I have no blanking idea who this guy is. Seriously, I’ve never even heard of him. That’s not to say I didn’t use him at some point last year, because I probably did. Guys like this are a dime a dozen. Early to mid-30-somethings with the ability to strike out some batters in a bullpen where no one really knows who will nail down saves, or more generally which names will get which chance for holds. Want me to recommend Blake Parker to you? Sure, I can do that! Blake Parker! Get some! (Who the eff is Blake effing Parker?!?! Please quote me on that – Jim Melichar)

30) Chad Green, New York Yankees (Age: 27, Previous Rank: NR)

Let’s be honest here, we’re all kind of hoping the Yankees don’t use Green in the rotation, or hope the experiment fails so we can load up on his 100+ Ks and sweet, sweet ratios as the relief ace we came to know and love last year. He suppresses walks, homers and hits while at the same time striking batters out in spades (13+ K/9). There’s not much else we can do as fantasy owners but wait and see how the Yankees decide to use him. (Jim Melichar)

31) Brad Brach, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 45) 

After putting up a career year in 2016 (2.05 ERA, 2.92 FIP, 29.6 K%, 8.0 BB%), Brach saw a slight dip in all of his peripherals in 2017 (3.18 ERA, 3.58 FIP, 25.5 K%, 9.5 BB%). But due to certain circumstances in the Orioles bullpen, he put up a career-high 18 saves. Brach seemed to have more of a feel for more of his off-speed stuff in 2017 (.289 xwOBA in 2016 vs .210 xwOBA in 2017), but his results against his fastball took a dip as a consequence (.258 xwOBA vs .258 xwOBA). The decline in SwStr% (14.8% vs 12.2%) was pretty perplexing considering he added fastball velocity last year, but this can probably be used to blame the dip in K-rate. If he can even out the results between his fastball and off-speed, along with missing more bats, he could be in for a nice fantasy season as the Orioles probable closer, at least until Zach Britton returns. (Patrick Brennan)

32) Brandon Morrow, Chicago Cubs (Age: 33, Previous Rank: NR) 

After hanging around the edge of journeyman status, Morrow made the most of his minor league deal with the Dodgers, putting up a phenomenal season and standing high among relievers in almost every statistical category. Minimum 40 innings pitched, he ranked 15th in ERA, third in FIP, 23rd in K-BB%, and first in HR/9. At 33-years-old, he is finally going to get his first extended shot at closing, inking a 2/$21 million deal with Chicago Cubs earlier this offseason. The chance for a high amount of saves is appealing, but be aware of his regression. He got ridiculously lucky with his HR/FB numbers, posting a 0.0% rate. Even with the added ground balls, considering his career HR/FB-rate is 9.3% and his hard-hit% numbers were close to his career-norms, expecting at least a little hit on his run-prevention abilities. (Patrick Brennan)

33) Tommy Kahnle, New York Yankees (Age: 28, Previous Rank: NR)

The quick, volatile right arm of Tommy Kahnle finally put it all together last season. In his days with the Rockies and White Sox, he put up very inconsistent strikeout and walk numbers, unable to control and harness anything in that nasty repertoire of his. He found his control last year though, throwing 67.2% of his pitches for strikes, easily a career high and a huge difference from his 2014-16 mark of 61.1%. This was all the more impressive once you see that he bumped his fastball velocity from 96.5 MPH in 2016 to 97.9 MPH in 2017. The save numbers won’t be there in that insanely crowded Yankees bullpen, but his strikeout numbers from 2017 are enough to keep him on the radar. (Patrick Brennan)

34) Mychal Givens, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 53) 

Since the beginning of 2016, no reliever in baseball has more wins than the 16 that Mychal Givens has racked up. Givens appears to have the outside-edge to the Orioles closing job, falling behind the likes of Brad Brach and Darren O’Day. He’ll add a ton of value in saves+holds leagues, racking up a career-high 21 last season. (Patrick Brennan)

35) Shane Greene, Detroit Tigers (Age: 29, Previous Rank: NR) 

After having erratic results as a starter with the Detroit Tigers, 2017 saw Shane Greene spend his first full year in the bullpen. It was nothing spectacular, but due to trades and lack of performance, Greene has found himself in the closer’s role with some job security. I don’t know how much I love Greene, considering he ranked 100th among qualified relievers in K-BB% last year. Excluding Ryan Pressly, he gave up the highest percentage of hard-contact allowed last year, standing at 41.3%. This makes his .265 BABIP from last year all the more troubling, since prior to last year he put up figures of .330, .325, and .327. If he’s retuning to that level of batted ball normalcy, he’s likely just not that good. But like I said, the job security is there for now, and it’s rather easy to pencil him in for 25-30 saves. (Patrick Brennan)

36) Alex Claudio, Texas Rangers (Age: 26, Previous Rank: NR) 

Picture the opposite of a typical closer’s profile. That’s Alex Claudio. A messy side-arm delivery that fires out an 86 MPH fastball that gets an extreme excess of ground balls (66.7% GB% ranked third in baseball last year, min. 50 IP). With all the funkiness in his delivery, it’s very impressive how much he suppresses the bases on balls, posting a superb 1.9 career BB/9. This comes along with the inability to strikeout hitters, owning an unbelievably low-for-closers 6.1 K/9 last year. You aren’t getting anything flashy with Claudio at all, but you can probably be comfortable knowing that he’ll give you something along the lines of a 3.00 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. (Patrick Brennan)

37) Greg Holland, Free Agent (Age: 32, Previous Rank, NR) 

The first question to answer with Greg Holland is where in the world he will be playing in 2018: the market has not moved in his favor at all and the fits are starting to slim down. The second question is what his role will be with his next team: closing looks unlikely at this point, unless maybe he signs with the Cardinals. The third question is whether his 2017 first half was a mirage, and whether we should be concerned about his second half. The results are pretty glaring, with pre-ASB dominance (33.1 IP, 1.62 ERA, 2.80 FIP, 11.6 K/9, 4.3 BB/9), and then post-ASB dumpster-fireness (24 IP, 6.38 ERA, 4.99 FIP, 10.1 K/9, 3.8 BB/9). (Patrick Brennan)

38) David Robertson, New York Yankees (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 12) 

The end of 2016 saw an apparent diminishing of David Robertson’s production. Last season, he showed a rebound in his performance, ranking in 11th in ERA, 15th in FIP, 10 in xFIP, and ninth in K% among qualified relievers in baseball. A change that stood out was the SwStr%, posting a career-high mark of 16.5% and way up from his career-average of 11.3%. There was an evident change in his usage of pitches, going to the fastball less and using the curveball a lot more (30.4% in 2016, 46.3% in 2017). And it was phenomenal, limiting hitters to a .147 xwOBA on the pitch. Another thing I noticed was that Robertson allowed hitters to a BABIP that was 81 points below his career-average and 91 points under his 2016 figure, despite allowing an exit velocity that was a MPH higher than his 2016 exit velocity. Expect some regression in that department. (Patrick Brennan)

39) Kyle Barraclough, Miami Marlins (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 42) 

For a middle reliever that relies heavily on strikeouts to hold his value up, taking a 10.3% dip in that department is definitely not ideal. That’s what happened to Kyle Barraclough in 2017. I think a lot of this can be attributed to the shoulder issues he was having early in the year, which eventually led to a short DL trip. Once he returned, it looked like a lot of his strike-throwing issues had been tamed slightly. Everything started to look better, improving his K% (24.2% in first half, 32.9% in second half), his BB% (15.0%, 8.9%), his FIP (3.91, 3.06), and his ERA (3.30, 2.29). I think his previous issues were clear as mud, and much of the concern about his actual pitching abilities can be limited. That being said, Barraclough is currently not listed as the Marlins closer, with that title being held by the great and wonderful Brad Ziegler. Though as the season progresses on, it isn’t hard to envision Barraclough getting the chance to convert those limited save opportunities down in Miami. (Patrick Brennan)

40) Dominic Leone, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 26, Previous Rank: NR)

I’m a big fan of Dominic Leone. For most of his career, the righty reliever has taken on the persona of a rather pedestrian reliever… until the second half of 2017. It was a tale of two halves for Leone, with his first half looking much like his whole career had (2.95 ERA, 3.71 FIP, 4.64 xFIP, 9.5 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 31.7% GB%). He was a different animal post-all star break though, taking on a full transformation (2.05 ERA, 1.95 FIP, 2.44 xFIP, 11.5 K/9, 1.5 BB/9, 52.1% GB%). Improving a GB-rate, BB-rate, or K-rate is hard enough to do, let alone all three. If this ends up being Leone in 2018, it seems that he could quickly find himself closing games, something he never had the opportunity to do in Toronto. His stock has started to soar, but it could explode in 2018. And he’s still only 26. Buy your Leone shares, folks. (Patrick Brennan)

41) Seung Hwan Oh, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 35, Previous Rank: 14) 

Former Texas Ranger Seung Hwan Oh had a 2017 season that was a far cry from his stellar debut campaign in 2016. This first thing that pops off the page is his reduced K%, falling dramatically from 32.9% to 20.5% this past year. In correlation with that, the SwStr% fell from 18.0% to 12.9%. Ugly. Combine this with a decreasing GB/FB-ratio (0.99 in 2016, 0.58 in 2017) and you’ve got yourself the puzzle pieces to a considerable fall in production. Throw in concerns about his health, as he recently failed a physical with the Texas Rangers. At 35-years-old and being the third/fourth option out of the Blue Jays bullpen, there just isn’t a whole lot to like here. I guess I could see a marginal improvement from 2017 at best, but I wouldn’t be surprised if last season was just the opening act to an Oh free fall. (Patrick Brennan)

42) Joakim Soria, Chicago White Sox (Age: 33, Previous Rank: NR)

Joakim Soria has struck me as one of the more confusing pitchers in all of baseball. With just looking at the underlying stats, you’d figure he is one of the better relievers in baseball. Minimum 50 innings pitched, only six relievers in baseball posted a K/9 > 10, a BB/9 < 3.5, and a HR/9 < 0.5 (Miller, Madson, Rivero, Osuna, Lyons, Soria). Batted ball luck killed him in 2017, as evidenced by his .329 BABIP against this year, way above his career-average mark of .283. Now a member of the Chicago White Sox, the save opportunities could be limited, but nonetheless he should have way more opportunities than he ever got Kansas City. It’d be a perfect time for his ERA to fall in line with his peripherals. Hopefully it can happen before he hits his decline, as he’ll turn 34 this upcoming May. (Patrick Brennan)

43) Fernando Rodney, Minnesota Twins (Age: 41, Previous Rank: 33) 

Turning 41 on March 18, Fernando Rodney is by far the oldest player in our relief pitcher rankings. Nobody is impressed with his run prevention skills (4.12 ERA from 2015-17), but he’s racked up the sixth most saves since the beginning of the 2016 season, which has kept him fantasy relevant. His status depends big time on his role with his new team, but if he get can that closer job, there’s hope that the magic can continue and he racks up another 30+ saves. (Patrick Brennan)

44) Luke Gregerson, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 34, Previous Rank: 61)

In his final year with the Houston Astros, Luke Gregerson put up pretty uninspiring results. He put up career-low marks in ERA, FIP, and HR/9, all by a decent margin. Perhaps it was the juiced ball being unkind to him, as the home runs were the real killer for Gregerson, posting an absurdly high 23.6% HR/FB, which was noticeably above his career-average of 10.4%. So maybe moving from a ballpark that is known to increase home run probability to a venue that suppresses home runs, like Busch Stadium, couldn’t come at a better time. He’ll need to get back to his usual lower HR-rates if he’s going to be anything of value going forward. Being the more experienced veteran, it seems like the Cardinals are willing to give him the closing job out of the gate. (Patrick Brennan)

45) Cam Bedrosian, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 19)

After putting up a highly imposing 2016 season, Cam Bedrosian looked like he was soon on his way to becoming one of the few elite relievers in baseball. He inched even closer to that status during the first month of last season, pitching 6.2 scoreless innings, striking out nine, walking none, and collecting three saves. That was put on halt though, as Bedrosian spent roughly seven weeks on the disabled list with a groin injury. Bedrosian’s early season magic didn’t return with him, putting up a 5.21 ERA and 3.89 FIP in 38 innings over the rest of the year. Also worth mentioning: he only gathered three more saves for the rest of the season. More importantly, his fastball velocity took a dip from its 94.8 MPH mark in his first 6.2 innings, averaging out at 93.7 MPH post-DL stint. My level of concern is fairly low though, with my hope being that the long offseason led to a nice recovery back to full-strength. For now, it looks like he’s on the outside looking in for the closer job, with Blake Parker currently having the inside-track. (Patrick Brennan)

 

Part II coming soon!

The Author

Ian Hudson

Ian Hudson

Ian is an editor for The Dynasty Guru and a bowtie enthusiast. If you guessed one of those things about him you could probably guess the other.

He's also an attorney in Tampa, Florida.

Go Rays.

2 Comments

  1. […] 2018 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: TheDynastyGuru.com kicks off their rankings of the top 75 relief pitchers for dynasty/keeper leagues with #1-45. […]

  2. GoGo
    March 5, 2018 at 11:27 am

    Thanks for the rankings. My only quibble, lose the bow tie.

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