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The Dynasty Guru’s Top Relievers #1-75

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Without further ado, it’s time to continue our 2019 consensus rankings by looking at our 1-75 dynasty relief pitchers.

1) Edwin Diaz, New York Mets, (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 8)

Holy moly was Edwin DIaz good in 2018. The dude put up a league leading 57 saves, while striking out 15.22 per-nine, walking only 2.09 per nine, and posting a magnificent 1.96 ERA. Yep, that fastball slider combo is nothing to mess around with from the 24 year-old newly acquired Met. Averaging 97.3 MPH on his fastball, that places him in the 100th percentile of the league. The wipe-out slider comes in at 89.1 MPH, and generated a 53.8% whiffs. Contributing to his 124 Ks in just 73.1 innings pitched. There just isn’t a relief pitcher (who’s also getting saves) that is elite as the flamethrower. (Patrick Magnus)

2) Roberto Osuna, Houston Astros, (Age:24, Previous Rank: 2)

Another flame throwing young reliever, Osuna brings a starters arsenal to his relief role.  Osuna’s fastball ranks well in its spin. Number one is his primary go to for striking out batters, but is complimented by a cutter, slider, and change-up. Last year wasn’t exactly Osuna’s finest year, as he saw his strikeout rate fall from double-digits in 2017 down to 7.58 per-nine in 2018. He also served a 75 game suspension, due to accusations of domestic abuse. Yet, he still posted a swinging-strike rate of 14.7%, suggesting that the strikeouts are on their way back in 2019. Most projections systems agree. Playing on a dominant Astros team should yield him plenty of saves, while he continues to post excellent ratios. He can do the same for your dynasty team. (Patrick Magnus)

3) Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers, (Age:24, Previous Ranks:28)

The Brewers’ lefty was dominant for the second year in a row. Posting a monstrous 143 strikeouts over 81.1 innings, the relief pitcher put up starting caliber statistics from fantasy owners’ RP slots. Last year, while not a traditional closer by any means, Hader still managed 12 saves, a feat we think he’ll likely repeat in 2019. Still, it’s Hader’s elite stuff that makes him such a threat and our number three relief pitcher. In 2018 he ranked in the top 1% of pitchers in xBA, xSLG, WOBA, and xWOBA. Hader posted a 2.43 ERA, and his FIP, xFIP, SIERA, and DRA were all even lower and closer to 2.00. So while he won’t have you dominating the saves category in 2019, he’ll be contributing there and crushing in everything else. (Patrick Magnus)

4) Blake Treinen, Oakland Athletics, (Age:30, Previous Rank: NR)

Blake Treinen’s sinker is really good, and it turns out he can be flat out absurd when he’s throwing it on a consistent basis. In 2018 among qualified relievers he posted a league best 0.71 ERA. Treinen’s FIP, xFIP, and SIERA all seem to indicate that the 30-year-old got a bit lucky, but not enough to remove him from being one of the league’s most effective relievers.  Hitters just can’t make quality contact off the righty. In the previous season, batters posted a mere 2.1 barrel percentage, and only managed to post an 86.2 MPH exit velocity on the veteran hurler. Combine all that talent on a now-formidable Oakland Athletics squad and you’ve got yourself a top-5 dynasty reliever. (Patrick Magnus)

5) Craig Kimbrel, Free Agent, (Age:30, Previous Rank:3)

Ranking among the top-5 in saves for 7 of the last 8 years, Kimbrel is positioning himself to make some history. That is, if his stuff can hold up and if he can solve a couple cracks in his armor. Mainly that players seem to sit on his fastball, and hit it with an excellent amount of authority (90 MPH). There’s also the issue of him getting himself into trouble by giving out too many free passes (4.48 BB/9). Regardless, Kimbrel currently has the stuff to overcome these issues. Blowing his 97.1 MPH past hitters, and making their knees buckle with a nasty knuckle-curve. While the fiery-bearded righty has found himself a new home yet this offseason, he’s a lock to be at the top of the saves leaders once again in 2019 and the foreseeable future. (Patrick Magnus)

6) Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers, (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 1)

After back to back seasons as our top reliever, Jansen’s numbers took a big step back in what was an injury riddled year, one which saw him hospitalized with an irregular heart rate in August. Back in November Jansen had his second heart surgery (first was in 2012) to correct the issue and vows he’ll be good to go full bore in 2019. Already having come back from a similar surgery, there’s no reason to doubt he’ll be back to crushing the 9th in 2019. (Keaton O. DeRocher)

7) Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees, (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 6)

Chapman had an interesting season in 2018. He posted his best K/9 since 2014 (16.3) while at the same time posting his worst BB/9 (5.3) since 2011, the season before he took over closing duties in Cincinnati. Good news for Chapman is he throws stupid hard and it’s really easy to withstand all those runners when you torch 104 past everyone. The Yankees are loaded and Chapman will have no problem racking up the saves. (Keaton O. DeRocher)

8) Felipe Vasquez, Pittsburgh Pirates, (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 4)

In his first season as Felipe Vasquez, the former Felipe Rivero put up career highs in strikeouts-per-nine innings (11.4) and saves with 37. The 37 saves was pretty impressive on a middling team and good enough for 6th in majors. Vasquez has also posted three straight season of 70+ innings pitched showing the Pirates are not afraid to go to him and go to him often meaning the save chances should be plenty again in 2019. (Keaton O. DeRocher)

9) Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds, (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 7)

The Reds bullpen is pretty bad, so Iglesias is in no danger of losing the job. Besides having no challenger in the pen Iglesias posted an incredible 91.6% strand rate and has been the model of consistency posting 4 straight seasons of a 10 K/9 and 3 BB/9. With the interesting additions the Reds made in the off-season it’s reasonable to expect a few more save chances for Iglesias this upcoming season. (Keaton O. DeRocher)

10) Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals, (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 16)

In an injury-shortened season Doolittle was able to make his innings count in 2018, posting a career high in saves and K/9 at 12. Doolittle’s stuff plays up due to his impressive control, posting BB/9’s under 2 in five of his seven seasons. As long as he stays relatively healthy he’ll be in for another stellar year. Besides being a great reliever option on the field he’s also a gem of a human being off the field, currently supporting the Derby, NY New Era plant in the hopes of keeping jobs in the US along with his wife. He’s just amazing at everything. (Keaton O. DeRocher)

11) Brad Hand, Cleveland Indians (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 11)

Brad Hand has become an incredible reliever since the Padres converted him to the role in 2016. In that span he has pitched 240.2 IP, struck out 321 batters, walked 84, given up only 25 HR, and posted an ERA of 2.62. His FIP and xFIP are also pristine at 3.10 and 3.09, respectively. Hand enters his age 28 season as the unquestioned closer in Cleveland. The Tribe will be a team headlined by a dominant rotation, but lacking a ton of firepower on offense. If I were a betting man, I’d say that Hand’s closing situation in Cleveland looks ripe for saves aplenty. I’d also say he looks like a slam dunk to convert every one of those chances. Pitchers don’t get much better than this. (Jonathan Merkel)

12) Wade Davis, Colorado Rockies (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 12)

Wade Davis enters his second season in Colorado having earned 43 Saves in 69 appearances [Nice- Ed.]. As we have seen, Davis knows how to get guys out. His cutter remains a lethal weapon against hitters even in the danger-zone of Coors Field. While Davis suffered a bit of bloat on his ERA–4.13 in 2018–his FIP and xFIP remain respectable at 3.65 and 3.63. Will his ERA trend the other way? Probably not. Coors Field is what it is, and Davis is a Rockie. Still, while he may not be the world’s best relief pitcher like he was in KC, this vet still knows how to get the job done. (Jonathan Merkel)

13) A.J. Minter, Atlanta Braves (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 46)

25 year-old A.J. Minter remains the heir apparent to the Braves’ closing gig. Although currently blocked by the always under-appreciated Arodys Vizcaino, Minter moves up to our 13th rank as a result of his superb offerings and the choice role he looks poised to capture. Minter attacks hitters with upper-90s fastballs and low-90’s sliders. He used these pitches to make his first full season in the majors a really good one. He pitched 61.1 IP while posting a K-BB% of 18.1%, a SwStr% of 14.9%, and an ERA of 3.23. And considering Minter experienced some slight injury blips down the stretch, it feels safe to say that his 2018 could have been even better. Owners will have to be aggressive to draft him, but we think the investment will pay off handsomely long-term. (Jonathan Merkel)

14) Jose Leclerc, Texas Rangers, (Age: 25, Previous Rank: N/A)

Jose Leclerc’s 2018 line is pretty stunning: 59 IP, 85 K, 1.56 ERA, 0.85 WHIP. Damn. Wow. Yes. You read that right. Now you might be thinking, “Where do I sign up?” Be careful. Leclerc has plenty of talent as evidenced by his abundance of strikeouts, but there’s a reason he’s our 14th ranked reliever: He got lucky. His BABIP was only .211, and the Ranger had an insanely fortunate 2.0% HR/FB ratio. He is one of four pitchers with 50 IP who managed to give up homers at such a low rate while inducing grounders less than 35% of the time. Even beyond that, every projection system expects Leclerc’s walk rate to regress as well. It’s sort of hard to argue with that assumption seeing as he walked 7.88 batters per 9 across 45 innings in 2017. Add it all up and I get the sense that 2018 might be the best we’ll ever see from Jose. (Jonathan Merkel)

15) Ken Giles, Toronto Blue Jays, (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 9)

One would assume, judging by his impressive career numbers, that Giles has been a safe, dependable, dominant arm in fantasy bullpens. Instead, the biggest closer soap-opera since Jonathan Papelbon continues as Giles enters his first full-season as a Toronto Blue Jay. Who is he? A nausea-inducing roller-coaster type of experience, with the kind of strikeout upside that never fails to lure us back for more. Seriously, how can a guy with a career K/9 of 11.89 and a BB/9 of 2.72 not be amazing? He has to be great. He just has to! Right?! (Jonathan Merkel)

16) Seranthony Dominguez, Philadelphia Phillies, (Age: 24, Previous Rank: N/A)

Seranthony Dominguez looks like he will be booted from the closer role in Philly with the arrival of David Robertson. That’s unfortunate. Everything else Dominguez has going for him looks much more rosey. Strikeouts? Check. Walks? In check. Homers? Nuh uh. ERA? Good, and backed by indicators. The guy is for real, and even proved himself by earning 14 saves last year. Perhaps because he did blow four chances, it makes sense that the Phils would be happy letting the 24 year-old Dominguez learn under the wing of their new two-year, $23 million dollar veteran. Whatever their plans, Dominguez will be a major part of them, and it won’t be long until Seranthony is a closer for good. (Jonathan Merkel)

17) Corey Knebel, Milwaukee Brewers, (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 5)

Corey Knebel drops from our 5 to 17 after the 2018 season. Owners saw him go from being the Brewers’ unquestioned closer, to demoted to Triple-A on August 24th. So how bad was he? Well, not very. GM David Stearns said of the move, “This isn’t really a demotion. It’s a break.” Knebel did struggle in July and August as evidenced by the 6.64 ERA he carried in that time, but it looks like the break paid off. Upon returning, Knebel finished with 16.1 of the most dominant innings a pitcher could imagine: 18.18 K/9, 1.65 BB/9, 0.00 ERA, 0.49 WHIP, and an xFIP of 0.95. And that doesn’t include the 10 strong innings he threw in the postseason. Knebel is a monster, and he’s not done yet. Don’t let two bad months cloud your judgment. (Jonathan Merkel)

18) Jose Alvarado, Tampa Bay Rays, (Age: 23, Previous Rank: N/A)

Jose Alvarado is a dynamite breakout candidate in Tampa’s bullpen, assuming he hasn’t broken out already. As Jeff Sullivan writes, the 23 year-old took a step forward by ditching a four-seam/curveball combination in favor of a two-seam fastball and cutter. The change, “allowed Alvarado to reach some new heights,” and him surged to finish the year. He threw 20 innings from August until the end of the regular season, struck out 35 batters, and posted a FIP and xFIP of 0.56 and 1.06 in that span. My biggest worry is that Tampa will find a way to innovate him out of save situations, which may already be happening. Regardless, the guy is one of the best relievers around. (Jonathan Merkel)

19) Kirby Yates, San Diego Padres, (Age: 31, Previous Rank: N/A)

Kirby Yates climbs our ranks after two stellar relief campaigns and a promotion to the closer role following Brad Hand’s departure. Over the past two seasons, Yates has pitched 119.2 innings and has an ERA of 3.01 to show for his efforts. He has also put up the 5th best K-BB% among qualified relievers in the same stretch. (Raise your hand if you expected to see Yates slightly higher than even the mighty Edwin Diaz.) Yates looks poised to hold onto the closer gig for the improving Padres. My main concern here is a trade to a contender in a non-closer role, but it may be time for San Diego to buy more than sell. Regardless, Kirby has proven he can pitch with the best of ‘em. (Jonathan Merkel)

20) Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks, (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 13)

Archie Bradley drops to the 20th ranking after a season which was much better than you might recall. About the only thing he did considerably worse than he did in 2017 was allow home runs. This should have been expected, as Bradley escaped the ‘17 season with a HR/FB ratio of only 7.4%. The ratio ballooned to 13.8% in 2018, and pushed his ERA to 3.64. Don’t worry though. His SIERA looks pretty at 3.22, just a hair above the 3.19 SIERA he earned in his more exciting 2017 season. He is still a great pitcher in a prominent bullpen role, and he should be for a long while. (Jonathan Merkel)

21) Will Smith, San Francisco Giants, (Age: 29, Previous Rank: NR)

Will Smith had an elite 2018 out of the pen, with a 2.55 ERA backed by equally strong peripherals—a 2.76 xFIP and a 2.50 SIERA. He’s a rare lefty who’s good enough against righties to be entrusted with a full-time closer job. He is better versus lefties though, with a career 2.39 xFIP versus lefties compared to 4.00 versus righties. Anti-lefty bias probably explains why it took Smith six seasons to get significant saves opportunities. Mark Melancon, Smith’s only real threat to the closer job in 2019, carries crazy health risk. Smith is a good bet to be an elite closer for the first half of 2019. The Giants are projected to be terrible this year, though, and Smith’s contract is up after 2019. He’s more likely than not to be traded at the deadline and lose his closer job. (Jordan Rosenblum)

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

Betances put up his 5th straight season of total domination in 2018, with a 2.70 ERA, a 1.95 xFIP, and 15 plus strikeouts per nine innings. His velocity is stable, with his fastball averaging around 98 miles per hour. He’s as safe as they come as relievers, and a very good bet to continue his shutdown ways in 2019 and beyond. As long as he’s on the Yankees he’s unlikely to rack more than ten saves in a given year because of how stacked their pen is. He’s a free agent in 2020 but the Yankees are reportedly interested in extending him. If he escapes New York, he’ll be a top 5 closer option in 2020. In holds plus saves leagues, his 2019 value gets a nice bump. (Jordan Rosenblum)

23) Adam Ottavino, New York Yankees, (Age: 33, Previous Rank: NR)

After a down 2017, Ottavino returned to his usual, lights-out self in 2018. Like Betances, he’s an elite source of strikeouts and good bet for a sub-3.00 ERA. Also like Betances, he’s part of the Yankees historically good bullpen and unlikely to receive many saves opportunities. The Yankees rewarded his stellar 2018 with a three-year contract this off-season. Ottavino should continue racking up strikeouts and posting elite ratios over the next couple seasons. He also receives a nice value bump in saves plus holds leagues. If Chapman struggles, it’s anyone’s guess who’s second-in-line for saves in the Yankees pen – they have a ridiculous amount of excellent options. (Jordan Rosenblum)

24) Jordan Hicks, St. Louis Cardinals, (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)

Hicks was one of 2018’s most interesting stories, skipping Double-A and Triple-A and earning a spot in the Cardinals’ pen. There’s perhaps no reliever in baseball with a bigger gap between stuff and performance. Hicks’ fastball averages 100.5 miles per hour, fastest in the majors. His xFIP and SIERA were well below average for a reliever, both falling around 4.25. His walk-rate is terrible, and his strikeout rate is below average. He possesses an elite ground ball rate and home-run-per-fly ball rate. Analysts generally regard homerun-per-fly ball rate as mostly an indicator of luck, except for a few extreme outlier performers. Considering his stuff, Hicks certainly may be one of these outlier performers. He’s also very young, and a decent bet to figure things out and become a shutdown closer. He appeared to figure things out a bit last June and July, with a sub 3.15 xFIP in both months. He regressed afterward though, with well below average xFIPs in August and September. He’s a risk-reward bet for 2019 and beyond. (Jordan Rosenblum)

25) Joe Jimenez, Detroit Tigers, (Age: 24, Previous Ranks: 69)

For years, Jimenez has garnered rare closer-of-the-future buzz, typically seen as one of the best reliever prospects. He made good on some of this buzz in 2018, his first full season. His xFIP was average, 3.82, but his SIERA was a very strong 3.14. SIERA rewards strikeouts more heavily and Jimenez racks up plenty of these, with 11.20 strikeouts and 3.16 walks per nine innings. He also has an elite minor league performance track record. If Shane Greene struggles or gets traded to a contender, Jimenez should seize the closer role. It’s pretty likely Greene gets dealt at the deadline, as he only has two years left before free agency—the Tigers competition window is likely beyond 2020. Once Jimenez grabs hold of the closer role, he may not give it up for many years. (Jordan Rosenblum)

26) Kelvin Herrera, Chicago White Sox, (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 17)

Kerrera is no longer the shutdown reliever he was pre-2017. He had a lucky sub-three ERA in 2018, but his strikeout rates tumbled to well below average. His ground ball rates also declined substantially. He’s lost around 1.5 miles per hour of average fastball velocity since his peak. He should still be good for an upper 3s ERA and an average-ish number of strikeouts. He’ll compete with Alex Colome for the White Sox closer role in 2019. Early reports from spring training suggest Colome is the favorite to win the job; he’s also a far superior talent at this point in his career. Herrera also remains a health risk. If he does pull of the upset and win the closer job, he’s unlikely to hold it for long. (Jordan Rosenblum)

27) Jeurys Familia, New York Mets, (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 20)

After a strong 2018, Familia signed a three-year deal with the Mets to setup behind the legendary Edwin Diaz. He’s not a candidate for saves barring a Diaz injury, but Familia should be an excellent contributor for strikeouts and the rate statistics. His SIERA in 2018 was 3.33, a bit below his 2015 and 2016 peak, but nonetheless very strong. He’s not quite an elite setup man anymore, a tier below Betances and Ottavino, but he remains a strong contributor. (Jordan Rosenblum)

28) Carl Edwards Jr., Chicago Cubs, (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 15)

Edwards had an eventful 2018 to say the least, generating a ton of walks and strikeouts. He also had excellent luck, with a 2.6 ERA, a ridiculously high strand rate, a ridiculously low home-run-per-fly ball rate, and a low BABIP. With luck removed, his ERA likely would have been in the upper 3s. It’s not all doom-and-gloom for 2019, though, as he truly possesses an elite ability to generate swing-and-misses. If he can get his walk rates in check, he could take a step forward into the class of elite relievers. His pre-2018 track record supports such a step forward. Further, Brandon Morrow is a major injury risk and Pedro Strop is a major talent risk. Edwards is a nice dark horse closer candidate for 2019 and beyond. (Jordan Rosenblum)

29) Jeremy Jeffress, Milwaukee Brewers, (Age: 31, Previous Rank: NR)

Jeffress put together a magical 2018: his 1.29 ERA was second only to Blake Treinen. His peripherals were a bit worse but still elite, with xFIP and SIERA both around 2.85. He generates a ton of ground balls and strikeouts, with relatively low walks. He’d rank higher on this list if he wasn’t part of an extremely talented Brewers bullpen filled with uncertainty surrounding the closer job. The Brewers are an analytically-minded team that doesn’t care much for traditional closer roles, with Hader, Jeffress, and Knebel each receiving at least 12 saves in 2018. Expect another closer triumvirate in 2019, giving each of Jeffress-Knebel-Hader good fantasy value, but also somewhat limited saves upside.  (Jordan Rosenblum)

30) Andrew Miller, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 14)

Andrew Miller is a rarity this far down the reliever rankings: he’s a shutdown reliever who is pretty likely to be the full-time closer on a contending Cardinals team in 2019. Hicks is nowhere near Miller in terms of present-day talent. Although he may get there in the future, the 2019 closer job is Miller’s for the taking. Miller has been one of baseball’s premiere relievers since 2012. He struggled a bit in a limited sample in 2018, but struggling for him is not the same as struggling for a lesser talent: he still posted 3.29 SIERA with almost 12 strikeouts per nine innings. Most projection systems are betting on him rebounding to elite, sub-3.00 ERA performance, with excellent strikeouts and control. He lost one mile per hour of average fastball velocity, but at 93 miles per hour, he likely still hasn’t experienced too much aging decline yet. He’s a good bet to grab the Cardinals closer role and run with it. He’s signed for three years, and could reasonably maintain elite performance until then. (Jordan Rosenblum)

31) Cody Allen, Los Angeles Angels, Age: 30 (Previous Rank: 10)

Allen was dead, to begin with. Two seasons ago, the wheels began falling off for our friend Cody after peaking in 2015.  His strikeout rate fell off in 2017 and that should’ve set off enough alarms for fantasy owners. For those that are hard of hearing, 2018 should’ve held up a sign that reads, “SELL NOW”. Allen’s walk rate decreased again, his walk rate and homerun rate spiked. Now, he’s with the Angels and, while the ballpark is a little better, it doesn’t resolve his deeper seeded velocity issues. While Allen isn’t old for this world, he had TJS in college and he’s posted league high numbers for closer’s over the last half decade. I’m out. (Adam Lawler)

32) David Robertson, Philadelphia Phillies, Age: 33 (Previous Rank: 38)

The most notable thing Robertson did this off-season was negotiate his own two year deal with the Phillies. Unfortunately, there were no “King Closer” clauses in the fine print to force galaxy brain Gabe Kapler to use him in the 9th. In other words, expect a baker’s dozen save opportunities and a shared role with Seranthony Dominguez and Pat Neshek. Then, for whatever reason, Nick Foles will take over the closer role at the end of the season and take them to the World Series. (Adam Lawler)

33) Collin McHugh, Houston Astros, Age: 31 (Previous Rank: NR)

Oh lala. My favorite kind of relief pitcher: long inning relievers with realistic opportunities to start. At the time of this writing, Joshua James went down with a hamstring injury which thrusts Brad Peacock and a very meh Cionel Perez into the spotlight. Don’t be surprised if the Astros go full Dodgers and Frankenpitcher McHugh, Peacock, and Armenteros among the other 5 thrillion arms in the system. There’s a lot of good stuff in McHugh’s profile though! Decreased homerun-to-fly ball rate, lowered walks per nine and couple that with a career high in strikeouts per nine. He’s a shade below the Hader and Betances’ of the world. (Adam Lawler)

34) Arodys Vizcaino, Atlanta Braves, Age: 28 (Previous Rank: 25)

Remember when Arodys was a hot commodity? The only relief Vizcaino provided the Braves last season is during his injury stint when they didn’t have to trot him out there to walk the tight rope. Too many walks, not enough K’s, and a loaded major league roster with arms like Touki Toussaint, Darren O’Day, Dan Winkler, A.J. Minter coupled with other near ready farm arm’s like Luiz Gohara, Max Fried, Kyle Wright and Bryse Wilson. Enjoy working your way onto a major league roster next year, Arodys! (Adam Lawler)

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

Last year, I wrote about Givens for the TDG Triple Play. First of all, I absolutely nailed it. Seriously, I don’t know if I could’ve been more right.  Credit to me. 1 out of 30 ain’t bad. Next, his delivery is fun as hell. Now, he wasn’t as bad as he was last year, but he won’t be the 2017 version of himself either. 3.4 ERA, 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings, and a digestible WHIP is serviceable for those seeking a back end closer with upside for be a middle of pack closer. (Adam Lawler)

36) Zach Britton, New York Yankees, Age: 31 (Previous Rank: 22)

Oh my sweet prince. 2016 was a wild time for us. Alas, Father Time is a fickle bastard. The velocity didn’t return to form last year as one had hoped and he’s down to 94/95 MPH on the sinker, 80/81 on the curve. Not bad, but definitely not the 97/83 he was chucking in 2016.  At age 31, his best days are behind him. With Aroldis Champman still King Kong of the bullpen as well as the signing of Ottavino this off-season, Britton’s avenues to the closer gig seem limited. (Adam Lawler)

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

Welcome to the hottest game show in town: Pitcher Match! I’m your host and today, I want to introduce you to a bro named Chad who comes from the New York’s elite side of town. He’s a 27-year-old who loves to set up and knock em down over the course of several innings. Do you have starting pitcher who, if you squint from 10 feet back, seems kinda serviceable?  Pair em up with my bro Chad and you’ll have a pitcher who can field your dreams of culling together what seems to be a high end SP3. (Adam Lawler)

38) Shane Greene, Detroit Tigers, Age: 30 (Previous Rank: 35)

The most difficult thing I had to deal with in this write up is having a Green and a Greene back-to-back. Increased homerun to fly ball rate, a 4+ earned run peripheral. Greene is bad. Joe Jimenez is good. Greene is cute without the ‘e’ and cut from the team. (Adam Lawler)

39) Keone Kela, Pittsburgh Pirates, Age: 25 (Previous Rank: 60)

Last season, this mercurial reliever – reportedly a clubhouse cancer in Texas – was unceremoniously shipped out at the trade deadline to Pittsburgh.  This occurs despite his clear success in the closer’s role for the Rangers as a youth with cost controlled salary.  He becomes the latest in a long line of relievers buried in a stacked bullpen.  Felipe Vazquez showed some nicks in his armor last year, but Richard Rodriguez looms large as well. He may be worth a flier in deeper leagues that accrue holds, but I wouldn’t bank on him being in the birddog seat any time soon. (Adam Lawler)

40) Drew Steckenrider, Miami Marlins, Age: 28 (Previous Rank: 61)

You could do worse than a fly ball pitcher who plays half his games in a cavernous park. The strikeouts per nine are nice, but a suppressed BABIP portends for the 3.90 ERA to get worse before it gets better. For my money, I’d much rather roll with Steckenrider – who will likely share the closer’s role with 36 year old Sergio Romo – than an Arodys Vizcaino.  That’s more of an indictment on Vizcaino than an endorsement for Steckenrider as there are some tantalizing arms in Tayron Guerrero and Jarlin Garcia who may end up muddying the Miami waters more than some would expect. (Adam Lawler)

41) Jose Castillo, San Diego, (Age 23, Previous Rank: NR)

At 6’5” and 246 pounds the young lefty has a strong presence on the mound. The results of his rookie season were also strong, and he will look to build on that this year. With Kirby Yates getting the first chance at saves, they may be tough to come by this year, but Castillo and his 12.21 K/9 debut are worth the roster spot. If your league has Holds as a category, he could be a very good addition to your team. (Paul Monte)

42) Brandon Morrow, Chicago Cubs, (Age 34, Previous Rank: 32)

Coming off an excellent 2017 season and postseason that saw him pitch in 14 games, his elbow could not hold up in 2018. Appearing in only 35 games, he was shut down for good in mid-July with an elbow injury. He had a cleanup performed in November on that same elbow and is expected to miss the first month of the season. When he was on the mound in 2018, he was decent, picking up 22 saves while only blowing two. On the downside, his K/9 dropped, and he will be entering his 13th season coming off of an elbow injury. He’s a decent late round flyer as long as he gets his closer job back upon his return. (Paul Monte)

43) Matt Barnes, Boston Red Sox, (Age 29, Previous Rank: 65)

Barnes has hung around long enough that he may find himself with a chance at Saves in 2019. With the re-signing of Kimbrel more unlikely as every day passes, Barnes and Ryan Brasier seem to be set up for a spring training battle for the closer role. 2018 was a very good one, seeing his K/9 skyrocket to 14.01 was the good news but the BB/9 also went up, and he’ll need to keep that in check to hold on to the role long term. Either way holds should be there at a minimum. (Paul Monte)

44) Alex Colome, Chicago White Sox, (Age 30, Previous Rank: 18)

Colome hung on to consecutive top 20 dynasty ranks in 2017 and 2018 but the midseason trade removed him from the closer role, and his value tumbled with it. 2019 will bring much of the same for the 30-year-old. A likely setup role behind Kelvin Herrera awaits but he should be next in line should Herrera falter or succumb to injury. The numbers were more of the same in 2019, a mid 3’s ERA and close to a 1.20 WHIP. (Paul Monte)

45) Ty Buttrey, Los Angeles Angels, (Age 25, Previous Rank: NR)

Debuting in 2018, Buttrey stepped into the closer role in Anaheim and was able to find some success and pick up a few saves along the way. Drafted as a closer in early 2019 dynasty drafts, his fantasy value took a punch to the gut on January 20th when the Angels signed Cody Allen to be their closer in 2019. Still, there may be value long term, Allen just signed a 1-year deal and could find himself in another uniform at the trade deadline if the season does not begin well for LA. That would open things back up for Buttrey. (Paul Monte)

46) Yoshihisa Hirano, Arizona Diamondbacks, (Age 35, Previous Rank: NR)

At this point in the rankings, if you have a shot at earning saves, you’ll get a ranking. Hirano fits that description. The chances looked better before the Greg Holland signing, with owners hoping that the Diamondbacks would continue to use Archie Bradley in high leverage situations instead of the traditional closer role. If Hirano becomes the third option, it may be time to move on. He was unspectacular in 2018 posting an 8.2 K/9 rating and mid 3’s ERA and is on the backside of his pitching career. (Paul Monte)

47) Brad Boxberger, Kansas City Royals, (Age 31, Previous Rank: 64)

Losing your job with an ERA and FIP over 4.39 should not increase your ranking, but it did. Boxberger moved up 17 spots in 2019 and did sign with the Kansas City Royals. The Royals seem likely to give him another shot at the closer role, taking on incumbent Wily Peralta, to see who can grab the job. The Royals will be bad, but he’ll have a chance to see if the 12 K/9 that he has posted in back to back years will give owners enough of a reason to roster him should he lose the closer battle. (Paul Monte)

48) Trevor May, Minnesota Twins, (Age 29, Previous Rank: NR)

2017 was spent recovering from Tommy John surgery and playing video games. May isn’t your normal, play games in the hotel room, type of athlete. He has his Twitch stream (IAMTREVORMAY) and owns a company that focuses on measuring player performance in the eSports world. But, back to baseball, his 2018 return was a very good one. A low 3’s ERA and a WHIP just over 1 with a 12.8 K/9 and a minuscule 1.8 BB/9 are what you are looking for in your closer. The Twins did bring in Blake Parker, so expect a battle for the role. In the end, I expect May to win the job and move up 20-30 spots in these rankings for 2020. (Paul Monte)

49) Brad Peacock, Houston Astros, (Age 31, Previous Rank: NR)

There is an open spot in the Houston Astros rotation and Peacock will get a shot at winning it. Likely, against long odds as youngsters Josh James and Framber Valdez seems to have the upper hand. If Peacock transitions back to his normal bullpen role and stays around the 65 innings he pitched in 2018 as opposed to the 132 he pitched in 2017, there’s not much there. Decent ratios and some vulture wins would be what you are hoping for, relegating him to deep league status. (Paul Monte)

50) Robert Gsellman, New York Mets, (Age 25, Previous Rank: NR)

Gsellman picked up 13 saves last year. That’s where the good ends. His conversion from starter to reliever did help his K/9 improve, but it’s still not good. His BB% rose to 8.1%, not good. The Mets brought in Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, and Justin Wilson this offseason; I think you see where I’m going with this. Not only will the saves be gone, but the holds may also take a hit as well as he finds himself in mid-relief roles instead of setup. (Paul Monte)

51) ZACK BURDI, CHICAGO WHITE SOX (AGE: 23, PREVIOUS RANK: 48)

What a 2017 Zack Burdi had! A 13.8 K/9 in 2017 in Triple-A and Burdi was knocking on the door to the majors. Then the dreaded Tommy John surgery came upon this first round pick from Louisville. You never know how a person is going to recover from this surgery, but if Burdi can get back to his nasty self, there is a top-flight closer in the rebuilding White Sox organization. The former Cardinal did log twelve games between Rookie and Fall League during his recovery and was able to post a K/9 north of 9.5, so the strikeout stuff is still there. The White Sox farm system is absolutely loaded and this might be one of the better ceilings of any of them. (Nic Yonter)

52) HUNTER STRICKLAND, SEATTLE MARINERS (AGE: 30, PREVIOUS RANK: 74)

As you probably know by getting this deep in the rankings, Edwin Diaz is no longer in Seattle. That means the door is wide open in Mariner camp for a new closer and this guy right here will be an answer a lot of summer nights. A low-risk signing for Seattle, Hunter Strickland could be a huge player in the back-end of the bullpen. This is Strickland’s first time in the American League after spending his entire MLB career with the Giants and was a part of some special San Francisco bullpens. The Mariners look to be in a rebuild and Strickland can bring some sneaky good fantasy value if he is named the closer or gets the nod in those situations. (Nic Yonter)

53) PEDRO STROP, CHICAGO CUBS (AGE: 33, PREVIOUS RANK: NR)

Go, Cubs, go. Go, Cubs, go. Hey, Chicago, what do you say? The Cubs are gonna win today. Wow! That song is unbelievably catchy, even for non-Cubs fans… Did you know that Pedro Strop has played in the league for ten years? Ten years?! What a guy and seems to be an incredible locker room presence. At least for the first month of the season, Strop should bring a ton of value, as he will be the closer until Brandon Morrow returns from injury. Who knows? Maybe he will get the nod some after Morrow returns. He had 13 saves while sporting a 2.26 ERA and 8.6 K/9 last year while covering for Morrow, so it might just be this Cub that roars. (Nic Yonter)

54) HECTOR RONDON, HOUSTON ASTROS (AGE: 31, PREVIOUS RANK: NR)

Pedro Strop’s former teammate in Chicago falls in right behind him on this year’s list. Hector Rondon is now on the former division rival, Houston Astros, and he is mixed in with a slew of fantastic options. You will actually see me writing about one of his teammates in just a few minutes. Do not let the fact that Rondon is probably the third option in Houston right now take away from his effectiveness. He is absolutely filthy and has a K/9 north of 10 over the last three years to prove it. Having Rondon depends on the structure of your league, but he could be a decent source of holds and a save here and there. If there is an injury, his value could really skyrocket. (Nic Yonter)

55) DIEGO CASTILLO, TAMPA BAY RAYS (AGE: 25, PREVIOUS RANK: NR)

If I have learned one thing in my short time here at TDG, it is that since Diego Castillo is a Ray, the person who gets first dibs on him in any fantasy league is our fearless leader Ian Hudson. I made the mistake of drafting one of them in our staff league and need to be more aware in the future! Castillo is one of those Rays that can get opening experience and find his way near the backend of a game. He has a plus fastball in the high 90s and has an absolutely wicked slider. Seriously. YouTube a Diego Castillo fastball right now and sit back and admire. Dude has some incredible stuff and although his role has not quite been defined yet, he will be a part of a lot of games and will make a lot of hitters look very silly. (Nic Yonter)

56) RYNE STANEK, TAMPA BAY RAYS (AGE: 27, PREVIOUS RANK: NR)

Another Ray coming in on our list! Did you know just how solid Ryne Stanek was last season? He was a consistent opener for the Rays and had an ERA of 2.98 to go with a K/9 of 11.0. Why is no one talking about Stanek? Next time you run out of things to talk about at the water cooler at work, try to casually bring up Ryne Stanek. We need to get this guy some recognition. In his very first pitch as an opener he reared back and fired a 100 MPH fastball right past Adam Jones. Welcome to the new role kid! The Blue Valley high school (Kansas City pride) should be in line to build upon a great season last year where he started 29 games. (Nic Yonter)

57) SETH LUGO, NEW YORK METS (AGE: 29, PREVIOUS RANK: NR)

There is a chance that Seth Lugo will find himself in the Mets rotation this year, albeit not a huge possibility. Lugo was really able to show what he could do as a multi inning guy and that seems to be where he brings this Mets team the most value, but with the last couple starters being up in the air for New York, Lugo could find his way there. The Mets do have the best closer in all of baseball, so that will help them mix and match some of their other pieces around him. Lugo appeared in 54 games last year and logged 101.1 innings, so in this age of having relievers go for a few innings, Lugo fits right in. (Nic Yonter)

58) NATE JONES, CHICAGO WHITE SOX (AGE: 33, PREVIOUS RANK: 59)

Let’s rewind for just a second. You are starting a franchise mode in 2012 and turn injuries off. You have Nate Jones at the prime age of 26. How good would Jones have been? Unfortunately, we will never know as Jones has been battling injuries his entire career. We do know one thing though, he has some swing-and-miss stuff that is to die for when he is healthy. That is the question that you are banking on if you are drafting him. Will he stay healthy? If he does, you have quite the potential of strikeouts and maybe even sprinkle in a save or two for good measure. (Nic Yonter)

59) RYAN PRESSLY, HOUSTON ASTROS (AGE: 30, PREVIOUS RANK: NR)

Ryan Pressly is one of the guys I was talking about above. He was simply untouchable after being traded to the Astros from Minnesota last season and that has the coaches in Houston extremely excited. Roberto Osuna looks like the preferred option in H-Town at the moment, but Pressly could take that spot from him or Osuna could run into some trouble off of the field to open the door for him. In 23.1 innings after being traded last season, Pressly had a 0.77 ERA. Tough to repeat that kind of performance, but he certainly did look like a guy on a mission. Next up on that mission: become the Astros closer. (Nic Yonter)

60) RYAN BRASIER, BOSTON RED SOX (AGE: 31, PREVIOUS RANK: NR)

In Ryan Brasier’s last 35 games, his ERA is below 2.00. 34 of those games came in 2018 and the one before that… In 2013. I was not expecting that one either! Talk about a great story. With Craig Kimbrel now gone, Brasier is on the short list with Matt Barnes for the closer role for the defending champions. After bouncing around in the minors and Japan, what a story for Ryan. He is currently nursing a toe injury, but it looking to be fine for the start of the season. He has a big role for this season and if he performs, could give a lot of value as a waiver wire grab. (Nic Yonter)

61) Taylor Rogers, Minnesota Twins, (Age: 28, Previous Rank: NR)

Rogers, a left-hander with stark platoon splits, will likely never close simply because of his handedness. His career wOBA against is .228 versus left-handers and .314 versus right-handers. Notwithstanding, he took a step forward to become one of baseball’s elite lefty setup men in 2018, and he’s good enough to get righties out—even though he’s better against lefties. He’s generates plenty of strikeouts, limited walks, and an average groundball rate, giving him a sub-3.00 xFIP and SIERA to go along with his sub 3.00 ERA. Rodgers is unlikely to get many saves, but should be a solid bullpen source of strikeouts and improved ratios for the next couple of seasons. (Matt Meiselman)

62) Joe Kelly, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 30, Previous Rank: NR)

A once promising and then failed starting pitching prospect, Kelly’s high velocity never really translated into high strikeout rates as a starter. Kelly has averaged just 6.4 strikeouts per nine innings out of the rotation, but he’s elevated that to 8.8 as a reliever without seeing any increase in walks. The Dodgers paid Kelly this offseason to be their primary set up man, so even though his numbers are still fairly modest, he has a clear path to save chances if something should happen to Kenley Jansen (again) this season. (Matt Meiselman)

63) Blake Parker, Minnesota Twins (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 29)

Parker has seen extreme volatility in his underlying numbers over the past few seasons. He’s gone from 7.8 Ks and 4.7 BBs per 9 in 2016 (albeit in a very small sample), to 11.5 Ks and 2.1 BBs in 2017, and then to 9.5 Ks and 2.6s BBs per 9 in 2018. Last season looks to be about the norm, and roughly the career average now for Parker, so he’s basically a decent relief pitcher that would become a fairly useful fantasy asset if he got into a closer role. That seems unlikely this year, however, so Parker can be safely ignored outside of holds leagues. (Matt Meiselman)

64) Alex Claudio, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 36)

The left-handed submarining Claudio has spent some time as a closer over the past few seasons, but he’s primarily just been whatever the Rangers have needed him to be. Now with the Brewers, however, there’s virtually no chance Claudio finds himself in save situations, and there’s probably a reduced chance for holds as well. Claudio doesn’t really strike anyone out (only 6.2 per 9 for his career) so unless your league rewards ground ball percentage (62.5% career mark) or penalizes for walks (under 2 per 9 for his career) you can probably ignore Alex Claudio on draft day. (Matt Meiselman)

65) Lou Trivino, Oakland Athletics, (Age: 27, Previous Rank: NR)

Before 2018, Lou Trivino was a minor leaguer with a track record of very modest success, suggesting he might be an average MLB reliever one day. He broke out in 2018, with a 2.92 ERA, and a less impressive but still strong 3.53 xFIP and 3.46 SIERA. He throws extremely hard and is a decent option to close in Oakland if Blake Treinen ever goes down with an injury. He generates a ton of swinging strikes, but will have to cut his walk rate to step forward from merely above average to elite. (Matt Meiselman

66) Jared Hughes, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 33, Previous Rank: NR)

Hughes is another solid relief pitcher that doesn’t have nearly as much fantasy value as real life value, as he relies on ground balls to get outs (65.4% in 2018) and doesn’t get many strikeouts (6.75 per 9 in 2018). Hughes actually does have a chance to pick up some saves this year, however, as the Reds have made it fairly clear that they’re willing to use Raisel Iglesias in more of a non-traditional closer role, where he’ll enter the game in high leverage situations before the 9th inning. In deep leagues, Hughes could make for a sneaky saves option. (Matt Meiselman)

67) Addison Reed, Minnesota Twins (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 21)

Reed’s production severely declined last season, thanks in large part to a drop in velocity (which has actually been a trend for him for a few years now). Reed struck out a career low 7.1 batters per nine innings in 2018, and posted a 4.50 ERA with a 5.11 FIP and 5.03 xFIP. There’s some chance that the Twins will be desperate enough to give Reed high leverage opportunities, but it seems more likely that he’ll continue to struggle as he ages and never get back to his once productive form. (Matt Meiselman)

68) Mark Melancon, San Francisco Giants (Age: 34, Previous Rank: 23)

Melancon returns to the Giants after a semi-productive season in which he posted a 3.23 ERA. Melancon definitely benefited from the pitcher friendly AT&T Park (now Oracle Park) as that ERA came with a career low 7.15 strikeouts per nine innings. Melancon has a chance to get some saves this year, though he’ll be competing with the much more effective Will Smith. It’s possible the Giants will want to keep Smith in a more versatile role, however, so Melancon could benefit by remaining in the more traditional 9th inning role. (Matt Meiselman)

69) Joakim Soria, Oakland Athletics (Age: 34, Previous Rank: 42)

Soria put up one of the best seasons of his career in 2018 with the Brewers, striking out 11.1 batters per 9, his highest mark since 2009. Soria didn’t get many save chances pitching in a loaded Brewers bullpen, but he’ll be a little higher in the pecking order now that he’s with the A’s. He probably has the inside track to the 9th inning ahead of the aforementioned Lou Trivino if something were to happen to Blake Treinen, but at the very least Soria will be a good bet for solid rates and plenty of holds. (Matt Meiselman)

70) Steve Cishek, Chicago Cubs, (Age: 32, Previous Rank: NR)

Cishek has been a very consistent bullpen force over the past two seasons, with an ERA around 2.1, and ~nine strikeouts and three-plus walks per nine innings. He’s also been extraordinarily lucky, with ridiculous strand rates and BABIPs. His true talent is likely around a 3.50 ERA pitcher. Cishek is probably a better reliever than Pedro Strop, though Strop is first in line for the Cubs to start the season. Brandon Morrow’s return will muddy the waters even more. Cishek could feasibly rack a bunch of saves in 2019, but given his age and true talent level, his value beyond 2019 is limited. (Matt Meiselman)

71. Chris Devenski, Houston Astros (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 26)

Chris Devenski’s all-star season in 2017 led to potential save situation talk in the offseason and had everybody excited about 2018.  He started off fairly strong, but the second 2018 was a disaster compared to his previous two MLB campaigns. I think his hamstring injury probably caused a lot of issues for him mechanically last year and resulted in poor performance. He finally went on the DL at the end of July, but gave up 7 home runs in July-September. To put that in perspective, he only gave up 17 home runs in all of 2016, 2017 and half of 2018. He was not healthy in the 2nd half of 2018.  Monitor his usage, and snatch him up if you need holds. His changeup will always play in the majors. (Leo Brothers)

72. Greg Holland, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 37)

Greg Holland was lights out for a four year stretch with the Royals. Although he returned strong after Tommy John in 2017 with the Rockies, 2018 was a bizarre year. After getting his shit rocked for STL for the better half of three months, possibly due to injury, he was designated for assignment in August. The Nationals jumped and he was LIGHTS OUT again giving up 1 earned run in 24 appearances.  I think Greg Holland still has something left in the tank. I’m not sure if he will close for the Diamondbacks, because Archie Bradley is healthy again, but he’s worth a stash for holds leagues. (Leo Brothers)

73. Tanner Scott, Baltimore Orioles (Age 24,  Previous Rank: 68)

With an 80 grade fastball, Tanner Scott, is a future cog in the Orioles Bullpen. I’m not sure if that carries any value, because they will probably lose 120 games this year.  Don’t trust his 5.40 ERA from last year, because his very strong strike out per nine rate of 12.8 and extremely high BABIP of .380 suggest some bad luck. He does have some control issues, but if he can improve that, and improve his secondary offering, he could become an elite closer. (Leo Brothers)

74. Craig Stammen, San Diego Padres (Age 34 Previous Rank: Not Ranked)

Like a fine Cabernet Sauvignon, Craig Stammen, is improving with age.  Excluding his 2011 season, in which he only pitched 10 innings, Stammen posted a career high strike out rate in 2018. The 8th inning seems to be his for the improving Padres. If he shows consistency with his strike out rate to start the year, he should be a good holds option. (Leo Brothers)

75. Anthony Swarzak, Seattle Mariners (Age: 33 Previous Rank: 53)

Swarzak loves the long ball.  Not a great way to earn your keep as a relief pitcher in the MLB. Here are his home run rates the last three years:

Year Home Run Rate Per 9 IP
2016 2.9 (yikes!)
2017 0.7
2018 2.1

 

Maybe 2016 and 2018 are the outliers as his career Home Run Rate is 1.1, but not exactly what you want to see from an aging reliever who is having trouble staying healthy. It’s not a velocity issue, because he is actually throwing harder than he ever had in his career the past two seasons. Perhaps the increased velocity is causing injury issues, as he had shoulder problems in 2016, serious oblique problems and shoulder problems in 2018, and now to start spring training in 2019 is also experiencing shoulder discomfort. (Leo Brothers)

The Author

Adam Lawler

Adam Lawler

2 Comments

  1. William Ingraham
    March 2, 2019 at 8:56 am

    Trevor Rosenthal is looking healthy and touched 100 mph the other day. If he’s back to 100% I’d have to think he makes it on to this list some where, considering he’s only 28 and has the track record for being a high end closer. Do you think he’ll become a legit asset if he’s fully recovered for TJ?

  2. Matthew DeLeo
    March 3, 2019 at 3:04 pm

    Pretty surprising that Durbin Feltman didnt make the cut

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