The Dynasty Guru’s 2020 Top 75 Dynasty League Relief Pitchers, #RP 1-40
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Without further ado, it’s time to continue our 2020 consensus rankings by looking at the top 40 relief pitchers in dynasty leagues.
1) Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers, (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 3)
No surprise here: the great Josh Hader is our top-ranked reliever. He was one of the most dominant pitchers in all of baseball heading into last season. Now he looks even better. Hader is the clear-cut closer in Milwaukee, and save chances should pile up quickly for Hader’s competitive squad. As for Josh’s performance? He did give up a few more homers than normal last season–1.78 HR/9 versus less than 1.00 HR/9 the previous two seasons–but he struck out a superb 16.41 batters per nine innings. That was a career-best by nearly a whole strikeout. He also lowered his walk rate for the third straight year to a career-best 2.38. Hader can do it all. If he can limit some of that homer damage, he’ll be even better. Don’t overthink it; just buy in and enjoy the ride. (Jonathan Merkel)
2) Roberto Osuna, Houston Astros, (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 2)
The most controversial reliever since Felipe Vasquez, Roberto Osuna remains a monster dynasty asset at the age of 25. There’s no questioning his talent. The Astro has already pitched over 300 innings, saved 154 games, and maintained a sparkling 2.75 ERA and 0.91 WHIP since 2015. He’s done all this by dominating hitters. Osuna’s career 15.7 SwStr% has helped him maintain a career K/9 ratio of 9.99. His career walk rate is also stingy at 1.59 BB/9. And because he doesn’t allow many homers, Osuna is all-around tough to beat. He should get many more save opportunities in Houston and will help fantasy teams across the board. (Jonathan Merkel)
3) Edwin Diaz, New York Mets, (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 1)
Edwin Diaz arrived in New York as the top closer in the game. The Mets welcomed a massive financial commitment to Robinson Cano just to get a deal done. And why not? The fireballer saved 57 games in 2018 while striking out over 15 batters per nine. Last season, though, was a disappointment. His ERA ballooned to 5.59, his walks notched up to over 3 per nine innings pitched, and he only saved 26 games. Not to mention that Diaz got punished by the home run ball. He gave up over two homers per nine innings pitched. That’s well beyond what he’d ever given up before. Fortunately, everything looks good for a rebound. Diaz’s insane 26.8% HR/FB ratio, for example, shouldn’t persist. And because his strikeouts remained elite, we still expect him to remain one of the premier pitchers in all of baseball. If you get a discount on him on draft day, you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank. (Jonathan Merkel)
4) Kirby Yates, San Diego Padres, (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 19)
Life has been good for Kirby Yates since he joined the Padres. He’s pitched 179.1 innings for the Friars and has dominated with 13.95 K/9 and 2.46 BB/9. His ERA, FIP, and xFIP all sit well under 3.00 for that same span. It’s easy to imagine the good times rolling for Yates because he just posted his best season ever. In 2019, the only reliever to earn more WAR than Yates was Liam Hendriks, but Hendriks needed over 20 more innings to do so. And with the Padres continuing to improve, save chances should continue to be plentiful. While I don’t expect another ERA under 1.20 in 2020, I do expect Yates to remain one of the most feared relievers in the game. (Jonathan Merkel)
5) Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees, (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 7)
The Cuban Missile is a legendary reliever, and at this point, he’s only padding his resume. That shouldn’t be a problem for Chapman. He should continue to dominate hitters by firing nearly untouchable 100+ MPH gas while peppering in 85 MPH sliders to keep hitters off balance. This formula has worked wonders for Aroldis since 2011 and has helped him to 273 career saves, a 14.84 K/9 rate, and a 2.23 ERA after 535.2 innings. Sure, one has to hope he’s recovered from his meme-worthy postseason exit at the hands of Jose Altuve, but the shenanigans surrounding Houston have to help Chapman feel better about his role in what happened. He won’t be another Brad Lidge; we think he will continue pitching like one of the great relievers of all time. (Jonathan Merkel)
6) Liam Hendriks, Oakland A’s, (Age: 31, Previous Rank: N/A)
Liam Hendriks found something last season that we hadn’t seen from him before. He posted career-best numbers in strikeouts, saves, and ERA. These career highs helped him become 2019’s most valuable reliever by WAR. I’m somewhat skeptical the good times will continue. Maybe it’s his career 4.22 ERA and 1.31 WHIP, or maybe it’s because the 85.0 IP was the most Hendriks has thrown since 2012. His 17.0 SwStr% was also nearly 5% higher than his previous career-high, and he somehow added nearly 2 MPH of velocity to his most used pitch, the four-seam fastball. He also gave up fewer ground balls in favor of more flies, but only 5.6% of those flies left the yard. No doubt something great happened for Liam in Oakland last season. But I’m worried about counting on that magic to return in 2020. (Jonathan Merkel)
7) Brad Hand, Cleveland Indians, (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 11)
On the surface, Brad Hand’s 2019 looks pretty in line with what we’ve come to expect from him: a lot of strikeouts, limited walks, tidy home run management, and 30+ saves. But something was different last season, and I’m not sure how much I like it. Hand’s GB/FB ratio was cut in half, from 1.32 in 2018 to 0.63 last year. His line drive percentage also rose to 31.1% from a career 20.3 mark. Those extra liners surely contributed to Hand’s elevated .362 BABIP. Perhaps he’ll get back to being a groundball pitcher and earn another sub 3.00 ERA in 2020. I would love to see that happen. As it is, Hand enters 2020 as a very, very good reliever with a few more question marks than we’re used to from him. Regardless, he’ll be worth the investment for teams looking for Ks and saves. (Jonathan Merkel)
8) Ken Giles, Toronto Blue Jays, (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 15)
Ken Giles has had some up and down years throughout his six-year career, but 2019 was one of his best seasons. He struck out more batters per inning than ever, limited walks, and, unlike a few others in our top-10, didn’t get punished by a spike in home runs. His impressive 1.87 ERA is the best mark he’s posted since his breakout years in Philly and is backed up by a nice 2.27 FIP and 2.73 xFIP. Sure, the 23 saves he collected were fairly lackluster for an RP1, but Giles’ Jays should be much better in 2020. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him earn 35 or more this year. In summation: what we have here is a really good pitcher with a lock on the closer job in an exciting situation. Me likey. (Jonathan Merkel)
9) Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers, (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 6)
Kenley Jansen isn’t quite the elite stud he was just two seasons ago, but he still looks like a solid relief option for the mighty LA Dodgers. At the very least, that role alone should allow him plenty of save opportunities. But if you’re looking for reasons to worry, there are some. His primary pitch, the cutter, had an xwOBA of .283. That’s up from .272 in 2018, and well above the .189 and .225 marks from his heyday in 2016 and ‘17. Combine this with Jansen’s age, a decline in strikeouts, and a slight bump in walks, and it sounds like there are sirens in the distance. The Dodgers, as well, will make a move if Jansen stumbles early because the team must win now. It’s hard to be against a pitcher like Jansen, but now may be the right time to short him. (Jonathan Merkel)
10) Craig Kimbrel, Chicago Cubs, (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 5)
Craig Kimbrel had an awful year in 2019. It started off bad when he got screwed by the qualifying offer and was forced to wait until June to sign with a team. Perhaps this was why he got rocked so hard when he stepped back on the mound? There’s really nothing good to say about Kimbrel’s first season as a Cub. Strikeouts were down, walks were up, home runs were being blasted left and right, and he finished with -1.1 WAR in only 20.2 innings. So consider this ranking deference to Kimbrel’s career reputation. He was the youngest closer to 300 saves and maintains a career ERA of only 2.08 even after putting up a 6.53 in 2019. He was also damn near unhittable since 2010. Will he be better with a more normal spring routine? It may not cost too much to find out. (Jonathan Merkel)
11) Nick Anderson, Tampa Bays Rays (Age: 29, Previous Rank: NR)
Last season saw the rocket ascent of Nick Anderson on the reliever scene. He began the year as a setup man in Miami and then was traded to Tampa Bay where he was lights out. During his time in Tampa, Anderson posted a 2.11 ERA and 0.66 WHIP, with a 17.3 K/9 rate. The Rays are known to use a closer by committee approach, so things are never “stable” with the Rays bullpen. But Anderson misses bats and a lot of them. In fact, in 2019, he struck out 110 batters in 65 innings. If he acts as the team’s primary closer, he may accumulate 30 saves. If he doesn’t, he will still have over 100 strikeouts, which is still an elite number that can help your dynasty team win. (Steven D. Jaeger)
12) Taylor Rogers, Minnesota Twins (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 61)
Taylor Rogers just keeps on improving. After two years in a setup role, last year, he took over as full time closer in Minnesota. And that call didn’t arrive until June. He finished the season with a stellar 2.61 earned run average, 1.00 WHIP, 90 strikeouts and 30 saves. He also posted an 8.18 K/BB ratio, the second-best in the majors among relievers. That is an elite season for any fantasy team. If you miss out on one of the names above, feel confident grabbing Rogers as you primary closer and know that he will post near-elite numbers across the board. (Steven D. Jaeger)
13) Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 9)
2019 was a tumultuous year for Raisel Iglesias. He finished the season with a 4.16 era, 1.22 whip, 12 homer runs surrendered and an astonishing 12 losses as a closer! Somehow, he was still able to accumulate 34 saves for the last-place Reds. Perhaps that is because a lot of his skills didn’t really change. Much of the damage came in the first half of the season due to the fact that Iglesias was unhappy with how he was being used out of the bullpen. With those issues now behind him, and with an improved Cincinnati Reds lineup, look for Iglesias to improve across the board and post numbers similar to 2017 instead of 2019. (Steven D. Jaeger)
14) Jose Leclerc, Texas Rangers (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 14)
Strikeouts or walks. That is the bulk of Jose Leclerc’s arsenal last year. This is exactly why he lost and regained the closer role for the Rangers last season. When he controls his pitches, he dominates. When he doesn’t, well… In 2019, he struck out 100 batters on his way to 4.33 era and 1.33 WHIP in 68 innings. The issue was, he also walked 39 in that same span. Hard to remain effective if you give that many free passes. Leclerc will undoubtedly strike out a lot of hitters, the question remains, how many will he walk? The answer to that will determine whether or not he maintains a closer role in 2020 and beyond. (Steven D. Jaeger)
15) Hector Neris, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 31, Previous Rank: NR)
Hector Neris’ success relies on his splitter. When he throws it well, he is hard to hit and the baseball stays in the yard. When it misses, he is ordinary. Last year, he was able to throw it frequently, and well, leading to a strong season whereby he posted a 2.93 era and 1.02 WHIP on his way to 28 saves. This season, he looks to repeat, and all indications are, he can do so. But as a dynasty league owner, do not overlook the risk of relying on a pitcher whose success relies primarily on one pitch. (Steven D. Jaeger)
16) Emilio Pagan, San Diego Padres (Age: 29, Previous Rank: NR)
There is one striking number from Emilio Pagan’s 2019 season: 12, as in, home runs. It is hard to maintain success in high leverage situations when you are so prone to fly balls. But somehow, Pagan was able to have success in the closer role for Tampa Bay last season, posting a 2.31 ERA and a 0.83 WHIP en route to 96 strikeouts and 20 saves. In its entirety, it was a great season. Unfortunately for Pagan, and his fantasy owners, he was traded in February to the Padres, where he will be a setup man for Kirby Yates. If a league values and rewards holds, drafting Pagan can still help dynasty teams. But in leagues where only saves are tracked, his value drops considerably. (Steven D. Jaeger)
17) Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 20)
What happened to Archie Bradley in the first half of 2019? He posted a 5.21 ERA and a 1.76 WHIP, due in large part to his high walk rate (4.5 BB/9 in the first-half and 3.7 BB/9 in the second half) and a horrendous month of June where he gave up 10 runs in 13.2 innings. But the Diamondbacks finally turned over the full-time closer duties in Arizona to Bradley in June, and once they did, he responded well. Over the rest of the season, he compiled a 1.71 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and converted 18 of 19 save chances. The question for 2020 is what to expect from Bradley as a full-season closer? Perhaps cautious-optimism is the best approach to take. (Steven D. Jaeger)
18) Will Smith, Atlanta Braves (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 21)
Since 2015, Will Smith has compiled a 2.80 ERA with 306 strikeouts in 222 innings. It is hard to believe that 2019 was Smith’s first full season as a closer. Last year, he converted 34 of his 38 save opportunities and made his first appearance at an All-Star game for the San Francisco Giants. This past winter, he signed via free agency with the Atlanta Braves, where all indications are he will be regulated to a set-up role. But with 35-year-old Mark Melancon as the anointed closer in Atlanta, it is likely there will be saves for Smith to get. Draft him, and wait for those opportunities to start racking up. (Steven D. Jaeger)
19) Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 10)
Sean Doolittle enters 2020 as the Washington Nationals’ closer. But if he starts the season how he pitched in the second half of 2019, that role is likely to be short-lived. During the second half, Doolittle saw his ERA skyrocket to 5.19. The biggest problem for him was minimizing home runs, which appears to have been fueled at least in part by knee tendonitis. However, other metrics show an underlying issue: in 2018, opponents hit .144 against him, last year, they hit .238. At his age and given his overreliance on a fastball that is losing velocity each year, fantasy owners have to be aware that they are playing with fire. Let someone else strike the match. (Steven D. Jaeger)
20) Alex Colome, Chicago White Sox (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 44)
Acting as the White Sox closer for all of 2019, Alex Colome once again proved he can handle the closer role. Last season, he posted a 2.80 ERA with 30 saves and a 1.07 WHIP in 61 innings pitched. One warning sign could be his low .215 BABIP last year, which indicates he was the beneficiary of some good luck. But Colome’s career metrics (only 8.3 K/9) have always made continued success in high-pressure situations seem implausible. And each year, his track record proves otherwise. After all, he has 89 saves over the past three seasons to support his capacity as a closer. Bet against him at your own risk. (Steven D. Jaeger)
21) Hansel Robles, Los Angeles Angels (Age: 29, Previous Rank: NR)
Getting out of New York has been a great thing for Hansel Robles’s career after the Angels claimed him off of waivers half-way through the 2018 season. Since that point, Robles has a 2.64 ERA over 109 innings. Robles had 51 games finished for the Angels in 2019, including 23 saves and may be the most undervalued closer heading into 2020. The key for Robles to be trusted in the closer role has been the reduction of walks to under 2.0 per 9, after being over 4 BB/9 in the three previous seasons. An increase in his off-speed stuff from ’18 to ’19, specifically his change-up (2.6% to 22.3% usage) made his 97 MPH fastball look that much tougher. Add in a 9.7 career K/9, and I’m drafting Robles with confidence going into 2020. (Bob Osgood)
22) Brandon Workman, Boston Red Sox (Age: 31, Previous Rank: NR)
The only pitcher still remaining from the 2013 World Series champion team, Brandon Workman was an afterthought to end up in the closer role for the 2019 Boston Red Sox. When all was said and done, he was one of the most valuable pitchers in all of fantasy. 10 wins, 16 saves, and a 1.88 ERA propelled Workman to the sixth most valuable pitcher on Razzball’s Player Rater. Relying more on a curveball that he threw 47% of the time, Workman only allowed one barrel out of 135 batted balls, and an elite .121 batting average against. His 5.7 BB/9 is very high, but he managed to pitch out of the few jams that he got into by striking out 36.4% of the batters he faced, top 3% in the league. Furthermore, since his Tommy John surgery, Workman is 17-3 with a 2.59 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 10.5 K/9 in 152 2/3 IP since the start of 2017. The 3.52 FIP in that span calls for some regression, but new manager Ron Roenicke has named Workman the closer and the 31-year-old deserves a bit more attention heading into draft season. (Bob Osgood)
23) Joe Jimenez, Detroit Tigers (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 25)
The 25-year-old Jimenez has appeared to be the closer of the future in Detroit for a couple of years now but the results have not yet instilled confidence. Strikeouts (12.4 per 9 in 2019) have been the only category in which Jimenez has been helpful thus far in his career. The biggest culprit last year to a 4.37 ERA was the long ball, giving up 13 in 59 2/3 innings. Jimenez does feature a 95+ MPH fastball, and a slider that only allowed a .186 BA last year. He lands at #23 because Detroit will likely have a longer leash at closer with the Tigers likely being in the AL Central cellar for another year or two, but the cutoff for “safe” closers probably ends at Workman. (Bob Osgood)
24) Jordan Hicks, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 24)
Hicks is the start of a group of relievers who are not closers at the moment but have a great long-term outlook. Hicks, unfortunately, is the one who you will need to wait for the longest but may have the highest upside. The pitcher who averages 101 MPH with his fastball is out for most, if not all, of 2020 after having Tommy John surgery last June. Before the surgery, Hicks already had 20 saves in 106 career innings, along with a .195 batting average against. Although his strikeout rate is not as high as one would expect from a reliever throwing triple-digits, a barrel rate of 1.8% in his career should make for a successful career. For a rebuilding dynasty team who can wait for 2021, Hicks is a terrific target. (Bob Osgood)
25) Emmanuel Clase, Cleveland Indians (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
Regardless of where you stand on the Corey Kluber trade to Texas, Emmanuel Clase was the prize in return and, along with the next individual on this list, should be a key piece in a dominant bullpen for years to come. Fangraphs had tagged Clase with an 80-grade fastball, and the pitch averaged 99.2 MPH in his initial 21 appearances in the big leagues for the Rangers in 2019, which he paired with a low-90s slider. In the minors, Clase kept the ball in the yard and, in the last two years kept his walks under 2.0 per 9. What resulted was a call straight from double-A last August, at the age of 21. It is hard to know if Clase, James Karinchak, or even current closer Brad Hand (club option for 2021) is the closer of the future, but the Indians gave up a lot to get Clase and it’s hard to find any flaws in his profile thus far. (Bob Osgood)
26) James Karinchak, Cleveland Indians (Age: 24, Previous Rank: NR)
If we keep the math simple, the most strikeouts a pitcher can have per nine innings is 27, since there are 27 outs in a game. Anything over 10 K/9 is great. James Karinchak had 22 strikeouts per nine innings in the minor leagues last year. The only catch is that he also walked over five batters per nine, resulting in a stat line that may have never been in print before. Karinchak ended up as a September call-up for five successful appearances in Cleveland. In his brief time in the majors, he featured his 80-grade fastball averaging 97 MPH, and a curve at 84.5 MPH. As mentioned with Clase, it is hard to know who the closer of the future is, as Karinchak will need to harness his control a bit. The 24-year-old will be an excellent source of middle relief strikeouts in 2020 in redraft leagues, with a chance down the line to be the next Josh Hader in dynasty leagues. (Bob Osgood)
27) Giovanny Gallegos, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 28, Previous Rank: NR)
Uncertainty in the Cardinals bullpen has led to Giovanny Gallegos down at #27 on our list and going within a range of “question mark relievers” in redraft leagues. However, only taking 2019 into account, he sure looks like he should be a reliable closer on a competitive team. 66 appearances, 74 innings, 2.31 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 44 hits, 16 walks, 93 strikeouts. Gallegos’s .231 wOBA was in the top 1% of the league, a swinging strike rate of 16.4% in the top 4%, and his expected stats all backed up the breakout. What’s not to like? Well, his 2019 season seemed to come out of nowhere as the 28-year-old Gallegos was not much of a prospect, and the Cardinals have not been interested in naming a closer entering spring training 2020, with names like Ryan Helsley, Alex Reyes, John Gant, and Andrew Miller in the mix. Gallegos also only has two career major league saves. This is a safe ranking and a situation to monitor, but if Gallegos is named the closer he will likely shoot up draft boards. (Bob Osgood)
28) Andres Munoz, San Diego Padres (Age: 21, Previous Rank: NR)
Another young, two-pitch reliever with an 80-grade fastball, Andres Munoz was brought up at the age of 20 last July and showed that he belonged. Throwing 99+, Munoz was in the top-three for fastballs on average, along with Hicks and Clase, while featuring an excellent slider which allowed an other-worldly .065 batting average against, albeit in a small 23-inning sample. Munoz had a swinging strike rate of 15.6% in the major leagues, after maintaining a high K/9 at each minor league level. He is still very young and likely is a couple of years away from closing in San Diego with Kirby Yates, Drew Pomeranz, and Emilio Pagan in town at the moment. Munoz has value in 2020 though in deeper leagues and those that reward holds. (Bob Osgood)
29) Mark Melancon, Atlanta Braves (Age: 35, Previous Rank: 68)
Reports in the offseason were that even though the Braves gave free-agent reliever Will Smith a 3-year, $40 million contract, he would likely setup for incumbent closer Mark Melancon. The fantasy community didn’t believe this as Smith has gone off the board earlier in both dynasty, as well as redraft leagues. As training camp started, Braves manager Brian Snitker reiterated that Melancon is the closer, although he expected Smith and Shane Greene would both have opportunities based on matchups. The 35-year-old Melancon was still a serviceable closer last year with a 3.61 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, and 9.1 K/9. 11 of his 12 saves came after being traded to Atlanta. His FIP indicated that he was an even better pitcher in Atlanta where it was 1.83, where his full season was a 2.86 FIP. Smith is still being selected earlier, and this could present an option to acquire cheap saves, even if only for one season. (Bob Osgood)
30) Keone Kela, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 39)
With five years of solid performance under his belt, Keone Kela’s ranking of #30 is reflective of the team he is pitching for, as the Pirates are expected to finish last in a tough NL Central. However, their wins over/under is around 70, which hopefully will allow for enough saves for Kela to be your second or third closer in 2020. Kela has a career 3.23 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 11.0 K/9, and each of his last three seasons has been excellent. Kela’s fastball averaged 96.2 in 2019, and he upped the curveball usage from 36% to 44% which allowed only a .127 BA against, along with a rare changeup (3%). With stable ratios and solid strikeouts, Kela seems like a safe closer option who has already officially been named the closer by new manager Derek Shelton. (Bob Osgood)
31) Ian Kennedy, Kansas City Royals (Age: 35, Previous Rank: NR)
At some point in his life, someone told the 35-year-old starter that “everything happens for a reason.” Maybe they were right as Kennedy pitched his way out of the starting rotation and watched Wily Peralta and Brad Boxberger implode from a bullpen seat. By the time June rolled around the closer job was his, the Royals remained cheap, and now you are drafting Kennedy for saves in your 2020 leagues. The numbers were fine, the fastball jumped in velocity after the move, there is no reason to think it was a fluke. The downside is if he pitches well in the first half of 2020 you’ll likely be owning a setup man on a contender in the second half. Let’s hope your league counts Holds.
32) Ryan Pressly, Houston Astros (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 59)
If you’re in a Holds league, you can safely move him up at least 15 spots but being the setup man for Roberto Osuna means the saves will be limited. He still has value, even in Saves only leagues because of his stellar ratios and good strikeout numbers. Pressly missed time last year and only appeared in 55 games but still managed to strike out 72 batters while only walking 12. Posting a WHIP of under 1.00 for the first time in his career helped solidify Pressly as one of the most valuable setup men in the league.
33) Seth Lugo, New York Mets (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 57)
Lugo joined the stupid injury club in the spring of 2020 by stubbing, and breaking, his left pinky toe in his hotel room. His role was already uncertain as the Met’s will give Diaz a long leash with the closer role after trading top prospect Jared Kelenic among others for him in 2019. The signing of Delin Betances likely pushes Lugo further down the pecking order for saves and there has even been discussion of moving him back into a starting role. The one thing we know is that when Lugo pitches, he is very good. His K-BB% was an incredible 28% in 2019 and he posted 21 Holds and 6 Saves.
34) Josh James, Houston Astros (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 57 SP)
James went from Unranked, to 57th on the Starting Pitcher list, to 34th on the reliever list in 12 months. I don’t think that’s a good thing and I’m sure James owners would appreciate it if the Astros gave him back his starting job. A Spring Training injury cost him his starting job in 2019 and he did not contribute to your fantasy team unless your league uses K%. James struck out 100 batters in 61.1 innings, good for a 37.6% K%. The walks were high so the WHIP was average and he managed to give up 10 home runs which left him with an ERA of 4.70. He’s got a huge arm and a shot at the 5 slot in the Houston rotation, if he fails to secure it, it will be back to the bullpen as a reliever.
35) Corey Knebel, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 17)
Knebel’s 2017 season was a glimpse of what his truthers had been waiting for. 39 Saves, 126 K’s in just 76 innings pitched and an ERA under 2.00, Knebel had arrived. 2018 saw the emergence of Josh Hader and that cut into his production, and while the saves would be split in 2019, he still ranked in our top 20. Then came Tommy John surgery and the 2019 season was lost. Knebel is rehabbing and expected to return early in the 2020 season. Hader has entrenched himself as the game’s best reliever, but he may be more valuable moving around and being used in high leverage situations in real life. That may open the door for Knebel to regain his closer role if he proves healthy.
36) Scott Oberg, Colorado Rockies (Age: 29, Previous Rank: NR)
When these rankings were put together the biggest worry for Oberg was how he would recover from the blood clot that ended his 2019 season prematurely. His 2019 season was very good, he had found himself in the closer’s role and excelled. A new 3-year deal was signed and he seemed to be a lock to be the Rockies closer entering 2020. But, these are the Rockies. Manager Bud Black announced that Wade Davis would be the closer in 2020. One could speculate that this was done to give Oberg some time to work himself back into the closer’s role with less pressure as the setup man, or maybe it’s the 17 million dollars that Davis will be paid in 2020. Either way, Saves will not be there to open the season, this hurts his redraft value but smart dynasty owners can take the discount and patiently wait for the Davis implosion.
37) Darwinzon Hernandez, Boston Red Sox (Age: 23, Previous Rank: NR)
If you feel like you’ve read this story before, you probably have. Huge fastball, incredible movement, 57 strikeouts in 30.1 innings in your big league debut? How is he ranked 37th? 74 walks in 87.1 innings across his 3 stops. The Red Sox seem to have given up on the hope that Hernandez could be a starter as they have announced that he will be competing for a relief role in 2020. The 23-year-old lefty could easily find himself in the late innings of Boston games if he could just reign in the walks a bit. The fact that he’s no longer a starter should mean a big drop in his price in startups and trade value as well.
38) Blake Treinen, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 4)
Treinen’s dynasty ranking over the past 3 seasons is the reliever world in a nutshell. Not Ranked, 4th, 38th. If things break right for him, and wrong for Jansen, you don’t have to squint that hard to see Treinen back in the top 10 for 2021. Treinen was broken in 2019, he battled through multiple injuries including his elbow, rotator cuff, and back. All of his numbers trended the wrong way and it’s very likely that his 2018 season was the best he will ever have. The good news is if he is now healthy, he landed with a team in the Dodgers that are going to win a lot of games. He will have every chance to nail down holds and would be the first in line if Jansen is injured or continues his slow descent from an elite closer.
39) Drew Pomeranz, San Diego Padres (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 184 SP)
Pomeranz has made the transition to the bullpen last season and now debuts on the reliever list at 39. Starting in the majors is hard, and every once in a while you get a guy like Pomeranz who gets demoted because of his ineffectiveness and he explodes as a reliever. The half-season of relief was enough for San Diego to hand him a nice contract and he will return to a place that he had one of his best seasons back in 2016. 45 strikeouts against just 8 walks in relief for Milwaukee last season will give him the opportunity to set up for closer Kirby Yates. Toss Andres Munoz into the mix and you have one of the best 7-8-9 combos in baseball.
40) Diego Castillo, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 55)
5 Wins, 8 Saves, 17 Holds, 6 starts. There wasn’t much that Castillo did not do. The trade of Emilio Pagan seemed to open the door for Castillo to take the closer job, but he will likely have to share that role with Nick Anderson. Castillo is the cheaper of the two and even if he does get the small side of the opportunities, he can still provide value. There are no dominant stats with Castillo, nothing that stands out that you can dream on, but he is solid and consistent. For those of you who are in daily leagues and use SP/RP slots, Castillo will have SP eligibility and is a great way to add an extra reliever on the days that you do not have enough starters to fill the SP slots. (Paul Monte)
Pagan is in SD and will not close there.
Pagan was traded to the Padres a couple weeks ago.