Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Relief Pitchers

When I prepare for any fantasy draft, I always rank players into tiers. This way, you will have a better understanding while drafting of when there is a big drop-off in talent. Using this type of drafting strategy should lead to an increase in overall value for your team.

When compiling my rankings, I focus on a couple of major factors. First, I look at last year’s statistics. That is obviously a great place to start because it is the most recent data to project how a player might perform this year.

Then, I look into any circumstantial changes a player might have going into this year. For example, was this player traded? Did this trade lead to a new ballpark that may be more/less favorable to hitters/pitchers? Is this player surrounded by new players in the lineup? Is this player going into a contract year? Is this player injury-prone of currently injured? All of these questions can give you a better idea of who might have the biggest jump or drop from last year’s performance.

Next, I look into the player’s history. This is less important in my opinion than the first two steps of analysis because a lot can change in two or three years. What it does help me with is it shows me which players I can feel confident and safe in drafting due to a consistent run of seasons of similar statistics.

Finally, the last factor that I use in my rankings is the team that the player plays for. I mean this in a couple of different ways. I personally believe that first and foremost, fantasy sports is supposed to be enjoyable. So, if you are deciding between a few players who on paper have similar values, go ahead and be a homer and take your favorite team’s player ahead of the others. But more importantly, I look for teams that I believe will still be playing competitive baseball towards the end of the season. I have been burned many times by having my top player get a minor injury come fantasy playoff time, only to be rested for the remainder of the season due to their actual team not having any chance of making the real playoffs. If you are deciding between two players close in every other category, my advice is lean towards the player that you are confident will be in a playoff push towards the end of the year. This will give you the best chance of them playing competitive baseball when it matters most in your fantasy season.

Here are my Relief Pitcher rankings going into this season:

  1. Kenley Jansen, Dodgers
  2. Aroldis Chapman, Yankees
  3. Zach Britton, Orioles
  4. Craig Kimbrel, Red Sox
  5. Wade Davis, Cubs
  6. Mark Melancon, Giants
  7. Roberto Osuna, Blue Jays
  8. Seung Hwan Oh, Cardinals
  9. Edwin Diaz, Mariners
  10. Kelvin Herrera, Royals
  11. Ken Giles, Astros
  12. Alex Colome, Rays
  13. David Robertson, White Sox
  14. Cody Allen, Indians
  15. Jeurys Familia, Mets
  16. A.J. Ramos, Marlins
  17. Raisel Iglesias, Reds
  18. Francisco Rodriguez, Tigers
  19. Tony Watson, Pirates
  20. Sam Dyson, Rangers
  21. Jim Johnson, Braves
  22. Adam Ottavino, Rockies
  23. Neftali Feliz, Brewers
  24. Hector Neris, Phillies
  25. Fernando Rodney, Diamondbacks
  26. Brandon Maurer, Padres
  27. Ryan Madson, Athletics
  28. Andrew Miller, Indians
  29. Dellin Betances, Yankees
  30. Shawn Kelley, Nationals

Relief pitchers– what an interesting position. I say this because as the league year gets closer, it does become more defined who will be closing for certain teams without a clearly identified closer as of this writing. Also, some fantasy leagues may have completely different rankings depending on some starters being eligible at relief pitcher. For simplicity, these rankings are based off of true relief pitchers (closers) only.

Jansen, Chapman, and Britton make up the top tier of closers as they all should be over 40 saves for the year, combined with elite ERA and WHIP numbers. In the case of Jansen and Chapman, you will also be getting elite strikeout numbers. I do not like to be the first person to select a closer in drafts, but I would not wait much longer after the first one is selected if you are trying to get one of these three.

Aroldis Chapman
After being traded mid-season, and picking up a World Series ring along the way, Aroldis Chapman finds himself back in pinstripes, where he is likely to compete among fantasy closers for the top ranking.

After that, you can wait. There are twelve quality closers, all fairly well-established with their teams, who can get a high number of saves for your team. Familia is the only one who possibly would make me hesitate depending on how his legal situation progresses towards the start of the season.

Then you get to the bottom tier, which, for the most part, is a bit of a mess. Some will begin the year as closer, but may be on a short leash. Others may just be on teams that do not project to win a lot of games this year. And then you’ve got two, Miller and Betances, who you may draft just for their incredible skill and ability to contribute to strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP, fully-knowing that they will not be in line for many saves throughout the season (barring injury, of course).



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