Fantasy Baseball Draft Tiers: Relief pitchers


There are some disclaimers that are assumed on most of my fantasy sports work. You know your league better than an outsider does. One size does not fit all. Season to taste.

And then there are the rules to save-chasing — the Wild West of fantasy baseball.

Shuffle Up Series: Corner Infielders | Middle Infielders | Starting Pitchers | Outfielders | Catchers | Relievers

Some wise fantasy managers will chase skills over roles in the bullpen, and that might work for you. Other wise managers will focus on the ninth-inning baton and not sweat the skills as much. Anything can work if you pick the right players.

I’m not a fan of leagues that factor in holds — as faulty as the save stat is, I think holds are far worse — but if that’s how you want to play, do what you like.

The list below is ordered with an eye towards saves first and quality innings (and strikeouts) a close second. I’m not going to rank every semi-primary reliever in baseball during this exercise. The waiver wire is there for a reason. Let’s use it.

One rule I have with breakout relievers is I don’t like to pay for them in retrospect. Nick Anderson was great in 2019 — and we promoted him when he was one percent rostered — but the goal last year was to find the next Nick Anderson. Hopefully, you came up with Devin Williams at the right time.

Now let’s look for the next Williams. Remember, strikeout and walk rates stabilize fairly quickly in a new season. As soon as you see some unknown reliever piling up strikeouts and not walking many, it could be time for a proactive move. There will be several relievers no one thinks much of now, but who can offer us fantasy help in the future.

[Draft Rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | SP | RP]

That’s a lot of disclaimers. You came here for a list, and here it is. The dollar values are unscientific, and merely used to show how I tier the talent here. Players at the same salary are considered even.

The Big Tickets

$23 Liam Hendriks

$22 Josh Hader

$18 Aroldis Chapman

$18 Edwin Diaz

$16 Raisel Iglesias

$16 James Karinchak

$14 Ryan Pressly

$13 Brad Hand

My preferred save-drafting rule is to try to identify a non-pricy option who I could easily see being a Top 5 closer. Kirby Yates fit this perfectly two years back. Pressly is the best answer for this frame; he can miss bats, he throws strikes, he was BABIP-unlucky last year, and Houston should be a winning team. I also expect Dusty Baker to prefer a one-button closer, most of the time . . . Iglesias is the other option here I’ve already rostered a few times, the mix of talent, opportunity, and ADP . . . I’m generally not the “Start the closer run” guy — I can’t stomach the hitter or starting pitcher I lose in the transaction. So, although I get anyone who loves Hendriks or Hader, they’re not for me. Chapman’s yearly maintenance is a turn-off, though the 60-or-so innings he throws figure to be elite.

Expect someone to push back

$12 Kenley Jansen

$12 Trevor Rosenthal

$11 Kirby Yates

$11 Alex Colome

$10 Nick Anderson

$10 Craig Kimbrel

$10 Rafael Montero

$8 Devin Williams

$8 Taylor Rogers

$8 Richard Rodriguez

$8 Will Smith

Jansen is one shaky closer I’d try to bet against, though the Dodgers, as per usual, have excellent depth behind him . . . Anderson will probably be more of a fireman than a true closer, and let’s not forget he was on fumes at the end of the playoffs. Give me Castillo or Fairbanks at much cheaper ADPs . . . Rodriguez is shielded by the anonymous Pirates roster, a team likely to lose 95 or more games. But he can still get 25 handshakes or so, especially if their wins tend to be close in score . . . Rogers was comically unlucky with his batted-ball profile, so don’t assume Colome chucks everything out of the way in Minnesota.

Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Richard Rodriguez Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Richard Rodriguez

Don’t let the Pirates being a bad team make you overlook Richard Rodriguez. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Handshakes on a budget

$7 Matt Barnes

$7 Drew Pomeranz

$7 Jordan Hicks

$7 Greg Holland

$7 Amir Garrett

$7 Mark Melancon

$6 Joakim Soria

$5 Archie Bradley

$5 Jose Leclerc

$5 Anthony Bass

The Padres have a ton of good options in the ninth, though Melancon still has enough left to be a push-bottom saver if they want. It might make more sense to have him handle the “easy” saves and let the younger, more talented relievers work out of the jams . . . I suspect the Royals and Diamondbacks would like to see Holland and Soria close for about half a year and then see if they can flip that save total in a deadline swap . . . I was going to bet against Leclerc with a Jonathan Hernandez play, but Hernandez has an elbow injury and won’t throw for a month.

Bargain Bin

$4 Giovanny Gallegos

$4 Daniel Bard

$4 Hector Neris

$3 Diego Castillo

$3 Jake McGee

$3 Yimi Garcia

$3 Adam Ottavino

$3 Jake Diekman

$3 Peter Fairbanks

$3 Bryan Garcia

$2 Hunter Harvey

$2 Stefan Crichton

$2 Chris Martin

$2 Alex Reyes

$2 Zack Britton

$2 Jordan Romano

$2 Lucas Sims

$2 Blake Treinen

$2 Emilio Pagan

$2 Josh Staumont

$2 Reyes Moronta

$2 Emmanuel Clase

$2 Gregory Soto

$2 Tyler Duffey

$1 Tanner Rainey

$1 Brandon Kintzler

$1 Chad Green

$1 Brandon Workman

$1 J.B. Wendelken

$0 *Jonathan Hernandez

Bard was a wonderful comeback story last year, but it’s so difficult to beat Coors Field multiple years in a row. Go back and look at how many closers have done it once there, then completely fallen apart. This isn’t a deep thought, it’s just Occam’s Razor. Gravity always wins.

Source: Yahoo Sports

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