Fantasy Baseball Rankings Tiers, Draft Strategy: Relief Pitcher

first_imgTier 6B, meanwhile, has pitchers who have the stuff to close but are either unproven in that role and/or completely blocked. We’re especially intrigued by Seranthony Dominguez, who saved 16 games last year for the Phillies and has a head-turning repertoire but is now seemingly impeded by David Robertson. Tier 6B contains the most overlooked handcuffs lurking in around the league, waiting for the right opening to burst onto mainstream fantasy radars.TIER 6AAlex Reyes, CardinalsRoss Stripling, DodgersJeremy Jeffress, BrewersA.J. Minter, BravesPedro Strop, CubsCorey Knebel, BrewersChad Green, YankeesJace Fry, White SoxRichard Rodriguez, PiratesGreg Holland, DiamondbacksTy Buttrey, AngelsJoe Jimenez, TigersRyan Pressly, AstrosJeurys Familia, MesWill Harris, AstrosYoshisha Hirano, DiamondbacksTIER 6BSeranthony Dominguez, PhilliesRay Black, GiantsHector Neris, PhilliesLou Trivino, A’sCarl Edwards Jr., CubsNate Jones, White SoxJose Castillo, PadresKyle Barraclough, NationalsKeone Kela, Pirates MORE FANTASY BASEBALL: SN Cheat Sheet | Mock Draft SimulatorWe’ve assembled all of the relief pitching options into “True Tiers” ordered roughly by talent and job security entering the season, from veterans who are shoe-ins for the position to unproven fliers capable of breaking through.2019 Fantasy Baseball Rankings:Catcher | First | Second | Third | Short | Outfield | Starter | Reliever | Top 300Who are the best fantasy baseball closers?You might not love taking one of these four guys in the top 70 picks of your fantasy baseball draft, but that’s the going rate for proven production at closer. For all the warts Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel and Kenley Jansen might have, they’ve been really good at this position for a really long time, which few others past or present can claim. Of course, Kimbrel needs to sign with a team, and at this point he might miss the early part of the season. If he does, we’ll adjust him in our rankings. (Update: We’ve lowered Kimbrel in our rankings to No. 19, but he should still be considered elite once he signs and moves into a closer role.)Chapman is part of a Yankees bullpen brimming with elite talent, perhaps making his own role tenuous in the minds of quick-to-worry owners. But don’t talk yourself out of him. Chapman has posted a sub-3.00 ERA and earned at least 30 saves in six of the past seven seasons. He should make it seven out of eight in 2019 while continuing to rack up absurd strikeout numbers. Chapman is joined in Tier 1A with another pure filth reliever in Edwin Diaz, who is similarly devastating with his overpowering arsenal. Like Chapman, Diaz can be erratic at times. Like Chapman, Diaz is now in New York. Like Chapman, he’ll probably be one of the best closers in the game once again this season. Kimbrel also fits in this group of electric, fastball-first late-game options. We’ll have to wait and see which team Kimbrel ends up with, but we assume the free agent will close wherever he goes.Jansen relies slightly more on movement relative to velocity at this stage in his career, but he can still be every bit as good as the others in this tier. His health has been a concern of late, with heart problems again popping up down the stretch last season. If he’s right, though, he could notch 40 saves for the fourth time in his career, a mark Chapman has never reached and Diaz has met just once. His strikeouts dipped last year, which is a minor worry compared to the other three.(Update: With Corey Knebel and Jeremy Jeffress both injured to start the year, we’ve moved Josh Hader up, but it’s unclear if Milwaukee really wants him in the closer’s role.)TIER 1AAroldis Chapman, YankeesEdwin Diaz, MetsCraig Kimbrel, FAKenley Jansen, DodgersJosh Hader, BrewersMore Fantasy Baseball Rankings Tiers, Draft StrategyCatcher | First | Second | Third | Short | Outfield | Starter2019 Fantasy Baseball Reliever Rankings: Tier 2Aside from Blake Treinen, whose ADP is 62, all of our Tier 2 relievers should be available in the ninth or 10th rounds of 10-team leagues. These are pitchers with ample job security and boundless potential, but ones who also have enough question marks to keep them separated from the top fantasy closers for now.Roberto Osuna served a 75-game suspension last year under MLB’s domestic violence policy after he was arrested and charged with the assault of a woman in Toronto. That charge was later withdrawn when Osuna agreed to a peace bond, and Osuna enters 2019 as the Astros’ closer. Another conduct suspension would likely bar the righthander from baseball for at least a full season. He also saw a sharp decrease in Ks last season, which is why we put him in a separate sub-tier. He posted a 11.7 K/9 ratio in 2017 compared to a 7.6 mark last year, so despite having pinpoint control and not allowing many homers, Osuna might not be that high-K guy many look for in their top closer.In Tier 2B, we have the well-established closers with plus stuff but at least one recent stretch where they struggled or were injured. Sean Doolittle is one-pitch pony, but for the most part the fastball is all he needs to be successful, posting a career-best 1.60 ERA in 2018. His durability is a question, however, and he’s never managed to record more than 25 saves in a single season. Felipe Vasquez had a 5.73 ERA last May but settled down for an otherwise solid campaign. Raisel Iglesias had a troublesome 4.23 FIP in 2018, indicating he may be due for regression, and he endured some arm trouble earlier in his career. Still, he has a strong hold of Cincinnati’s closer job and has the kind of raw stuff that makes his ceiling tough to gauge. Corey Knebel missed a month last year with a hamstring injury and fell back to earth following a breakout 2017, but he has the stuff to maintain an edge over fellow stud Brewers relievers Josh Hader and Jeremy Jeffress. (Update: Knebel is dealing with an elbow injury and could be facing a long-term absence.)Blake Treinen and Brad Hand have been virtually untouchable since breaking out as closers but still have more to prove in 2019. Hand became the Padres closer midseason in 2017 before he was traded to the Indians last July. He was not anything special in his days as a starter, and we’re waiting just bit longer to be sure he’s the real deal in the bullpen. If Hand continues at the same level, he’s easily a Tier 1 talent. Treinen is viewed by some in the industry as the second-best fantasy closer available, reflected in an ADP of 62 that trails only Diaz. He posted a 0.78 ERA last year, which you don’t need us to tell you is pretty darn good. One would think his ERA has to regress a little bit moving forward, though, and as with Hand, we’re interested in seeing if Treinen can do it again given his struggles in 2015 and 2017 as a middle reliever for the Nationals. Also, his K/9 ratio jumped from 8.8 (a career high at the time) in 2017 to 11.2 last year, so it remains to be seen if he can continue to strike out players at that level.TIER 2ARoberto Osuna, AstrosTIER 2BSean Doolittle, NationalsFelipe Vasquez, PiratesRaisel Iglesias, RedsBlake Treinen, A’sBrad Hand, IndiansSLEEPERS & BUSTS: All-Breakout Team | All-Overrated TeamFantasy Baseball Draft Strategy: Mid-round closers who could provide valueNow we’re at the point where almost every available reliever has serious questions about what they can contribute to a fantasy bullpen. Hopefully you’ll have already taken at least one closer and can consider dipping into this well to support a primary guy. If your strategy is to wait on closer and/or play the waiver-wire game once the starts, you certainly can, but it’s not always easy.We’ve broken this tier up by unknown commodities and known commodities at closer. Neither is necessarily better or worse than the other, just different in what they bring to the table.In Tier 3A, there is a trio of relievers who figure to permanently claim the top relief job for their respective teams in 2019 and have previously succeeded in the role in a small sample. Kirby Yates is the heir apparent to the Brad Hand throne in San Diego, and he saved 12 games after Hand was traded last year. Jose Leclerc saved 12 games last year for Texas, and he has nasty stuff that could make him elite if he can withstand a tough home ballpark. Both should have long leashes to start the season, especially Leclerc, but their relative unprovenness in the ninth inning is a minor worry.Archie Bradley has long been Arizona’s most valuable bullpen arm even though he hasn’t been used much as a closer. If he takes on the closer’s role in 2019 and continues to dominate, he could vault to the tier above. It appears he’ll get every chance to do so early in the season, but unlike Yates and Leclerc, he’ll be in a competition this spring with Greg Holland and Yoshihisa Hirano. (Update: We’ve moved Will Smith into this subtier, as it looks like he’ll win the closer’s job over Mark Melancon this spring.) (Update 2: Holland has won the D-backs closer job out of spring training, so we’ve moved Bradley down.)In Tier 3C, there are a pair of pitchers with gobs of closing experience who are hoping to tap into their very best versions of themselves in 2019. David Robertson has closed for the Yankees and White Sox in the past, and he now has a chance to anchor a Phillies bullpen that should have plenty of save opportunities. He could be usurped by Hector Neris or Seranthony Dominguez if he slips up, though, dimming his value just a bit. Wade Davis was once the best closer in baseball for the Royals, but he’s since declined into more of a high-volume, moderate-effectiveness reliever. He saved 43 games for the Rockies last year, which ranked second in baseball. He also had a 4.13 ERA and will need to again pitch in Colorado, not an easy task for someone on the wrong side of his prime.TIER 3AKirby Yates, PadresJose Leclerc, RangersTIER 3BWill Smith, GiantsTIER 3CDavid Robertson, PhilliesWade Davis, Rockies2019 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers:Catcher | First | Second | Third | Short | Outfield | Starter | Each teamFantasy baseball RP breakouts and bounce-backsOnce again, we broke these tiers up by closers with a decent semblance of job security and those with potentially nastier stuff but who are in spring competitions.There’s plenty of uncertainty in Tier 4A, at least in terms of what some of those pitchers have left in the tank. Ken Giles has the nastiest stuff, but we’ve seen his ups and downs. Brandon Morrow will start the year on the DL because of an elbow injury, so he might be more volatile than we’re admitting. And Cody Allen looked done last year, so we’re not exactly confident in his ability to keep the Angels’ job, but he’ll have it to start the season at least.Tier 4B features players with even more volatility in terms of job security, but perhaps more upside. Jose Alvarado is one of our favorite sleeper picks, but the Rays are notoriously finicky with their bullpen usage. Jordan Hicks throws harder than anyone in MLB history, and whether he figures out how to locate that heat will be the difference in him being Carlos Marmol with more velocity or the next Aroldis Chapman. Andrew Miller’s presence will loom over him, too. Braves righthander Arodys Vizcaino has recorded two seasons with a K/9 above 10, but he’s also walked more than four batters per nine innings in his career, and the Braves bullpen is well stocked with good young arms. Trevor May looked good in his return from Tommy John surgery last year, but newcomer Blake Parker will battle him for the Twins closer role.If you’re playing the waiting game on closers, grabbing two guys from this sub-tier is the way to potentially get stud production at a fractions of the price.TIER 4AAlex Colome, White SoxBrandon Morrow, CubsKen Giles, Blue JaysSergio Romo, MarlinsGreg Holland, DiamondbacksCody Allen, AngelsTIER 4BBrad Boxberger, RoyalsTrevor May, TwinsJose Alvarado, RaysJordan Hicks, CardinalsMatt Barnes, Red SoxArodys Vizcaino, BravesFantasy Baseball Sleepers: RPAt this point, you’ve likely already filled your bullpen, or in deeper leagues are close to doing so. We’ve broken up Tier 5 into the relievers who have failed to impress in recent closing opportunities but might get another shot, and the ones who are extremely talented but walled off from ninth inning duties by other strong closer candidates.It’s important to note that the relievers in Tier 5B are so good that many fantasy owners will draft them knowing they likely won’t close, in certain cases picking them above actual closers. We know plenty of middle relievers will finish higher in the final rankings than many closers, so there’s nothing wrong with that, especially in Roto leagues, but for those in H2H leagues, rostering relievers who don’t get saves isn’t as easy.Josh Hader in particular can help your fantasy team’s strikeout and ERA numbers without accumulating many saves. For the sake of this “True Tier” system for closers, he is in Tier 5 simply because teammate Corey Knebel has such a stronghold on the role right now. (Update: See note about Knebel, Jeffress and Hader above.) A similar situation exists in New York, where Dellin Betances is blocked by Aroldis Chapman.TIER 5AShane Greene, TigersMychal Givens, OriolesHunter Strickland, MarinersTIER 5BAndrew Miller, CardinalsArchie Bradley, DiamondbacksDellin Betances, YankeesAdam Ottavino, RockiesTier 6 Relievers: Deep sleepers, overlooked handcuffsOnly the most proactive fantasy baseball owners will have ventured this far, needing depth in their deep Roto or single leagues. By our count, 33 relievers are off the board at this point, meaning 10-team leagues will have fully stocked their bullpens.Tier 6 is organized by raw stuff. Tier 6A is loosely made up of pitchers who never had or no longer have the traditionally overpowering closer’s arsenal, relying more on pitch mix and pitch placement to succeed. Every now and then, one of these guys stumbles into a ninth-inning job and pitches well. But it’s rare for someone who’s made this group to go on to be a long-term answer at closer. Until the old guard of top closers fully gives way to a new group of up-and-coming relief pitchers, there’s going to be some uncertainty for fantasy baseball owners. Case in point: Seasoned veterans Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman remain near the top of our reliever rankings by default despite potential dips in their stuff. They’ve been elite performers for many years and have more job security than their peers, so it’s tough to drop them down to Tier 2 status. But you can’t rely on only “proven” closers when coming up with a draft strategy for saves.This season might be frustrating for fantasy owners who draft closers early, as at least one of the top-end guys seems primed for a fall from grace. But the draft could also reward those who wait for the right emerging pitcher in the middle rounds. Young fireballers, such as Jose Alvarado and Jordan Hicks, may on paper have more potential down the line. They have not yet proven they can translate their raw ability to consistent MLB production, though, for now dropping them several tiers on our initial board. By the end of the season, we might think more highly of them.last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *