Last week I wrote about my top 10 Relievers for 2015, and I also wrote about my evolving love/hate relationship with the closer position in standard fantasy leagues. So today we’ll get right down to business and discuss Relief Pitchers #11 through #30. As a reminder, these rankings are based on leagues that use a balanced scoring system, and rely on more than just Saves for Relievers to contribute to overall scores. Any skilled member of an MLB Bullpen can add to your score. Set Up Men & Specialists who also contribute good K rates can often be as valuable as most closers, so this next set of Relievers is a mix of Closers and other Relievers. The 1st number is the reliever’s overall rank, closers have a (2nd number), their ranking among only closers for those in standard leagues. MLFS Leagues score Saves(S), Holds + Inherited Runners Stranded(H+IRS)
11. (9) Fernando Rodney, CL SEA – Say what you want about the heart attack kid, but all he does is pile up saves, as in he led the Majors in 2014 with 48 Saves. That was his 2nd 48 save season in the last 3. Yeah he puts far too many base runners on and will be 38 on opening day, but until the wheels fall off he is as sure a thing at closer as there is.
12. Tyler Clippard, RP OAK – Clippard has been one of the best set up men for about 5 years now, pitching in at least 70 games in each of those seasons. He is usually one of the first non closers off the draft board no matter what format your league uses. His lifetime K/9 is exactly 10.0 and he has had a WHIP under 1.00 3 of the last 4 seasons. He also racks up plenty of relief counting stats, leading the majors in Holds in 2014 with 40 as well as chipping in 7 Wins, a save and some IRS. He has been among the league leaders in holds every year but 2012 when he had 34 saves after taking over for an injured/ineffective Drew Storen making him the perfect handcuff for Sean Doolittle in Oakland. I imagine he’ll be one of the first relievers off the board again this season, going ahead of many closers in MLFS Leagues. If you paid attention last season you would know he has one of the most beautiful girls in Sports by his side as well.
13. (10) Drew Storen, RP/PROBABLE CL – It seems like a long time ago that Drew Storen was touted as the next great closer after his great college career which he followed up with 43 MLB Saves in 2011. The last few years have been rocky with injuries and ineffectiveness but in the 2nd half of 2014 Storen seemed to be back in the saddle. This may be the last chance to get him at a discount. He pitched to a 1.12 ERA which was just above his .970 WHIP. Better than that he pitched to the lowest Walk and Home Run Rates of his career. The Nats let Soriano go and traded Clippard leaving a clear path for Storen to close, although Casey Jansen was brought in for insurance. Maybe you should grab Jansen too. As for Storen, I’m all in 2015. One look at this picture and you know that Storen learned as much as he could from Tyler Clippard in their time in Washington.
14. (11) Koji Uehara, CL/RP BOS – This guy can flat-out pitch and with amazing consistency. He has maintained an 11K/9 and 1.0 Walks/9 for his entire career in the States. Since his rookie season in 2009 he has not had an ERA over 2.8 or a WHIP over 1.00, nor has he walked more than 9 batters in a season. He’s listed as the Red Sox Closer but I have a hard time banking on that even though he saved 26 games in 2014 and 20 the year before. But he’ll be 40 on opening day and I’m sure the Sox kept Mujica for a reason. Draft both if you want the saves, Draft Koji if you want to see his stats in your score every week.
15. Ken Giles, RP/POSS CL PHI – Giles has been groomed to replace Jon Papelbon once his time in Philly is up. The Phills would like it to be sooner rather than later. He was only 23 last season when he finished 4th in Rookie of the Year balloting. The bad news, his ERA was an impossible to repeat 1.18 with a .778 WHIP in 44 games. The good news is he k’d 64 batters while walking only 11 in 45 innings. He maintained the exact 12.5K/9IP that he had in the minors but managed to cut his walks in half. Set up or Closer, or more likely both in that order, I want him on my team in 2015.
16. (12) Huston Street, CL ANA – Street is as good a closer as they come. Street misses a lot of time. Draft him and his handcuff Joe Smith and you are all set. Street set a career high in 2014 with 41 Saves. It was his first season of 40 saves even though he has had double-digit saves in all 10 seasons of his career, at least 20 in the last 6 consecutive seasons. He also knows how to pitch with an ERA under 2.00 for the last 3 seasons and a WHIP under 1 for the last 5. I’d take the risk but I’d be looking for Smith a round or two later.
17. Wade Davis, RP KC – Right? Who saw this coming? From 2009 to 2013 Davis was a mediocre Starting Pitcher for all but one season. That one season, his last in Tampa, Davis excelled as a reliever. Last season KC put him right back where he seemingly belongs & he was one of the best relief pitchers in all of baseball, placing 3rd in MLFS for all relievers right in front of Craig Kimbrel. He was 3rd in MLB in holds and chipped in 9 Wins and 3 Saves, all pitching to an ERA of exactly 1.00. Right, that is ERA, not WHIP. What changed for Davis? He had his lowest walk rate of his career, but his K Rate shot up to 13.6K/9IP which is twice his lifetime K rate. The K Rate & ERA will be tough to repeat, but he is only 29 and I see him enjoying a long 2nd career as a top reliever.
18. (13) Trevor Rosenthal, CL STL – Rosenthal saved 45 games last season giving him a good spot on this list. But that is not without some speed bumps. He blew 6 saves and had such a horrible stretch of wildness that his walk rate was a horrendous 5.0BB/9IP for the season. He’s got the mentality for the job, and has a dominant strikeout pitch, so if he can get better command of the strike zone he should continue to grab 40 saves a year for the Birds.
19. (14) Jonathan Papelbon, CL PHI – Saves. That is what you get with Papelbon. He was nearly written off his last season with the Red Sox, and seems to be written off annually now, but in 2014 he saved over 35 games for the 7th season in the last 9, finishing with 39. While his K Rates are down slightly all his other numbers are still in line with his career, although he set a career low in HR allowed in 2014 by only watching 2 fly over his head. Not bad when the Phills Stadium is where you play half of your games. I’d add Jonathan to the list of very safe reliable closers.
20. Joe Smith, RP/CL LAA – I love having a guy like this on my team in a league that has a balanced scoring system. He’ll accumulate Holds & IRS, and then when the closer goes down or is ineffective he’ll step right in and pick up the saves. Similar guys are Joaquin Benoit, Tyler Clippard, Ryan Cook 2 years ago, Jon Broxton, etc. In 2014 Smith had his best season at the age of 29. He had career lows in ERA, WHIP, & Walk Rate and career highs in K rate, Saves (15) and Wins (7) as well as 27 Holds+IRS. I’ll let you in on a secret, Huston Street, the Halos new closer, misses a lot of time. You heard it here first. He even looks like a Joe Smith.
21. (15) Steve Cishek, CL MIA – Cishek has quietly become one of the most consistent and reliable closers in baseball and the Fish have no other competition for the role, albeit now there are K-Rod rumors. He’s logged over 30 saves 2 years in a row nearly hitting 40 last season. He does everything right, every season notching peripheral stats just below those of the Elite closers. I don’t see that changing as he is only 28 and improving. A good safe reliable closer.
22. (16) Jonathan Broxton, RP/POSS CL MIL – This is another guy I love having on my team. He contributes all across the board including closing while Chapman was recovering from his face injuries. Unless they bring in K-Rod or another veteran closer Broxton may get a well deserved chance to close for the Brewers. If not he’ll still be a valuable asset on your roster. Besides the 7 Saves he added 23 Holds, 4 Wins and good ratios in 62 Games. He was once a dominant top closer in his own right, and may get another chance now as a complete pitcher instead of just throwing heat.
23. (17) Francisco Rodriguez, CL FA – Saves. That is what you get with K-Rod, well along with some K’s. The question is where he will pitch in 2015. Most teams have a closer, but some like Milwaukee or the Mets are uncertain as to what will shake out and K-Rod could make a difference on one of those teams. K-Rod saved 44 games in 2014 for the Brewers along with, and this is a theme here, one of the lowest walk rates of his career even though his K-Rates have declined a bit. He just turned 33, and with his Mets blowup further in the rear view mirror, K-Rod should land a closer’s spot soon enough. At one point over a 4 year stretch Rodriquez saved 200 games. Think about that.
24. (18) Glen Perkins, CL MIN – Like Cishek, Perkins has quietly become a very consistent quality closer. He does it with some pretty impressive K Rates and doesn’t walk anyone, walking less than 20 batters 3 seasons in a row. He is another late bloomer and has no competition in Min for the role. Pencil him in for another 35 saves and some good strikeout numbers.
25. Zack Duke, RP CHW – Duke is another pitcher who was a mediocre SP for 6 years and then kicked around a few more years between MLB & AAA before Milwaukee figured out he was one of the best Lefty Specialists in the NL. Now 31, he should have plenty left in the tank now that he only faces a few batters. He pitched to an ERA in 2014 that was half his lifetime ERA and kicked in with an 11.4K/9IP. He had a dozen holds and was among the league leaders with 33 Inherited Runners Stranded.
26. (19) Joaquin Benoit, CL/RP SD – Yes, Benoit is another of my favorite relievers because he contributes across the board. He closed when Street was out and he closed the year before in Detroit when Vazquez went belly up. He picked up 11 Saves in 2014 for the Padres and had one of the best statistical seasons of his career at the age of 36. He is currently penciled in as the Padres Closer but even if he is not he will still be on all of my teams.
27. (20) Santiago Casillla, CR/RP SF – Casilla became the default closer in SF when Romo was struggling, much like he was in 2012 when he saved 25 games. He is a late bloomer at 34, but in 2014 he had his best statistical season, hitting career bests in ERA, WHIP and Walk rates. He is currently penciled in as the SF Closer but don’t be shocked if Romo takes it back, in which case Casilla goes back to being a league leader in Holds and IRS as he has been for years. Draft them both if you can. In fact draft the whole Giants pen if you can.
28. (21) Joe Nathan, CL DET – When a 40-year-old pitcher has an Era near 5.0 and his K Rate and Walk Rate are going in opposite directions it can only mean one thing. That’s right he still nailed 35 saves. Closers Close and this one has $10,000,000 reasons why he will still be the closer at least at the start of 2015. So if all you want is Saves there still should be plenty here. He does have former closer Joakim Soria & Al A. breathing down his neck, but unless and until the arm falls off the rest of the way, pencil in 25-30 saves which would leave him with 400 saves, no contract and a possible ticket to Cooperstown. Then he can retire.
29. JP Howell, RP LAD – Over the last couple of years, while no one was looking, J.P. Howell became fantasy relevant again. He walks a few too many but seldom gives up a HR and sports a healthy 2.5 GB/FB ratio. But why is he on this list? A good lefty specialist can rack up a lot of Holds and Stranded Runners. In Howell’s case, his 27 holds & 33 IRS gave him 60 (IRS + H) which was 2nd in all of Major League Baseball in 2014.
30. Pat Neshek, RP HOU – Neshek has quietly been one of the best middle relievers in baseball for the better part of the last decade. He won’t pile up saves but he will pile up Holds & IRS and has averaged a strikeout an inning for his career. Neshek might be 34 but he made a major jump in walk rate in 2014 walking only 9 batters in 67 IP for a rate of about 1 walk per 9 innings down from his lifetime average of 3.0.
See you next week for another 20 or 30 relievers worth owning.
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