2020 Rankings: Top 15 Relief Pitchers (Where To Rank The 2019 Breakouts, Any Surprises? & More)

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Spring Training is upon us, and that means it’s time to ramp up our preparation for our 2020 Fantasy Baseball Drafts. Let’s keep our “official” rankings on the site rolling, with even deeper rankings and more in-depth analysis available via our draft guide (click here for information on ordering the guide for just $8.25), with the Top 15 Relief Pitchers. Who are the players worth targeting? Who could surprise? Who is destined to disappoint?

Let’s answer all of these questions and more as we get to the rankings:

RankPlayerTeamQuick Thoughts
1)Josh HaderMilwaukee BrewersThe surprising trade rumors have finally subsided, meaning Hader will again open 2020 as the Brewers' closer. Home runs have become a question, but you have to make contact for that to be an issue and how often does that happen against Hader?
2) Kirby YatesSan Diego PadresHe's continued to lean on his split-finger fastball more and more (41.9% in '19), and that has led to tremendous improvements. Maybe he can't replicate his 1.93 BB/9 or 0.30 HR/9, and the acquisition of Emilio Pagan provides a safety net, but Yates should remain one of the elite.
3) Roberto OsunaHouston AstrosOff-the-field questions aside, Osuna returned to being an elite closer in '19. The Astros helped him adjust his repertoire to increase his changeup usage, so don't be surprised if that continues in 2020.
4) Edwin DiazNew York MetsHome runs were a significant issue in 2019, with speculation being that his struggles were tied to the seams on the baseball hurting his grip (and in turn his slider's productivity). He's a good bet to rebound, especially with the strikeouts and control remaining solid throughout the struggles. Don't be surprised to see him return to Top 3 status.
5) Brad HandCleveland IndiansThe trade rumors surrounding Hand aren't going to disappear, and after the team dealt Corey Kluber it's easy to imagine it coming to fruition at some point in 2020. Hand's drop in groundball rate is something to watch, especially if a trade to a less pitcher friendly environment happens.
6) Liam HendriksOakland A'sHendriks took advantage of Blake Treinen's demise to seize the Oakland closer's role. While some may want to believe that he could follow suit and melt down in Year #2 in the role, that's not likely the case. There was a change in his repertoire (shelving his sinker for a fourseam fastball) and that helps to justify his success.
7)Taylor RogersMinnesota TwinsHe's long been a solid reliever, but he took advantage of his opportunity to close (30-for-36 in SV chances). He needs to prove that his strikeout rate is for real, but the upside is there.
8)Aroldis ChapmanNew York YankeesChapman may no longer be the same closer he once was, but that doesn't mean he should simply be ignored. He's consistently missed time and has seen his velocity drop in recent years, so don't make the mistake of paying a Top 5 price.
9)Kenley JansenLos Angeles DodgersLike Chapman Jansen is no longer the elite closer he once was. He's struggled with home runs in back-to-back seasons and the addition of Blake Treinen could give the Dodgers a viable alternative (assuming he can rebound) if a need arises.
10)Raisel IglesiasCincinnati RedsThe big question facing Iglesias is always his usage, not his talent. He's seemingly struggled when asked to get more than 3 outs, but in the one inning "traditional" role he's generally produced. Hopefully the Reds also come to that realization, and if they do he could outproduce this ranking.
11)Sean DoolittleWashington NationalsDoolittle's talent has never been questioned, it's his ability to stay on the mound that's been the problem. The 2019 season marked the first time he threw at least 60.0 innings since 2014. If healthy he's a solid, "safe" option though that's hardly a guarantee.
12)Joe JimenezDetroit TigersLong dubbed a closer of the future, the future became now for Jimenez in 2019. While he struggled with home runs (and he showed signs of righting that problem in September), he showed strikeouts (12.37 K/9), solid control (3.47 BB/9) and is among the "safer" options around.
13)Ken GilesToronto Blue JaysWhile Giles thrived in '19, he also benefited from a lot of luck (91.3% strand rate) and a regression appears inevitable. There's also the possibility that he's traded away from Toronto, but as long as he's not moved and he's healthy he's locked into the role.
14)Keone KelaPittsburgh PiratesHaving thrived in the closers role with the Rangers in 2018 (24-for-25 in SV) Kela finds himself returning to the role in 2020. There are questions about health and home runs, though that's been a running trend throughout this list, and Kela should be a solid CL2.
15)Alex ColomeChicago White SoxEveryone assumed Colome would be traded in '19, but the White Sox instead kept him in order to add some stability. At this point that again should be the case, and he should maintain his solid production after improving his strikeout rate as the season progressed (8.11 K/9 overall, but a 9.95 after the All-Star Break).

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

Make sure to check out all of our 2020 preseason rankings:

PositionLast Updated
Catchers02/10/20
First Basemen02/13/20
Second Basemen02/18/20
Third Basemen02/21/20
Shortstops02/24/20
Outfielders03/06/20
Starting Pitchers03/09/20
Relief Pitchers03/03/20

7 COMMENTS

  1. Good morning Prof!
    Quick question, I purchased the draft guide a few weeks back (thank you for all your work) and I’m wondering how to receive updated files. I have a keeper league where I need to select keepers today and I’d like the cutting edge of your brain 🙂
    Thank you!

  2. Hey Prof,

    What are your thoughts on Nick Anderson with Pagan being traded? Do you think he will be the man and a valuable closer?

    • I think he’ll be in the mix, but I’m not sure the Rays commit to one man for the job at this point. He’ll be one of a few, and a great option for SV+HLD, and prob. the favorite of the options

  3. Is Joe Jimenez a trade target if he performs well and the Tigers aren’t contenders?
    and does Hudson eat into Doolittle’s share?

    • I don’t think Hudson will be an issue, assuming Doolittle stays healthy (that’s a big if)

      As for Jimenez, you would’ve thought he’d be a trade target last year and they kept him. It doesn’t mean he won’t be traded, but he’s hardly a guarantee to be

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