2013 Rankings: Top 15 Relief Pitchers

Relief pitchers are an inconsistent group in general, but closers are even tougher to trust.  We had a nearly unprecedented turnover in 2012, making it that much tougher for fantasy owners to gauge their draft value.  Who should we trust?  Who should we ignore?  Let’s take a look at the Top 15 options for 2013:

  1. Craig Kimbrel – Atlanta Braves
  2. Aroldis Chapman – Cincinnati Reds
  3. Jason Motte – St. Louis Cardinals
  4. Jonathan Papelbon – Philadelphia Phillies
  5. Mariano Rivera – New York Yankees
  6. Sergio Romo – San Francisco Giants
  7. Joe Nathan – Texas Rangers
  8. Greg Holland – Kansas City Royals
  9. Addison Reed – Chicago White Sox
  10. Grant Balfour – Oakland Athletics
  11. Rafael Soriano – Washington Nationals
  12. Tom Wilhelmsen – Seattle Mariners
  13. Chris Perez – Cleveland Indians
  14. Jim Johnson – Baltimore Orioles
  15. J.J. Putz – Arizona Diamondbacks


  • Will Aroldis Chapman actually be moved to the rotation for 2013?  Even if he does, how many innings will he be able to work (he only threw 71.2 innings in ’12)?  One way or another it is easy to imagine him ending up back in the bullpen by year’s end.  We have all learned from the Stephen Strasburg situation in 2012, and it is hard to imagine the Reds being without one of their best arms late in the year.  Whatever his role, we all know he’s going to be a productive fantasy contributor.
  • Mariano Rivera is 42-years old and coming back from injury.  That obviously adds some risk to trusting him, but there has never been anything in his performance to think that he won’t get the job done.  Obviously in a keeper league his value falls a few notches, but for 2013 it is hard to imagine him not being a productive option.
  • The Washington Nationals did not seem like a likely landing spot for Rafael Soriano, but given the contract they gave him he is going to be the closer.
  • Jim Johnson had a tremendous season in 2012 (2.49 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 51 SV).  That said, he lacks strikeout potential (5.71 K/9 for his career), enjoyed some luck (.251 BABIP) and can we really expect him to get 54 save chances once again?  While he’s a viable option, the lack of strikeouts hurts him.
  • Obviously, a few of the pitchers on this list are a little bit risky, like Addison Reed and Greg Holland.  While Reed posted a 4.75 ERA in ’12, he has tremendous strikeout upside (12.92 K/9 in the minors) and suffered from poor luck (.323 BABIP, 68.5% strand rate).  There are a lot of reasons to think he will have a major rebound this season.  As for Holland, there is no guarantee that he holds onto the job and struggled with his control in ’12 (4.57 BB/9).  That said he has electric stuff (12.22 K/9), proved he could handle the role (16 saves in 20 chances) and had some poor luck (.346 BABIP).  He’s well worth the gamble.

What are your thoughts on these rankings?  Who’s too high?  Who’s too low?

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Make sure to check out our 2013 rankings (all of which will be updated in the next few weeks):


  1. Peter Olson says:

    Putz number 15? Really? I would pick him before Balfour and Wilhelmsen. Maybe I need to do more research on the subject.

  2. Mark says:

    No Fernando Rodney?

  3. carlito says:

    How do u think chapman’s chances are as opening year as closer?

  4. David says:

    What about Cishek? Do you see him being successful as the Marlins closer?

  5. fiji.siv says:

    I would add Romo to the “bit risky” list. Incredible numbers but he’s finished over 60IP once in his career, he’s one year removed from elbow surgery and he works out of a crowded bullpen with a manager who has shown the tendency to go with the hot hand. (The 2012 Giants had 6 guys with a save and Romo was actually 2nd on the team in saves behind Casilla.) Still, incredible numbers.

  6. Rotoprofessor says:

    Mark – I know the type of season Rodney had, but there is too much stack against him for me to think he is going to excel again. You have his history (his best ERA from 2007-2011 was 4.24) and extreme luck (.220 BABIP, 89.4% strand rate). He’s a disaster waiting to happen in my opinion.

    carlito – Honestly, I’d call it 50/50 right now. I’m sure they want to see if they can use him as a starter, but it is really hard to imagine given how dominany he is.

    David – The biggest worry for me is his control. As long as he can keep the walks in check, he should be a good, low-end #2 closer.

    fiji.siv – I agree 100%, I just didn’t touch on every closer on the list. He is just as risky as the two I mentioned.

  7. carlito says:

    Big fan of Holland?? Me too

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