2016 Rankings: Top 15 Relief Pitchers: Youngsters Looking To Join Tier 1 & More

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

We all know that relief pitchers are a risky group, as even the “bigger” names never truly appear to be on safe ground.  All it takes is a few poor outings for speculation to begin that they are going to be replaced and while sometimes teams show patience, that’s not always the case.  You also have the potential for committees in a few situations and things get even murkier.

Of course that doesn’t mean that you avoid them completely, as there are a group of youngsters quickly emerging and pushing to enter the elite group.  Who are the best investments?  Let’s take a look:

1) Kenley Jansen – Los Angeles Dodgers
2) Aroldis Chapman – New York Yankees
3) Craig Kimbrel – Boston Red Sox
4) Zach Britton – Baltimore Orioles
5) Jeurys Familia – New York Mets
6) Wade Davis – Kansas City Royals
7) Mark Melancon – Pittsburgh Pirates
8) Trevor Rosenthal – St. Louis Cardinals
9) Ken Giles – Houston Astros
10) Hector Rendon – Chicago Cubs
11) Jake McGee – Colorado Rockies
12) Shawn Tolleson – Texas Rangers
13) Cody Allen – Cleveland Indians
14) Sean Doolittle – Oakland A’s
15) David Robertson – Chicago White Sox

Thoughts:

  • Zach Britton has emerged as one of the elite closers in the game in short order. The southpaw saw his strikeout rate jump to a 10.83 K/9 last season, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering his SwStr% (13.1% in ’14, 16.4% in ’15), and he pairs it with control (1.92 BB/9) and an elite groundball rate (79.1%). He’s outside the top tier, for now, but he has that type of stuff.
  • When Greg Holland got injured Wade Davis stepped into the closer’s role seamlessly. Overall he posted a 10.43 K/9 and 2.67 BB/9, though it’s impossible to bank on him replicating the ERAs he’s posted the past two seasons (1.00 & 0.94) as the luck metrics are unheard of (strand rates of 87.5% and 92.2%). That’s not to say that he isn’t going to thrive, but don’t be surprised to see him take a step backwards.
  • Does anyone really believe in the “coach speak” coming out of Houston that Ken Giles may not open the year as the closer? You don’t trade that type of haul for a setup man, and that’s pretty obvious.
  • There was always going to be a chance that Jake McGee opened the year as a closer, but now that he’s in Colorado he’s locked into the role. Home runs could be an issue, as they always are in Colorado (groundball rates of 38.0% and 38.9% the past two seasons for McGee), but he brings elite strikeout stuff (12.0% SwStr% for his career) and good control. Don’t shy away from him.
  • If healthy does anyone believe that Sean Doolittle won’t return to being one of the better closers in the league? It was just in 2014 that he posted a 12.78 K/9 and 1.15 BB/9 over 62.2 IP. Injuries derailed him last season, but the upside potential clearly remains.

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