Update Rankings (May 23): Top 30 Closers: Craig Kimbrel Among The Elite & More

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

We are nearly two months into the season so there have obviously been changes to our preseason rankings.  Who has shown signs of improving?  Who has struggled and thus has a cloudier outlook?  Let’s take a look at how things currently stand :


Tier 1 – The Elite
1. Kenley Jansen – Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Craig Kimbrel – Boston Red Sox

  • Did anyone think that Kimbrel would be able to turn back the clock and return to being one of the truly dominant relief pitchers in the game? The only numbers you need to know are 19.2 IP, 36 K, 2 BB.  You simply don’t get more dominant than out, and you could argue that he deserves the top spot in the rankings at this point.


Tier 2 – The Nearly Elite
3. Greg Holland – Colorado Rockies
4. Wade Davis – Chicago Cubs
5. Cody Allen – Cleveland Indians

  • Allen has been among the best relievers in the league this season, though his control hasn’t been quite that of the pitchers sitting above him (3.57 BB/9). That has helped him to a 1.25 WHIP, and suppresses his ranking somewhat.


Tier 3 – Knocking On The Elite Door
6. Roberto Osuna – Toronto Blue Jays
7. David Robertson – Chicago White Sox
8. Ken Giles – Houston Astros
9. Alex Colome – Tampa Bay Rays
10. Mark Melancon – San Francisco Giants
11. Delin Betances – New York Yankees

  • Colome hasn’t been generating as many strikeouts as your prototypical closer, with a 7.65 K/9. While his swinging strikes are down, is an 11.6% SwStr% really tripping any red flags?  He should see that number improve, and with it will come an improved ranking.
  • We all know that he has the upside of an elite closer, but after struggling in the role before Betances is going to have to prove it before we push him too far up the rankings. That said, of all the newly dubbed closers he certainly has the highest upside.


Tier 4 – Solid Option, With Significant Upside
12. Kelvin Herrera – Kansas City Royals
13. Matt Bush – Texas Rangers
14. Corey Knebel – Milwaukee Brewers
15. Raisel Iglesias – Cincinnati Reds
16. Addison Reed – New York Mets
17. Bud Norris – Los Angeles Angels
18. Justin Wilson – Detroit Tigers
19. Seung Hwan Oh – St. Louis Cardinals
20. A.J. Ramos – Miami Marlins

  • Herrera has been in some type of funk of late, allowing runs in three straight outings (before a scoreless inning on Sunday). Obviously when he’s right he belongs in Tier 3, at worst, and could easily be a Tier 2 closer.  Don’t let this current ranking deceive you, but he does need to right the ship in short order.
  • Knebel has been impressive this season, regardless of the role he’s been used in. The only thing keeping him from being ranked even higher on this list is his control issues (4.91 BB/9), and hopefully those don’t haunt him.  That said, while the Brewers may have anticipated the demotion of Neftali Feliz to be a temporary one, Knebel may not allow them to turn back to him.
  • Bud Norris?! He’s certainly making a strong case to keep the job, even once Cam Bedrosian is healthy.  Did anyone really see this one coming?
  • We don’t want to drop Oh too far off of one poor outing, but he also hasn’t been generating many strikeouts this season and that had to be held against him.


Tier 5 – Solid, Though Unspectacular
21. Jim Johnson – Atlanta Braves
22. Tony Watson – Pittsburgh Pirates
23. Hector Neris – Philadelphia Phillies
24. Brandon Kintzler – Minnesota Twins

  • Watson has gotten the job done, for the most part, but he also has allowed a lot of base runners and appears to be a disaster waiting to happen. He certainly isn’t pitching like one of the elite relievers in the game and one or two poor showing could put him on thin ice.


Tier 6 – Closers In Name, But Hard To Trust
25. Brad Brach – Baltimore Orioles
26. Santiago Casilla – Oakland A’s
27. Brandon Maurer – San Diego Padres
28. Fernando Rodney – Arizona Diamondbacks


Committees Currently Excluded
Seattle Mariners
Washington Nationals

Make sure to check out all of our updated rankings:

CatcherApril 25
First BaseApril 26
Second BaseMay 1
Third BaseMay 4
ShortstopMay 8
Starting Pitcher--
Relief Pitcher--


  1. Mark corbin says:

    Thinking of offering avisail garcia for justin Wilson. My offense is the best in the league and I’m waiting for pollock to come back and waiting on franco to start hitting. Wilson will will help in obvious areas.

  2. deda says:

    What do I do with Taillon in a 12team redraft league? I dropped him earlier this week but do I have to claim him back after the news today? Thanks!

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      You could,, but we really don’t know how long it’ll be before he returns to the Majors. If it’s a keeper league, where you are looking towards ’18 as much as ’17 then sure. Just for this season I still wouldn’t count on him

  3. Blue JA says:

    What level of closer could Tanaka fetch? Igglesias or Knebel?

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      I would think he can get you a better closer than that, even with his struggles. If that’s the return I’m not trading him

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