2018 Preseason Rankings: Top 15 Relief Pitchers: Surprising Names, But Can They Be Trusted?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

We all know that finding a dependable relief pitcher is no easy task, as the turnover rate among closers seemingly increases each season.  That has led many to take on the strategy of not paying for saves, since you will generally be able to find them on the waiver wire.  There’s value in the strategy, but there also is value in getting a trustworthy option that you know is going to close (and there are only a handful of those).  Who is worth targeting?  Who has the highest upside?  Let’s look at how our rankings currently shake out:

1. Kenley Jansen – Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Craig Kimbrel – Boston Red Sox
3. Roberto Osuna – Toronto Blue Jays
4. Aroldis Chapman – New York Yankees
5. Felipe Rivero – Pittsburgh Pirates
6. Brad Hand – San Diego Padres
7. Sean Doolittle – Washington Nationals
8. Ken Giles – Houston Astros
9. Edwin Diaz – Seattle Mariners
10. Corey Knebel – Milwaukee Brewers
11. Jeurys Familia – New York Mets
12. Mark Melancon – San Francisco Giants
13. Blake Treinen – Oakland A’s
14. Cody Allen – Cleveland Indians
15. Brandon Morrow – Chicago Cubs


  • Brad Hand proved last season that he’s among the best relief pitchers in the game, showing strikeouts (11.27 K/9), control (2.27 BB/9) and enough groundballs (46.3%). The biggest question is if he’ll be traded, though even in a setup role he’d hold appeal.  Of course the likelihood of that happening was reduced when the Padres signed him to a three-year extension in the offseason.
  • Health… Health…  Health…  That’s the only thing that has ever helped suppress the value of Sean Doolittle.  He was spectacular after the trade to Washington, racking up 21 saves over 30.0 IP, and as long as he’s healthy (and avoiding home runs, which is the other thing to watch) he has the potential to be among the league leaders in saves.
  • Speaking of Doolittle, Blake Treinen was sent to Oakland as part of the trade and he settled in and found a home there. He was always viewed as a potential closer, and while he struggled in Washington (mostly due to poor luck) he showed all the skills in Oakland with a 9.95 K/9, 2.84 BB/9 and 56.0% groundball rate.  The big change was his control (over 4.00 the previous two years), and if he continues throwing strikes there’s a lot to love.
  • The Mets can talk about not having a “true” closer, instead sharing the role, but does anyone really believe it? We heard the same thing in Cleveland, but it was always clear who the man was.  Assuming he’s healthy, there’s little reason to think Jeurys Familia won’t be closing and thriving in the role.
  • Are the Cubs really prepared to utilize as their closer? That appears to be the plan, though it’s a hard sell and we’d expect it to change.
  • Surprised to see Roberto Osuna ranked so highly? Check out why we are so high on him by clicking here.

Order Rotoprofessor’s 2018 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide for just $7.50!!  Click here for the details, but don’t miss out on the best bargain in fantasy baseball preparation.

Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Preseason Rankings:

Standard League
OBP League
First Basemen01/08/1802/09/18
Second Basemen01/15/1802/13/18
Third Basemen03/09/1803/06/18
Outfielders1-20: 03/18/18

21-40: 03/19/18
1-20: 03/12/18

Starting Pitchers1-20: 03/24/18

21-40: 03/24/18
Relief Pitchers02/12/18--


  1. woyme says:

    Wade Davis? Iglesias?

    Familia ranks above Wade Davis and Iglesias?


    • Rotoprofessor says:

      Yes, both Davis & Iglesias fall short for me.

      Davis – He’s moving to Coors Field afer posting a 5.02 BB/9 and 1.57 HR/9 in the second half last season. There’s a lot of risk.

      Iglesias – There’s risk here of home runs (0.59 HR/9, 42.2% groundball rate) and a regression in his luck (.287 BABIP, 80.8% strand rate, 25.4% line drive rate). Plus being used for multiple innings could cost him save opportunities

  2. Bbboston says:

    In 12 team, 2catcher Al only, what’s your thoughts on Parker and Brach

  3. Nina Dobrev says:

    In a SV+HLD (H2H/Weekly) league, any setup men you’re particularly excited about? I snagged Carl Edwards Jr and Cam Bedrosian just as shots in the dark, but I need one more under the radar guy. The ones I’m strongly considering are Yusmeiro Petit and Kirby Yates. I think Boxberger and AJ Ramos are still available as well. The Josh Hader/Barraclough types are gone. Any input would be appreciated.

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      I’m a fan of Hirano (Ari) if he’s available. Hildenberger (Min) and Goody (Cle) are other favorites

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