Preliminary 2020 Rankings: Top 10 Relief Pitchers (Where To Rank The 2019 Breakouts, Any Surprises? & More)

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As you view these rankings keep in mind that they are extremely preliminary and will change as we continue our evaluations and projections for 2020. They will also be expanded here on the site, with even deeper rankings and more in-depth analysis available via our draft guide (click here for information on pre-ordering the guide for just $8.25).

With that said, let’s 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, but he 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 strugges. 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. His drop in groundball rate is something to watch, especially if a trade 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)Aroldis ChapmanNew York YankeesChapman may longer be the same closer he once was, but that doesn't mean he should simply be ignored. Of course he's consistently missed time and has seen his velocity drop in recent years, so don't make the mistake of paying Top 5 prices.
8)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.
9)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.
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 a great option. Hopefully the Reds also come to that realization, and if they do he could outproduce this ranking.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

2 COMMENTS

  1. Where does Kimbrel land for you? He seems to be a wild card – I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a top 3 RP this year.

    • I would. He’s had control issues the past few years and I’d be concerned that home runs are a problem again pitching in Chicago. He’s a CL2 for me, and for mehe’s likely going to disappoint

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