2017 Relief Pitcher Rankings: Top 40

We wrap up each week of positional coverage with our 2017 rankings. In addition to the rankings, we will pose a number of questions to our panel covering topics such as reaches and targets, players to avoid and late-round impact players.

Taking part in our rankings will be Kevin Jebens, Jim Finch, Ron Vackar, Josh Coleman, Andy Singleton, Mike Sheehan and Neil Kenworthy. Our seven “experts” each ranked their top-40 relief pitchers for the 2017 season. Players unranked inside the top-100 by that particular person are marked N/R.

If you feel that we overlooked a player, or you would like to debate a player’s ranking, feel free to do so in the comment section below.

Rank Player Team Andy Kevin Josh Ron Neil Mike Jim
1 Kenley Jansen Dodgers 1 2 1 1 2 2 2
2 Aroldis Chapman Yankees 2 1 3 2 3 1 1
3 Zach Britton Orioles 3 3 2 3 1 3 3
4 Mark Melancon Giants 11 9 4 5 7 5 4
5 Seung-hwan Oh Cardinals 6 7 10 9 4 7 5
6 Edwin Diaz Mariners 5 11 8 6 6 6 9
6 Craig Kimbrel Red Sox 10 4 12 4 11 4 6
8 Wade Davis Cubs 9 6 6 10 8 8 7
9 Roberto Osuna Blue Jays 7 15 7 7 5 10 8
10 Ken Giles Astros 12 5 5 8 10 11 10
11 Kelvin Herrera Royals 8 10 11 13 9 9 12
12 Cody Allen Indians 13 8 14 11 13 15 11
12 Jeurys Familia Mets 4 12 13 17 12 14 13
14 Alex Colome Rays 17 14 9 12 14 12 14
15 David Robertson White Sox 19 13 17 14 16 16 15
16 Andrew Miller Indians 15 18 18 20 15 13 16
17 Francisco Rodriguez Tigers 20 17 16 16 17 20 18
18 Dellin Betances Yankees 14 22 21 25 18 17 17
19 Tony Watson Pirates 21 20 30 18 19 18 19
20 A.J. Ramos Marlins 18 27 20 19 22 22 26

Are there any closers worth reaching a round or two
early for outside of Chapman/Jansen/Britton?

Jim: I might have named Andrew Miller had Terry Francona not officially named Cody Allen the closer, so my answer is “tentatively” no. I say tentative because I’m not sure how I feel about Wade Davis, and I don’t think my infatuation with  Seung-hwan Oh justifies reaching. I may lean this way in a roto league, but not H2H.

Kevin: There are a lot of great non-elite closers entering 2017, so no, I’m not likely to overpay for anyone.

Ron: There are no closers worth reaching a round or two early for inside the top 150. As the draft moves beyond that point, I could certainly see reaching for a closer type if you believe they can be a difference maker. My mind wanders to a guy like Carter Capps who could close for the Padres, but might not get that role from jump. 

Andy: Could be a personal affinity, could be a resemblance (in my eyes) to Mariano. Regardless, I think Edwin Diaz has enormous upside and could be changing how people view these rankings for the next decades. That is, if he remains in the 9th role. If I miss on him, I would reach around (and a round) to grab Familia. How can the staff be chock full of Aces, and you not like the guy at the end?!

Josh: In a vacuum I will not reach for a Closer, yet every draft has its own identity. Taking that into consideration I may alter my stance during the draft. I will target the 2nd tier closers such as Ken Giles, Wade Davis, Alex Colome, and Kelvin Herrera, selecting them where the draft dictates.

Mike:  I’ll go with my boy Edwin Diaz.  Averages 97.3 MPH with a silly 18.5% swinging strike rate.

Neil: Edwin Diaz has legitimate chance to step into the Britton/Jansen/Chapman tier in 2017. Diaz burst onto the scene last year, posting an impressive 41% K-rate over 51.2 innings. His ability to limit walks should help him in high-leverage situations. With a secure role and absolutely dominant stuff, Diaz is worth a reach in drafts.

Which closer do you plan on avoiding in the draft?

Jim: I will not draft Fernando Rodney. I will not rank Fernando Rodney. If any of you draft Fernando Rodney I will personally drive to your house and slap the **** out of you. This has been a public service announcement – I now return you to you relief pitcher analysis already in progress.

Kevin: I’m less partial to the aging (K-Rod), the injury risks (Holland), and the less skilled (AJ Ramos, Tony Watson).

Ron: It feels like the Marlins are hell-bent on replacing AJ Ramos. For that reason he is not likely to end up on a roster of mine this season given his ADP. 

Andy: I like Zach Britton, I just don’t love him. And that means I can’t justify his current ADP. I think he is a prime candidate to regress, as his 2016 season was nearly flawless. That is a tight rope to walk once, much less twice.

Josh: Aroldis Chapman pitched 42.1 innings for the Cubs over 41 games. Best I can recall I watched every one of those innings. No more than 4 of those innings did I feel Chapman dominated the competition. The ERA and WHIP certainly says he did, but from the eyeball test he left a little to be desired. Three-year decline in K/9, three-year decline in Swinging Strike rate, and a three-year increase in Contact% has me hesitant to pay the premium.

Mike: I’m probably going to avoid Jeurys Familia because of the off the field stuff and likely suspension.  He also suffered some diminished performance at the end of last year due to overuse, which always worries me.

Neil: While there are plenty of RP I like this year, Craig Kimbrel is not one of them – mostly due to his 77th overall NFBC ADP rankings. Kimbrel was once the most dominant closer in all of baseball, but top 80 at this point is just too high considering his injury concern and options like Roberto Osuna, Wade Davis and Edwin Diaz behind him.

Rank Player Team Andy Kevin Josh Ron Neil Mike Jim
21 Raisel Iglesias Reds 26 16 22 21 21 31 27
22 Shawn Kelley Nationals 16 24 25 36 26 23 23
23 Sam Dyson Rangers 27 N/R 23 15 20 19 25
23 Adam Ottavino Rockies 38 29 15 23 31 21 22
25 Jim Johnson Braves 25 33 19 22 23 29 30
26 Hector Neris Phillies 22 38 35 30 28 24 20
27 Nate Jones White Sox 32 19 34 24 36 28 35
28 Greg Holland Rockies 33 21 N/R 35 24 25 21
29 Addison Reed Mets 31 25 36 29 29 34 29
30 Cam Bedrosian Angels 24 23 N/R 26 32 27 32
31 Neftali Feliz Brewers 37 28 31 31 25 36 38
32 Ryan Madson A’s N/R 34 28 34 33 26 24
33 Brandon Maurer Padres 36 N/R 27 28 27 33 33
34 Carter Capps Padres 23 N/R 39 27 37 32 34
35 Kyle Barraclough Marlins N/R N/R 38 39 35 30 31
36 Brandon Kintzler Twins 40 N/R 26 32 N/R 37 39
37 Fernando Rodney Diamondbacks 39 N/R 33 33 38 39 N/R
38 Joaquin Benoit Phillies N/R 37 29 N/R N/R 40 N/R
39 Michael Lorenzen Reds 34 39 N/R N/R 34 N/R N/R
40 Matt Bush Rangers N/R 35 N/R N/R N/R 38 40
Honorable Mentions
Drew Storen, Jeanmar Gomez, Brad Brach, Tyler Thornburg, Brad Hand, Corey Knebel

Which closer (if any) do you plan on
owning the most stock of?

Jim: It depends. If it’s a roto league I will attempt to own at least two of the top-3, Chapman being the priority of the group. If the value is right I’ll follow-up with Oh or Davis. In a H2H league I will not reach which means settling for value. Francisco Rodriguez and Tony Watson currently have a nice ADP, and everyone is ignoring my late round pick Greg Holland.

Kevin: I have a hard time paying for Aroldis Chapman for me, saves are saves. There are a lot of skilled relievers out there right now, and I have no allegiance to anyone.

Ron: I plan to own the most stock of Cody Allen, although it would have been nice if Terry Francona would have stayed silent on the topic. This seemed like a foregone conclusion given the usage of Allen and Andrew Miller down the stretch in 2016. Allen has posted a sub 3.00 ERA four seasons running with no less than 87 strikeouts during that time. Others that will likely end up on multiple rosters of mine include Kelvin Herrera, Seung Hwan Oh, Ken Giles, and David Robertson. 

Andy: I view Closers’ projectability akin to driving due east during sunrise with a hangover. In other words, a complete blur. Because of this, I am looking for three things: job security, high k rate, team’s rotation. I am not placing a premium on staffing this position and am happy with taking the best value starting around round 10. Additionally, with Holds leagues gaining more popularity, the depth becomes even greater. Guys like Betances and Miller are arguably Top 5 in those formats.

Josh: I likely have Ken Giles rated higher than most. If drafts play out in close relationship with ADP he will be on many of my teams. No one wants Jim Johnson, but I love his mix of ADP value and job security. The Rockies Closer is Adam Ottavino; current ADP has yet to suggest this so take advantage while you can.

Mike: I’ll go with Craig Kimbrel here.  He was always in the tier with Chapman and Kenley and is now going 25-30 picks later.  He’s on an awesome team and his velocity and swinging strikes are almost identical to what they’ve always been.

Neil: Seung Hwan Oh is one of my favorite closing options heading into 2017 and someone I plan on drafting quite often. The 34-year-old boasted an 11.64 K/9 as he dominated throughout the 2016 campaign, eventually earning the Cardinals’ closing job before the end of the season. Playing for a competitive team and possessing filthy stuff, Oh could easily finish as a top five closer.

Top reliever that could be closing by midseason?
(or sooner)

Jim: A.J. Ramos is in the final year of his contract, and you know the Marlins are not going to let him walk and get nothing in return. Look for Ramos to be traded before the deadline with Kyle Barraclough taking the reins.

Kevin: The White Sox were looking to move David Robertson, which opens the door for Nate Jones. Addison Reed may get to start as closer for the Mets if Familia’s personal troubles aren’t resolved, and he may not give the job back.

Ron: Since AJ Ramos is my closer to avoid, I believe veteran Brad Ziegler (not Kyle Barraclough) will get some 9th inning action in Miami. It wouldn’t shock me to see other vets including Sean Doolittle, Joaquin Benoit, Santiago Casilla, and Drew Storen accumulate a decent amount of saves either. Teams like veterans in the closer role. It keeps costs down during a young player’s arbitration years and baseball people have finally caught on to the idea that outs in the 7th and 8th innings can be just as crucial as those in the 9th – they just don’t earn a player as much money in the eyes of arbitrators. 

Andy: There are a bunch of guys I love here: Carter Capps, Joe Jimenez, Hector Neris, Michael Lorenzen, Carl Edwards, to name a few. There will be a plethora of new closer candidates throughout the season. It is one position you can make huge gains with by being ahead of the curve on the waiver wire.

Mike: Kyle Barraclough had 115 Ks in 72 IP last year.  If the Marlins continue to unfairly doubt AJ Ramos and Ziegler can’t get the job done, Barraclough could become an elite closer.  The Ks will be valuable even if that doesn’t happen, though.

Neil: A.J. Ramos currently has the Marlins’ closer role… but watch out for Kyle Barraclough. The slider-whipping reliever put together a dominant season, posting a 2.85 ERA with 113 K in 72.2 innings. Barraclough certainly has the “stuff” to be a closer which is why I’m confident that role will eventually fall to him in 2017.

One Hit Wonders
Players that appeared on only one list to keep an eye on
Daniel Hudson Hector Rondon Huston Street
Keone Kela Joe Jimenez Mychael Givens
Michael Feliz Pedro Strop David Phelps
Carl Edwards Jr Luke Gregerson Trevor Rosenthal

That Wraps up our relief pitcher rankings. Check back next week as we close things out with our top-250 players for the 2017 season.

CatcherFirst BaseSecond BaseThird BaseShortstopOutfieldStarting PitcherTop 250


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