2019 Relief Pitcher Rankings: Top 40

We wrap up our 2019 rankings with closers. 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 Jim Finch, Hunter Denson, Seth Bias and Jake Blodgett. Our four “experts” each ranked their top 40 relief pitchers for the 2019 season. Players marked N/R were not ranked inside the top 40 by that particular person. If you feel we overlooked someone or would like to debate a player’s ranking, feel free to do so in the comment section below (a few RP eligible SP were purposely omitted).

Rank Player Team Jim Jake Seth Hunter
1 Edwin Diaz Mets 2 2 1 1
2 Blake Treinen Athletics 5 1 3 2
3 Kenley Jansen Dodgers 1 5 2 4
4 Aroldis Chapman Yankees 3 6 6 3
5 Felipe Vazquez Pirates 8 3 4 11
6 Roberto Osuna Astros 4 8 10 6
7 Brad Hand Indians 10 7 5 7
8 Sean Doolittle Nationals 9 9 8 5
9 Craig Kimbrel FREE AGENT 6 4 16 8
10 Raisel Iglesias Reds 7 13 11 12
11 Kirby Yates Padres 13 10 12 9
12 Josh Hader Brewers 12 12 7 17
13 Jose Leclerc Rangers 14 15 9 14
14 Corey Knebel Brewers 19 16 13 10
15 Wade Davis Rockies 17 14 15 16
16 Ken Giles Blue Jays 11 18 14 20
17 David Robertson Phillies 18 11 29 13
T 18 Jose Alvarado Rays 22 19 21 15
T 18 Jordan Hicks Cardinals 24 17 18 18
20 Cody Allen Angels 15 28 19 21
21 Will Smith Giants 23 21 20 27
22 Andrew Miller Cardinals 20 20 17 35
23 Archie Bradley Diamondbacks 25 24 22 22
24 Arodys Vizcaino Braves 26 23 28 29
25 A.J. Minter Braves 28 22 33 24
26 Seranthony Dominguez Phillies 27 27 30 26
27 Matt Barnes Red Sox 29 39 27 23
28 Alex Colome White Sox 16 N/R 36 19
29 Mychal Givens Orioles 30 32 26 33
30 Dellin Betances Yankees 21 25 N/R 32
31 Drew Steckenrider Marlins 36 35 31 31
32 Shane Greene Tigers 35 34 32 34
33 Trevor May Twins 31 36 N/R 28
34 Kenta Maeda Dodgers N/R 26 24 N/R
35 Collin McHugh Astros N/R 33 23 N/R
36 Pedro Strop Cubs N/R 37 N/R 25
37 Wily Peralta Royals 40 N/R 34 38
38 Brad Peacock Astros 33 31 N/R N/R
T 39 Greg Holland Diamondbacks N/R N/R 38 36
T 39 Brad Boxberger Royals 39 N/R 35 N/R
Outside Looking in
Brandon Morrow Cubs N/R 40 37 N/R
Joe Jimenez Tigers 38 N/R N/R 39
Honorable Mentions: Kelvin Herrera, Ross Stripling, Jeremy Jeffress, Ryan Pressly, Chad Green, Sergio Romo, Jeurys Familia, Hunter Strickland, Adam Ottavino, Trevor Rosenthal, Keone Kela, Cam Bedrosian

Are there any closers worth reaching a few rounds early for?

Hunter:  Honestly, no. While guys like Edwin Diaz and Blake Trenien are studs, the volatility that surrounds the closer position makes high level investments in closers dubious at best. Over the last three seasons, only one closer has posted more than one 40 save season: Kenley Jansen. Not enough there to justify reaching when you can pick up saves later or as the year goes on.

Jim:  Just like in years past I’ll be reaching for Kenley Jansen, but unlike the past I won’t have to reach into round 4 to get him. Two rough innings ballooned his April ERA, but he was vintage Jansen in May, June and July. I’ll chalk August up to a health scare – heart issues can wreak mental havoc to even the mightiest of heroes – and Jansen was back to his old self in September. Still Number one in my mind and worth a late 5th/early sixth selection. Shout out to Raisel Iglesias for his consist lines – I’ll reach a round here too.

Seth: Yes and no. Obviously, the further you get in a draft, the less ranking matter – so sure, I’d reach 10 rounds for a reliever in round 20 if I liked him. But I wouldn’t do it early – even if Diaz might be that good.

Jake:  To me this is more of a draft strategy question an endorsement of a specific player. If you want to try to draft saves then you might as well pay the premium and get a top-tier guy. Don’t get stuck reaching for the best of the rest after a big run on closers.

Which closer(s) do you plan on avoiding in the draft?

Hunter:  I am less enamored with Roberto Osuna and do not plan on drafting him this year. He could provide high level value closing for the Stros, but I am not sure it’s worth it given his ADP.

Jim:  Despite my rankings for a few players I’ll avoid teams with uncertain closer roles or closers with a tentative hold on the job. Atlanta, Kansas City, Miami, Baltimore, Seattle and Detroit closers can find work elsewhere – that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t claim someone from one of these teams off waivers though. I’m also wary of Red Sox “closer” Matt Barnes and Baltimore’s Mychal Givens.

Seth:  Kimbrel and Shane Greene. Kimbrel’s unemployment is ridiculous, but at this point it really hurts his value. Shane Greene is a mediocre arm on a bad team who will lose his job as soon as there’s a better option.

Jake:  I hope Kenley Jansen has an amazing season, and more importantly that his health issues are behind him, but I’m not drafting him. The guessing game of whether his velocity is down this spring because he isn’t at game-speed yet or if he really has lost a step isn’t a fun one.

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

Hunter:  Sean Doolittle is one closer I would target. He posted a 0.60 WHIP last season and struck out 36.8% of batters faced. Good enough for me

Jim:  Raisel Iglesias has made his way onto all my teams but one. He doesn’t stand out among the elite, but I love his consistency and job security in an age where teams are doing the closer shuffle. He could even get more innings this year with the Reds stating he could see more high leverage situations (a plus for holds and Saves+Holds leagues).

Seth:  I’ll fade closer a bit, but if I’m investing in the future, I like Leclerc. I also like Yates. They aren’t closers, but I feel like there’s an argument for fading saves entirely and stashing RP eligible starters Glasnow, McHugh and Maeda there and raking in strikeouts.

Jake:  I think we could be talking about Sean Doolittle with the upper echelon of closers shortly, so I will invest a fair amount in him.

Top relief pitcher who could be closing by mid-season (or sooner)?

Hunter:  I expect Greg Holland to close for the Diamondbacks this season despite the talent of Archie Bradley and company. He is a good reliever to take a flier on for future saves.

Jim: Will Smith may have the job, but perched right behind him are two former closers who would love to reclaim the 9th innings. I lean towards Mark Melancon but would be all over Tony Watson should he be tabbed to replace Smith. While save chances will be scarce in Miami, Drew Steckenrider should be collecting however many the Marlins will give him this summer once Sergio Romo is shipped off to a contender. These are not top closers, but I see a clear path to saves for them.

Seth:  Guys like Richard Lovelady and Walker Sheller in Kansas City, Lou Trivino in Oakland – basically any situation where the team is bad enough to test a young guy, or who could fall out and trade a stud like Treinen for a haul.

Jake:  Justin Anderson’s outings last  season weren’t usually pretty, but he has the stuff to be a closer. Keep an eye on him if Cody Allen falters in Anaheim.

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