We finally come to the end of the integrated fantasy ranking series. We are picking the top 24 pitchers that are not exclusively closers (we will see a couple of notable exceptions). There are two schools of thought of adding setup men and middle relievers towards the end of a draft. The first has fantasy players target pitchers that are backing up weaker closers. The idea is to pounce on a guy likely to close games at some point in the year.
The second school of thought is relatively new. It involves drafting relievers that will put up dominant numbers. If you draft two really good middle relievers you will end up equaling the production of one dominant starter. In leagues that count holds you will end up coming out ahead, but even in standard five category leagues it is a good strategy. Just like with the closers, we are ranking these pitchers according to their three year projected numbers in the six categories along with their rankings in total points.
Total Points: (3) Wins + (2) Saves + (2) Inn + Holds + SO – ER – Hits – BB
Dellin Betances—New York Yankees
Points: 599 (1st)
Projection: 3 Wins, 8 Saves, 21 Holds, 2.89 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 15.42 K/9 (3rd)
These numbers are projected over 60 innings. Betances normally pitches closer to 70 innings per season, so the numbers are a bit conservative. He is the perfect example of the second strategy. Aroldis Chapman isn’t likely to go anywhere, but his 100+ strikeouts would match up well with one other dominant reliever like a Josh Hader. Imagine what those two would look like on the same fantasy roster.
Andrew Miller—St. Louis Cardinals
Points: 559 (3rd)
Points: 5 Wins, 6 Saves, 21 Holds, 2.00 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 13.84 K/9 (1st)
Miller is the original. He was a closer at one time and when he was traded to the Indians we all thought he would become their closer. Instead, Terry Francona used him as a sort of “relief ace” like in the days of yore. If he is healthy he could reprise that role again with the Cardinals or he could return to his role as closer. Either way, he will put up dominant numbers.
Alex Colome—Chicago White Sox
Points: 563 (2nd)
Projection: 4 Wins, 30 Saves, 10 Holds, 2.78 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 9.47 K/9 (7th)
Colome fits the mold of the first strategy. Odds are really good that he will share the closer’s role with Kelvin Herrera, so you will likely see between 10 and 20 save opportunities. Guys like him can be really valuable in leagues that also include holds. His other numbers are still very good, but not elite like some of the other guys we will see.
Chris Devenski—Houston Astros
Points: 528 (4th)
Projection: 4 Wins, 2 Saves, 13 Holds, 2.75 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 9.72 K/9 (8th)
Okay, this is where the rubber meets the road. Did Devenski have a down year because he was injured or has the league figured him out? There was talk of him tipping his pitches at the end of 2017. If he returns to form he is on par with Betances and Miller. If he isn’t then he might not even be worthy of a roster spot on the Astros.
Josh Hader—Milwaukee Brewers
Points: 404 (14th)
Projection: 4 Wins, 6 Saves, 15 Holds, 2.30 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 14.72 K/9 (2nd)
No projection or ranking system is perfect. I stay true to methodology where others will interject their opinion where necessary. Hader is the second best pitcher on this list and might very well be the best, but because he doesn’t have three years of numbers he falls a little behind. Feel free to adjust accordingly. I’d probably pick him right after Betances.
Chad Green—New York Yankees
Points: 444 (10th)
Projection: 5 Wins, 0 Saves, 6 Holds, 2.79 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 11.79 K/9 (9th)
I’m not sure how wise it is for the Yankees to load up on relief pitching. Between their top five relievers, they are spending about 60 million dollars. That doesn’t even count Green. He definitely is a category two reliever as there are at least three or four prominent relievers in line in front of him to close games.
Carl Edwards—Chicago Cubs
Points: 387 (17th)
Projection: 3 Wins, 1 Save, 21 Holds, 3.04 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 12.45 K/9 (4th)
With Brandon Morrow on the shelf, Edwards actually fits both molds. The Cubs are in a unique position of having several good relievers, but none of them have closing experience. Edwards might or might not stick in that role. In leagues with holds he might be better off sticking in middle relief.
Kyle Barraclough—Washington Nationals
Points: 434 (11th)
Projection: 4 Wins, 3 Saves, 20 Holds, 3.29 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 11.55 K/9 (11th)
This was an under the radar trade towards the end of 2018 that could end up paying huge dividends in 2019. Barraclough has some warts, but they might have been attributable to his team more than him. We will certainly find out. If he can do a better job of limiting base runners he could be an elite setup man.
Addison Reed—Minnesota Twins
Points: 451 (9th)
Projection: 2 Wins, 6 Saves, 20 Holds, 2.97 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 9.09 K/9 (16th)
Reed has an outside shot of closing games in Minnesota, but he earns the spot here above Matt Barnes and Jeremy Jeffress because he has been a consistently good reliever. I always prefer guys that will help the rate statistics and add to the strikeouts than blindly chasing wins and saves.
Jeremy Jeffress—Milwaukee Brewers
Points: 430 (10th)
Projection: 5 Wins, 12 Saves, 9 Holds, 2.70 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 8.19 K/9 (13th)
Craig Counsell is a new age general manager that likely will turn to Jeffress to close out games before turning to Hader if Corey Knebel should falter. If you take his numbers only as a Brewer you can see why he should be a prime target regardless of your draft day strategy. Arlington has a way of fudging with any pitcher’s numbers.
Matt Barnes—Boston Red Sox
Points: 422 (13th)
Projection: 5 Wins, 1 Save, 21 Holds, 3.86 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 11.36 K/9 (12th)
Barnes might be the Red Sox closer if they had to pick one today. I’m betting they add someone better and even if they don’t I tend to shy away from weak closers. I say that here in order to keep from having to reiterate it later. There are weak closers that will wind up here. That isn’t by accident.
Adam Ottavino—New York Yankees
Points: 396 (16th)
Projection: 3 Wins, 6 Saves, 21 Holds, 3.36 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 11.96 K/9 (10th)
It’s lazy analysis to simply assume Ottavino will be dominant now that he is at sea level. His home ERA in his career is actually lower than the road ERA. Still, if you remove a rough 2017 campaign, he has been a solid middle reliever or setup man in some rough conditions. Who knows what his final role will be in New York though.
Keone Kela—Pittsburgh Pirates
Points: 335 (22nd)
Projection: 6 Wins, 13 Saves, 14 Holds, 3.92 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 11.76 K/9 (5th)
Kela was better in Pittsburgh last year than in Texas, but had a better ERA at home than on the road in his career. Go figure. He’s been really good in three out of four seasons and the one bad one came in 2016. He has closing experience, but it isn’t likely that Felipe Vazquez will vacate that role any time soon.
Jeurys Familia—New York Mets
Points: 461 (8th)
Projection: 4 Wins, 26 Saves, 3 Holds, 3.05 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 9.93 K/9 (19th)
Cover up his name and his saves over the last several seasons and simply look at the other numbers. Familia is a good pitcher. Is he worth huge money or the fuss that has been made over him? Probably not. This is the folly of the saves rule and the importance that has been attached to it. With Edwin Diaz in tow, he’s not closing many games.
Ken Giles—Toronto Blue Jays
Points: 489 (5th)
Projection: 1 Win, 25 Saves, 6 Holds, 3.64 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 12.02 K/9 (22nd)
Wait, isn’t a closer? Well, we can’t get everything past the reading public. The reality is that I don’t want to put Giles on my list anywhere. It is also equally obvious that he shouldn’t be left off the list because he will close games. I don’t know how long he will do it or how well he will do it, but he will do it none of the less.
Zach Britton—New York Yankees
Points: 399 (15th)
Projection: 3 Wins, 20 Saves, 4 Holds, 1.86 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 8.22 K/9 (14th)
Speaking of overhyped. Britton’s ERA is artificially low. It’s hard to justify it based on his WHIP and relatively low strikeout rate. Eleven million annually is pretty pricey for a guy that will be a glorified lefty specialist. He will put up decent rate statistics, but he likely won’t log enough innings to add the counting ones.
Seranthony Dominguez—Philadelphia Phillies
Points: 169 (25th)
Projection: 2 Wins, 16 Saves, 14 Holds, 2.95 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 11.48 K/9 (6th)
Again, having only one season under his belt is killing his ranking. He would rank somewhere near the top in reality. He and David Robertson will likely share some closing responsibilities. That means he gets both saves and holds. Guys that fill up all six categories are especially valuable.
Fernando Rodney—Oakland Athletics
Points: 479 (7th)
Projection: 4 Wins, 29 Saves, 5 Holds, 3.65 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 10.17 K/9 (24th)
Rodney has 325 career saves and counting. So, he will be on a HOF ballot someday. This is for a relief pitcher with a 48-66 record, 3.70 career ERA and ERA predictive stats even higher. He has 8.6 career fWAR. Despite all of these numbers some in the BBWAA will cast a vote for him. It won’t be many, but it will be enough to make you scratch your head.
Archie Bradley—Arizona Diamondbacks
Points: 482 (6th)
Projection: 3 Wins, 1 Save, 12 Holds, 3.83 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 9.21 K/9 (27th)
Bradley’s 2017 and 2018 seasons are a lot more indicative of the pitcher he is likely to be. Still, he is in line to be the closer after having 4 saves and 14 official blown saves. The blown save statistic is more ludicrous than the save statistic. Still, you have to be concerned coming into the season if you are a Dback fan.
Joakim Soria—Oakland Athletics
Points: 385 (18th)
Projection: 4 Wins, 6 Saves, 18 Holds, 3.66 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 10.24 K/9 (17th)
Soria has seen a recent uptick in strikeouts per nine innings that gives everyone cause for optimism. His FIP the last two seasons has been excellent and the A’s might be the best fielding team in baseball. At least they are individually. It all adds up to what? He gives them another potential closer if Blake Treinen goes down.
Blake Parker—Minnesota Twins
Points: 340 (21st)
Projection: 2 Wins, 9 Saves, 8 Holds, 3.10 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 10.19 K/9 (20th)
The Twins will be a fascinating team this season. They are using the tried and shaky strategy of employing several setup men and hoping one of them can close. It’s not a terrible strategy really. It makes sense financially and it works some of the time. Of the candidates, Parker might be the best one.
Trevor May—Minnesota Twins
Points: 151 (26th)
Projection: 5 Wins, 3 Saves, 10 Holds, 4.50 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 12.71 K/9 (15th)
ERA is usually a good metric, but sometimes it can be deceiving. May has a decent WHIP and a very healthy strikeout rate. If you look at ERA predictors like FIP, xFIP, and SIERA they all predict ERAs in the mid threes based on his numbers. He could end up being a sleeper a lot like Ryan Pressly was last season.
Craig Stammen—San Diego Padres
Points: 314 (23rd)
Projection: 4 Wins, 0 Saves, 13 Holds, 2.94 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 9.17 K/9 (18th)
Stammen has a decent shot at getting some save opportunities. Kirby Yates will get the first crack at the spot, but he was very shaky last season when he got the opportunity. Stammen doesn’t have any experience there either, so he could be just as ineffective.
Ryan Pressly—Houston Astros
Points: 385 (18th)
Projection: 3 Wins, 1 Save, 12 Holds, 3.61 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 9.96 K/9 (25th)
Pressly was far better than this last season following his trade to the Astros. Was that a harbinger of things to come or simply a hot streak? I’m betting enough on the idea that he has taken another step forward to put him on the list over guys like Joe Kelly and Mark Melancon. In 26 games in Houston he had a 1-0 record with a 0.77 ERA with 32 strikeouts in 23 innings. Parlay that out into a full season and he would be top five middle reliever territory.