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To read the previous articles in this series, follow the links below:

Today, our positional tier rankings series concludes with a look at relief pitching.

Players at each position are divided into five tiers, represented by a numerical star rating. Five-star players are the studs at their respective position. In general, they are the players that will be nabbed in the first couple of rounds of the draft, and they'll fetch auction bids in excess of $20. Four-star players are a cut below the studs at the position. They will also be early-round selections, and they are projected to be worth more than $15-20 in most cases. Three-star players are the last tier in which players are projected to provide double-digit dollar value in auctions, and two-star players are projected to earn single digits in dollar value in auctions. One-star players are late round sleepers and roster placeholders. The positional tiers aren't simply a regurgitation of last year’s values but rather try to offer some insights into what we expect will happen in 2015.

We retained last year's roster requirements for the positional tier series. Dollar values come from this year’s PFM using a 12-team, standard 5×5 scoring format, with 23-man rosters and the following positions: C (2) 1B (1) 2B (1) 3B (1) SS (1) CI (1) MI (1) OF (5) UT (1) P (9). The minimum bid for players is $1, and, as we did last year, we'll allocate $80 of a $260 budget to pitchers. The PFM is customizable, so if your league uses a different format you can adjust it to match your league settings and see how it impacts players’ dollar values.

Five Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

IP

W

SV

SO

ERA

WHIP

Aroldis Chapman

CIN

$15.50

$19.90

60.7

3

38

95

2.07

1.02

Craig Kimbrel

ATL

$23.43

$26.21

63.7

3

45

103

1.34

0.88

Greg Holland

KC

$13.85

$21.21

60.3

3

40

80

2.36

1.10

While there are some arms in the four-star tier that could crack into this group, the pitchers here the ones who are either obvious $20-plus closers or worth taking in the first six rounds of a 15-team mixed league. As far as closers go, these guys are about as money as it is going to get, and if you are a believer in making a big investment in your pen, this is the way to do it. 2015 appears to be an especially important year to lock in top-tier saves if you are not a category dumper. There are at least eight bullpens with weak closers or uncertain situations due to injury or questionable options at the front of the pen.

Five-Star Value Pick: Greg Holland
He doesn’t get as much love as the first two pitchers in the five-star tier, but Holland is just as capable of pitching at an elite level as Chapman and Kimbrel are. There are no bargains in this group, but Holland has been slightly cheaper in ADP thus far.

Four Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

IP

W

SV

SO

ERA

WHIP

Dellin Betances

NYY

$3.43

$11.74

54.0

2

34

61

3.94

1.36

Marc Melancon

PIT

$7.52

$13.54

54.0

3

33

51

2.86

1.10

David Robertson

CHW

$11.05

$18.68

60.3

3

37

81

2.71

1.16

Kenley Jansen

LAD

$12.45

$17.08

50.3

3

33

76

1.73

0.91

Steve Cishek

FLA

$9.47

$15.25

63.3

3

35

66

2.94

1.13

Trevor Rosenthal

STL

$7.33

$13.71

58.7

3

35

63

3.32

1.20

Zach Britton

BAL

$5.01

$13.41

61.3

3

35

47

3.53

1.31

Cody Allen

CLE

$8.56

$16.35

67.7

3

32

81

3.05

1.17

Drew Storen

WAS

$7.54

$13.56

53.0

3

33

52

2.88

1.09

Koji Uehara

BOS

$13.27

$20.05

58.3

3

34

73

2.08

0.92

Huston Street

LAA

$8.41

$15.93

55.7

3

33

54

2.78

1.06

Jon Papelbon

PHI

$10.23

$15.62

53.7

3

34

60

2.44

1.00

Fernando Rodney

SEA

$8.33

$16.68

59.0

3

40

60

3.31

1.29

Glen Perkins

MIN

$3.79

$12.15

58.7

2

34

56

4.00

1.29

Joaquin Benoit

SD

$9.65

$14.64

56.7

3

29

67

2.21

0.97

If this group looks particularly large, it is because as noted above there are a significant number of stopper options this year, which pumps this group up significantly. On ability alone, Betances belongs in the five-star tier; he is only here because some believe he could be part of a job sharing arrangement or even set-up Andrew Miller. My guess is that he runs with the closer job and dominates.

Jansen’s injury is a non-arm injury, so even if he returns on the later end of his timetable, you should still get five strong months out of him. I agree with my colleague Craig Goldstein and think that there has been a bit of an overcorrection on Jansen. He could still be a top five closer even if he misses all of April (Jansen, not Craig).

Rosenthal might be rated higher by some, but his control issues last year along with the Cardinals historical willingness to pull the plug quickly on shaky closers makes me nervous. He could be fine, but he should be discounted somewhat as he dangerously started creeping toward Carlos Marmol territory in 2014.

Papelbon would be rated higher if not for the trade risk, although much of that risk comes for NL-only and not mixed leagues. The combination of Papelbon’s no-trade clause and the vesting option on his contract make it unlikely that he would accept a deal somewhere to be a set-up man. Furthermore, it is unlikely that a team would assume the $26 million owed to Paps through 2016 assuming the vesting option kicks in. Even in NL-only, don’t overreact to the trade risk. The Phillies have little incentive to eat money and a smart contender probably doesn’t have the incentive to pay Papelbon’s salary either now or at the deadline when so many other options could be available at a cheaper dollar figure.

Four-Star Value Pick: Joaquin Benoit
I am kind of cheating by taking a pitcher I also suggested as a relief target yesterday, but Benoit’s ERA and WHIP have been staggeringly good going all the way back to 2013. Kevin Quackenbush could steal a handful of saves, but Benoit should be the man all year in the extreme pitchers’ environment of Petco.

Three Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

IP

W

SV

SO

ERA

WHIP

Francisco Rodriguez

MLW

$8.55

$14.58

57.7

3

35

62

3.10

1.12

Hector Rondon

CHC

$6.43

$13.02

56.3

3

35

53

3.50

1.19

Addison Reed

ARI

$10.42

$15.97

66.0

3

35

73

3.06

1.08

Neftali Feliz

TEX

$6.37

$13.97

56.7

3

30

55

2.83

1.14

The three-star tier is small because the gap between “closers I trust” and “closers who are shaky” seems particularly large this year. The four pitchers in the three-star group rest somewhere in the middle.

When it comes to Rodriguez, it is entirely possible that I am falling victim to one of those inherent biases that Jeff Quinton talks about in his articles. K-Rod was the ninth best closer in 5×5 last year, and if you snagged him as a one dollar endgame play in NL-only, you reaped significant rewards. However, a closer look reveals that my biases are based in reality: a poor 4.47 FIP and an ISO against his curve (.273) and fastball (.259) that are a disaster waiting to happen. Maybe Jonathan Broxton will get some saves in 2015 after all.

PECOTA is far more optimistic about Reed than I am. Maybe the HR:FB rate was a fluke and last year was a blip on the radar, but it seems more likely that Reed is going to be one of those closers who hangs onto the job but puts up something closer to a 4.00 ERA than a 3.00. It helps that there isn’t anyone particularly strong behind him to swoop in if the struggles, but this has never saved anyone if they are going poorly enough.

Rondon is the kind of pitcher who everyone assumes will simply lose the job because he had no pedigree, but his numbers and stuff were both fine last year. The Cubs are one of those smart organizations that don’t care about having a name brand closer, which works in Rondon’s favor.

Three-Star Value Pick: Netfali Feliz
Ignore Feliz’ low whiff and velocity rates for all of 2014. After struggling upon his return to the majors in July, Feliz’s fastball returned with a vengeance in September, averaging 96 MPH on his fastball and looking once again like the potential relief ace we all thought he would be prior to his 2012 Tommy John surgery. If enough people are only looking at his aggregate numbers, Feliz could be a sneaky bargain.

Two Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

IP

W

SV

SO

ERA

WHIP

Santiago Casilla

SF

$0.96

$6.82

52.7

3

19

47

3.15

1.17

Jacob McGee

TB

$1.36

$8.08

54.7

3

15

63

2.73

1.12

Sean Doolittle

OAK

$10.85

$17.74

56.3

3

31

68

2.05

0.97

Luke Gregerson

HOU

$5.96

$13.57

62.0

3

28

58

3.02

1.12

Bobby Parnell

NYM

-$6.39

$0.50

40.0

2

3

38

3.04

1.14

LaTroy Hawkins

COL

$0.38

$7.17

63.7

3

27

41

4.39

1.32

Joe Nathan

DET

$5.06

$13.08

52.7

2

34

54

3.44

1.24

This tier is split between the injury cases who we assume will get their jobs back when they are 100 percent healthy and the shaky closers who either weren’t good last year, or have a strong option or options behind them.

PECOTA is assuming a quick recovery and full effectiveness upon return for Doolittle. This is certainly a possibility, but the right play at the moment is to take a conservative approach in drafts and auctions. The same could be said for McGee. Both pitchers were among the best in the game last year when healthy, but are also backed up by some pretty capable options who could easily take the job away (see the one-star tier below).

The healthy options here all seem to be tethered to another arm in their bullpens, and are probably on a short leash as a result. Casilla will start out the year as the closer, but I agree with PECOTA that Sergio Romo will get some saves and could take the job at some point. Hawkins is a great story, but the odds of him surviving another year with a low whiff rate in Coors seem poor. Maybe Nathan will bounce back and provide one more year of excellent value, but he could just as easily flame out in April.

Two Star Value Pick: Luke Gregerson
I don’t like dubbing any of these guys as “value picks,” so I’ll take the guy who just got a three-year deal and probably will have a little bit of job security out of the gate as a result. In AL-only and deeper mixed, the best advice I can give you is to stash Pat Neshek along with Gregerson; the two shouldn’t cost that much in 5×5 leagues.

One Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

IP

W

SV

SO

ERA

WHIP

Wade Davis

KC

-$7.46

$0.48

60.3

3

0

54

3.56

1.28

Tyler Clippard

OAK

$1.76

$8.09

71.7

4

5

84

2.44

1.06

Ken Giles

PHI

-$2.78

$2.75

53.7

2

7

66

3.09

1.18

Brad Boxberger

TB

-$4.32

$2.23

59.7

3

0

80

3.13

1.20

Brett Cecil

TOR

$2.05

$9.69

55.0

3

25

51

3.52

1.23

Jennry Mejia

NYM

$2.47

$8.88

60.3

3

25

52

3.42

1.23

Sergio Romo

SF

$4.01

$8.97

57.3

3

15

65

2.36

0.03

Andrew Miller

NYY

-$7.89

$0.44

54.0

2

5

60

4.02

1.40

Joakim Soria

DET

-$4.52

$2.19

52.7

2

5

54

3.29

1.17

Pat Neshek

HOU

-$8.00

$0.11

57.0

3

0

49

3.74

1.26

Aaron Sanchez

TOR

-$15.22

-$4.10

68.7

4

0

53

5.18

1.59

Here are the alternates if the closers in the two-star tier crash and burn along with the high-end set up options. Davis and Miller are likely to return more value than many of the closers in the league, but then the same could be said for a number of relievers who won’t even be drafted in only formats. Only three of the top 10 middle relievers were drafted in NL-only last year and two of the top 10 in the AL. It is tempting to push Davis and Boxberger into the two-star tier based on past performance, but history tells us that we shouldn’t.

Cecil and Mejia are the most likely pitchers in this group to get a healthy amount of saves. Parnell should be back in late April or early May, but it’s possible Mejia runs with the job. Cecil is the man if the Blue Jays don’t make a trade. He is residing here just in case the Blue Jays deal for Papelbon or sign Rafael Soriano. Aaron Sanchez is listed in this tier in case he starts out in the pen this 2015, although as we go to (virtual) press his status is up in the air.

One Star Value Pick: Ken Giles
I’m not sold on the idea that the Phillies have to trade Papelbon or that Giles will automatically be the closer if the Phillies do trade Papelbon, but Giles should return significant fantasy value regardless. Of course, as I mentioned above the real one-star value pick will be Mr. Not Appearing In This Baseball Prospectus Article.