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At long last, we have come to the end of our positional tier series, and as we always do this time of year, we’re ranking closers. In a good year, six closers will lose their jobs at some point during the regular season and you’ll get nothing or next-to-nothing for your investment. Thank you for reading.

Five-star players are the studs at their position. In general, they are the players who will be nabbed in the first couple of rounds of the draft, and will fetch mixed-league auction bids over $30. Four-star players are a cut below the studs at the position. They will also be early-round selections, and are projected to be worth more than $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 a regurgitation of last year's values but rather offer insight into what we expect will happen in 2017.

Dollar values come from last 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 we allocate $180 of a $260 budget to hitters. 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

Kenley Jansen

LAD

$26.78

$34.80

68.7

3

47

104

1.83

0.67

Aroldis Chapman

NYY

$18.16

$20.75

58.0

4

36

90

1.55

0.86

Zach Britton

BAL

$25.13

$27.28

67.0

2

47

74

0.54

0.84

Once again, the PFM projects Jansen as the best reliever in fantasy. These pitchers are all fine choices to anchor your bullpen, but Jansen is chalk. One hundred or more strikeouts, a WHIP well under one, and a shot at 50 saves are all realistic outcomes for Jansen. While one might argue that the PFM’s valuation for Jansen’s 2016 numbers is somewhat aggressive, in terms of the pecking order in this year’s drafts he is an easy choice.

Chapman returns for a full season after being suspended for 30 games last season for a domestic violence incident by Major League Baseball. If there is a reliever who could supplant Jansen as #1 overall, Chapman is your best bet. Pitching in the AL and a tough AL East would be a detriment for lesser pitchers, but Chapman is so dominant that you could put him in Coors and he would likely still be a low-end five-star reliever. You don’t primarily draft relievers for strikeouts, but getting 100 or more from your closer is nice.

Five-Star Value Pick: Zach Britton, Baltimore
Britton doesn’t hold a candle to either Jansen or Chapman because he isn’t a strikeout monster, but the ground ball rate is so ridiculous that it doesn’t matter. There is some regression due simply to batted ball luck, but if Britton “only” posts a 1.80 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP that will work. The skills are legitimate, and Britton is one of perhaps only five or six closers in baseball whose job is “safe”.

FOUR STAR

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

IP

W

SV

SO

ERA

WHIP

Mark Melancon

SF

$22.78

$31.38

71.3

2

47

65

1.64

0.90

Seung Hwan Oh

STL

$13.98

$18.73

79.7

6

19

103

1.92

0.92

Ken Giles

HOU

$2.76

$6.71

65.7

2

15

102

4.11

1.29

Craig Kimbrel

BOS

$10.07

$14.08

53.0

2

31

83

3.40

1.09

Edwin Diaz

SEA

$4.69

$7.73

51.7

0

18

88

2.79

1.16

Cody Allen

CLE

$14.44

$17.67

68.0

3

32

87

2.51

1.00

Wade Davis

CHC

$7.49

$13.33

43.3

2

27

47

1.87

1.13

Roberto Osuna

TOR

$17.39

$20.59

74.0

4

36

82

2.68

0.93

Most of Giles’ subpar ERA and WHIP were the product of a terrible April, although sitting behind Willie Harris for a good chunk of the season also didn’t help his fantasy value. A case could be made for putting Giles with the elite options, based on his ceiling.

For the most part, the four-star tier is differentiated primarily by its talent compared to the tiers below. Giles, Diaz, and Osuna are the young arms in the tier who arguably have higher ceilings than most of the grizzled vets, but as we saw last year with Giles the buzz these arms generate doesn’t automatically translate to success. Davis and Kimbrel both have varying injury/durability concerns, but given their track records and respective team’s investments they will have more rope than the younger arms in this bracket will.

If you want to ding Allen because Andrew Miller is waiting in the wings, fair enough, but based solely on performance Allen is fine and Cleveland sounds happy about the current job arrangement. Miller’s presence makes it more likely that Allen is a 30-40 save reliever instead of a 35-45 one, but that’s not enough of a reason to knock Allen down into the shakier three-star group.

For the second year in a row, the four-star tier is populated entirely by pitchers who play for above average teams or better. While a closer on a bad team can get 40 or more saves, closers on better teams generally do have an edge, even if it is slight. It also helps that contenders have stronger set-ups behind most of these arms, keeping more save opportunities intact.

Four-Star Value Pick: Cody Allen, Cleveland
As noted above, Miller’s presence has caused some worry that Allen won’t get all the saves, but this is a buying opportunity for Allen believers. The health is good, the stuff is fine, and Miller has significantly more value to Cleveland in the seventh and eighth inning (and sometimes earlier) than he does as a traditional stopper. Allen’s line last year is easily repeatable, and he’s a safer choice than some of the younger, high risk/high reward relievers in the tier.

THREE STAR

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

IP

W

SV

SO

ERA

WHIP

Andrew Miller

CLE

$15.87

$15.83

74.3

10

12

123

1.45

0.69

Kelvim Herrera

KC

$6.27

$8.21

72.0

2

12

86

2.75

0.96

David Robertson

CHW

$11.30

$17.14

62.3

5

37

75

3.47

1.36

Jeurys Familia

NYM

$21.24

$30.92

77.7

3

51

83

2.55

1.21

Alex Colome

TB

$14.94

$18.46

56.7

2

37

71

1.91

1.02

Tony Watson

PIT

$4.45

$8.66

67.7

2

15

58

3.06

1.06

Francisco Rodriguez

DET

$14.75

$19.89

58.3

3

44

52

3.24

1.13

There aren’t as many boring, older arms in the three-star tier as there have been in the past, but Rodriguez and Robertson do qualify. Robertson is a trade risk and while Rodriguez hasn’t been mentioned in rumors he could be moved if things go south for the Tigers. Some of the reason many of these relievers aren’t ranked higher is that there is less job safety for them entering the season, but as we all know this is guesswork, not science.

There were some members of the fantasy staff who wanted to be extremely aggressive with Miller and push him into the four-star tier. Miller was more valuable last year in mixed formats as a non-closer (he ranked seventh overall among relievers) than he was in AL-only (ninth in 2016). This makes sense. Plenty of free saves pop up in standard mixed leagues via free agency whereas in mono leagues there are at most a handful of opportunities to add a full-time stopper.

Three-Star Value Pick: Tony Watson, Pittsburgh
Was the spike in Watson’s fly ball and home run rates in 2016 the beginning of a trend or merely a blip on the radar? The guess from this corner is that it was the latter, and that Watson should be fine handling the ninth for Pittsburgh. Yes, there is risk, but that can be said for almost any pitcher in this tier. Watson is still a decent ground ball pitcher and gets a nice boost from PNC Park.

TWO STAR

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

IP

W

SV

SO

ERA

WHIP

Shawn Kelley

WAS

$3.70

$6.48

58.0

3

7

80

2.64

0.90

A.J. Ramos

MIA

$12.30

$20.03

64.0

1

40

73

2.81

1.36

Sam Dyson

TEX

$13.61

$18.42

70.3

3

38

55

2.43

1.22

Raisel Iglesias

CIN

$3.37

$6.25

78.3

3

6

83

2.53

1.14

Dellin Betances

NYY

$6.22

$8.93

73

3

12

126

3.08

1.12

The two-star tier is where the uncertainty increases precipitously. Dyson is backed by one of 2016’s best set-ups in Matt Bush and while Dyson’s numbers were fine, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Texas flipped the two relievers at some point. Dyson does have a very strong ground ball rate working in his favor, and while it isn’t Brittonesque, it did induce hitters to hit grounders a whopping 65 percent of the time and kept Dyson’s home ERA at an even 1.00.

Iglesias has the stuff to close and could arguably be in the three-star tier but there is some talk that the Reds may go with Drew Storen to keep Iglesias’ cost lower in arbitration. I don’t buy it – and neither did the experts at NL LABR last weekend – but nevertheless there is some risk involved. Ramos has a different kind of risk, as the Marlins have a strong bullpen behind him and could easily trade their closer midseason. On ability alone, Ramos is at least a three-star arm.

Two-Star Value Pick: Shawn Kelley
The Nationals have been extremely coy about who will be pitching in the ninth come April, but in terms of performance Kelley has earned the job and would be perfectly fine in the role. Kelley is being drafted like he is a back-end reliever, but is 2016 line with 30 saves attached would make him a near-elite reliever. If the Nationals do decide to go in a different direction – either on Opening Day or later in the season – you’re still buying into good rate stats at a cheap price.

ONE STAR

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

IP

W

SV

SO

ERA

WHIP

Jim Johnson

ATL

$5.46

$10.33

64.7

2

20

68

3.06

1.19

Adam Ottavino

COL

($1.21)

$1.30

27

1

7

35

2.67

0.93

Neftali Feliz

MIL

($0.93)

$1.45

53.7

4

2

61

3.52

1.14

Brandon Maurer

SD

$0.56

$3.79

69.7

0

13

72

4.52

1.26

Cam Bedrosian

LAA

($0.73)

$0.90

40.3

2

1

51

1.12

1.09

Nate Jones

CHW

$4.64

$5.81

70.7

5

3

80

2.29

0.89

Kyle Barraclough

MIA

$1.64

$3.85

72.7

6

0

113

2.85

1.12

There was significant pushback from the fantasy staff in favor of including more non-closers in this tier than we have in the past. Looking at some of the uninspiring closers in this tier, this desire is understandable. Some of this ties to job uncertainly for nearly every arm in this bracket, but most of it is the recognition of the fact that a high-end reliever can alter your team’s ratios/be a far more positive asset than someone like Jeanmar Gomez or Brandon Kintzler, who both didn’t even make the cut for the lowly one-star tier. Only one closer from 2016’s one-star and two-star tiers survived as a closer for the entire season, in case you were wondering.

One-Star Value Pick: Kyle Barraclough, Miami
Miller and Betances get all the attention, but Barraclough is another 100+ strikeout set-up option coming out of the bullpen who is getting no play in mixed leagues. Even if Ramos stays put, it is going to be extremely tempting for the Marlins to flip roles at some point in 2017. If they don’t, enjoy the strikeouts and the delicious name.

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dscala
3/07
Would be great to get a writeup of relief pitchers for those of us in leagues that count "holds." Thanks for considering.
MikeGianella
3/07
Eric Roseberry will be covering holds in his Adjuster piece tomorrow.
touchstoneQu
3/07
...or just relievers in general for ERA, K-rate, reliability, etc. (Scoresheet owner here.)
bobbygrace
3/07
What are your thoughts on Hector Neris? His name is only slightly less cool than Barraclough's and he seems to have a similar profile (i.e., a solid chance to assume the closer's role and a good bet to provide strong ratios and K's regardless). I realize you have to stop with the one-star relievers at some point. It seems like high-K setup men grow on trees these days.
MikeGianella
3/07
I like the arm. The Phillies seem really commited to Gomez in an effort to save $$$ on Neris down the line in arb
ajbeisheim
3/07
"Giles, Oh, Diaz, and Osuna are the young arms in the tier who arguably have higher ceilings than most of the grizzled vets..." Oh is 34. I feel like this isn't the first place I've seen this either. He also showed up on the Top 50 Signees list on January 5th.
bretsayre
3/07
He showed up on the Top 50 Signees list because he signed his MLB contract in 2016.
ajbeisheim
3/07
Fair enough, it technically makes sense, just wasn't the same meaning I was getting from that list I suppose. All of this makes me think there's a second pitcher with a similar name that I'm forgetting about, which isn't easily Google-able.
MikeGianella
3/07
That's fair in terms of my piece, though. I could have expressed that more clearly.
jfranco77
3/07
A little surprised that Rodney and Madson didn't make the 1* tier.
nxouris38
3/14
Any way that we can get all of these in an excel file?
MikeGianella
3/14
The charts in these articles? You can go into the PFM, select last year's stats, filter on RP, and pull down in CSV.