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Previous articles in this series:

I can’t believe Bret is making me do this. I’m going to hold out next offseason.

1. Craig Kimbrel, ATL
2. Aroldis Chapman, CIN
3. Greg Holland, KC
4. Kenley Jansen, LAD

It’s pretty self-explanatory up top. Kimbrel is a monster and shows no signs of slowing down. Ditto Chapman, who is also left-handed and that’s pretty cool. Holland was actually more valuable than Kimbrel last year for our purposes, but he’s older. Jansen’s dealing with a foot injury might miss some or all of April, but since these are three-year rankings, that doesn’t matter so much.

5. Mark Melancon, PIT
6. David Robertson, CHW
7. Cody Allen, CLE
8. Dellin Betances, NYY
9. Trevor Rosenthal, STL

Melancon is still one of the game’s most underrated relievers. He’s been downright dominant since leaving the Red Sox, throwing 142 innings of sub-2.00 ERA ball the past two years. He’s about to turn 30, but you have to love him in that park for the next few seasons. Robertson and Allen are just good #analysis. Betances is low based on talent alone, but we’re not even sure he’s going to close and we’ve only seen him be dominant once. Rosenthal may seem low if you look at what he did in 2012-2013, but he led to more walks in 2014 than Boston’s train system did this winter. No, I’m not bitter. You’re bitter.

10. Steve Cishek, MIA
11. Glen Perkins, MIN
12. Zach Britton, BAL
13. Jacob McGee, TB

Cishek and Perkins are perennially under drafted because they play for meh teams (industry term) and don’t post insane strikeout numbers, but their consistency should be valued. Britton lacks their upside but is young and has the stuff to thrive, even in Baltimore. McGee’s erratic and has some injury concerns, but when he’s right, he’s like a left-handed Rosenthal.

14. Ken Giles, PHI
15. Wade Davis, KC

Neither has a closing gig right now, but these are three-year rankings and both could be earning saves at a moment’s notice. Plus, Giles and Davis are both worth owning in 12-team leagues even if they never close. They’re that good. If peeing your pants is cool, then consider the Giles, Davis tier.

16. Sean Doolittle, OAK
17. Huston Street, LAA
18. Koji Uehara, BOS
19. Jonathan Papelbon, PHI
20. Fernando Rodney, SEA

Shoulder injuries are scary, so because he’s had to see a doctor, Doolittle ranks down here. Street’s probably not as old as you think he is—he’s just entering his age-32 season—and while he’s a lock to miss time, he’s effective when on the mound. Uehara’s so old that he might not be pitching in year three, but he’s too good to discount heavily on the front-end. We’ve been hearing about how bad Papelbon’s becoming for so long now that he may actually be underrated, and he’s still “only” 34. Rodney’s about to be 38, despite sporting his hat as though he’s in middle school, and is a pretty reliable short-term RP2. Let’s hope his last few years lead to more moments like this.

21. Andrew Miller, NYY
22. Drew Storen, WAS
23. Neftali Feliz, TEX
24. Addison Reed, ARI
25. Joakim Soria, DET

You could rank Miller up with Giles and Davis based on ability, or you can rank him in the mid-30s based on the fact that he’s not set as a closer and has horrible contextual factors. We’ll split the middle here. Storen is young and serviceable but lacks upside, while Reed and Feliz are young and serviceable with lower floors. Soria is somehow already almost 31, but he’s something else in Detroit you can bank on closing pretty soon.

26. Joaquin Benoit, SD
27. Santiago Casilla, SF
28. Luke Gregerson, HOU
29. Hector Rondon, CHC
30. Francisco Rodriguez, MIL

This is a pretty uninspiring tier, but Benoit, Casilla, Gregerson, and Rodriguez can get the job done in the short term while Rondon offers some long-term upside. Isn’t this an exciting exercise!? I’m not doing this next year Bret, DO YOU HEAR ME?

31. Bobby Parnell, NYM
32. Jenrry Mejia, NYM
33. Joe Nathan, DET
34. Rafael Soriano, FA

Parnell can still dish out some saves in his career; he’s not total trash yet, he just has to make sure he’s on the field when he’s supposed to be. Mejia is there to pick up saves when Parnell inevitably can’t do what’s described above. Nathan is proof that when the end comes for relievers it tends to come fast, but there’s a chance he’s still relevant for a year or two. Soriano’s still out there waiting for someone to love him again, but odds are someone will once a reliever or two goes down.

35. Tyler Clippard, OAK
36. Brad Boxberger, TB
37. Brett Cecil, TOR
38. LaTroy Hawkins, COL
39. Sergio Romo, SF
40. Jordan Walden, STL

A bunch of good set-up men who have the potential to see saves in 2015 thanks to injuries or uninspiring depth charts. There’s no point in thinking three years out with these guys given the volatility of relievers, but they might provide you with some value this year. Also LaTroy Hawkins. Never doubt LaTroy Hawkins.

Honorable Mention: Kelvin Herrera, KC; Danny Farquhar, SEA; Tyler Thornburg, MIL; Rex Brothers, COL; Joe Smith, LAA; Casey Janssen, WAS; Kyle Crockett, CLE; Tanner Scheppers, TEX; Neil Ramirez, CHC; J.J. Hoover, CIN; Darren O’Day, BAL; Your Favorite RP Prospect, (Insert Team Here); Your Favorite SP Prospect Who Will Probably Relieve, (Insert Team Here)

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doog7642
3/04
Re: Tier four -- That's the grossest thing I've ever heard. Let's go.
BenC22
3/04
Don't downvote him! It's a follow-up Billy Madison quote!
doog7642
3/04
Thanks for having my back, yo.
timjrohr
3/04
Seriously: why do you guys do anything other than current-year rankings of relievers? It's pretty clear that relievers rise and fall almost randomly, and There's No Such Thing As a Relief Pitching Prospect. Do readers really demand these? I'm not being snarky or critical. I really would like to know what the reason is for all these pre-season, "long-term rankings of relievers" articles, besides, "Well, we've done it for every other position." Because it's clear that you guys don't enjoy doing them!
Muboshgu
3/04
Because dynasty and keeper leagues still need RPs.
BenC22
3/04
That's fair, but I do think there's *some* value, even if there's less value than you get in, say, the second base edition of this exercise. Also I just like needling Bret, we don't really hate these that much. (yes we do)
markpadden
3/10
What looks random to you isn't random to more sophisticated owners.
bmmolter
3/04
Great Billy Madison reference.
fbraconi
3/04
I'm okay with this exercise--I can appreciate the need to fill out the series even if, as timjohr suggests, it's highly speculative. But recognizing the extreme turnover in closers, shouldn't the 3-year rankings try to flag the most valuable of fantasy resources-- the cheap (or low ADP) but good set-up guys who have a high chance of ascending to a closer role? For example, I'd move Giles up at least 5 spots given his talent and positioning. I'll guess that 15 of the bottom 25 won't be fantasy relevant by the 2017 season.
BenC22
3/04
Well, we still skew all three-year rankings pretty heavily toward 2015, because fantasy baseball is unpredictable regardless of the position in question. So I'd argue that having guys like Giles and Davis in the mid-teens is already a pretty strong compliment, and having guys like Hawkins on here at all is a nod to 2015 value. There are plenty of great set-up guys who never become closers, so you have to be careful when weighing their value in the long-run.