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The Primer:

Because dynasty league rankings are relatively league-dependent, I set up parameters for ranking the players below (and the ones who will follow at other positions). The list here presupposes a 16-team standard dynasty format, where there are no contracts/salaries, players can be kept forever and owners have minor league farm systems in which to hoard prospects. So feel free to adjust this as necessary for your individual league, whether it’s moving non-elite prospects without 2014 ETAs down if you don’t have separate farm teams or moving lower-risk, lower-reward players up in deeper mixed or -only formats.

Relievers are that strange mix of characters you often can’t win a league without, but rarely want to invest in heavily. They are a necessary evil, and oftentimes just plain evil. However, at no point can a closer do more damage to a dynasty league owner than when they are rebuilding. One day you think you have a tradable asset, and the next day you have a pile of rubble—it happens all of the time. Ben Carsley said it best yesterday, when talking about Joe Nathan: “[he] is proof that when the end comes for relievers it tends to come fast.” There are always closers on the trade market, which means it’s rarely a good idea to invest in them during a rebuild—especially if you’re talking about relief prospects. In fact, given how baseball teams actually operate, you’re more likely to be successful using your team capital on a flamed out former closer than a relief prospect.

And now, your top 50 relievers in dynasty league formats:

1) Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds

You’re the best! Around! Nothing’s ever gonna keep you down! You’re the best! Around! Nothing’s ever gonna keep you down! (Except arm injuries due to going max effort this long.) Chapman is an absolute stud and his 52.5 percent strikeout rate and 100.3 MPH fastball is just downright unfair.

2) Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves
3) Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals
4) Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

Kimbrel has finally relinquished the top spot on this list, but it’s not a knock on him, rather than the ascension of Chapman. The fact that the Braves project to be a team in transition over the next season or two doesn’t affect him at all, as the save chances should still be plentiful. The Royals have a sickening surplus of relievers these days, and it all comes to a head with Holland in the ninth. He may not have the marquee magic of the first two names on this list, but there’s very little separation between him and them. Jansen is a slight step down, and was a little more hittable in 2014 than he had been previously. Despite being likely to miss all of April (and some of May), he is strong enough to still hang onto his placement in this tier by a thread.

5) Dellin Betances, New York Yankees

It’s really strange to see a pitcher with one career save crack the top five in a reliever dynasty list, but Betances will be the guy in 2015, and his numbers last year really speak for themselves. The only reason he’s not in the tier above is because of slight role uncertainty and the fact that he’s just put it together for the one big year.

6) Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians
7) David Robertson, Chicago White Sox
8) Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates

Now we’ve moved from the absolutely elite relievers to the consistently high-end relievers. Allen should get a ton of opportunities in Cleveland in his first full-season in the closers’ role, and keeps creeping towards triple-digits in strikeouts. You’d figure Robertson would benefit from getting out of Yankee Stadium, but U.S. Cellular isn’t exactly a picnic of an environment to pitch in. He should be a key part of an improving White Sox team. Melancon has been sneaky great over the last two seasons, since escaping Boston, with a 1.65 ERA and 0.92 WHIP.

9) Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins
10) Trevor Rosenthal, St Louis Cardinals
11) Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles
12) Steve Cishek, Miami Marlins
13) Drew Storen, Washington Nationals
14) Huston Street, Los Angeles Angels

Perkins’ consistency is consistently underrated, and there’s no one knocking on the door to steal the closer’s role from him. Rosenthal is risky, but is the best bet of this tier to end up in the top-five on a good Cardinals’ team. Those of you who don’t believe in Britton are likely going to end up disappointed that you didn’t. The strikeouts may never really be there, but he keeps the ball on the ground and out of trouble—which is awfully helpful in that park. There’s a rumor going around that Street is terribly injury-prone, and while he certainly has spent his fair share of time on the disabled list, he’s racked up at least 20 saves in each of the last six years.

15) Koji Uehara, Boston Red Sox
16) Joaquin Benoit, San Diego Padres
17) Sean Doolittle, Oakland Athletics
18) Jake McGee, Tampa Bay Rays

19) Ken Giles, Philadelphia Phillies
20) Wade Davis, Kansas City Royals

This tier is awfully wide-ranging, as it goes from elder statesmen still capable of putting up elite numbers in Uehara and Benoit to potentially elite closers in Giles and Davis, who just don’t have the small detail of a role yet. Both of those current set up guys certainly profile as top-tier members of this list in the future, but counting on that transition is not ideal. In between, the two left-handed closers on the shelf could come back in 2014 form, or maybe not.

21) Addison Reed, Arizona Diamondbacks
22) Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers
23) Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia Phillies
24) Fernando Rodney, Seattle Mariners
25) Hector Rondon, Chicago Cubs
26) Jenrry Mejia, New York Mets
27) Santiago Casilla, San Francisco Giants

Slowly, as I make my way through this list, I’m losing my will to live. It’s not even that I don’t like some of these players. I do. It’s just really tough to separate out the analysis of relievers when they’re not elite. I mean, sure, Reed was a highly touted relief prospect who actually turned into a closer, but he gives up a little too much hard contact to realize his true potential. Feliz got better at the very end of the 2014 season, and has a history of sustained high performance, but neither gives a ton of confidence that 2015 will be a step back in the right direction. Rondon, Mejia, and Casilla all could have strong 30-plus save seasons, or they could all be out of a job in May. Such is life.

28) Brad Boxberger, Tampa Bay Rays
29) Luke Gregerson, Houston Astros
30) Francisco Rodriguez, Milwaukee Brewers
31) Tyler Clippard, Oakland Athletics
32) Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds
33) Andrew Miller, New York Yankees
34) Brett Cecil, Toronto Blue Jays
35) Bobby Parnell, New York Mets

Now we get to see some more of the higher-upside names sprinkled in among current closers. Boxberger and Miller are two of the best relievers in the American League, but it’s unlikely to help them crack double-digits in saves at all over the next season or two. And who knows if their arms will even still be attached to their bodies when an opportunity does present itself. Iglesias is fun because he could be a starter if you really, really squint (don’t do that, it strains your eyes), but could be a top-end setup guy with that fastball/slider combo.

36) Sergio Romo, San Francisco Giants
37) Pat Neshek, Houston Astros
38) Joe Nathan, Detroit Tigers
39) Jeurys Familia, New York Mets
40) Nick Burdi, Minnesota Twins
41) Josh Fields, Houston Astros
42) Joakim Soria, Detroit Tigers

Romo has 78 career saves. Nathan has 376 career saves. Soria has 178 career saves. Neshek is the forgotten guy in the Astros bullpen as Luke Gregerson has the “inside track” and Josh Fields is the “sleeper,” but 0.79 WHIPs don’t exactly grow on trees. And neither do 1.87 ERAs. Burdi has the potential to be the hot new thing among young relievers, but for every Ken Giles, there are about six Craig Hansens.

43) Kevin Quackenbush, San Diego Padres
44) Corey Knebel, Milwaukee Brewers
45) LaTroy Hawkins, Colorado Rockies
46) Jordan Walden, St Louis Cardinals
47) Aaron Barrett, Washington Nationals
48) Jason Motte, Chicago Cubs
49) Francellis Montas, Chicago White Sox
50) Sam Tuivailala, St Louis Cardinals

Quackenbush has plenty of competition in that bullpen, but he’s also pretty good too. Knebel needs to keep his elbow about him, but with a half-broken Francisco Rodriguez ahead of him, it’s not tough to envision him in that role within the next 18 months. Hawkins will live forever and your grandchildren will be able to go to the ballpark and see him pitch. Motte had one great season as a Proven Closer, so he’s very likely to get another chance, whether it’s with Chicago this year or somewhere else the following season. Also, more hard throwing guys with borderline control issues.

Just missed: Derek Law, Shawn Kelley, Cam Bedrosian, Bruce Rondon, Jairo Diaz, Brandon Maurer, Randall Delgado, Ernesto Frieri, Literally every other pitcher in the world who has spent at least two seasons as a closer somewhere.

Thank you for reading

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irishguy8
3/05
Bret,

Saw this on the Guru, and have been holding in a dyntasty format, but was surprised not to see him mentioned anywhere in this list. Is this guy worth holding onto?

"Ottavino could potentially be closing by mid-season and is worth owning in all dynasty formats going forward."
bretsayre
3/05
I'm not in on Ottavino. He still pitches in Coors and he can't get lefties out--which would be a much bigger problem in the ninth. His career OPS against versus left-handed hitters is .875 and that was only worse in 2014, with a .943 mark. Saves are saves, but that could get ugly.
GeorgeBissell
3/05
Yea I'm the one responsible for the Ottavino love on TDG. The key word there is "potentially". They have other options and Ottavino may not be the long-term answer there. Would not be shocked if Ottavino wasn't the guy in Colorado, but if I had to pick someone today to step in, it would have to be him. That could easily change.
irishguy8
4/24
Well you win, George. And I ended up keeping him, so thank goodness now. Now let's just hope he sticks and Axford doesn't vulture any more saves.
mhenheffer
3/05
How far up would guys like Davis, Giles, Miller, Boxberger and Clippard move up the list if the dynasty league counts holds?
bretsayre
3/05
Not much. Don't play for holds, play for saves. New set up guys pop up at an even higher rate than new closers, so planning for them is usually a poor use of resources.
bdiamond
3/05
If for some reason we had the guarantee that Meyer would be going to the bullpen, where would he rank?
bretsayre
3/05
Likely a spot or two above Burdi, but they'd both drop down the list. Meyer the reliever isn't all that much different from Burdi (except that he could be a half-season closer to the majors), and the extra competition diminishes either's ability to get saves in the future.
bretsayre
3/05
He was in consideration for a HM spot (though that grew out of control pretty quickly). I like Lindgren a lot from a talent perspective, but with Betances and Miller ahead of him for the foreseeable future, saves don't seem like a likely outcome and they are the driver of value here.
MaineSkin
3/05
Yep, I'm the crazy that has a list of RP prospects for my dynasty leagues which makes no sense because most have to work their way to the 9th while avoiding injury as they go full tilt one inning at a time.
Do these names create any interest?
Jefferson Mejia, Amir Garrett, Leonel Campos SD, Luis Garcia Phi, Nick Wittgren Mia, Jose LecnaQaaf, Aroni Nina, Raul Fernandez, Jimmie Sherfy,
Nefi Ogando TX, David Gopforth Mil, Akeel Morris, Kella, Jared Eickhart, Manny Barreda Mil
I'm really just looking to hear, "erase all except [4-5 names]."
bretsayre
3/06
I guess. The only names I like even a little on that list are Garrett, Wittgren, Sherfy and Kela.
dcapofari
3/05
do you think holds are the worst stat in the fantasy game?
bretsayre
3/06
Yes. The worst.
jpeterhobbs
3/06
dcapofari-I play in two holds league and really like the category it opens up slots for some really good arms. My vote for the worst has to be innings pitched hate that category.
pobothecat
3/06
I was going to plus-one this comment until I got to the "hate innings pitched" part. Innings-Pitched is a great fantasy stat: it dissuades a team from flooding RP's to the virtual exclusion of SP's, a crummy little trick that's soured many a league.
jpeterhobbs
3/06
pobothecat-I should have expanded and mentioned that we do have a minimum IP requirement. Therefore, we have to roster adequate SP in order to meet that requirement. I agree that flooding with RP is not the answer but in my format where there is a minimum it feels redundant.
kbethel
3/07
Looking for a reliever with upside for my dynasty league. Hunter Strickland or Jairo Diaz?
Worm51
3/07
Im confused as to why Aaron Sanchez isn't listed, or at least mentioned. i.e., if Sanchez doesn't start, he should have the inside track on the closer's job and would probably rank X.
boatman44
3/30
Hey Bret

I know this is a little late, and probably not very interesting either, but for arguments sake if the Boston brass were to announce that Matt Barnes would be solely concentrating on being a reliever ,where would he sit on this list ?