Top 15 Middle Relievers for 2017

Below is a ranking of our top 15 middle relievers, based on their likelihood to get saves this season — not necessarily their skill level. As an example, Pedro Strop is a very good reliever who’s unlikely to get any save chances, because he’s stuck behind Wade Davis and Hector Rondon. So although Strop is a much better pitcher than a number of the guys listed below, he’s not ranked.

1. Cam Bedrosian, Los Angeles Angels — Huston Street was likely going to start the year as the closer for the Angels, but he hurt his back and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks.  Street’s injury isn’t surprising, given his history, and Bedrosian would have been on this list regardless.  However, now that Bedrosian has a clearer path to see saves to start the season, he vaults up to number one.  With an ERA just over 1.00 and 51 Ks in 40.1 innings last year, Bedrosian has the numbers to close out games. Be aware, though, that Bedrosian is getting over a minor groin strain and has yet to make his first appearance of the spring.

2. Addison Reed, New York Mets — Addison Reed is another middle reliever who has the chance to see saves right out of the gate in 2017.  Closer Jeurys Familia, who led the league in saves last year, is potentially facing a suspension for domestic violence charges that were eventually dropped.  Reed saved 40 games four years ago and had a stellar season setting up Familia last season.

3. Andrew Miller, Cleveland Indians — Cody Allen has already been named the closer in Cleveland, but that doesn’t mean he will receive all the save chances.  Andrew Miller is too good to not see some time in the ninth inning.  The Indians also added a veteran lefty in Boone Logan, which should allow manager Terry Francona to match up against lefties earlier in the game, saving Miller for the end of the game if needed.

4. Hector Neris, Philadelphia Phillies — Hector Neris struck out over 100 batters in 2016, and since we think the guy ahead of him (Jeanmar Gomez) is the 30th-best closer in the league, Neris could end up being a good source of saves.  Gomez saved 37 games for the Phillies last year, but finished with an ERA close to 5.00 and well under a strikeout per inning.  If Gomez stumbles to start the year, Neris could take the job and run with it.

5. Greg Holland, Colorado Rockies — Greg Holland is practicing patience as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery, and fantasy owners might be wise to do the same.  It may take Holland some time to round back into form, but if he can get anywhere close to his All-Star days of 2013 and 2014, he could be a steal in the later rounds of your draft.

6. Nate Jones, Chicago White Sox — There have already been rumors of closer David Robertson being traded, which would open the door for Nate Jones.  Jones struck out 80 guys last year against only 15 walks.  Those numbers could lead to success closing out games if Jones gets a chance.

7. Carter Capps, San Diego Padres — Although he didn’t pitch at all last year and has zero career saves, Capps could end up being one of the most coveted middle relievers.  Before Capps got hurt two years ago, he had amassed a ridiculous 58 Ks in just 30.1 innings.  The Padres do not have an established closer currently, and the possibility of turning those strikeout numbers into saves this year is very intriguing.

8. Blake Treinen, Washington Nationals — Blake Treinen has been mentioned as a candidate to close games for the Nationals, along with Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover.  Treinen picked up his first career save with the Nationals last season and ended up with the lowest ERA of the three pitchers in the committee.

9. Sean Doolittle, Oakland A’s — Sean Doolittle has at least one save in each of the five seasons, and we expect that to continue in 2017.  Doolittle has struggled to stay healthy the last couple years, but his 2016 strikeout numbers were pretty good, and his walk rate per nine innings was under 2 for the third time in the last four years.

10. Dellin Betances, New York Yankees — Betances ended up with 12 saves last year, but he’ll return to setup duties after the Yankees signed Aroldis Chapman.  He should still see the occasional save chance when Chapman is rested, and if anything were to happen to the Yankees’ closer, Betances would immediately become an elite option.

11. Drew Storen, Cincinnati Reds — Drew Storen has had quite an up-and-down career when it comes to saves.  This is a guy who saved 43 games in just his second season and then another 29 games just a couple years ago.  However, Storen has not been a reliable source for saves during his other seasons in the league.  This year he joins a Reds bullpen that was one of the worst in baseball in 2016, making him an interesting lottery ticket.

12. Matt Bush, Texas Rangers — Bush had a great year pitching out of the Rangers’ bullpen last season.  Sam Dyson will be the closer to start the season, but Bush has more typical closer numbers.  Keep an eye on Bush if Dyson slips up at all for Texas.

13. Arodys Vizcaino, Atlanta Braves — Vizcaino began the year as the Braves’ closer last season and saved 10 games prior to the All-Star break.  However, injuries in the second half of the season derailed him, and the Braves re-signed Jim Johnson in the offseason.  If Vizcaino can stay healthy in 2017, he could challenge Johnson, who is no stranger to losing his closer gig.

14. Corey Knebel, Milwaukee Brewers — The Brewers signed Neftali Feliz this past offseason in part because Corey Knebel did not show the same form in 2016 as he did in 2015.  Feliz did struggle down the stretch last year as well, so if Knebel can adjust, he could pick up some saves for the Brewers and your fantasy team.

15. Bruce Rondon, Detroit Tigers — Francisco Rodriguez is entering his 16th year in the league, and while he has continued to get the job done, age can be a steep cliff for relievers.  Bruce Rondon has bounced around between the majors and the minors the past couple seasons, but really came on strong at the end of last year.  This could be the year that he puts it all together for a full season and finally reaches his closer potential.

2017 Tiered Closer Rankings

March 3, 2017

Here are the Monkey’s closer rankings for 2017. As always, we’ve got them divided into tiers for your drafting ease.

Tier 1
1. Kenley Jansen
2. Aroldis Chapman
3. Zach Britton

Analysis: Not much to say about these guys. For the sake of semantics, we have Jansen above Chapman mainly because the Dodgers could win 100 games. Britton slots in behind them because his strikeout totals won’t be as high.

Tier 2
4. Wade Davis
5. Seung-Hwan Oh
6. Craig Kimbrel
7. Edwin Diaz
8. Mark Melancon
9. Kelvin Herrera
10. Ken Giles
11. Roberto Osuna
12. Cody Allen

Analysis: With one exception, these guys all fit the blueprint for a model closer in 2017: Strikeout artists who are largely successful at keeping the ball in the ballpark. Mark Melancon is the only guy who doesn’t fit that mold, strikeout-wise, but his cutter has so much movement that hitters can’t make good contact, allowing him to defy his metrics for years. The most interesting name on this list is Edwin Diaz, whose numbers from last year projected over a full season are pretty staggering. He’ll have to prove he can handle the rigors of a full season, but his upside is tremendous.

Tier 3
13. David Robertson
14. AJ Ramos
15. Jeurys Familia
16. Sam Dyson
17. Alex Colome

Analysis: Everyone here is likely to be reliable, though they’ve all got a question mark or two that keeps them from cracking the second tier. Respectively, those question marks are: trade rumors, a great supporting cast that will result in a quick hook if he struggles, a likely suspension, meh strikeout totals, and a revitalized Brad Boxberger.

Tier 4
18. Tony Watson
19. Jim Johnson
20. Francisco Rodriguez

Analysis: Eh they’ll be fine. You know, probably.

Tier 5
21. Neftali Feliz
22. Raisel Iglesias
23. Ryan Madson
24. Adam Ottavino
25. Shawn Kelley
26. Huston Street
27. Brandon Maurer
28. Fernando Rodney

Analysis: Now we’re getting down to the moneymakers. Every year, a couple closers in everyone’s bottom 10 wind up having perfectly decent, or even good, seasons, and the people who took them get great value for their late draft picks. The players on this list to watch most closely are Adam Ottavino and Shawn Kelley, who would move up a tier or two if they win the closer role out of Spring Training.

Tier 6
29. Brandon Kintzler
30. Jeanmar Gomez

Analysis: Kintzler should start the year as closer, and might bounce back into the role every time Glen Perkins gets hurt. Gomez actually starts the year with the job, unlike some of the pitchers in the tier above him, but we think he’ll pitch more like he did in August than April. Expect Hector Neris to close in Philly soon.