2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Relief Pitchers

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As a full-time closer last year, Chapman's numbers were historic, so his potential as a starter is enough to make Fantasy owners salivate.

The 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Relief Pitchers is far-and-away the most difficult set of rankings to assemble.  In large part, it is the most fluid position in baseball and can even vary depending upon the manager the player pitches for.  Will he be allowed to close-out back-to-back games, will he be thrown into a "closer by committee" situation?

That is why I recommend keeping an eye on how strong of a hold that player has in his given role.

Looking at last season, you had players like Jordan WaldenHeath BellJose ValverdeSergio SantosBrian Wilson, and Javy Guerra, all ranking well within the top 20 of this category.  Whether it be to injury or poor performance (most of these guys are headcases), half of these names cannot even be found within the top 100 this time around.

The waiver wire is a tool, use it.  Every year, in nearly every week of the regular season, relievers emerge in new roles.  There are always a group (between 5-10) of pitchers that become hot pickups within the first couple of weeks of the season, that not only help in the short term, but play a role in determining who wins the saves category.  Think Sergio Romo, Kenley Jansen, Addison Reed and Fernando Rodney last season.

Keep in mind, these power rankings are not based on a closer’s legacy, name, or team.  The ranking is based upon a formula that considers the pitchers current stats, reliability, and more importantly what the closer is projected to do next season.

There are a few changes you will want to keep your eye on: [custom_list type="dot"]

  • Kris Medlen, Wade Davis, Hisashi Iwakuma, Alexi Ogando, and Aroldis Chapman are among the group of pitchers that have the added benefit of being labeled both a SP and RP.  Some are former starters moving to the bullpen, while others are making the transition from the pen to the rotation.  Regardless, this provides added value in all fantasy leagues and allows for additional flexibility within your lineup.
  • Rafael Soriano, fresh off a 42 save season in the Bronx, has recently inked a deal to shut the door for the Washington Nationals.  This situation is not cut and dry.  General Manager Mike Rizzo mentioned that Drew Storen could still close out some games under Davey Johnson's 'A' and 'B' bullpen system, which keeps his top relievers fresh and will require some shuffling of closers.  What does this all add up to?  Maybe 35-40 saves for Soriano and seven or eight for Storen, with a handful to Tyler Clippard, is our best guess for now.  Soriano is still a solid option come draft day, while Storen's value takes a huge hit.
  • Joel Hanrahan is shipping up to Boston, queue it, has 76 saves over the past two seasons, with a 2.24 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and a strikeout per inning.  Solid option.  Andrew Bailey will slide over and become the setup man, but can step in and close games if called upon or if Hanrahan slips.
  • Ryan Madson, prior to his surgery, had been an effective closer for the Phillies, and there is a good chance that he could recapture that effectiveness this season.  The potential for 30+ saves with a solid ERA and WHIP make him worthy of later round investment.  Monitor this closely as well as the possible emergence of Ernesto Frieri.
  • Kyuji Fujikawa will start the season off as the setup man for Cubs closer Carlos Marmol; however, Marmol might be the more likely player to get traded than between the two.  That would open the door for Fujikawa to close, just as he had in Japan.
  • Brian Wilson is a risk coming off Tommy John surgery; however, like Joe Nathan, he could rejoin the ranks of the top closers in Fantasy once he is fully recovered.  He remains low on the list at the moment, but if he is entrusted to pitch the ninth inning by whichever team signs him, he will be worth a middle-to-late round pick in mixed league drafts.
  • An additional website which provides solid up-to-date information.  As stated earlier, this is a position you definitely have to stay on top of on nearly a day-to-day.


Here are the Top 100 relief pitchers:

Updated 2/27/2013

Rank Player Team Score
1 Kimbrel,Craig ATL 160.48
2 Nathan,Joe TEX 132.56
3 Papelbon,Jonathan PHI 107.44
4 Motte,Jason STL 107.02
5 Street,Huston SD 94.53
6 Rodney,Fernando TAM 89.54
7 Soriano,Rafael WAS 88.92
8 Balfour,Grant OAK 85.46
9 Johnson,Jim BAL 85.24
10 Putz,J.J. ARI 85.23
11 Grilli,Jason PIT 84.80
12 Romo,Sergio SF 84.54
13 Rivera,Mariano NYY 80.96
14 Frieri,Ernesto LAA 78.44
15 League,Brandon LA 69.51
16 Madson,Ryan LAA 68.05
17 Holland,Greg KC 67.05
18 Broxton,Jonathan CIN 67.02
19 Perkins,Glen MIN 65.20
20 Cishek,Steve MIA 64.44
21 Janssen,Casey TOR 64.10
22 Betancourt,Rafael COL 63.75
23 Wilhelmsen,Tom SEA 58.62
24 Perez,Chris CLE 57.92
25 Axford,John MIL 50.68
26 Reed,Addison CHW 50.64
27 Parnell,Bobby NYM 47.55
28 Fujikawa,Kyuji CHC 45.43
29 Jansen,Kenley LA 37.86
30 Rondon,Bruce DET 37.26
31 Cook,Ryan OAK 36.75
32 Hanrahan,Joel BOS 24.14
33 Marmol,Carlos CHC 21.10
34 Francisco,Frank NYM 16.86
35 Veras, Jose HOU 14.22
36 Venters, Jonny ATL 14.21
37 Santos, Sergio TOR 14.1
38 Dotel, Octavio DET 13.91
39 Robertson, David NYY 13.88
40 Storen, Drew WAS 12.78
41 Marshall, Sean CIN 12.43
42 Davis, Wade KC 12.01
43 Henderson, Jim MIL 11.78
44 Cashner, Andrew SD 10.99
45 McGee, Jake TB 10.87
46 Soria, Joakim TEX 10.12
47 Clippard, Tyler WAS 7.82
48 Walden, Jordan ATlL 3.56
49 Wilson, Brian FA 2.46
50 Hoover, J.J. CIN 1.23


Please see the original Fantasy Baseball article which helps explain the rankings system.

Fantasy owners have lofty expectations for Kimbrel, rightfully so, after he has finished as a Top 3 fantasy reliever the last two seasons. I do not typically recommend reaching for many fantasy relievers, but Kimbrel is one of the few. He has been dominant ever since his MLB debut.



  1. Cliff says

    am i missing where Bruce Rondon is on the list? You know, the projected closer for the team that made it to the WS last year and will prolly reach 90-93 wins this season, leading to the potential for 30+ saves?

    • Jeff says

      Anyone with four Tigers in their top 100 list but none named “Rondon” hasn’t done their homework.

      • Matt Eastman says

        Jeff –

        This is not an opinion based system. These were put together with a formula, based upon projections that were gathered from other sources. Clearly the situation in Detroit is not clear right now. As we get closer to camp, an update will be done. I agree with the way things are shifting….Rondon should be in the 30-40 RPs. It will also be interesting to see how they use Al Alburquerque.

        Regardless, when the update is done 1 or 2 names from DET will fall off this list and Rondon will slide in.

        Thanks for the input.

    • Matt Eastman says

      Tigers reliever Bruce Rondon, who was demoted to Triple-A Toledo in a shocking move Thursday, will be the closer for the Mud Hens, reports MLB.com.

      “We like him a lot,” general manager Dave Dombrowski said. “He has thrown the ball very well at times this spring. But we felt he could benefit from more development time.”

  2. Matt Eastman says

    Currently most websites have Coke tabbed as the closer with Benoit slotted as the setup man. Now, I have read that Tigers manager Jim Leyland told MLive.com on Wednesday that while 22-year-old Bruce Rondon has not been officially tabbed as the team’s closer, he is the leading candidate for the job. So, if he in fact becomes the closer…rankings will be adjusted based off the altered projections for Rondon.

    Kid has promise for sure.

    • Ray Tannock says

      Matt’s correct about Rondon, and the Tigers are actively ‘targeting” capable closers from the market as well. Dotel and Benoit will be the setup men, and the Tigers are expected to go with a closer by committee IF Rondo doesn’t run away with the available closer job.

      It’s gonna be an interesting camp for Detroit.

  3. Matt Eastman says

    Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Thursday that the closer job isn’t Bruce Rondon’s to lose.

    “No, it’s not like that,” said Leyland. “I’m going to look at all my options, and hopefully I’ll make a decision. But I doubt anyone will be anointed the closer out of spring training. It might happen, but I doubt it. It’s a front-burner thing that is on the back-burner.” The Tigers would clearly prefer that Rondon run away with the job, but they are prepared to look at alternatives if the hard-throwing rookie struggles. Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel, Phil Coke, Al Alburquerque and Brayan Villarreal are among the other possibilities. Fantasy owners should track this situation carefully this spring.

  4. Matt Eastman says


    Tigers reliever Bruce Rondon, who was demoted to Triple-A Toledo in a shocking move Thursday, will be the closer for the Mud Hens, reports MLB.com.

    “We like him a lot,” general manager Dave Dombrowski said. “He has thrown the ball very well at times this spring. But we felt he could benefit from more development time.”

  5. Bob Ackerman says

    Where is Jason Grilli? You have him at # 11. He should be in the top three. He doesn’t put men on base and usually strikes out two batters.