By Michael Seff and RotoRob
The 2015 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit returns today with the release of our first cheat sheet. So while you Matt Harvey owners get excited over his spring performance, let’s turn attention to the bullpen and peruse the top 100 relievers.
Despite the recent proliferation of holds leagues — a move we applaud and hope gains more traction — saves continue to rule the roost when it comes to relievers. After all, there’s only so many saves to go around, so you kind of have to grab them while you can. But beware chasing them on draft day. Recent history has shown us that the dude earning saves on April 1 is often not the same man come June 1 or even May 1.
That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to depth charts because so often it’s that No. 2 man that winds up being more valuable once he ascends to the closer role. The other thing you have to pay attention to is those types of relievers that pitch big innings and — more importantly — rack up tons of Ks. They can save your bacon, big time.
Remember that relievers can only have so much of an effect on your team’s ERA and WHIP, so don’t get too bogged down in those categories. Obviously, if a reliever’s ERA skyrockets, he won’t keep his job, but don’t fret about one that has an ERA around 3.50 or 4.00 as long as they are helping you in saves or holds, strikeouts and possibly wins.
Some questions heading into 2015: How will David Robertson fare in his new environment? Who will Jonathan Papelbon be pitching for at season’s end? How much will a broken foot slow down Kenley Jansen from having another big season, and will he be worth the reduced price? Can Neftali Feliz consolidate his late-season improvements and get back to being a dominant closer? Will Tyler Clippard continue to be one of the top set-up men now that he’s switched leagues?
Last year’s rankings in parentheses.
1. Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds (21): Chapman provides strikeouts galore, but plenty of walks, too. He enjoyed a historic 2014 season, limiting opponents to a .119 BAA. Yup, that’s pretty good. The Cuban Missile has also enjoyed postseason success (see video below).
2. Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals (3): Holland is simply dominant across the board, and now he pitches for a legitimate contender. His workload was reduced slightly last year and he was a tiny bit more human (if you want to call a rise in ERA from 1.21 to 1.44 showing signs of being human). Holland’s walk rate rose, and his strikeout rate dropped, yet he still put up a phenomenal 4.5 K-BB ratio. The truth is, it would have been nearly impossible for anyone to duplicate the 2013 season he enjoyed.
3. Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves (1): Kimbrel may actually be a touch better than Holland, but will almost certainly get fewer save opportunities on the rebuilding Braves. Still, we wouldn’t blame you one iota for taking Kimbrel as your first reliever.
4. Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis Cardinals (4): Rosenthal should be good for plenty of saves and Ks, but he had some confidence issues last year, so perhaps he’s not quite ready to be as good as we all expect he can. There are those that believe he’d still be better served being a starter, long-term.
5. David Robertson, Chicago White Sox (15): Robertson’s departure from the Yankees leaves a hole that we’re still not sure who will fill. He’s a proven closer capable of putting up big K numbers.
6. Dellin Betances, New York Yankees (NR): Betances offers strikeouts galore without all the walks, but has no closing experience, so is a wildcard from that perspective. After flaming out as a starter, he found his niche as a dominant reliever. Betances has fixed his mechanical issues and can now let his raw stuff — as good as there is in the game — refine itself gracefully. Just note that newcomer Andrew Miller could factor into the save situation here as well.
7. Huston Street, Los Angeles Angels (14): Street is so consistent, so he should pile up plenty of saves as usual. Last year, he was undefeated with the Padres before landing in Disneyland, where he gave up more earned runs, but remained lights out. Overall, Street topped 40 saves for the first time in 2014.
8. Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians (29): This 25-year-old workhorse should improve on his 1.15 WHIP.
9. Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates (55): Melancon should be quite effective, as long as the Pirates don’t overuse him (he’s set career highs in appearances in each of his two seasons in the Steel City). Last year, he gave up a few more earned runs and set a career high in losses, but no one was complaining about his sub-2.00 ERA with 30+ saves.
10. Steve Cishek, Miami Marlins (10): Cishek seems to be a bit underrated every year, but after you get past the first tier, this dude is as effective as any reliever. He set a new career high with 39 saves last year.
11. Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia Phillies (13): Papelbon will get fewer save chances if he stays in Philly… but will he? For what it’s worth, his home is currently listed for US$7 million.
12. Zack Britton, Baltimore Orioles (NR); After taking over the job midway through 2014, Britton should be even better now that he enters the year as the closer. He avoided arbitration when the O’s gave him a hefty raise to $3.2 million. Another year like 2014, and that number will soar.
13. Fernando Rodney, Seattle Mariners (22): Rodney always brings electric stuff to the mound, but can also be erratic. He’ll never be as good as he was in 2012 again, but last year he did improve upon his 2013 with a fine 2.85 ERA while tying his career high in saves.
14. Koji Uehara, Boston Red Sox (6): Uehara wore down somewhat last year, but he should bounce back. He’s struggling this spring, but let’s not panic.
15. Francisco Rodriguez, Milwaukee Brewers (23): We sure didn’t expect K-Rod to wind up back in Milwaukee, but here he is. He has loads of experience and should be racking up the saves once again.
16. Joaquin Benoit, San Diego Padres (36): An improved San Diego squad should have more leads to protect this year, and Benoit will be the beneficiary. However, bear in mind that he’s no spring chicken and dealt with some injury issues last year.
17. Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins (5): We all know Perkins can close with the best of them, but will the Twins win enough to make him relevant? The former Golden Gopher made his first All-Star team last year.
18. Santiago Casilla, San Francisco Giants (66): Is there any doubt now that Casilla should have always been the Giants’ closer? He’s been lights out since succeeding Sergio Romo for the job. One caveat: should Casilla start to have control problems again, Romo is still in the background ready to regain the gig.
19. Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers (2): Jansen will begin the season on the sidelines with a busted foot, but there’s no way he’ll lose his job because of this. Joel Peralta (or Brandon League or Chris Hatcher or J.P. Howell) will just be keeping the spot warm until Jansen returns.
20. Hector Rondon, Chicago Cubs (47): Very quietly, Rondon was quite good for a bad team that is improving. We especially love the command improvements he showed last year. Sure, Rondon has reverted to some wildness this spring, but don’t place much stock in that.
Others to Consider
21. Drew Storen, Washington Nationals (56): Storen gets another crack at closing, this time with an improved changeup.
22. Sean Doolittle, Oakland Athletics (38): We love his K/BB ratio, but a shoulder woe may cause him to start the season on the DL.
23. Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers (74): He’s in better shape, and has little competition.
24. Joe Nathan, Detroit Tigers (12): Nathan had a disastrous 2014, but he’s going to get his chances.
25. Luke Gregerson, Houston Astros (31): He’s always steady, but has saved 19 games in six seasons.
26. Brett Cecil, Toronto Blue Jays (93): This is uncharted territory for Cecil.
27. Addison Reed, Arizona Diamondbacks (18): Needs to regain his confidence.
28. Jenrry Mejia, New York Mets (NR): Mejia might continue to close even with Bobby Parnell back.
29. Jake McGee, Tampa Bay Rays (80): Throws nothing but fastballs, but still gets Ks. Will start season on DL.
30. Tyler Clippard, Oakland Athletics (41): Could make noise while Doolittle is out.
31. Pat Neshek, Houston Astros (NR): He’s dominated the AL before, too; 5.9 H/9 IP in 2014.
32. LaTroy Hawkins, Colorado Rockies (28): We love this ageless wonder, but he pitches half his games at Coors Field.
33. Andrew Miller, New York Yankees (NR): Proven dominant force in the AL East.
34. Ken Giles, Philadelphia Phillies (NR): Could take over at closer if (when) Papelbon goes.
35. Wade Davis, Kansas City Royals (NR): May seem high for a non-closer, but he could nab some saves and will help you all in other categories.
36. Tony Watson, Pittsburgh Pirates (97): Wins galore last year and could close occasionally.
37. Brad Boxberger, Tampa Bay Rays (NR): Closer-like stuff, with the ability to pitch multiple innings.
38. Joe Smith, Los Angeles Angels (49): Reliable option who proved he can close last year.
39. Joel Peralta, Los Angeles Dodgers (46): Hardly on Jansen’s level, but might get first crack to close.
40. Edward Mujica, Boston Red Sox (43): Mujica could always get a few saves.
41. Kevin Jepsen, Tampa Bay Rays (NR): Great stuff, but we can see him struggling as a closer.
42. Joakim Soria, Detroit Tigers (19): Should be more relaxed entering a full year with Detroit.
43. Kelvin Herrera, Kansas City (65): An injury or two away from closing or even more Ks.
44. Darren O’Day, Baltimore Orioles (53): Always puts up a great ERA/WHIP.
45. Sergio Romo, San Francisco Giants (7): Slider gets him Ks and has plenty of closing experience.
46. Pedro Strop, Chicago Cubs (32): Lethal stuff, so lots of Ks in the eighth inning.
47. J.P. Howell, Los Angeles Dodgers (94): Another Andrew Friedman fave who could hold down Jansen’s spot.
48. Junichi Tazawa, Boston Red Sox (58): Tazawa, not Mujica, should be next in line if Uehara falters or gets hurt.
49. Kevin Quackenbush, San Diego Padres (NR): Awesome beard, great numbers and closer-like stuff too.
50. Tommy Hunter, Baltimore Orioles (20): Could always close in a pinch.
51. Brad Ziegler, Arizona Diamondbacks (88): Was a Wire Troll recommendation when Reed struggled last year.
52. Casey Janssen, Washington Nationals (24): Wasn’t fully healthy last year.
53. Jordan Walden, St. Louis Cardinals (77): Nice bounce back last year and has closing experience.
54. Bryan Shaw, Cleveland Indians (87): Steady Eddie.
55. Adam Ottavino, Colorado Rockies (NR): Could this workhorse reliever close?
56. Bobby Parnell, New York Mets (NR): Risky, but he could end up closing.
57. Danny Farquhar, Seatle Mariners (40): We like his 2.75 ERA and 1.15 WHIP and he closed a bit in 2013.
58. Jason Grilli, Atlanta Braves (17): Former closer should cement the eighth-inning role.
59. Jake Petricka, Chicago White Sox (NR): Was solid when asked to close last year.
60. Seth Maness, St. Louis Cardinals (NR): Sinkerballer was clutch last year.
61. Dominic Leone, Seattle Mariners (NR): Promising young arm with good stuff.
62. Zach Putnam, Chicago White Sox (NR): Showed he can be a significant part of a relief corps.
63. David Carpenter, New York Yankees (67): Good with Braves, will probably be better with Yankees.
64. Jonathan Broxton, Milwaukee Brewers (33): K-Rod’s return bumped him back to set-up job.
65. Jeurys Familia, New York Mets (105): He’s an option because it’s so cluttered at closer for the Mets.
66. Neil Ramirez, Chicago Cubs (NR): Very underrated.
67. Jake Diekman, Philadelphia Phillies (NR): Will be especially useful if Papelbon gets traded.
68. Sam LeCure, Cincinnati Reds (62): Coming off down season, but was steady for a few years before that.
69. Rex Brothers, Colorado Rockies (34): They still consider him a closer in waiting.
70. Chad Qualls, Houston Astros (39): Gregerson’s arrival bumps him from the closer role.
71. A.J. Ramos, Miami Marlins (52): Will be one of the Fish’s primary set-up men.
72. Pedro Baez, Los Angeles Dodgers (NR): Youngter has a chance to prove he belongs while Jansen heals.
73. Evan Marshall, Arizona Diamondbacks (NR): Solid rookie effort in which he gave up basically a hit per inning.
74. Joba Chamberlain, Detroit Tigers (83): He’s finally fully healthy.
75. Josh Fields, Houston Astros (64): Was a Wire Troll choice when he took over as Astro closer last year.
76. Scott Atchison, Cleveland Indians (NR)
77. Aaron Barrett, Washington Nationals (NR)
78. Bryan Morris, Miami Marlins (NR)
79. Jeremy Affeldt, San Francisco Giants (NR)
80. Matt Belisle, St. Louis Cardinals (96)
81. Shawn Kelley, San Diego Padres (35)
82. Brandon League, Los Angeles Dodgers (NR)
83. Tanner Scheppers, Texas Rangers (NR)
84. Al Albuquerque, Detroit Tigers (59)
85. Justin De Fratus, Philadelphia Phillies (NR)
86. John Holdzkom, Pittsburgh Pirates (NR)
87. Mike Dunn, Miami Marlins (79)
88. Burke Badenhop, Cincinnati Reds (NR)
89. Jumbo Diaz, Cincinnati Reds (NR)
90. R.J. Alvarez, Oakland Athletics (NR)
91. Luis Avilan, Atlanta Braves (75)
92. Brian Matusz, Baltimore Orioles (104)
93. Bruce Rondon, Detroit Tigers (NR)
94. Aaron Crow, Miami Marlins (NR)
95. Kevin Siegrist, St. Louis Cardinals (82)
96. Jean Machi, San Francisco Giants (NR)
97. Casey Fien, Minnesota Twins (NR)
98. Shawn Tolleson, Texas Rangers (NR)
99. Aaron Loup, Toronto Blue Jays (NR)
100. Marc Rzepczynski, Cleveland Indians (NR)
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below who’s missing, who’s too high or too low.
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