Fantasy Baseball Preview: Relief Pitchers

Adam Beard

They may not seem like they matter, but relievers do have their own category in fantasy baseball (saves), so let’s give them some recognition.

Which reliever should go off the board first?

Craig Kimbrel (ATL) – Not only is he on a winning team that will provide him save opportunities, but Kimbrel is good and reliable too. He has a 1.39 earned run average over his career, which is the best all-time among any pitcher through his age-25 season. He put up 50 saves last season, 42 in 2012 and 46 in 2011. He is safe to grab in any draft as the number one closer.

Who is making a comeback from a disappointing 2013 season?

Fernando Rodney (SEA) – Rodney was the king of closers in 2012, tallying up 48 in 50 opportunities. 2013 was a different story, though, as Rodney’s ERA shot up from a 0.60 to a 3.38. He just got a new contract with the Mariners and is capable of putting up at least 35 saves and striking out batters.

Don’t sleep on this guy

John Axford (CLE) – Axford could easily be labeled as my comeback player as well, but I am putting him as a sleeper because it’s almost as if people have forgotten about the guy who led the National League in saves just two years ago. This year, he has the opportunity with the Cleveland Indians to become fantasy-relevant once again.

Bound to bust

Addison Reed (ARI) – Reed played very well last season for the Chicago White Sox, notching a solid 40 saves. However, his other numbers weren’t the best. Reed blew eight saves and had an ERA of 3.79, which is pretty high for a closer. In 2012, he managed just a 4.75 ERA. With a new team, there is no guarantee he locks up the closer role for the entire season.

My Pre-Season Rankings: Relievers

  1. Craig Kimbrel (ATL)
  2. Aroldis Chapman (CIN)
  3. Koji Uehara (BOS)
  4. Kenley Jansen (LAD)
  5. Joe Nathan (DET)
  6. Trevor Rosenthal (STL)
  7. Michael Wacha (STL)
  8. Greg Holland (KC)
  9. Sergio Romo (SF)
  10. Rafael Soriano (WAS)
  11. Glen Perkins (MIN)
  12. Jason Grilli (PIT)
  13. David Robertson (NYY)
  14. Jim Johnson (OAK)
  15. Casey Janssen (TOR)
  16. Ernesto Frieri (LAA)
  17. Grant Balfour (TB)
  18. Fernando Rodney (SEA)
  19. John Axford (CLE)
  20. Steve Cishek (MIA)

I’ll leave you with this…

Depending on how many teams are in your league, how many closers you need and what your scoring settings are, the strategy of picking relievers can vary. In most drafts, I would wait until the 9th or 10th round to grab your first closer. Unless you really want one of the elite guys on your team, then you might have to grab them in the 7th or 8th round. If there are enough relievers to go around, perhaps in a 10-team league with two relief pitcher spots, maybe the relievers aren’t your top priority. Don’t hold off too long, though, or else you might be stuck with some bad options to draft from. However, there are always new closers popping up during the middle of the season, so pay attention to the waiver wire.

Recently, Adam has given his two cents about the players at each position, naming a clear-cut number one, a comeback player, a sleeper/breakout, a bust, his full rankings and a little advice as to what to do in your draft and throughout the season.