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2020 Relief Pitcher Ranking Tiers (Fantasy Baseball)

by Carmen Maiorano | @carmsclubhouse | Featured Writer
Jul 13, 2020

Targeting Taylor Rogers just after pick 100 makes a lot of sense if you think he can repeat last year’s performance.

This fantasy baseball season is essentially a toss-up, but we can take solace in that relievers in the closer role in March are likely still the closer now. Once we get in-season, however, all bets are off. Managers will have a quicker hook with closers given the heightened magnitude of each game, and relievers may be rusty coming off an extended layoff. That doesn’t even mention the ongoing pandemic and players testing positive for the virus.

One more key point: saves will be much more clumped together this year. For example, the difference in the league leader in saves in 2019, and the 20th best performer in saves, was 18. Prorate that down to a 60-game season, and the difference is just seven saves. The takeaway is to pay up for security, then pick up value by grabbing the closers that fall relative to their ADP.

Check out all of our fantasy baseball ranking tiers here.

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Tier One – No Flaws

The cream of the crop, and it’s not particularly close. There are always rumors of Hader being the fireman instead of a closer, but with Corey Knebel reportedly being eased into action, I can’t imagine the Brewers going another direction. In addition to job security, both of these closers are elite in strikeouts, WHIP, and ERA. Both of these closers are going in the top-70 in drafts, so you’ll have to pay a pretty penny for one of them.

Tier Two – So Close, But Not Quite

For Osuna, it’s the strikeouts. For Chapman, it’s the WHIP. For Rogers, he’s above-average in everything, but not elite in anything. All three of these closers have ultimate job security, but lack in at least one category that prevents them from jumping to tier one. Chapman is going at the same time as Yates, and Osuna goes ten picks later. Targeting Rogers just after pick 100 makes a lot of sense if you think he can repeat last year’s performance. If you don’t get a top-five closer, double-tapping closers from tier three is a viable strategy.

Editor’s note: Chapman has tested positive for Coronavirus, which should impact his ADP.

Tier Three – Don’t Be Suspicious

This tier is made up of a couple of closers who have skeptics that they can’t repeat last year’s performance (Hendriks, Workman), one closer with elite stuff in a closer-by-committee (Diaz), and then five closers with stable job security. The draft strategy here is to grab whoever falls relative to their ADP, given that their skills and ADPs are very close together, with the exception of LeClerc. He had an extremely messy first half in 2019 but got stopped giving up gopher balls in the second half. The only ongoing issue he has are the walks, but his walk rate is only slightly worse than Chapman’s. He’s not Chapman, but he has a great chance to outproduce his current 173 ADP.

Tier Four – Be Suspicious

Questions abound for everyone in this tier. Can Kimbrel recover from his awful 2019? Will Neris be healthy and get reps in after testing positive for COVID-19? Will Gallegos open the year as closer, despite talks that Ryan Helsley is first in line? Even if Helsley starts the year as closer, he doesn’t have elite skills. Expect Gallegos to get the majority of saves for a Cardinals team that has an easier schedule and should compile plenty of wins. The draft strategy is to either take an elite closer from tiers one or two and then get a second closer from this tier or take two closers from tier three. Saves are the most volatile category to chase, so paying up for a safe floor, and then throwing darts after, should lead to finishing above average in the category.

Tier Five – What Do You Need?

This tier is made up of closers on average (or worse) teams, plus setup men who post above-average ratios. Since the standard deviation in saves is going to be very flat this year, getting bargains by tier based on ADP makes the most sense. Your third closer is probably going to come from this tier, and Robles represents the best option in that regard. He will probably go as someone’s second closer before you can grab him, however. Otherwise, targeting the elite setup men like Pagan or Lugo as your final relief piece is feasible. Smith just tested positive for COVID-19, so his status for Opening Day is in jeopardy. He certainly has better skills than Melancon, but Melancon has been named the Opening Day closer.

Tier Six – Top Setup Men

To round out your pitching staff, and you didn’t get Lugo, Pagan, or Smith for their rations, these are the next relievers to target. Castillo even has the potential to collect a few saves, given the way the Rays mix and match relievers. If your league dropped wins in this shortened season, targeting more of these guys can help stabilize your ratios even more. Always play to your league settings, and get a leg up where you can. Even if it’s round 27.

Tier Seven – SPARP Central

Given that many starters will not take on a full workload initially, the “SPARP” (Starting Pitchers as Relief Pitchers) strategy is an even more viable option this year. This strategy typically slots in starting pitchers in the Reliever position, but can also include sliding relievers in the Starter position. SPARPs with Yahoo-only eligibility are denoted with ^. If you can grab enough starters with above-average ratios, and slide them into the Reliever position in your lineup, you have a great chance at sweeping four of the five pitching categories.

For closer depth charts, FantasyPros has you covered. The closer situation is always fluid, but even more so this year. Be nimble, scour the news, and most of all, have fun!

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Carmen Maiorano is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Carmen, check out his archive and personal fantasy blogand follow him @carmsclubhouse.