Relief Pitcher Ranking Tiers (2022 Fantasy Baseball)
Ah, relievers. The most frustrating and challenging position to fill in fantasy baseball. If you are in a typical 5×5 league (which this article will focus on), relief pitchers are essentially one-category assets. Sure, they can help you with K’s, ERA, and WHIP a bit, but what you need from them is Saves.
In 2022, therein lies the problem. With the rise of analytics, traditional one-guy-for-all-situations closers are becoming less and less frequent. Many teams now employ a matchup or committee style approach, which makes it tricky for fantasy baseball managers to gauge these players’ worth. Still, unless you are planning to punt Saves, you need to draft them.
With that in mind, I outlined the current reliever market as we delve into fantasy draft season. I’ve broken it up into seven tiers covering 42 pitchers in total. Along with my ranking, each player’s projected stats for 2022 are listed based on the Zeile Consensus. Also, I’ve omitted any starters who qualify as relievers as their statistical scope is different.
Tier 1: Masters of their domain
There’s not much to say about Josh Hader (RP – MIL) and Liam Hendriks (RP – CWS). They are simply the best of the best fantasy closers. Both have secure roles, play for good teams, and should be among the league leaders in Saves. In addition, they’ll help you in the other categories as well.
Tier 2: Just a bit outside
These closers have excellent job security, but all have a few issues that keep them from Tier 1. Edwin Diaz (RP – NYM) and Aroldis Chapman (RP – NYY) have had control issues. Raisel Iglesias (RP – CIN) and Ryan Pressly (RP – HOU) have gone through periods where they weren’t very effective. And Emmanuel Clase (RP – CLE) has only done it for one season. All should be excellent options but are a step below Hader and Hendriks.
Tier 3: A lot to like, but…
First off, we don’t know that the Dodgers will employ Blake Treinen (RP – LAD) as a full-time closer. He has the upside to be in Tier 2, but they could go with a committee approach. Giovanny Gallegos (RP – STL) and Jordan Romano (RP – TOR) were fantastic last year, but neither of their teams committed to them until late in the season.
Tier 4: High risk, High reward
All of these guys could boom or bust for various reasons. Mark Melancon (RP – ARI) led both leagues in Saves last season but now pitches for an inferior team and doesn’t have great stuff. Taylor Rogers (RP – MIN) has the potential to break out, but the Twins don’t like using him exclusively at the end of games. Kenley Jansen (RP – ATL) just signed with the Braves, and we don’t know yet if he’ll share the ninth inning with Will Smith (RP – ATL). Based on last season’s usage, Scott Barlow (RP – KC) and Camilo Doval (RP – SF) could be in committees. Corey Knebel (SP, RP – PHI) has proven he can be an excellent closer but hasn’t had much luck staying healthy.
Tier 5: Leaders in the clubhouse
These guys appear to be in line to start the season as their team’s closer. However, that could change at any time, and many of them probably won’t keep the role all year. Of all of the guys listed, Lucas Sims (RP – CIN) and Joe Barlow (RP – TEX) have the most potential to break out, but it is hardly guaranteed. Keep an eye on their updates until draft day to see if a clearer understanding of their role is revealed.
Tier 6: Competitions & Committees
The best pitchers in this group are probably Craig Kimbrel (RP – CWS) and Andrew Kittredge (SP, RP – TB). Kimbrel is stuck behind Liam Hendriks. If he gets traded to a team where he will close, his value will skyrocket. Kittredge pitches for the Rays, a team that has embraced the committee approach more than any other team. Will Smith could get his fair share of opportunities with the Braves, but he’ll likely set up for Kenley Jansen. The rest of the Tier 6 players are either in committees or fighting for a more prominent role.
Tier 7: Competitions/Committees pt. Deux & Premium handcuffs
Similar to Tier 6, most of these pitchers fall into committees. Seattle appears to be emulating the Rays reliever methodology. In addition to Paul Sewald (RP – SEA), who was in Tier 6, Drew Steckenrider (RP – SEA), and Diego Castillo (RP – SEA), they get Ken Giles (RP – SEA) back this season. A fine mess for fantasy managers, indeed. Heaven knows who will end up with the most Saves on the Orioles, but Tyler Wells (RP – BAL) and Cole Sulser (RP – BAL) head the list at this point.
The two pitchers in Tier 7 who are not like the others are James Karinchak (RP – CLE) and Devin Williams (RP – MIL). These two are high-end setup men who could emerge if something happens to the stud in front of them. Both are worth rostering in most leagues even without the Saves due to their high K-rates. They are very desirable targets for those punting Saves altogether.
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