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2013 Fantasy Relief Pitcher Rankings

Written By on 20th February, 2013
More than just a LOOGY, Marshall provides strong value in the late rounds. Via Getty Images

More than just a LOOGY, Marshall provides strong value in the late rounds. Via Getty Images

My modus operandi for fantasy leagues is usually to take hitters early (or the LIMA plan, minus the stud closer) and fill in my pitching ratios with middle relievers and starters that are rookies or bounce-back candidates. It is quite possible that we are in the midst of the golden age of relievers. Players like Kimbrel, Rodney, and Putz are providing not only saves, but also great ratios. With so many incredibly talented relievers available, the ERA and WHIP statistics must be reevaluated compared to past seasons. Consider it like a run environment adjustment, but for setup men. A reliever with a 3.50 ERA and 1.20 WHIP isn’t what it was even three years ago.

The biggest change is that it isn’t just closers who are elite pitchers anymore. In fact, there are several instances below where (what I perceive to be) the inferior pitcher is ranked ahead of his teammate, based solely on the fact that the closer will — by definition — accrue saves. There are also several players who will at least begin the season as a starter, namely Chapman, Ogando, Cashner, and Estrada.

For our previous rankings, you can find rankings for catchers, first base, second base, shortstop, third base, outfield 51-101, and outfield top 50. Per usual, these rankings reflect as 12-team, mixed, redraft league.

Ranking

Player

Team

1

Aroldis Chapman

Cincinnati Reds

2

Craig Kimbrel

Atlanta Braves

3

Jonathan Papelbon

Philadelphia Phillies

4

Kris Medlen

Atlanta Braves

5

John Axford

Milwaukee Brewers

6

Rafael Soriano

Washington Nationals

7

Jason Motte

St. Louis Cardinals

8

Joe Nathan

Texas Rangers

9

J.J. Putz

Arizona Diamondbacks

10

Mariano Rivera

New York Yankees

11

Fernando Rodney

Tampa Bay Rays

12

Alexi Ogando

Texas Rangers

13

Sergio Romo

San Francisco Giants

14

Tom Wilhelmsen

Seattle Mariners

15

Glen Perkins

Minnesota Twins

16

Jim Johnson

Baltimore Orioles

17

Jason Grilli

Pittsburgh Pirates

18

Huston Street

San Diego Padres

19

Jonathan Broxton

Kansas City Royals

20

Addison Reed

Chicago White Sox

21

Greg Holland

Kansas City Royals

22

Chris Perez

Cleveland Indians

23

Ryan Cook

Oakland Athletics

24

Rafael Betancourt

Colorado Rockies

25

Ernesto Frieri

Los Angeles Angels

26

Brandon League

Los Angeles Dodgers

27

Kenley Jansen

Los Angeles Dodgers

28

Grant Balfour

Oakland Athletics

29

Steve Cishek

Miami Marlins

30

Casey Janssen

Toronto Blue Jays

31

Al Alburquerque

Detroit Tigers

32

Bruce Rondon

Detroit Tigers

33

Carlos Marmol

Chicago Cubs

34

Sean Marshall

Cincinnati Reds

35

Andrew Cashner

San Diego Padres

36

Marco Estrada

Milwaukee Brewers

37

Drew Storen

Washington Nationals

38

Jonny Venters

Atlanta Braves

39

Vinnie Pestano

Cleveland Indians

40

David Hernandez

Arizona Diamondbacks

41

Luke Gregerson

San Diego Padres

42

Ryan Madson

Los Angeles Angels

43

Sean Doolittle

Oakland Athletics

44

Joaquin Benoit

Detroit Tigers

45

Bobby Parnell

New York Mets

46

Jim Henderson

Milwaukee Brewers


A Player to Grab: Sean Marshall
When it down to the discount dollar players at the end of your auction, or the last few rounds of your snake draft, there are few relievers that I trust more than Sean Marshall. Since 2008 (and setting a 200 IP minimum, for 40 innings/year), Marshall has the fifth most WAR and the 12th best ERA. His HR/9 over that time period is sixth best and both his K/BB and K/9 are in the top 25. He has managed to build all of this underlying value despite recording just 16 saves over that time frame. He is a closer masquerading as a setup man. His “struggles” last year against right-handed hitters was largely due to a .365 BABIP against them. His career BABIP against opposite handed hitters is .303, so expect Marshall to post much better than a .318 wOBA versus righties. Marshall is a model of consistency in the late rounds. What more could you ask for in the 25th round?

A Player to Pass: Fernando Rodney
On the opposite end of the reliability spectrum from Marshall we have Rodney. The 2012 season was a perfect storm of right-handed relief fury in Tampa Bay. Hurricane Rodney swept through and set career bests in terms of K%, innings pitched, BABIP, LOB%, BB%, HR/9, ERA, and FIP. So, yeah, it was pretty good season from Rodney. Expecting him to match 2013 with his unbelievable 2012 season would be naive at best. After all, Rodney was a top 15 player last year. Not a top 15 pitcher, a top 15 player. Mind blowing numbers. Regression is going to hit him pretty hard, and it will hit him sooner rather than later. I’m not doubting his stuff (doubting his health is another question however), it’s just that no one is a 0.60 ERA pitcher. Rodney should be a good player this season, but let other people pay for him being a good player last season. I have seen Rodney go as early as the seventh round, before closers like Papelbon and Rafael Soriano. I would much rather have those two over Rodney, and it isn’t particularly close. When health concerns, regression, and cost-to-risk factors are pondered, Rodney is a pretty easy pass for me.

David Wiers
David Wiers
About David Wiers

I love baseball in general, the Oakland A's to be specific and fantasy baseball as an aside. In addition to time spent here at Bullpen Banter, I write for RotoGraphs, co-host the 20-80 Report and Tarp Talk podcasts (both available on iTunes) and contribute to Big Leagues Monthly.

2013 Fantasy Rankings, Articles, Fantasy, Features

6 Comments on "2013 Fantasy Relief Pitcher Rankings"

  1. Profile Photo
    jim February 20, 2013 at 2:58 pm -

    ummm… you forget joel hanrahan?

    • Profile Photo
      David Wiers February 20, 2013 at 3:02 pm -

      I was going to say “no, of course not! He is right in front of Grilli!” but alas, you are correct.

      And yes, I have him slotted right in front of Grilli and after Johnson. The rise in Hanrahan’s LOB% is due to a low BABIP and a high BB%. His SwStr% is still awesome, but the walks worry me.

  2. Profile Photo
    Todd Boss February 21, 2013 at 2:21 pm -

    Why list Kris Medlen here?  You know he’s going to be a starter full time in 2013, just as he was for most of 2012.  

    • Profile Photo
      David Wiers February 21, 2013 at 2:27 pm -

      Medlen appeared in 50 games in 2012, only 11 were starts. He did throw more innings as a starter however, so I’ll give you credit on that.

      I have him ranked here for the same reason that Ben Zobrist is valuable: they are both eligible at multiple positions. For leagues that specify SP and RP, that is a huge deal. If you have nine slots of P, not so much. Being able to squeeze starts out of the RP role is great for days when you have five starters throwing and you want to maximize your points.

  3. Profile Photo
    geo February 28, 2013 at 1:41 pm -

    Broxton is no longer with the Royals.