Jacob Dunne | February 20th, 2020
Finding a reliable source of saves is as tough as it’s ever been. Only 22 pitchers reached 20 saves in 2019 and only 11 pitchers reached 30 saves. More managers are opting to go with a committee to close out games instead of just one ace reliever. That’s why true closers are rarer than ever this year.
Relief Pitching is loaded with talent at the top of the rankings, but once the top options are off the board, you can expect plenty of volatility. Most relief pitchers are either stuck in a committee, don’t have a clear role, or struggled the previous year.
The following list contains closers, possible closers, and elite setup men. When drafting a relief pitcher, try to take a reliever who can help stabilize your team’s ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts. Don’t chase saves if it means compromising in other categories.
The following rankings are based on 5×5 roto scoring. They are also based on redraft leagues. When a player gets a boost or drops in the rankings due to format or scoring, it will be noted with their outlook.
Let’s dive in.
Make sure to check out all of our Fantasy Baseball Rankings here.
1. Josh HaderEmbed from Getty Images
It was the perfect storm of injuries that thrusted Hader into the closing role for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2019. Originally, he was expected to be the club’s versatile late-inning reliever, but things changed when both Cory Knebel and Jeremy Jeffress both suffered injuries in the spring. Hader’s fastball is both dominating and confusing to opposing batters. He is the most reliable and dominant closer in the MLB.Embed from Getty Images
Consistency, durability, and job security lands Osuna number two on this list. Osuna has averaged 30 saves a season over the past five years. In 2019, he had 38 saves with a 2.63 ERA and 72 strikeouts. He’s one of the safest picks in fantasy.
3. Kirby YatesEmbed from Getty Images
Yates stepped into San Diego’s closing role in 2019 and DOMINATED. He’s one of only four pitchers this decade to save 40-plus games while striking out 100-plus batters. Even at age 32, Yates has the opportunity and skill set to repeat his gaudy stats from last season.Embed from Getty Images
Chapman remains the closer for a supremely talented New York Yankees bullpen. Over the past three seasons, Chapman has averaged 30 saves and 82 strikeouts with a 2.55 ERA. At age 32, he continues to throw over 100 mph. He remains a top-tier closer heading into 2020.
5. Hector NerisEmbed from Getty Images
Neris began last season as the 7th-inning option for the Philadelphia Phillies before taking over the closer’s role. He ran away with the job saving 28 games while striking out 89 batters with a 2.93 ERA. With David Robertson still recovering from Tommy John surgery, it’ll be Neris manning the closer role in 2020.Embed from Getty Images
Hendriks went from ZERO to HERO in 2019. In 2018, Hendriks was demoted to Triple-A Nashville after struggling early in the year. He ended up only pitching 24.0 innings for the Oakland Athletics and posted a putrid 4.13 ERA and 1.46 WHIP. He went from one of his worst statistical seasons to one his best. In 2019, Hendriks posted a 1.80 ERA while striking out 124 batters on his way to saving 25 games. Expect 30-plus saves and 100-plus strikeouts in 2020 as the unquestioned closer for the Athletics.
7. Brad HandEmbed from Getty Images
Over the past three years, Hand has averaged 29 saves and 98 strikeouts with a 2.59 ERA. He struggled down the stretch last season posting a 5.40 ERA in the second half, but he should be able to bounce back and return to his dominant self. He is a near-lock for 30-plus saves and 90-plus strikeouts.
8. Edwin DiazEmbed from Getty Images
Diaz is the perfect example of relief pitcher volatility. Diaz came into 2019 as the top-ranked relief pitcher coming off a season where he saved 57 games and struck out 124 batters with a 1.96 ERA. He went from being one of the most dominant closers in baseball to losing his job in a span of one season. Despite struggling last season, the New York Mets are sticking with Diaz as their closer. If you take a chance on Diaz on draft day, make sure to hedge your bets and draft Seth Lugo and/or Dellin Betances.Embed from Getty Images
Jansen has been on a downward trajectory over the past two seasons. He has seen his saves, strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP go down in each of the last two seasons. Despite his recent struggles, he remains the closer for one of the best teams in baseball. Jansen may not be an elite option anymore, but he should have no problem saving 30-plus games with plenty of strikeouts and a decent ERA and WHIP.
10. Raisel IglesiasEmbed from Getty Images
Iglesias saw his ERA jump from 2.38 to 4.16 in 2019. Despite the jump in ERA, he saved a career-best 34 games and struck out 89 batters. Most of his struggles came in non-save situations. Coming into the 2020 season, Iglesias should be better prepared to handle both save and non-save situations. Look for Iglesias to save 30-plus games while improving his ERA and WHIP.
11. Taylor Rogers
Rogers proved to be the most reliable reliever for the Minnesota Twins last season. He recorded 30 saves while posting a 2.61 ERA and 1.00 WHIP with 90 strikeouts. Rogers is expected to get the bulk of save chances for the Twins and should be looking at 30-40 save chances. On top of saves, Rogers provides elite ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts.
12. Archie Bradley
Bradley was given the opportunity to close for the Arizona Diamondbacks early in 2019, and he took full advantage. He winded up recording 18 saves while posting a career-high in strikeout rate. He’s coming into 2020 as the primary closer for the Diamondbacks and should see ample opportunities to garner saves and strikeouts.
13. Ken Giles
Despite battling constant elbow soreness in 2019, Giles was still able to save 23 games while posting an impressive 1.87 ERA. He was 23/24 in save opportunities. He may not get a ton of save chances on a rebuilding Blue Jays team in 2020, but he can still help stabilize your fantasy team’s ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts.
14. Brandon Workman
The Boston Red Sox had a carousel of closers for most of 2019 before handing the job to Workman. On top of saving 16 games last season, Workman went 10-1 with 104 strikeouts and had a 1.88 ERA. Workman comes into 2020 as the top relief option for the Red Sox and he should have the first crack at closing.
15. Nick Anderson
The Miami Marlins traded Anderson to the Tampa Bay Rays at the trade deadline in 2019 where he dominated. He recorded a 2.11 ERA and 0.66 WHIP while striking out 41 batters in just 21.3 innings. Following the departure of Emilio Pagan, Anderson is a serious option to close for the Rays in 2020. He has 100-plus strikeout potential.
16. Craig Kimbrel
Kimbrel spent the majority of the 2019 season looking for a new team to meet his hefty contract demands. The Chicago Cubs took the plunge and signed him to a three-year, $43 million dollar contract. He went on to save 13/16 games while posting a dreadful 6.53 ERA and 1.60 WHIP. Coming into the 2020 season, Kimbrel is no longer distracted by contract negotiations and has every opportunity to save 30-plus games for a talented Cubs team.
17. Keone Kela
Kela is coming into the 2020 season as the primary closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He has prior closing experience having closed for the Texas Rangers in 2018 where he was 24/25 in save opportunities. Over the past three years, Kela owns a 2.69 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. He won’t see many save chances on a rebuilding Pirates team, but he should be able to save 20-plus games while providing elite ERA and WHIP.
18. Ian Kennedy
Kennedy came into 2019 as a middle reliever for the Kansas City Royals, but he eventually took over the closer’s role after the failures of Brad Boxberger and Willy Peralta. Kennedy went 30/34 in save opportunities while striking out 73 batters. He is the unquestioned closer for the Royals heading into the 2020 season. If he doesn’t get moved at the deadline, he has a chance at 25-plus saves.
19. Hansel Robles
Robles replaced a struggling Cody Allen as the closer for the Los Angeles Angels last season and never looked back. He converted 23/27 save opportunities while posting a 2.48 ERA and 1.02 while striking out 75 batters. He was able to cut down on home runs and walks last year, which led to career-year numbers. Robles should see plenty of save opportunities for the Angels this season.
20. Alex Colome
Colome is one of the last relief pitchers on this list who has a guaranteed path to saves. Over the past three years, he has averaged 29 saves while sporting a 3.52 ERA. He doesn’t strike out many batters, but he has consistently found a way to get the job done. He won’t help much in other categories, but it’s hard to pass up any team’s primary closer.
21. Will Smith
Smith posted elite numbers as the closer for the San Francisco Giants last season. He went 24/28 in save opportunities while sporting a 2.59 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. He also struck out 83 batters. Smith signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Atlanta Braves over the offseason, and he will start the season pitching in high-leverage situations. Mark Melancon may have a leg-up as the team’s closer initially, but usually the more talented arm wins out sooner rather than later.
22. Jose Leclerc
Leclerc struggled last season to mirror his 2018 breakout campaign. He went from a 1.56 ERA and 0.85 WHIP to a 4.33 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. He lost his job two months into the season, but was able to regain it back following the trade deadline. There was chatter of Emmanuel Clase taking over for Leclerc as the closer for the Texas Rangers, but he was traded to the Indians over the offseason. With no immediate threat behind him, Leclerc will enter 2020 as the team’s closer and should be looking at 30-plus save chances.
23. Carlos Martinez
Martinez’s role is uncertain heading into 2020. Will he continue to be the closer for the St. Louis Cardinals or will he transition back into the rotation? Despite his hopes of returning to the rotation, Martinez is currently listed as the team’s closer. He took over as the team’s closer late in the 2019 season and went 9/10 in save opportunities. If Martinez sticks as the team’s closer heading into 2020, he has already shown the ability to be a reliable option in the ninth.
24. Seth Lugo
Lugo had his best season as pro in 2019. He transitioned from starter to reliever last season with great results. He finished the year with a 2.70 ERA and 0.90 WHIP while striking out 104 batters. Lugo was given multiple save opportunities following the struggles of Edwin Diaz. If Diaz continues to struggle, Lugo will be in the mix for saves. Even if Lugo doesn’t end up closing, he still provides elite ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts.
25. Sean Doolittle
Doolittle is another prime example of relief pitching volatility. He went from a 1.60 ERA in 2018 to a 4.05 ERA in 2019. Doolittle’s leash as the closer for the Washington Nationals is expected to be short. Daniel Hudson and Will Harris are both threats to take over closing duties if he struggles at any point in the season.
26. Joe Jimenez
Jimenez took over as the closer for the Detroit Tigers following the trade of Shane Greene in July of 2019. He ended the season with 9 saves while sporting a 4.37 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. Despite the poor stats, he finished the year strong with a 1.00 ERA and 12 strikeouts while earning five saves in the month of September. He’ll have a decent leash as the team’s closer heading into 2020. He may not get many save opportunities on a rebuilding Tigers team.
Gallegos will be given the opportunity to compete for the closer job if Carlos Martinez cracks the rotation. Gallegos had a sensational 2019 season posting a 2.31 ERA and 0.81 WHIPS and 93 strikeouts. Whether he earns save chances or not, Gallegos should provide elite ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts for your fantasy team.
28. Mark Melancon
Melancon is expected to remain the primary closer for the Atlanta Braves heading into the 2020 season. Melancon’s leash will be short following the acquisition of Will Smith. The Braves won’t hesitate to replace Melancon with Smith if he struggles at any point in the season.
29. Adam Ottavino
Over the past two seasons, Ottavino is averaging a 2.17 ERA and 100 strikeouts. Ottavino has the ability to provide your fantasy team with elite ERA and strikeouts as well as consistent holds and a handful of saves.
30. Daniel Hudson
Hudson posted a 1.44 ERA and 0.88 WHIP following his trade from the Toronto Blue Jays to the Washington Nationals last season. Hudson is the direct handcuff to current closer Sean Doolittle.
31. Drew Pomeranz
Pomeranz is another success story of a starting pitcher converting to a reliever. He was struggling mightily last season as a starter for the San Francisco Giants before they moved him to the bullpen. Once he became a reliever, he posted a 1.88 ERA and 0.84 WHIP with 50 strikeouts. He signed with the San Diego Padres over the offseason where he is expected to pitch in a setup role for closer Kirby Yates. Expect a lot of holds.
32. Ryan Pressly
Pressly is one of the most dominant relief pitchers in the game. Last season, he had a 2.32 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, and 72 strikeouts while recording 31 holds. He is as safe a pick as they come if you need holds.
33. Tyler Duffey
What a difference a year makes. Duffey went from posting a 7.20 ERA in 2018 to a 2.50 ERA in 2019. He was able to tweak his mechanics early on in the season and became a reliable relief pitcher for the Minnesota Twins last season. He should operate as the team’s setup man, which means he’s looking at plenty of holds setting up Taylor Rogers.
34. Zack Britton
Britton is the third Yankees reliever to show up on this list. That should tell you something about the arm talent that the Yankees boast heading into the 2020 season. Britton had a 1.91 ERA and 1.14 WHIP while recording three saves in 61.3 innings last season. He doesn’t strike out a ton of batters, but he is an elite option in leagues that count holds. He should have 30-plus holds while keeping his ERA below 2.00.
35. Brandon Kintzler
Kintzler is expected to open the 2020 season as the Miami Marlins primary closer. Last season, he threw 57 relief innings for the Chicago Cubs and posted a 2.68 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. He doesn’t strike out many batters, but his sinker should help him get plenty of outs. If you are nearing the end of your fantasy draft and you’re desperate for saves, give Kintzler a look.
36. Emilio Pagan
Despite ending the 2019 season with a sparkling 2.31 ERA and 0.83 WHIP, Pagan only converted 20/28 of his save opportunities for the Tampa Bay Rays. Pagan’s potential 2020 fantasy value plummeted after he was traded to the San Diego Padres over the offseason. He should still have value in holds leagues setting up for closer Kirby Yates.
37. Yusmeiro Petit
Petit has been the model of consistency over the past three years averaging a 2.83 ERA and 0.92 WHIP with 82 strikeouts over 89.1 innings. In 2019, he was tied for second in the league with 29 holds. He should continue to benefit from pitching half of his games at a pitcher-friendly park.
38. Diego Castillo
Castillo did it all in 2019. He worked as a setup man, closer, and opener for the Tampa Bay Rays. He ended up recording five wins, 17 holds, and eight saves with a 3.41 ERA and 1.24 WHIP while striking out 81 batters. Whether he closes for the Rays or returns to being a utility pitcher, Castillo is looking at a highly productive year in 2020.
39. Rafael Montero
After missing all of the 2018 season following Tommy John surgery, Montero came back to post a 2.48 ERA and 0.97 WHIP with 34 strikeouts in just 29 innings pitched. He could be next in line for saves if current Texas Rangers closer Jose Leclerc continues to struggle.
40. Will Harris
Harris cashed in over the offseason with a three-year, $24 million contract with the Washington Nationals following a spectacular 2019 season. He posted a 1.50 ERA and 0.93 WHIP with 62 strikeouts in 60 innings pitched in 2019. He also added four saves. He is the type of reliever who has the ability to stabilize your fantasy team’s ERA and WHIP. He would also be in the mix for saves if Sean Doolittle struggles.
41. Tony Watson
Watson followed up his incredible 2018 campaign where he posted a 2.59 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 72 strikeouts with a putrid 2019 campaign where he posted 4.17 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and just 41 strikeouts. The closer role for the San Francisco Giants is up for grabs following the departure of Will Smith, and Watson has as good a chance as anyone to win the job. Whether or not he closes, Watson should earn high-leverage work and deliver valuable stats for your fantasy team whether that be saves or holds.
42. Scott Oberg
Oberg was the best and most consistent relief pitcher on the Colorado Rockies in 2019. He posted a 2.25 ERA and 1.11 WHIP with 58 strikeouts. He even took over for a struggling Wade Davis as the team’s closer and picked up five saves. Even if he doesn’t start out as the team’s closer, Oberg will help your team in holds, ERA, and WHIP. Whoever ends up as the closer for the Rockies would most likely cede the job to Oberg if they struggle.
43. Blake Treinen
Treinen signed a one-year, $10 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers over the offseason. He is expected to be one of their top setup men. The former closer is just two years removed from recording 38 saves with a 0.78 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, and 100 strikeouts. The Dodgers are banking on a bounce back season from the 31-year-old veteran who posted a 4.91 ERA and 1.62 WHIP in 2019. He should be next in line for save opportunities if current Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen struggles.
44. Matt Magill
Magill was traded to the Seattle Mariners in July of 2019 after posting a 4.45 ERA and 1.59 WHIP in Minnesota. The move to Seattle proved beneficial as he posted a 3.63 ERA and 1.16 WHIP with 28 strikeouts in 22.3 innings pitched. Magill is the favorite to close in Seattle heading into the 2020 season, which gives him low-end value at the end of your fantasy draft.
45. Pedro Baez
Baez is one of the most reliable setup men in the league. Over the past three seasons, he is averaging 18 holds with a 2.98 ERA and 1.15 WHIP along with 65 strikeouts. He should see plenty of hold opportunities in 2020 pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
46. Mychal Givens
Givens was given 19 save opportunities in 2019 and only converted 11 of them. He also had seven holds. He strikes out a lot of batters (86 last season), but he gives up a lot of home runs. Givens comes into 2020 with an unclear role, but whether he closes or sets up, he is expected to pitch in high-leverage situations for the Baltimore Orioles. He is only an option for the most desperate of fantasy owners searching for saves.
47. Sergio Romo
Before being traded to Minnesota, Romo converted 17/18 save opportunities for the Miami Marlins while posting a 3.58 ERA and 1.22 WHIP with 33 strikeouts. Romo should provide plenty of holds along with a handful of saves in 2020.
48. Dellin Betances
Betances pitched less than an inning in 2019 before going down with a torn Achilles’ tendon. In 2017 and 2018, Betances had averaged 107.5 strikeouts with a 2.79 ERA. He enters the 2020 season as the primary setup man for Edwin Diaz. If he comes back healthy, he could be in the running for saves if Diaz struggles.
49. Justin Wilson
Wilson is coming off an exceptional year where he posted a 2.54 ERA and 44 strikeouts in just 39 innings. He will be a consistent source of holds and ERA while chipping in with the occasional save.
50. Ryne Stanek
Stanek started 56 games for the Tampa Bay Rays last season as their opener where he posted a 3.40 ERA and 1.15 WHIP with 61 strikeouts before being traded to the Miami Marlins at the trade deadline. He struggled mightily for the Marlins posting a 5.48 ERA and 1.69 WHIP in 21.3 innings. With a fastball that reaches 98 and an opportunity to either close or setup, give Stanek a look late in your drafts.
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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images