Welcome to this series of analyzing our site’s points league rankings, compiled by myself and Kyle Bishop. We’re good people, you should get to know us. Today we're taking a look at our tiered relief pitcher rankings for points leagues.
Points leagues abide by different rules, with walks and strikeouts usually being of notable importance compared to typical 5x5 leagues. It’s not as simple as that of course, but we’ll go off of ESPN’s default model. For pitchers, it's three points per inning pitched, five for a win or a save and one per strikeout with a point deducted per hit allowed and walk issued, as well as two points off for every earned run and five off for a loss. We've picked apart the starters, so now it's time to make a call to the bullpen.
Editor's note: Be sure to also check out our 2017 fantasy baseball rankings dashboard. It's already loaded up with tons of great rankings articles and draft analysis. Aside from our tiered staff rankings for every position, we also go deep on MLB prospect rankings, impact rookies for 2017, and dynasty/keeper rankings as well. Bookmark the page, and win your drafts.
2017 Fantasy Baseball Points Rankings: Relief Pitcher (February)
Relief Pitcher Points Rankings Analysis: The Tiers
Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Zach Britton are all monsters, each checking in with a SIERA below 2.00 last season. While Chapman and Jansen are definitely a hair above Britton in points formats thanks to their immense strikeout potential – both had a K/9 above 13.00 while Britton had a 9.94 mark – they all are very likely to post WHIPs below 0.90 and rack up 40 saves. If big strikeout arms like Seung-Hwan Oh and Edwin Diaz can hold up throughout their second year then they could surpass Britton, but you’re buying into the high range of outcomes for the proven commodity here.
Tier Two fills out the rest of the top 10, with big strikeout arms littering the pack – and Mark Melancon. Melancon’s strikeout rate is still a respectable 24.1%, but it’s that healthy walk rate and a paltry .202 batting average against that ends up resulting in a stable closer who now finds himself in the pitcher-friendly confines of AT&T Park. Andrew Miller may not have closing duties for the foreseeable future, but this is a guy whose 1.10 SIERA sat a half run lower than Jansen while his 13.67 K/BB ratio easily led the MLB. In fact, that was the second-best K/BB mark for a reliever dating all the way back to 2000.
Ken Giles, Alex Colome, Cody Allen, Wade Davis and David Robertson should all be healthy options in the ninth, as Robertson should retain closing duties even if the White Sox trade him. Dellin Betances may not have stellar control, but his 15.53 K/9 led all relievers last season and he did lower his troubling 12.1% walk rate from 2015 down to 9.4%. While Randy Levine may not appreciate his value, you’re smarter than that.
I should likely not have spaced out these closers so much, as you can see Kyle has them all higher than me in a vacuum. Giles and Allen both have strong backups behind them in Luke Gregerson and Miller, but Allen especially should be able to continue to hold the ninth as he’s done for many years. Meanwhile, Giles struggled out of the gate last season but brought it all back with a beautiful 19.9% swinging-strike rate and a 2.48 SIERA behind that 4.11 ERA. His 1.10 HR/9 should regress after his first two seasons ended in respective rates of 0.20 and 0.26.
This isn’t a big layer, but there are gaps of more than 20 picks flanking this little collection of Jeurys Familia, Francisco Rodriguez and A.J. Ramos around the No. 175 slot. They all have decent job security, but Familia has a potential suspension coming down on him. K-Rod has seen his skills really start to decline, though he’s adjusting well. Ramos’ control woes make for volatility, and now Brad Ziegler will present the team with a viable alternative should Ramos need a break from the ninth.
Addison Reed might be a surprising name to see ahead of some other decent closers, but Reed’s status is contingent on Familia’s suspension. Even if nothing happens, those in points formats might be surprised to learn that Reed’s 7.00 K/BB ratio was sixth best out of qualified RPs, right behind Kelvin Herrera. He really turned things around after struggling in Arizona in 2015, as he gets ahead of hitters (70.1% first-strike rate, third best for all RPs) and still has a solid 11.7% swinging-strike rate.
While Sam Dyson, Tony Watson and Brandon Maurer all have closing jobs at the moment, the more exciting names might just be the last two in Shawn Kelley and Adam Ottavino. Kelley’s K/BB ratio was third best for all RPs and his 15.7% swinging-strike rate was ninth best – sandwiched right in between Miller and Betances -- but manager Dusty Baker is worried about durability after he ended last season with an arm injury. For now, though, these skills deserve a crack at the ninth and a slot on your team.
The Rest of the Field
Here we find the odds and ends, the uninspiring veterans and the exciting, but don’t-yet-have-the-ninth guys. Jim Johnson, Fernando Rodney and Brandon Kintzler all stand to open the season as closers. Huston Street will battle Cam Bedrosian, but the skills heavily favor the youngster here. Michael Lorenzen is also an intriguing name due to his having a spot in that Cincinnati closing committee. While everyone is in love with Raisel Iglesias (and rightfully so), Lorenzen reportedly could hit 100 innings out of the ‘pen in 2017, which could prove quite useful if he rings up a batter per frame with another 2.88 ERA (2.75 SIERA).