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2018 Relief Pitchers - Early Fantasy Baseball Tiered Rankings

We wind up our mixed league rankings analysis with a look at the most volatile position of all, relief pitchers. Whether you choose to grab a top-notch closer early or prefer to work the waiver wire all season, these early rankings will give you a good sense of where the current market values each reliever, before pitchers and catchers report to camp.

All mixed league rankings are done by RotoBaller writers Kyle Bishop, Jeff Kahntroff, and myself. If you like this article, you might want to look at our starting pitcher rankings analysis. Links to every offensive position are listed at the bottom of this page as well.

You can also see all of our early 2018 fantasy baseball rankings or mixed leagues, points leagues, dynasty leagues and more. Bookmark that page and keep checking back for updates all throughout the preseason!

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association including Baseball Writer of the Year, Football Writers of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year and many more! Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!


2018 Fantasy Baseball Tiered Rankings: Relievers (January)

Ranking Tier Player Position Kyle Pierre Jeff
1 1 Kenley Jansen RP 65 39 44
2 1 Craig Kimbrel RP 68 67 71
3 1 Aroldis Chapman RP 80 83 68
4 2 Corey Knebel RP 100 89 83
5 2 Roberto Osuna RP 94 142 86
6 2 Edwin Diaz RP 99 143 85
7 2 Cody Allen RP 103 145 93
8 2 Felipe Rivero RP 97 165 95
9 2 Wade Davis RP 112 154 92
10 2 Raisel Iglesias RP 166 152 84
11 3 Alex Colome RP 160 157 132
12 3 Ken Giles RP 125 132 196
13 3 Brad Brach RP 115 260 125
14 3 Hector Neris RP 225 176 91
15 3 Brad Hand RP 212 211 73
16 3 Jeurys Familia RP 237 172 90
17 4 Andrew Miller RP 147 187 176
18 4 Archie Bradley RP 129 234 #N/A
19 4 Arodys Vizcaino RP 239 200 119
21 4 Kelvin Herrera RP 126 185 250
20 4 Sean Doolittle RP 223 228 120
22 4 Greg Holland RP 197 196 199
23 4 Mark Melancon RP 230 222 169
24 5 Alex Reyes SP/RP #N/A #N/A 213
26 5 Dellin Betances RP 244 214 #N/A
27 5 Shane Greene RP 324 #N/A 161
28 5 AJ Ramos RP 233 253 #N/A
29 5 Jeff Hoffman RP #N/A #N/A 264
30 5 David Robertson RP #N/A 266 #N/A
25 5 Cam Bedrosian RP 250 296 262
31 6 Chris Devenski SP/RP #N/A 275
32 6 Blake Treinen RP 277 277 #N/A
33 6 Kyle Barraclough RP 288 272 299
34 6 Fernando Rodney RP 303 281 279
35 6 Adam Ottavino RP 292 #N/A #N/A
36 6 Zach Britton RP #N/A 120 125
37 6 Carl Edwards RP 306 #N/A
38 6 Ryan Madson RP 322 299
39 6 Jakob Junis SP/RP 316 #N/A #N/A
40 6 Addison Reed RP 317 #N/A #N/A


Tier 1

How early do you take your first closer? If it's Kenley Jansen, it's just barely inside the top 40 overall player pool. You'll see that the rest of my personal reliever rankings take a steep dive after the first tier. There is so much turnover in the closer ranks, even among established vets or promising young fireballers, that I can't justify taking one over an SP2 or starting infielder. That said, if you can lock down a sure 40+ saves, 100+ strikeouts, and sub-2.00 ERA in the first five rounds of a snake draft, then you should do it. That allows you to ignore the RP position for a good while and stockpile rotation arms. But this isn't a draft strategy piece.

The loss of Zach Britton and questions of how long Aroldis Chapman can hold up with his violent delivery make for very few elite options, other than Jansen. Kimbrel rejoins these ranks after a down 2016. It's hard to believe he's just 29 years old, as he's seemingly been a lockdown closer forever.

Tier 2

We quickly jump into the uber-talented, but exceedingly inexperienced arms that could end up either as top-10 relievers or losing their jobs. Corey Knebel was the best midesason pickup at the RP spot last year, finishing up with 39 saves in a league-leading 76 games pitched. His 14.9 K/9 puts him right on the cusp of that top tier and he should deliver a solid ROI despite an inflated price.

Edwin Diaz was all over the place in his second Major League season. He was on shaky ground by the end of May, redeemed himself in July with a 1.63 ERA that month, was touched for six runs and walked 10 batters in 11.2 innings in August, then finally ended the year with a 1.86 ERA and 6.5 K/BB in September. He's got all the talent in the world, but cannot be labeled reliable in the least.

Roberto Osuna wasted no time scaring fantasy owners by posting a 5.63 ERA with three blown saves in his first four chances. He recovered quickly before experiencing another rough patch late in the year. It's not uncommon for young relief pitchers to show inconsistency, but you have to decide how much you're willing to pay for their services, not knowing if or when they will recover, all the while doing damage to your ratios.

There is no way we can trust Wade Davis just the same, now that he is in Colorado. Altitude aside, manager Bud Black showed a fairly quick hook with his relievers once he felt trouble coming on. A rough patch in new digs could quickly spell the end of Davis' tenure in the top-10. Proceed with caution and handcuff him early with all 20 of the Rockies' would-be closers if you're drafting Davis (I'm not).

I'm slightly more optimistic about lefty Felipe Rivero, although there may not be many saves to go around if the Bucs start sliding into fire sale mode. Still, that filthy slider (5.4 Pitch Value) and ridiculous velocity can't be ignored. Kyle's ranking of him above Edwin Diaz, Cody Allen, and even Corey Knebel might actually be right on point. Again, my own ranking of closers like Rivero, Diaz, and Allen a full 50 spots below my compadres isn't a slight to those individuals, it's my assessment of the position relative to others as a whole.

Tier 3

Speaking of turbulent young relievers, Ken Giles. I'm not altogether sure where to even slot him right now, but all signs point to him keeping the closer job to begin 2018. If you think sample size means anything, you've got to trust that the full season he put together for Houston means more than the seven pressure-filled postseason games in which he failed miserably, ceding 10 ER and 12 hits (three homers) in just 10 2/3 innings. He may even be a draft day bargain if your leaguemates refuse to touch him.

Brad Brach has simply been swapped in for Zach Britton at this time, but despite his excellent work the last couple of seasons, he just isn't an equivalent swap for a man who was considered a legitimate MVP candidate out of the bullpen in 2016. Brach will likely be ranked too high for the simple fact that Britton should return by the second half, so I expect all our numbers to drop in the next batch of rankings.

How much do you trust Jeurys Familia to return to form after a lengthy suspension and a disappointing second half? Apparently, quite a bit if you're Jeff, who has him ranked as the overall RP9. With Addison Reed gone, but A.J. Ramos returning, Familia still finds himself with a capable understudy who has closing experience. I'd far prefer Familia as a bargain pick in my second RP slot.

Tier 4

The biggest discrepancy in our reliever rankings comes in the form of Kelvin Herrera. While Kyle puts him up at 126, Jeff has him at 250, while I sit squarely in the middle at 185. His ERA took a dip last year to 4.25 and his 21.6% K% was down nearly nine points from the previous year. His fastball velocity is on a downward slide, from 99.3 MPH back in 2012 to 97.9 MPH in 2017. Playing on a team devoid of stars won't help, but he's got the gig to himself and should be good for at least 30 saves, as he doesn't seem ready to fall of a cliff just yet.

Greg Holland rightfully earned Comeback Player of the Year honors in the NL, but he is currently without a home. A move to Washington should perk up his ADP quite a bit, while depressing that of Sean Doolittle.

Mark Melancon will need to have a bounce back year of his own to prove he wasn't a high-priced free agent bust. If he's healthy, he could be this year's version of Holland in terms of late-round value.

Tier 5

In most 5x5 roto leagues, Dellin Betances isn't nearly as valuable as he is in real life. At least that's the case when Aroldis Chapman isn't on the DL. If your league counts holds or HLD+SV, then he belongs in the top 200. Our rankings assume standard categories, so to me he's a high-end handcuff, whereas to Jeff he is non-existent.

The breakout that never happened... yet. That's the only way I can describe Cam Bedrosian, or Bedrock Jr. We can't just assume he'll be the second-coming of his Cy Young-winning father, but he's got the tools to make it happen. Meanwhile, four seasons and seven total saves later, we're still waiting. The Angels are putting together all the pieces to be a contender, so there's still hope he can stay healthy and pitch consistently. The addition of Jim Johnson and ascension of Blake Parker complicates things, especially when playing under a manager that prefers a veteran presence on the mound late in games.

Tier 6

Both Kyle and I still have faith that Blake Treinen will stop getting in his own way and throw more strikes. A move to Oakland could be just the ticket for longterm value, as he ended the season strong with 13 saves and a career-best 9.95 K/9.

Nobody seems too inspired by the fact Fernando Rodney is going into the 2018 season as the #1 closer for a playoff team. The Twins recently inked the 40-year-old to be their main man in the ninth inning, yet he's pretty much dead last among all closers in our rankings. He slammed the door almost 40 times last year and struck out over 10 batters per nine IP, so what's to hate? Sure, he walks his share of batters, but he had a 1.19 WHIP. His 4.23 ERA is unsightly, but he suffered from a 61.1% strand rate and pitched in a hitter-friendly ballpark in Arizona. While others are going young late in the draft, don't forget about Mr. Bow and Arrow himself.


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