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Relief Pitcher - Early Points League Rankings and Tiers

It’s never too early to start looking toward the fantasy baseball season, and I’m here to continue RotoBaller’s position-by-position rankings analysis series for points league and head-to-head (H2H) formats with the ever-volatile relief pitcher position. The "closer carousel" seems to spin faster and faster every year, and there are very few names in the 'set it and forget it' category. We recommend locking down at least one top-flight RP and then filling in during the late rounds or on the waiver wire.

Our mixed-league points staff rankings come straight from the minds of JB Branson, Nick Mariano, and myself (a.k.a. the fourth-most accurate MLB expert for 2017 on FantasyPros). We’ve got them broken down into tiers for both the sake of digestible content and because your rankings should always be tiered. For our purposes here, pitchers get a boost for saves but dinged for blown saves.

You can also check out our analysis on catcherfirst basesecond base, third base, and outfield while you're at it. Don't forget to bookmark all of our preliminary 2019 fantasy baseball rankings for mixed leagues. Check back regulary for updates throughout the coming months as you prepare to dominate on draft day. Without any more delay, let's take a look at the 2019 relief pitcher points league rankings for January.

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2019 Points League Rankings: Relief Pitcher

Ranking Tier Player Name Position Nick JB Bill
1 1 Edwin Diaz RP 44 41 42
2 1 Blake Treinen RP 62 66 62
3 1 Craig Kimbrel RP 66 64 66
4 1 Kenley Jansen RP 70 75 70
5 2 Brad Hand RP 83 91 85
6 2 Aroldis Chapman RP 87 93 88
7 2 Felipe Vázquez RP 107 98 101
8 2 Sean Doolittle RP 111 127 127
9 2 Josh Hader RP 125 133 117
10 2 Kirby Yates RP 126 126 129
11 3 Corey Knebel RP 138 123 147
12 3 Roberto Osuna RP 133 145 136
13 3 Raisel Iglesias RP 135 139 140
14 3 Wade Davis RP 146 142 157
15 3 Seranthony Dominguez RP 170 148 150
16 3 Jose Leclerc RP 162 165 167
17 3 Will Smith RP 176 158 166
18 3 Andrew Miller RP 156 190 163
19 4 Alexander Colome RP 187 179 187
20 4 David Robertson RP 183 194 184
21 4 Brandon Morrow RP 191 210 191
22 4 Dellin Betances RP 204 225 203
23 4 Kenneth Giles RP 197 218 221
24 4 Mychal Givens RP 229 202 228
25 4 Drew Steckenrider RP 228 205 227
26 5 Jose Alvarado RP 233 209 231
27 5 Cody Allen RP 218 253 251
28 5 Archie Bradley RP 245 237 243
29 5 Alexander Reyes SP/RP 239 248 240
30 5 Jordan Hicks RP 263 246 247
31 5 Arodys Vizcaino RP 271 242 256
32 5 A.J. Minter RP 276 260 264
33 5 Jeremy Jeffress RP 275 258 275
34 5 Zach Britton RP 254 287 #N/A
35 5 Trevor May RP 259 295 #N/A
36 5 Adam Ottavino RP 279 280 280
37 6 Shane Greene RP 296 283 296
38 6 Seth Lugo SP/RP 307 323 305
39 6 Matt Strahm RP 314 #N/A 311
40 6 Jeurys Familia RP 329 311 325
41 6 Chad Green RP 330 333 339
42 6 Ty Buttrey RP 368 337 334
43 6 Corbin Burnes SP/RP 343 379 341
44 6 Brad Peacock RP 373 357 #N/A
45 6 Yoshihisa Hirano RP 342 393 #N/A
46 6 Seung Hwan Oh RP 383 384 348
47 7 Joe Kelly RP 421 394 385
48 7 Wily Peralta SP/RP 419 404 383
49 7 Pedro Strop RP 405 407 #N/A
50 7 Felix Pena RP/SP 455 423 381
51 7 Ryan Brasier RP 431 419 #N/A
52 7 Mark Melancon RP 399 452 #N/A
53 7 Matt Barnes RP #N/A 426 #N/A
54 7 Robert Gsellman SP/RP 429 465 392
55 7 Mike Montgomery SP/RP 437 #N/A #N/A
56 7 Joe Jimenez RP 460 439 #N/A
57 7 C.J. Edwards RP 489 411 #N/A
58 7 Chris Devenski SP/RP 475 450 #N/A
59 7 Diego Castillo RP/SP 465 #N/A #N/A
60 7 Jared Hughes RP 466 #N/A #N/A
61 7 Ryan Pressly RP 471 #N/A #N/A
62 7 Yusmeiro Petit RP 496 454 #N/A
63 7 Taylor Rogers RP 477 #N/A #N/A
64 7 Kelvin Herrera RP 485 472 #N/A
65 7 Blake Parker RP 491 475 #N/A
66 7 Lou Trivino RP 486 #N/A #N/A
67 7 Steve Cishek RP 500 477 #N/A
68 7 Craig Stammen RP 492 #N/A #N/A
69 7 Dakota Hudson RP 494 #N/A #N/A


Relief Pitcher Points League Rankings: Upper Tiers

Tier One

Edwin Diaz burst onto the scene last year with one of the more eye-popping seasons that a closer has ever had. Diaz slammed the door a league-leading 57 times while striking out an ungodly 124 hitters in just 73.1 IP, and he tacked on a shiny 1.96 ERA to boot. Diaz is still the top dog and it's not particularly close for me, even if he does regress a bit to the mean (which is all but guaranteed). He likely won't have the same amount of save opportunities given that he's now on the Mets instead of the Mariners, but there's a decent chance that the Mets middling offense has a healthy number of close games. His strikeout ratio shouldn't go anywhere even if he gets touched up a bit more, making him one of the highest-floor and ceiling RPs you'll find on draft day.

Sure the saves are impressive, but Blake "The Witch" Treinen looks upon Diaz's ERA and scoffs. A mainstay on Pitching Ninja's gif-heavy Twitter account, Treinen's 100MPH+ sinker is one of the nastiest single pitches of all-time, and due to that he was (and is) nigh-unhittable. He allowed just two homers all year, and while he likely won't finish as the top RP due to a lack of save opportunities, Treinen is perhaps the safest bet you can make at the position in 2019.

Tier Two

If anyone can challenge Diaz for the saves crown, it might be Brad Hand. The former Padre should have plenty of save opportunities closing games out for one of the AL's juggernauts, and Hand has been one of the most underrated relievers in baseball for two years now. We've got him ranked inside the top 100, and I think that's appropriate given his potential for saves and strikeouts--he's posted a K/9 of 11.2 or better in each of the last three seasons.

Speaking of underrated relievers, did you know that Kirby Yates had a 2.14 ERA last season and a microscopic 0.921 WHIP across 63 innings? I sure didn't. The unsung hero of the Padres bullpen SHOULD be afforded the opportunity to close with Brad Hand no longer in the mix and nobody else in the 'pen that approaches his level of dominance. We've got him just inside our second tier, and I think there's a chance that he jumps into the top tier if and ONLY IF the Padres are able to win more than 75 games this year.


Relief Pitcher Points League Rankings: Middle Tiers

Tier Three

Roberto Osuna was lights-out for the Astros in his limited time with the organization last year, posting a 1.99 ERA and 12 saves across 23 appearances. Assuming he has the closer's job locked down in 2019, I think he's a top-10 RP assuming his health--the Astros will threaten to win 100 games again, and that should equate to plenty of opportunities for Osuna barring some sort of meltdown. We have him ranked this low because, well--a meltdown is possible, and his past legal issues are nothing to ignore as far as whether or not he's on the field all season.

I really want Seranthony Dominguez to be given a full shot at the closer's role, but with David Robertson making his way to Philly, I fear Dominguez may once again be relegated to a hybrid setup/sometimes closer role. He was excellent in his 54 innings last year, mowing down 74 hitters and posting a 0.931 WHIP along with a solid-yet-unspectacular 2.95 ERA. He certainly had his meltdown moments, but all-told he was remarkable for a true rookie. I have him at the very end of my top 150, but I fear I might be overly optimistic given Robertson's presence.

Jose LeClerc DEFINITELY got a hold of a bottle of Michael's Secret Stuff, because he was unreal last year. While the Rangers reliever only notched 12 saves last year, he was an animal all season--he allowed just 10 earned runs across 57.2 innings of work, and backed it up with a 0.850 WHIP and 85 strikeouts. I'm lowest among our group on him, but not by a large margin. My thinking is that he has to regress at least a little bit, but now that he's been anointed the Rangers closer, a top-10 finish is within his grasp.

Tier Four

Alex Colome has some intriguing potential as the White Sox closer, mostly because the White Sox are starting to put the pieces together to contend (I'll feel a lot more strongly about this if they land Machado). He does, however, need to win and keep the job. With Kelvin Herrera and Nate Jones waiting in the wings, it won't take many stumbles for the White Sox to move on from Colome. I do believe he'll get the first crack at the job (he's listed on their team site as the closer right now), and if he can hold onto it there is top-15 potential for him if he can save 35 games.

Mychal Givens should be given the first crack at the Orioles closer job with Brad Brach now a Chicago Cub, but I'm not sure how much value comes with that position. Givens is coming off of a sub-par 2018 in which he posted the highest ERA of his career, due largely to a depressed strikeout rate and overall hittability (not a word, I know). Assuming he wins the job and keeps it, we're looking at what, 25 saves on a really bad Orioles team? The risk outweighs the potential reward here, I won't be owning any shares of Givens this year.

Tier Five

Alex Reyes might be the pitcher I'm watching closest in the spring. With just four total innings on his resume over the last two seasons, the uber-prospect Reyes has suffered setback after setback, but he enters 2019 with a clean bill of health (supposedly). The Cardinals don't seem to be positive where he'll start the season, although I have to think they'll continue to progress him towards starting at some point before June. He will likely act as a high-leverage reliever while he gets back into shape, but he won't be closing games with Andrew Miller and Jordan Hicks ahead of him in the pecking order. For now, I'm picking up Reyes wherever I can at his current price point, because the rewards once he's starting could be tremendous.

A.J. Minter is also on my watch list for the spring, as he could quickly turn into a high-value closer should he win the job in Spring Training. Arodys Vizcaino is his main competition for the role, and he quietly had a solid 2018 when he was healthy (16 saves, 2.11 ERA across 38.1 IP). Minter was holding it down in his absence though, notching 15 saves of his own and flashing decent ratios despite being hittable at times. I think this has everything to do with the role--the Braves closer will be a high-value position, and if it's ONE of Minter or Vizcaino then that's a guy worth grabbing. If it's a mix of both, or the team decides to give the dreaded "we'll play the matchups" line, I won't like either enough to own in shallower points leagues.


Relief Pitcher Points League Rankings: Lower Tiers

Tier Six

Jeurys Familia is a victim of circumstance--with the league's top closer now on the Mets, it's unlikely Familia sees any save opportunities outside of when Diaz needs a breather or if gets injured. Still, at just 28 years of age, there is plenty left in the tank for this reliever who led the MLB in saves in 2016 (51). He's coming off a season in which he posted his highest K/9 mark, and while his 3.13 ERA was average for a closer, his FIP (2.65) indicates he might have been a bit unlucky last year. Familia likely won't be of much use in points leagues as long as Diaz is the closer, but he's somebody to put on your watch list.

Tier Seven

Joe Kelly got a guaranteed $25 million from the Dodgers over three years, and, uh...I'm not sure why. He's coming off a pretty miserable 2018 campaign in which he posted a 4.39 ERA and just barely over a strikeout per inning. He had a terrific postseason during the Red Sox march to the World Series, and I have to assume the Dodgers liked what they saw there. However, Kenley Jansen is entrenched in the closer role and Kelly has five seasons under his belt with an ERA over 3.5. Hard pass for me in all formats.

Following two outstanding seasons to start his career, Chris Devenski came down to Earth in 2018. The former All-Star saw his K/9 drop, set career highs in WHIP (1.1612), ERA (4.18), and HR/9--he gave up nine long balls in just 47.1 innings. Injuries likely played a role in his down year, and while I expect him to bounce back in 2019 there is some cause for trepidation. Devenski is one of the very few middle relievers who might carry some value in points leagues though, because the Astros have shown a willingness to use him for more than just one inning--he might not get the save, but if he throws 1.2 innings with three Ks, that's a usable outing.

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