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2022 Keeper Value Rankings - Relief Pitchers

emmanuel clase fantasy baseball rankings closers draft sleepers MLB injury news

Many many years ago, I noticed the managers in my long-time keeper league were consistently making terrible keeper decisions year after year. Instead of taking their money every year, I thought I would help them out and find a good set of Keeper League Rankings to share with them. What I found was quite disturbing.

There appeared to be two types of Keeper Rankings available in the industry: Type A is just the site's normal rankings with younger players boosted. These types of rankings only benefit leagues where all Keepers carry the same cost or no cost, such as Rounds 1-4 for everyone's keepers. I also found a Type B that I have no explanation on how any human could ever perceive to be useful in any type of fantasy format. So instead of pulling a rankings list for them, I sat down on Excel for a good month and the Keeper Value Formula was born.

Keeper Value Rankings are intended for Keeper Leagues in which a fantasy owner must forfeit a designated draft pick in order to keep a player into the upcoming season. These rankings are based on Keeper "Values." In the marketing world, Value can be defined as "the extent to which a good or service (player) is perceived by its customer (fantasy owner) to meet his/her needs or wants." The Keeper Values are derived from my Keeper Valuation Formula which accounts for age, player cost (ADP), remaining player pool, past performance, future projections, missed playing time, and even position scarcity.

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JB's Keeper Value System

The final product is a quantitative depiction of a player's ability to meet/exceed fantasy owners' needs based on the cost they paid for the player in the previous season (2021 ADP) and will subsequently pay for in the current season's draft (2021). The higher the score, the higher the return the fantasy owner will receive from the player keeping him at their associated cost. Approaching Keeper selections with this value-based attitude will greatly increase the effectiveness of a fantasy owner's draft in a keeper league.

Whereas the main purpose of the Keeper Value Formula is for customization based on specific leagues and keeper costs, I create these yearly rankings with standard 12 team league data, 2021 ADP, and 23rd Round cost for UDFA just as a baseline to help managers get an idea of their options. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @RowdyRotoJB to check out your specific league's values.

1 >100 Finders Keepers! These are the Elite Keeper Values. MUST BE KEPT at all costs.
2 75-99 Great Keeper values. Unless you have a full load of Tier 1 players, these guys need to be kept.
3 50-74 You are gaining good value with these players. The majority of good keeper options tend to fall into this category.
4 25-49 Minimal value. The value exists, but not as much as your opponents are likely receiving with their selections. Consider if your options are limited.
5 0-24 Break-even point. Keeping these players will likely hurt your overall draft, as you are not adding enough value. The idea is if you don't use a keeper selection here you can likely still draft that player in the vicinity of their 2021 cost.
6 <0 The associated costs make it impossible to return any value, these players will ruin your draft. Stay far away.


2022 Relief Pitcher Keeper Value Rankings

Position Rank Keeper Tier Name Team 2021 ADP Keeper Score
1 2 Emmanuel Clase CLE 23 87.7053
2 3 Jordan Romano TOR 23 66.5704
3 3 Giovanny Gallegos STL 21 55.0384
4 3 Liam Hendriks CWS 5 53.0043
5 4 William Smith ATL 17 49.8053
6 4 Josh Hader MIL 5 48.4043
7 4 Mark Melancon ARI 23 47.5672
8 4 Camilo Doval SFG 23 43.7901
9 4 Raisel Iglesias LAA 7 43.0596
10 4 Ryan Pressly HOU 9 34.9699
11 4 Scott Barlow KCR 23 32.191
12 4 Blake Treinen LAD 23 27.0352
13 4 Kenley Jansen FA 10 26.9343
14 5 Edwin Diaz NYM 7 23.4115
15 5 Corey Knebel PHI 23 22.4855
16 5 Gregory Soto DET 23 21.8471
17 5 David Bednar PIT 23 17.1776
18 5 Joe Barlow TEX 23 8.1903
19 5 Garrett Whitlock BOS 23 5.67794
20 5 Dylan Floro MIA 23 0.69504


Tier Two

Emmanuel Clase comes in as the top Keeper Value among the relievers, and it's not surprising at all after what he did in 2021. Considering James Karinchak was being drafted as the Indians (Guardians now) closer, Clase was simply a late-round handcuff with upside. 69.2 innings later, and Clase owned the closer role and some impressive stats. Among qualified relievers, his 0.26 HR/9 ranked fourth best and his 2.60 xFIP was fifth best. He has the perfect blend of abilities to handle the ninth inning. He has the electric stuff, 100 MPH Cutter paired with a 90 MPH Slider, but he limits walks and gets all the soft contact. 67.6% Groundball rate and a measly 23.8 Hard% with strikeout ability is quite unfair and is why he feels so safe as a fantasy pick despite not even being 24 years old yet.


Tier Three

While the Blue Jays could still add a Free Agent reliever like Kenley Jansen after the lockout ends, as it currently sits Jordan Romano is the closer for 2022. The Statcast numbers are far from being as clean as Clase's, as Romano's Barrel% and BB% were both in the bottom 28th percentile, but the final product was just as impressive. His xERA, K%, and xSLG were all top 5%, and his .173 xBA was top 1% in the league. His fastball was a whole MPH faster than 2020 and he threw it over 20% more in 2021. What's even more impressive is the fact that it's believed he pitched the last two months with a torn meniscus in his left knee which was surgically repaired this off-season.

Based on talent Giovanny Gallegos certainly belongs in the same discussion with other top relievers in fantasy, but he also carries some closer-opportunities risk with Alex Reyes and Jordan Hicks on the roster and the Cardinals also looking to add another high-leverage reliever once the lockout ends. According to Cards GM, the team does not yet have a closer in mind for the 2022 season. That is pretty troubling for a reliever being drafted ~114 overall in redraft leagues. To his defense, he has done everything possible to earn the role. After taking over for Reyes in September last year, he converted 11 of 12 save chances and finished the year with a sparkling 3.02 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and 30.6 K% over 80.1 IP. I am all for betting on the talent over the ninth-inning uncertainty.

Liam Hendricks is the top reliever in fantasy. With the increase in value to bonafide closers this year, he's still returning a tier-three score despite a ~ fifth-round ADP. He led all relievers in 2021 with a 2.14 xFIP, 1.93 xERA, 39.7 K-BB%(!!), and secured the second-most saves (38).


Tier Four

It might be misleading to have Josh Hader and Liam Hendriks in separate tiers with the same cost, but it's only a five-point difference in score and it speaks to the safety of Hendriks. Hader, Raisel Iglesias, and Ryan Pressly are all well beyond the level of being reliable fantasy relievers at this point. In 2021 all three boasted at least 26 Saves, under a 2.60 ERA, under a 2.50 xFIP, under 1.00 WHIP, and at least a 27 K-BB%.

Kenley Jansen would typically belong with that last batch of studs, but of course, we have no clue where he is playing in 2022. He was phenomenal last season, finishing in the top 90th percentile in basically all Statcast and expected statistics on his way to a 2.22 ERA and 38 saves for the Dodgers. Wherever the 34-year-old veteran ends up, we can safely assume he's going to be the closer and be damn good at it. However, if that landing spot is anywhere other than back in LA, then we get to enjoy the return of Blake Treinen to fantasy stardom. If Jansen's peripherals looked great, I don't even know how to describe Treinen's, other than witchcraft. He finished 2021 in the top three% of the league in xERA, HardHit%, xwOBA, wOBA, xSLG, EV, and Barrel%. His slider became his most-thrown pitch for the first time in his career, and it held hitters to a .074 BA and possessed a 45.8 Whiff%. The bigger difference between last year and 2020 though was his cutter usage surpassing the sinker (mostly to LHB). In 2020 he threw the Sinker at a 55.8% rate and the cutter just 8.8%. Last season the sinker dropped to 27.4% and the cutter rose to 30%. I think the results speak for themselves.

Camilo Doval has far more appeal in keeper leagues than redraft leagues this season. In keeper leagues, you won't need immediate ninth inning production in order to justify keeping him at a very late cost. He may not get all the save opportunities right away in 2022 with Jake McGee still pitching at a very high level and being opposite-handed creating a fun matchup game for Gabe Kapler. Then there is also Tyler Rogers with one of the most unique skillsets among all relievers, but with McGee and Rogers being 34 and 31 years old respectively, we know that it's just a matter of time before Doval gets the only set of keys to the closer gig.

I for one, have not been down with paying the top-closer premiums in redraft leagues this year.  Not when I can get Scott Barlow later in the draft. To be brutally honest though, I was all about Josh Staumont last year, only to be force-converted to a Barlow believer by the end of the season. After the All-Star Break, he boasted a 1.71 ERA and 1.07 WHIP over 31.2 innings. Yes he might've benefited from some BABIP and LOB% luck, but this is why we get the discount on 20+ saves.


Tier Five

New team, who dis? Corey Knebel is shooting up draft boards this season after signing a one-year deal with the Phillies in December. Considering how well he pitched in 2021 and the lack of closer options behind him currently it sure makes sense. He has only pitched 39 innings since undergoing Tommy John Surgery in 2018, but the 25.2 IP in 2021 were very encouraging. He finished with a 2.45 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and a 29.7 K%. From August 1 to the end of the season he boasted a 1.83 ERA. I'm curious to see how he handles a full load of innings, but I highly doubt the Phillies paid the 30 year old $10 million to be a setup man.

If you don't know yet, David Bednar is a stud. He certainly did not look like a guy with only 17 ugly MLB innings under his belt in 2021. His BaseballSavant page has more red than a Wyoming political map. To sum it up, he sported a 2.51 xERA and a K% that was higher than his HardHit%. His filthy curveball is a full 20 MPH slower than his cheese and held opponents to a .128 BA while generating a 46.8 Whiff%. I would assume he has a handle on the Pirates' closer role for the first half of the season, but he also fits the bill for a trade deadline candidate. If you are keeping Bednar, make sure you grab Chris Stratton at the end of your draft.

Garrett Whitlock and Dylan Floro both squeak in to the tier five scores, but neither are necessarily the best bets to be their teams closer in 2022. Whitlock had a phenomenal 2021, but reportedly was told to prepare to work as a starter in the spring – which makes sense given his talent and the Red Sox pitching depth. Floro also had a great season, leading the Marlins in saves while maintaining a 2.81 ERA. But to be frank, Anthony Bender is just the better pitcher and I'm willing to bet his talent eventually leads to the ninth inning.

Both Whitlock and Floro are solid draft picks at their redraft ADP, but there's too much job uncertainty to be kept in you are looking at securing some saves with a keeper selection. Whitlock gets a pass however since the alternative to him racking up saves is being an upside rotation arm for the Red Sox.


2022 Keeper Value Rankings

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