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Five Closers To Target for Saves in 2023 Fantasy Baseball Drafts

Jhoan Duran fantasy baseball rankings closers saves draft sleepers

The most tricky part of building your fantasy baseball roster is the relief pitchers. Having a superstar closer on your fantasy baseball team can be the key to a winning season.

The problem is superstar relievers don’t just grow on trees. Among the select group of elite closers, it’s hard to find the one that’ll put your team over the top.

If you’re wisely looking to draft elite underrated relief talent this year, here are some guys who should be on your radar.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball lineup tools and weekly lineup resources:

 

Ryan Pressly, Houston Astros

Sure, not the flashiest name one could throw out here, but Ryan Pressly has quietly become one of the game’s best closers. The Astros closer had a career-high 33 saves in 2022.

Pressly’s average draft position (ADP) in 2023 is 86.3, placing him in the second tier of relievers. However, Pressly may very well finish in that first tier. In 2023, ATC projects 32 saves for Pressly – a total that justifies drafting him at his ADP.

As the named closer for the Astros dynasty, Pressly is a reliable bet for easy saves and quality appearances.

 

Felix Bautista, Baltimore Orioles

After the Orioles purged Jorge Lopez at last year’s trade deadline, many assumed that the Orioles had simply returned to rebuilding despite a surprise 16-9 run in July.

Felix Bautista’s emergence at closer last year showed us that the Orioles were only retooling. The rookie quickly made his way up the bullpen totem pole and finished the season with 15 saves.

Along with those 15 saves, Bautista struck out 34.8% of hitters faced and had an expected BA of only .186 – both placing him in the 90th percentile of those marks.

Bautista also brings a type of theatrics that’ll make closing games easier for him.

The ominous use of Omar’s Whistle – from the hit Baltimore-based TV show The Wire – put the fear of god in many opposing hitters, and won significant favor from the hometown fans as well.

Intimidation is one of the most overlooked parts of what makes a great closer - even if it is largely intangible. Like Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera before him, Bautista’s growing mysticism will make him a superstar sooner than later.

With absolutely no threats to his closing role and an ADP of 96, Bautista is a mid-round steal.

 

Raisel Iglesias, Atlanta Braves

A top 12 Cy Young finisher in 2021, and an ERA of 4.04 in the half-season directly after.

Raisel Iglesias has dealt with his fair share of up-and-downs throughout his eight-year career, but he may have found stability in Atlanta.

After coming to the Braves from the Angels at the deadline, Iglesias wowed with only one earned run allowed in 26 innings pitched (IP).

While there have been some concerning stretches (most recently, an abnormal 12 barrels in the first half of the 2022 season), Iglesias has never truly regressed. He hasn’t dipped below the 90th percentile in chase and whiff rates since 2017. His fastball-changeup mix became dangerous this past season as the wOBA for both pitches is sub-.250.

Iglesias is a proven closer who has regained form for a contending team in dire need of a closing option. Draft Raisel Iglesias around his ADP of 88 with confidence.

 

Jhoan Duran, Minnesota Twins

Durán was lethal on the mound in 2022 – due to his possession of one of the scariest arsenals in the league.

His fastball averaged 100.8 MPH – the highest mark in the league. Following that heater is an 88 mph curveball that eluded nearly half of all the bats it saw last year. And of course, no one can forget Durán’s famed splinker (splitter-sinker combo, for those who are unfamiliar) — the first ‘off-speed pitch’ to register triple-digits on the radar gun.

Jhoan Durán finished the season with a respectable 18 holds, eight saves, and two wins.

Inside that somewhat tepid stat line is a nearly unparalleled advanced stat line. Durán was in the top 90th percentile for every expected pitching statistic and had a K, Whiff, and Chase rate in the top 95th percentile.

ATC projects that Durán will finish with only 12 saves. Durán’s fantasy profile is in-line with those projections, as his current ADP is in the mid-100s.

You may be sitting here thinking, “he’s clearly so talented, what gives?” Well, that brings up the Jorge Lopez problem. However, I’m not concerned about Jorge Lopez’s presence. After coming over at the deadline, Lopez had a 4.37 ERA with only four saves.

I’m confident that Durán should take full claim to the closer spot early enough. With that likely development, he’ll finish the season as one of the best relievers in fantasy baseball.

 

Scott Barlow, Kansas City Royals

Last, but CERTAINLY not least, is Royals closer Scott Barlow.

Scott Barlow had statistically similar 2021 and 2022 seasons, but he’s made key improvements in every area – indicating that a better season is ahead.

Most notably, his opponent's exit velocity and hard-hit rates have been gradually decreasing throughout his major league career.

Additionally, Barlow has found his best pitch mix with his production improving upon the decreased use of his fastball.

Barlow had 21 saves in 2022 and is projected by ATC for 20 in this upcoming season. But with 74 IP in back-to-back seasons, Barlow should blow past 20 saves.

The Royals are going to be better this year. Are they going to be world-beaters? Not likely, but they’ll be good enough for Scott Barlow to provide great value as a closer.

With only a 159.3 ADP, Scott Barlow is one of the most underrated relief picks in this year's fantasy baseball draft.



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