What are we even doing here?
A relief pitcher's worth in Fantasy is mostly determined by whether he's in line for saves, and it's difficult to say who is and who isn't so early in the offseason. That's especially true this offseason, when five of my top 13 relievers — Liam Hendriks, Brad Hand, Kirby Yates, Trevor Rosenthal and Mark Melancon — are facing free agency.
So will they still be among my top 13 relievers when the ink dries? We'll see, but for now, I've ranked them as if they're indeed closers.
Bottom line is I'm only here to give you a sense of how the position might look at the start of 2021, but I'm not locking in my answers yet. And you wouldn't want me to.
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Note that these rankings are intended for 5x5 scoring (such as Rotisserie leagues), but I note distinctions for points leagues where applicable.
Josh Hader Milwaukee Brewers RP
|He was less than other-worldly for the first time in 2020 but is more entrenched than ever as the Brewers closer, making him still an easy choice for the top spot here.|
Liam Hendriks Oakland Athletics RP
|In contrast to the Blake Treinen fiasco of a couple years ago, Hendricks followed up his late-stage breakout with an even more dominant showing and will surely land another closer job on the free agent market.|
Aroldis Chapman New York Yankees RP
|Durability has become a concern for Chapman in recent years, but not effectiveness, and given the closer landscape right now, his vice grip on the role counts for a lot.|
James Karinchak Cleveland Indians RP
|Meet the Indians' new closer, whose 17.7 K/9 this year tied him with Devin Williams for first in the majors.|
Edwin Diaz New York Mets RP
|Diaz rebounded almost completely this year, boasting his best strikeout yet, but after a couple early hiccups, it took the Mets most of the season to buy back in fully. Here's hoping it's smooth sailing from here.|
Brad Hand Cleveland Indians RP
|A velocity drop and the Indians' willingness to let him go for basically nothing will no doubt raise eyebrows, but Hand was still dominant enough that he'll surely find a home as a closer elsewhere.|
Kirby Yates San Diego Padres RP
|The top closer in 2019 stumbled out of the gate this year because of a bone chips situation that ultimately required surgery, but with his velocity and whiffs still intact, he'll presumably get a pass as he hits the open market this offseason.|
Trevor Rosenthal San Diego Padres RP
|He's less established than some of the other closers looking for jobs but managed to secure the ninth-inning role for two separate teams during the two-month season, his triple-digit heat playing up like never before.|
Kenley Jansen Los Angeles Dodgers RP
|Between another rocky postseason showing, continual velocity concerns and the emergence of Brusdar Graterol , Jansen may be on thin ice, but the actual stat line is still solid enough for me to believe the Dodgers stick with him.|
Raisel Iglesias Cincinnati Reds RP
|Iglesias hasn't been the steadiest performer over the years, but he doesn't get cheated in the strikeout department and appears to have the job on lockdown for a team on a good trajectory.|
Taylor Rogers Minnesota Twins RP
|While Rogers was responsible for nine of the Twins ' saves this year, eight went to other pitchers, making it crystal clear that the left-hander isn't a closer in the most traditional sense. But we're already running out of relievers who are.|
Ryan Pressly Houston Astros RP
|Having closed the Roberto Osuna chapter, the Astros seem committed to Pressly as their closer now, in spite of his durability issues, and it's worth noting he was back to dominating after a shaky first five appearances.|
Mark Melancon Atlanta Braves RP
|My hunch is the Braves bring back Melancon as their closer since the pairing worked so well for both and the cost would be less than they were already paying him, but if not, it's not so clear any other team would use the pitch-to-contact guy in that role.|
Craig Kimbrel Chicago Cubs RP
|The longtime relief ace forfeited his chance to close with four miserable appearances to open the year but had a 1.42 ERA, 0.87 WHIP and 18.5 K/9 the rest of the way, suggesting he'll get another chance with Jeremy Jeffress now out of the picture.|
Devin Williams Milwaukee Brewers RP
|He won't see save chances unless the Brewers deal away Hader (as is often rumored), so you can downgrade Williams as necessary in points leagues. But inning for inning, he was the best pitcher in baseball this year, his wipeout changeup generating whiffs at a rate that boggles the mind.|
Nick Anderson Tampa Bay Rays RP
|He did end up leading the Rays with six saves but wasn't positioned for them often enough to earn the distinction of "closer," making those saves more like icing on the cake (the cake being his outstanding ratios).|
Giovanny Gallegos St. Louis Cardinals RP
|He confirmed in his especially abbreviated season that he's the most talented pitcher in the Cardinals bullpen, but he fumbled when given his chance to close and will have more competition in 2021 with the return of Jordan Hicks .|
Seth Lugo New York Mets RP
|This ranking presumes he sticks in the starting rotation (and pitches well, unlike in those two ugly starts at the end of the season), but he would still be pretty valuable, at least in a 5x5 context, if he returns to a setup role.|
Rafael Montero Texas Rangers RP
|Montero was stable enough at the end of games for me to presume he'll retain the closer role even with Jose Leclerc back to full health. But his elbow has given him trouble, and he didn't miss bats at the rate I'd like to see.|
Richard Rodriguez Pittsburgh Pirates RP
|Rodriguez became the closer late in the year by default, but after putting together a 2.70 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 13.1 K/9, it makes sense that he'd keep the role, for whatever it's worth on such a bad team.|