What’s poppin, Razzpimples?
Guess it’s time I hit y’all with my closer rankings. I’ve held out long enough, I suppose, especially given I took last week off. Had myself a baby boy (open laptop wife edit: all thanks to my strong, beautiful wife)! Please don’t judge the content of this article too much. I’m operating on, like, just the essence of sleep for exactly two weeks now.
This week I’ve got my Top 20 for you, then next week it’ll be #21-40.
Don’t forget to keep that Bullpen Chart bookmarked, y’all.
That’s it for my flashy intro. Let’s do it to it!
1. Edwin Diaz
Do I really gotta spell this one out? Edwin Diaz had four 100th percentile marks in 2022 lol. Almost everything else that matters was between 96th and 99th. HH% and BB% are his only blemishes. They aren’t much of a blemish given the sheer lunacy of his other numbers. He’s been the first closer off the board everywhere, and that’s how it should be.
I will say I flirted with the idea of halfway maybe considering the option of bumping Emmanuel Clase to #3 since he’s not a lights-out strikeout dude. Buuuut everything else should be so good that only Diaz’s Ks keep him from being the #1 option. He’s the second closer off the board everywhere, and that’s how it should be.
No one in Raisel Iglesias’s way for saves anymore. I didn’t have any shares last year, so his trade to the Braves didn’t crush my soul like I’m sure it did for those who had the misfortune of having to weather that storm. Iglesias was as sharp as he has been in recent years, so no real reason to believe 2023 should be any different unless you’re just scared now that he’s closer to 35 than he is to 30. The whiffs are elite, the chase rate is elite, it’s basically all elite except for all the barrels he allows. The man will definitely get shelled by the long ball here and there, but by and large he’ll be an easy top tier fantasy closer.
4. Josh Hader
With a fair dose of hesitation, I’m gonna give Josh Hader the benefit of the doubt. Last season was a tale of two halves for him, and I’m always more of a mind to pay closer attention to the second half than the first when that’s the case. Unfortunately for Hader and his owners last year, his second half made him look more like Josh Hades. As in he burned your team alive. July and August were soooo bad, but then he salvaged it with a vintage Hader-esque September/October, allowing just 1 ER and boasting a 13:2 K:BB in 10.1 IP. That’s kinda why I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt; I’m gonna choose to believe he’s figured things back out. Well, that and the fact he’ll be closing for one of the better teams in baseball.
Airbender did Airbender things once again last year. Disgusting whiffs, K%, you name it. Also a disgusting BB%, the bad kind of disgusting. So that’ll hamper him, as it’s been a problem for his entire career thus far. Ain’t no one gunning for his job, though. Devin Williams should be an easy bet for elite ratios, Ks, and 30-35 SV, if not more. Is Top 5 really out of the question with him? All he needs are full-time save opps, and that’s just what he’ll have in 2023.
6. Ryan Pressly
Ryan Pressly ain’t no spring chicken, but the man is still a tasty chicken when it comes to fantasy value. The older he gets the better his K% gets. Paired with that K% is a very good BB% and a .202 XBA, which resulted in a 0.89 WHIP in 2022. You just know what you’re getting here, and I can’t help but love that kind of thing on draft day. Stellar ratios, strong Ks, and probably something like 30-35 SV as well.
7. Ryan Helsley
Homer alert! I love Ryan Helsley. Feels so good to have a lockdown closer again for my Cardinals. I seriously considered making Helsley my #4 guy, but I didn’t want to fall victim to both homer-ness and recency bias. He could easily get like 40 SV and strike out almost as many batters as Diaz, right? I mean, he’s a sole closer on a World Series caliber team in a division that STL should feast upon. His ratios should be sparkling, he’s got the chops for 100+ K, so what’s stopping me from putting this guy right after Clase even? I guess it’s just the “I need to see it again” factor. But if he can repeat last year and sustain that throughout a full season of full-time closing duties, Hell’s Bells will be the second or third closer off the boards in 2024. I am mucho excited that he’s my RP1 in TGFBI.
Despite finishing as the #5 RP on our Player Rater (which I correctly predicted last year, btw *sunglasses emoji*), I’m bumping Jordan Romano down to #8. He just gets hit so hard, and often. And he walks more than his fair share. Aaaand the park changes won’t do him any favors. Aside from that, the stats you care about will be there. Loads of saves coming your way with good ratios and solid Ks.
9. Alexis Diaz
Is this a hot take? Doesn’t really feel like it. I feel like it’s hotter to put him #9 than to rank him even higher. Big bro has the goods, and it’s looking like little bro is gonna follow right in his footsteps. Alexis Diaz’s Statcast is very similar to the guy you see at #5, by the way. The walks and pitching for the Reds might cap his fantasy ceiling, but what else can you fault the guy for? No one could hit him last year. Seemed the only way to get on base against him was to hope for four balls — he put up a 0.96 WHIP last season despite a 2nd-percentile (!!!) BB%. And of course there’s the elite K% and ERA. Plus, what, 25 SV? 30 SV? Don’t see any reason he doesn’t finish as a Top 10 fantasy closer unless he gets hurt, which does seem to happen to those Reds relievers for whatever reason.
10. Daniel Bard
Are you aware Daniel Bard finished as the #4 RP on the Player Rater last season? I kind of get re-blown away every time I remember that. Then again, a line like this will do that: 6-4, 1.79 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 34 SV, 69 K. Question on everyone’s mind is can 38-year-old Bard do it again? The Rockies certainly think so, inking him to a new deal last year instead of capitalizing on that tradey sex appeal, I mean sexy trade appeal. Bard enters 2023 with every opportunity to recreate his magical 2022 campaign. Seems unfair to rank him any lower.
11. Kenley Jansen
Man, Kenley Jansen just keeps on keepin on doesn’t he. Gotta think the saves take a slight dip since he’s gone from the Braves to the Red Sox. But there ain’t no question he’s the closer and will see plenty of opportunities regardless of team quality. He’s still got the goods to be a borderline Top 10 RP if you ask me: good ratios, good Ks, and a very safe job. Ceiling is still pretty high, but that good safe floor is what you love to see for fantasy purposes.
12. David Bednar
Don’t ignore David Bednar just cuz he closes for the Pirates! I’m sure that goes without saying. Surely everyone reading this recognizes Bednar’s skillset and fantasy potential even though he’s on a trash team. He was on his way to fantasy stardom last year before getting derailed for a couple months with a back injury. Assuming health, he should kick all kinds of ass in 2023. My only question mark is what hat he’s wearing come trade deadline time.
13. Camilo Doval
Camilo Doval really benefits from job security and the fact he’s a sole closer, but he doesn’t have that “untouchability” that the guys ahead of him do. The K% is good but not up there with the best, the BB% is a real concern, and his H/9 is also a tad concerning. He’s projected for a middling 3-something ERA and 1.20-something WHIP, yet he’s also projected for 34 SV by various outlets. That’ll do, Bob! The addition of Taylor Rogers shouldn’t hinder Doval’s chances, but it might just make his leash a tad bit shorter.
14. Scott Barlow
I’m gonna stick to my guns as a Scott Barlow stan even though Aroldis Chapman is in that pen with him now. I’m just…over Aroldis? His walk rate practically doubled from 2020 to 2021, and then it got even worse in 2022. Barlow, on the other hand, is just so much better at this point. He doesn’t have the elite K% or a dazzling BB% (though his BB% improved steadily from 2021 to 2022), but he’s one of the best in the biz at limiting hard contact and getting batters to chase pitches. I see him as a sole closer with good stuff, so assuming he doesn’t get traded or hurt or whatever, nothing’s stopping him from a 2-something ERA, 1-ish WHIP, and 25ish SV.
15. Felix Bautista
Next up is Felix Bautista, who would at least be #11 if he were healthy. I dunno, maybe he doesn’t even miss much time at all, or even any, but right now things are too murky for my taste, so he’s been docked a few spots. It’s not one but two injuries! Lame. Shoulder and knee. Anywho, like Mr. Sewald, it seems Mr. Bautista is a fellow late bloomer. He spent nine seasons in the minors, never surpassing A+ ball until 2021, when he went from A+ to AA then to AAA, kicking ass all along the way. Found himself in the bigs last year and stuck around, looking like he shoulda been up here all along. He collected 28 SVHD, with 15 of those being saves after Jorge Lopez was traded, had a K% just shy of 35%, and a SwStr% north of 15%, which is a real nice place to be. It’s crazy he had a double-digit BB% almost his entire minors career but then comes to the majors and gets it down to 9.1%. Sure, 9.1% isn’t great, but it’s encouraging to see that kind of progress from a rookie. As long as he’s healthy, the job is his until it ain’t. Maybe his injuries cause him to drop down your board a bit and you can scoop up the goodies.
16. Clay Holmes
Safe to say absolutely zero folks had Clay Holmes on their radar entering 2022, and it’s safe to say he’s a consensus RP1 that just about anyone would be happy to have. There’s even icing on the cake in that Aroldis Chapman is out of the picture entirely. So, obviously, Holmes’s job to lose. Thing about that is…he could lose it if he pitches like he did in the second half. First half: 1.31 ERA, .182 OBA, .253 OBP, 44:9 K:BB…and then second half: 4.84 ERA, .220 OBA, .340 OBP, 21:11 K:BB. Fatigue probably a big factor there, and he also battled shoulder inflammation as the regular season wound down. Another ding to the Holmes Hype is that Aaron Boone has said Holmes might be an 8th-inning guy at times if the game’s tight and the juicy bats are up for the opponent. Overall, though, Holmes is in a good spot to be one of the better fantasy closers around.
17. Pete Fairbanks
What’s this? A Rays reliever? That’s right, folks, and #16 may even be too low. I can’t fully shake the “Cash gonna Cash” mentality, but Pete Fairbanks 1). now has a contract that avoided arbitration and 2). is coming off a stellar, albeit abbreviated, 2022 season. I’m gonna pull a Grey and quote myself from my last piece: “I get stoked for a guy with a K% over 40 regardless of BB%…but Fairbanks’s K% minus his BB% was still north of 40.” This could be the year the Rays lean on a more traditional closer given they paid the man, but even if they keep mixing things up some, Crazy Eyes is bound to see the bigger share of the action. That’s probably something upwards of 20-ish SV with delectable peripherals.
18. Paul Sewald
I’ll admit I was more than a little skeptical that 2021 was a fluke year for Paul Sewald. Either he had two fluke years in a row, or the man is just actually really good at throwing baseballs now. Late bloomers are a real thing, ya know. He did drop his K% almost 10 full points, but he still managed all the other numbers you drafted him for. With the emergence of Andres Munoz as one of the single filthiest pitchers in the game, it’s not easy to predict the save output we’ll get from 2023 Sewald. Last year he got 20, and this year he’s projected to get exactly that again by almost all the big outlets (if they don’t have him at 20, then he’s at 19). I, along with other sites, have Sewald pegged as the sole closer, but that doesn’t always mean all the saves will be coming his way. Annoying, but alas, that’s why he’s ranked where he is.
19. Jose Leclerc
This time last year I was reminding y’all not to sleep too hard on Jose Leclerc. It took him some time to get rolling, but he finished 2022 looking about as good as he ever has. His ERA ebbed and flowed for his first several outings, then around the last week of July he really got it together. From July 24 onward, Leclerc posted a 1.64 ERA, .164 OBA, 7 SV, 3 HD, and 41 K in 33 IP. The closing job is his, and it’s for a better-looking Rangers team. He’s only projected for 19-21 SV, but I wouldn’t be a lick surprised if he eclipsed the 30 SV mark.
20. Kyle Finnegan
I already said a lot about Kyle Finnegan in my last post, so I won’t reiterate all that here. Boils down to two simple facts: 1). he’s a true closer, and 2). he’s pretty solid at what he does. I don’t think he’s the 20th-best reliever in baseball by any means, but I do think those save totals add up and everything else is good enough to crack Top 20 for fantasy purposes. When you factor in his draft capital (or lack thereof), I can’t think of a better bargain for saves.
I do some fantasy baseball as well as some fantasy hockey here at Razzball. Find me on Twitter: @jkj0787. DMs are always open for questions, comments, concerns, complaints, etc. Odds are good I’m drinking black coffee, dark beer, or some form of bourbon at any given time.