We’ll start our 2020 RP rankings with a yearly plea: Get rid of saves as a category in your fantasy baseball league. Replace it with saves plus holds so the player pool expands to more than just “closers”. Middle relievers are often better pitchers anyway, so they deserve more fantasy love. Regardless closers lose their jobs far too often and cause far too many headaches for fantasy owners, which makes the position tough to navigate on your cheat sheet, never mind throughout the season.
Around two-thirds of closers eventually lose their jobs, even if just temporarily, at some point during the season. Looking at the rankings below can only help you so much. We all know injuries can strike anyone at any time, and with relatively limited chances to pitch, even a three-game slump can cost a closer his job. There’s very little margin for error, as “bad games” often result in memorable losses for a closer’s team (and lost weeks for fantasy owners).
Regardless, most leagues still have saves as a category, and most fantasy owners overvalue closers on draft day as a result. After all, there are only 30-35 players at a given time getting saves, so especially in H2H leagues, those 30-some pitchers have tremendous value. We’ve separated the “expected closers” from the middle relievers in our rankings below, but there are plenty of setup guys who will have more overall value, particularly in Roto leagues.
That’s especially true with the “closers” from the Mariners, Orioles, and Giants — teams that will likely employ a closer-by-committee approach, at least to open the season. The Cardinals, Rays, and Red Sox also fall into that category, although those teams have at least a couple high-upside relievers who could run away with their respective jobs if given the chance. That said, Giovanny Gallegos, Nick Anderson, and Brandon Workman could all be ranked too highly if they’re only getting one save chance per week.
As far as the top 10, none are without risks. Josh Hader saw a big uptick in HRs allowed last year, while guys like Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen appear to be on a gradual decline. Liam Hendricks could be a one-year wonder, and Kirby Yates is part of a stacked ‘pen that has multiple closing options. There’s also the distinct possibility that former top closers Edwin Diaz and Craig Kimbrel shake off disastrous 2019s and return to form.
Perhaps the biggest unknown in the RP world will be how the new three-batter minimum rule will alter stats, particularly for lefty/righty specialists. It likely won’t affect closers too much (though there could be fewer multi-inning saves), but middle relievers could be a little less reliable. Either way, it’s just another thing to worry about for an already volatile position.
Ideally, you will have at least three reliable closers after your draft. That isn’t possible for every team, so if you’re one of the owners who doesn’t have that depth, grab a middle reliever or two who could earn a closing job early on and be prepared to be active on the waiver wire.
We’ll be updating our RP rankings throughout the spring, so check back for the latest player movement!
Fantasy Baseball Closer and RP Rankings
Rankings based on 5×5 H2H leagues with ERA, WHIP, Ks, Ws, and Saves as categories
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