Fantasy Baseball 2013 Rankings: Top 15 Relief Pitchers

Eric StashinSenior Writer IJanuary 31, 2013

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 23: Closer Craig Kimbrel #46 of the Atlanta Braves delivers a pitch against the Philadelphia Phillies during a MLB baseball game on September 23, 2012 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Braves defeated the Phillies 2-1. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Relief pitchers are an inconsistent group in general, but closers are even tougher to trust.  We had a nearly unprecedented turnover in 2012, making it that much tougher for fantasy owners to gauge their draft value. 

Who should we trust?  Who should we ignore?  Let’s take a look at the Top 15 options for 2013:

  1. Craig Kimbrel – Atlanta Braves
  2. Aroldis Chapman – Cincinnati Reds
  3. Jason Motte – St. Louis Cardinals
  4. Jonathan Papelbon – Philadelphia Phillies
  5. Mariano Rivera – New York Yankees
  6. Sergio Romo – San Francisco Giants
  7. Joe Nathan – Texas Rangers
  8. Greg Holland – Kansas City Royals
  9. Addison Reed – Chicago White Sox
  10. Grant Balfour – Oakland Athletics
  11. Rafael Soriano – Washington Nationals
  12. Tom Wilhelmsen – Seattle Mariners
  13. Chris Perez – Cleveland Indians
  14. Jim Johnson – Baltimore Orioles
  15. J.J. Putz – Arizona Diamondbacks


  • Will Aroldis Chapman actually be moved to the rotation for 2013?  Even if he is, how many innings will he be able to work (he only threw 71.2 innings in 2012)?  One way or another it is easy to imagine him ending up back in the bullpen by year’s end.  We have all learned from the Stephen Strasburg situation in 2012, and it is hard to imagine the Reds being without one of their best arms late in the year.  Whatever his role, he’s going to be a productive fantasy contributor.
  • Mariano Rivera is 42 years old and coming back from injury.  That obviously adds some risk, but there has never been anything in his performance to think that he won’t get the job done.  Obviously in a keeper league his value falls a few notches, but for 2013 it is hard to imagine him not being a productive option.
  • The Washington Nationals did not seem like a likely landing spot for Rafael Soriano, but given the contract they gave him, he is going to be the closer.
  • Jim Johnson had a tremendous season in 2012 (2.49 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 51 SV).  That said, he lacks strikeout potential (5.71 K/9 for his career), enjoyed some luck (.251 BABIP) and can we really expect him to get 54 save chances once again?  While he’s a viable option, the lack of strikeouts hurts him.
  • Obviously, a few of the pitchers on this list are a little bit risky, like Addison Reed and Greg Holland.  While Reed posted a 4.75 ERA in ’12, he has tremendous strikeout upside (12.92 K/9 in the minors) and suffered from poor luck (.323 BABIP, 68.5% strand rate).  There are a lot of reasons to think he will have a major rebound this season.  As for Holland, there is no guarantee that he holds onto the job and struggled with his control in ’12 (4.57 BB/9).  That said, he has electric stuff (12.22 K/9), proved he could handle the role (16 saves in 20 chances) and had some poor luck (.346 BABIP).  He’s well worth the gamble.

What are your thoughts on these rankings?  Who’s too high?  Who’s too low?

Make sure to check out our 2013 rankings (all of which will be updated in the next few weeks):