Fantasy Baseball 2013: 6 Reliever Tiers Heading into Exhibition Play

Jay ClemonsFantasy Sports Lead WriterFebruary 21, 2013

Braves closer Craig Kimbrel (42 saves, 1.01 ERA, 0.65 WHIP, 116/14 K-BB ratio) didn't surrender a single walk from May 18-July 28 last season.
Braves closer Craig Kimbrel (42 saves, 1.01 ERA, 0.65 WHIP, 116/14 K-BB ratio) didn't surrender a single walk from May 18-July 28 last season.Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Given the uncertainty of bullpens this time of the year, I'd rather endure the pain and drudgery of a root canal—and then watch a friend have one the next day—before doing a straight-up ranking of relief pitchers.

Oh sure, we can pretend to treat relievers like four- or five-category assets during spring training, but let's face it, you only care about saves and ERA for closers...and wins, strikeouts and maybe WHIP for long relievers.

In 12-team roto leagues with 25-man rosters, most owners shoot for acquiring two or three closers and one setup man. In essence, they're doing the acceptable minimum to avoid finishing last in saves and allow roster space for seven viable starters or highly-effective long relievers to flourish in the other four categories.

Bottom line: In roto leagues, it has never been my mid-March objective to win saves. Frankly speaking, anywhere in the top six will suffice.

Here are the six draft tiers for relievers in 12-team leagues.

Before splurging on a Tier II or III stud, though (Craig Kimbrel is worth the maximum investment), just remember that most Tier IV assets can replicate 80 to 90 percent of a star's production—at a significantly lower price.


Tier 1

  • Craig Kimbrel, Braves (in a class by himself, now that Aroldis Chapman has converted to starter)


 Tier 2

  • Fernando Rodney, Rays (prove it again before joining Kimbrel in 2014)
  • Jonathan Papelbon, Phillies
  • Jason Motte, Cardinals
  • Rafael Soriano, Nationals
  • Mariano Rivera, Yankees
  • Jim Johnson, Orioles
  • Joe Nathan, Rangers


 Tier 3

  • J.J. Putz, Diamondbacks
  • Greg Holland, Royals
  • Sergio Romo, Giants
  • Chris Perez, Indians
  • Tom Wilhelmsen, Mariners
  • Brandon League, Dodgers (whichever L.A. reliever wins the closer's job vaults to Tier 2)
  • Kenley Jansen, Dodgers (see above)
  • Joel Hanrahan, Red Sox
  • John Axford, Brewers
  • Grant Balfour, Athletics (could return by opening day)
  • Glen Perkins, Twins
  • Addison Reed, White Sox
  • Huston Street, Padres
  • Casey Janssen, Blue Jays
  • Bruce Rondon, Tigers


Tier 4

  • Rafael Betancourt, Rockies
  • Ryan Madson, Angels (preseason elbow concerns)
  • Jonathan Broxton, Reds
  • Carlos Marmol, Cubs
  • Steve Cishek, Marlins
  • Frank Francisco, Mets
  • Jason Grilli, Pirates
  • Jose Veras, Astros


Tier 5 (Non-closers)

  • Drew Storen, Nationals
  • Jared Burton, Twins
  • Ernesto Frieri, Angels
  • Kyuji Fujikawa, Cubs
  • Joakim Soria, Rangers
  • Jonny Venters, Braves
  • Jordan Walden, Braves
  • Al Alburquerque, Tigers
  • David Hernandez, Diamondbacks
  • Vinnie Pestano, Indians
  • Heath Bell, Diamondbacks
  • Sean Marshall, Reds
  • David Robertson, Yankees
  • Luke Gregerson, Padres
  • Ryan Cook, Athletics
  • Steve Delabar, Blue Jays
  • Jake McGee, Rays
  • Aaron Crow, Royals
  • Mark Melancon, Pirates
  • Tyler Clippard, Nationals
  • Bobby Parnell, Mets


Tier 6 (Non-closers)

  • Eric O'Flaherty, Braves
  • Rex Brothers, Rockies
  • Wilton Lopez, Rockies
  • Sean Burnett, Angels
  • Wesley Wright, Astros
  • Sergio Santos, Blue Jays
  • Mitchell Boggs, Cardinals
  • Javier Lopez, Giants
  • Matt Albers, Indians
  • Boone Logan, Yankees
  • Octavio Dotel, Tigers
  • Kelvin Herrera, Royals
  • Sam LeCure, Reds
  • Joel Peralta, Rays
  • Tanner Scheppers, Rangers
  • Phillipe Aumont, Phillies
  • Dale Thayer, Padres
  • Brad Boxberger, Padres
  • Matt Thornton, White Sox
  • Jesse Crain, White Sox
  • Pedro Strop, Orioles
  • Ryan Webb, Marlins
  • Ronald Belisario, Dodgers
  • Ryan Webb, Marlins


Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.