Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Relief Pitchers

The SportmeistersAnalyst IJune 16, 2009

SEATTLE  - MAY 24:  David Aardsma #53 of the Seattle Mariners pitches during the game against the San Francisco Giants on May 24, 2009 at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

By Derek of The Sportmeisters

Here we are. After just about two months in the season, I thought I would bust out my preseason rankings and adjust them a bit to show how right or wrong I am.

Preseason Rankings

1. Jonathan Papelbon – Boston Red Sox

2. Joe Nathan – Minnesota Twins

3. Mariano Rivera – New York Yankees

4. Francisco Rodriguez – New York Mets

5. Brad Lidge – Philadelphia Phillies

6. Joakim Soria – Kansas City Royals

7. Carlos Marmol – Chicago Cubs

8. Bobby Jenks – Chicago White Sox

9. Jonathan Broxton – Los Angeles Dodgers

10. Brian Fuentes – LA Angels Of Anaheim

11. Kerry Wood – Cleveland Indians

12. Jose Valverde – Houston Astros

13. B.J. Ryan – Toronto Blue Jays

14. Francisco Cordero – Cincinnati Reds

15. Trevor Hoffman – Milwaukee Brewers

16. Mike Gonzalez – Atlanta Braves

17. Huston Street – Colorado Rockies

18. Matt Capps – Pittsburgh Pirates

19. Brian Wilson – San Francisco Giants

20. Matt Lindstrom – Florida Marlins

21. Joey Devine – Oakland Athletics

22. Brad Ziegler – Oakland Athletics

23. Heath Bell – San Diego Padres

24. Brandon Lyon – Detroit Tigers

25. Joel Zumaya – Detroit Tigers

Current Rankings

1. Jonathan Broxton – Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Heath Bell – San Diego Padres

3. Francisco Rodriguez – New York Mets

4. Trevor Hoffman – Milwaukee Brewers

5. Ryan Franklin – St. Louis Cardinals

6. Joe Nathan – Minnesota Twins

7. Frank Francisco – Texas Rangers

8. Andrew Bailey – Oakland Athletics

9. David Aardsma – Seattle Mariners

10. Jonathan Papelbon – Boston Red Sox

11. Francisco Cordero – Cincinnati Reds

12. Rafael Soriano – Atlanta Braves

13. Ryan Madson – Philadelphia Phillies

14. Mariano Rivera – New York Yankees

15. Huston Street – Colorado Rockies

16. Brian Wilson – San Francisco Giants

17. Mike Gonzalez – Atlanta Braves

18. Chris Sampson – Houston Astros

19. Nick Masset – Cincinnati Reds

20. Scott Downs – Toronto Blue Jays

21. Chad Qualls – Arizona Diamondbacks

22. Bobby Jenks – Chicago White Sox

23. George Sherrill – Baltimore Orioles

24. Brian Fuentes – LA Angels Of Anaheim

25. Jason Frasor – Toronto Blue Jays

Wow, what a difference! Let’s go over each player and why I have them ranked so high.

1. Jonathan Broxton, Los Angeles Dodgers – 6 W, 0 L, 16 SV, 2 BSV, 53 K, 11 BB, 1.41 ERA, 0.69 WHIP

Broxton has been just about as lights out as they come so far this year. He was expected to excel as the Dodgers closer this year, and so far he has not disappointed. He has 53 strikeouts in 32 innings and has 16 saves in 18 chances. Plus, he has six wins. Broxton is a must-start in all formats and looks to be an elite fantasy closer for years to come.

2. Heath Bell, San Diego Padres – 2 W, 1 L, 18 SV, 1 BSV, 32 K, 9 BB, 1.32 ERA, 0.95 WHIP

Talk about a guy who has exceeded expectations. Bell was 23rd on my preseason list and I had him projected for just 23 saves. Well, he has 18 already and has only allowed four runs in 27 innings. He has made San Diego realize why they allowed Trevor Hoffman to leave. Go ahead and keep him active while he’s hot.

3. Francisco Rodriguez, New York Mets – 1 W, 1 L, 16 SV, 1 BSV, 33 K, 13 BB, 0.57 ERA, 0.96 WHIP

K-Rod has been exactly what the Mets paid for. His only blown save was not his fault, as Luis Castillo dropped an easy pop fly that would have ended the game. He is an obvious must-start as he is an elite fantasy closer.

4. Trevor Hoffman, Milwaukee Brewers – 0 W, 1 L, 15 SV, 1 BSV, 17 K, 2 BB, 0.47 ERA, 0.63 WHIP

Hells Bells has been vintage this year. He has been lights out to the point that he just blew his first save on Sunday and allowed his first run in 19 innings. Hoffman looks to be back to elite status so keep him active.

5. Ryan Franklin, St. Louis Cardinals – 1 W, 0 L, 15 SV, 1 BSV, 18 K, 5 BB, 1.09 ERA, 0.89 WHIP

Franklin has run away with the closer’s role after rookie Jason Motte faltered at the beginning of the season. He has been lights out, only blowing one save and allowing only three runs in 24 innings. He is as good as they come right now so keep him active in all formats.

6. Joe Nathan, Minnesota Twins – 1 W, 1 L, 15 SV, 2 BSV, 29 K, 6 BB, 1.78 ERA, 0.91 WHIP

Nathan has been pretty much what was expected. I had him as my No. 2 closer coming into the year and projected him for 40 saves. He is on pace for that and should be kept active as he is an elite fantasy closer.

7. Frank Francisco – Texas Rangers – 1 W, 1 L, 12 SV, 0 BSV, 20 K, 5 BB, 0.46 ERA, 0.81 WHIP

Francisco has been very good at shutting the door on opponents this year. He has only allowed one run in 20 innings and has yet to blow a save opportunity. He has had a few injuries though and is currently on the DL. He should return this weekend though and should be back in your lineup next week.

8. Andrew Bailey, Oakland Athletics – 4 W, 1 L, 5 SV, 3 BSV, 47 K, 16 BB, 2.52 ERA, 1.02 WHIP

Where did this guy come from? He wasn’t on any of my preseason boards and has come out and stolen the closer’s role from Brad Ziegler. He has blown a few saves but has cemented his role with five saves. He also has 47 strikeouts and four wins. He has been very good so keep him active while he’s hot.

9. David Aardsma, Seattle Mariners – 2 W, 2 L, 11 SV, 1 BSV, 34 K, 20 BB, 1.78 ERA, 1.22 WHIP

Aardsma’s role as the closer has been set in stone after Brandon Morrow returned to the rotation this past week. Aardsma has been good, converting 11 of 12 save chances. Now that he is officially the closer, you can feel free to keep him active, as he has been good enough to be a No. 2 fantasy closer.

10. Jonathan Papelbon, Boston Red Sox – 0 W, 1 L, 16 SV, 1 BSV, 30 K, 13 BB, 1.93 ERA, 1.32 WHIP

Papelbon has been very good to start the season. He has only blown one save and has 30 strikeouts in 28 innings. He is an obvious must-start as he's possibly the game’s best closer and an elite fantasy player.

11. Francisco Cordero, Cincinnati Reds – 0 W, 2 L, 15 SV, 1 BSV, 26 K, 10 BB, 2.00 ERA, 1.22 WHIP

Cordero has been pretty much what we expected him to be. He has 15 saves in 16 chances and 26 strikeouts in 27 innings. He is a must-start fantasy closer and should be kept active in all formats.

12. Rafael Soriano, Atlanta Braves – 1 W, 1 L, 5 SV, 1 BSV, 37 K, 11 BB, 1.52 ERA, 1.01 WHIP

Soriano is in an odd situation in Atlanta. Bobby Cox has said that he is going to use a two-closer system with Soriano and Mike Gonzalez. So, I can't predict when either is going to be called upon for a save opportunity. However, Soriano has been almost completely lights out, blowing only one save and striking out 37 in 30 innings. Go ahead and activate him because even if he doesn’t get saves, he will get strikeouts and the possible late-inning win or two.

13. Ryan Madson, Philadelphia Phillies – 2 W, 1 L, 4 SV, 1 BSV, 35 K, 9 BB, 1.95 ERA, 1.02 WHIP

Madson has been very good this year and hasn’t allowed a run since May 16th. He is taking over the closer’s role while Brad Lidge is on the DL, but he will go back to a setup man when Lidge comes back. He will still get the occasional save or two but he will still be worth owning due to his strikeouts and win possibilities.

14. Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees – 1 W, 2 L, 14 SV, 1 BSV, 32 K, 3 BB, 3.38 ERA, 1.13 WHIP

Rivera was nearly perfect last year and has started this year in like fashion. His ERA might look a bit high, but he has only walked three batters and only blown one save. He only allowed 11 runs all of last year and has allowed 10 so far this year, but he is still a must-start elite fantasy closer.

15. Huston Street, Colorado Rockies – 1 W, 1 L, 13 SV, 1 BSV, 32 K, 8 BB, 3.00 ERA, 1.11 WHIP

After a shaky start where he lost his closer’s role and then gained it back, Street has been much better. He has only allowed two runs in his last 17 innings and has 11 saves since May 4th, including five this past week. Keep him active while he’s hot.

16. Brian Wilson, San Francisco Giants – 2 W, 3 L, 17 SV, 3 BSV, 33 K, 13 BB, 3.34 ERA, 1.31 WHIP

Wilson had a surprising 41 saves for the Giants last year and has started this year on a pretty good note. He has 17 saves in 20 chances, but has a 3.34 ERA, which is pretty high for a closer. If you have him, go ahead and keep him active, as he has been hot recently, not allowing a run since May 21st.

17. Mike Gonzalez, Atlanta Braves – 2 W, 0 L, 8 SV, 3 BSV, 35 K, 13 BB, 2.60 ERA, 1.30 WHIP

Here’s the other part of the Atlanta two-closer system. Gonzalez has been less effective than Atlanta had hoped, but he has still been pretty good. He is still the primary closer, but will lose save opportunities to Soriano. Keep him active, but watch out for how many times Cox goes to Soriano instead.

18. Chris Sampson, Houston Astros – 3 W, 0 L, 3 SV, 1 BSV, 20 K, 13 BB, 2.37 ERA, 1.24 WHIP

Sampson has been a big surprise this year. He saved three games while Jose Valverde was on the DL and has a 2.37 ERA in 38 innings. He isn’t an elite option but could come in handy for some wins.

19. Nick Masset, Cincinnati Reds – 4 W, 0 L, 0 SV, 1 BSV, 23 K, 9 BB, 0.74 ERA, 0.70 WHIP

Masset isn’t really a fantasy option since he isn’t a closer, but he has been a reliable middle relief option that picks up the occasional win. He has a very good ERA and has only walked nine batters. If you need a relief pitcher, you could grab him and expect maybe a few saves and a few wins, but nothing spectacular.

20. Scott Downs, Toronto Blue Jays – 0 W, 0 L, 8 SV, 1 BSV, 27 K, 4 BB, 2.05 ERA, 0.91 WHIP

Downs has been exceptional since taking the closer’s job from B.J. Ryan. He has saved eight of nine games and an ERA of 2.05. Keep him active while he is riding this hot streak.

21. Chad Qualls, Arizona Diamondbacks – 1 W, 0 L, 13 SV, 3 BSV, 25 K, 4 BB, 4.01 ERA, 1.34 WHIP

Qualls has done an admirable job this year, but it's nothing spectacular. He is the primary closer in Arizona, so go ahead and keep him active if you need the saves, but watch out for the occasional blown save.

22. Bobby Jenks, Chicago White Sox – 1 W, 2 L, 13 SV, 2 BSV, 18 K, 5 BB, 3.86 ERA, 1.24 WHIP

Here’s a guy who has not lived up to expectation. Jenks only has 13 saves in 15 chances and an ERA over three. He has not been the dominant closer that people were expecting when they drafted him. However, he is still the primary closer in Chicago and if you have him, go ahead and start him and he will get you 30 saves.

23. George Sherrill, Baltimore Orioles – 0 W, 1 L, 12 SV, 2 BSV, 22 K, 8 BB, 2.66 ERA, 1.23 WHIP

Sherrill hasn’t been all that bad this year, but he plays for a bad team. Baltimore doesn’t win enough games for Sherrill to be a relevant fantasy closer, but if you have him, go ahead and use him for the occasional save.

24. Brian Fuentes, LA Angels of Anaheim – 0 W, 2 L, 16 SV, 3 BSV, 22 K, 8 BB, 4.71 ERA, 1.48 WHIP

BUST! Fuentes has been nothing short of a bust so far this year, blowing three saves and holding an ERA over four. He should turn it around and be kept active due to the strong team and plethora of save opportunities to come.

25. Jason Frasor, Toronto Blue Jays – 4 W, 0 L, 1 SV, 1 BSV, 18 K, 3 BB, 1.96 ERA, 0.74 WHIP

Frasor has been very good this year for a middle relief pitcher. He has four wins and has only blown one save plus an ERA under two. He isn’t a fantasy option, but he could be a viable option.

There are my rankings for the Relief Pitcher position after the first two months. Any arguments or questions, feel free to email me at