5 Relief Pitcher Sleepers for 2024 Fantasy Baseball

Boost your bullpen with these five RP that should outperform their ADP.

More than ever, MLB teams are shifting to closer-by-committee systems in their bullpens instead of giving just one pitcher the keys to the ninth-inning role. It’s a trend we’ve seen developing pretty consistently over the last decade. Last year, 12 pitchers secured 30 or more saves and 23 pitchers reached the 20-save mark. 10 years ago, 19 relievers notched 30 saves and 28 had at least 20.

Long gone are the days when you can find reliable saves throughout your fantasy draft. If you want guaranteed saves, you’ll have to pay up. Regardless of which site you’re drafting on, the Top 10 relievers are all off the board within the first 100 picks, and if you want the elite of those guys, you’re looking at taking Edwin Diaz or Devin Williams somewhere around pick 50.

The prevailing draft strategy these days is to pick at least one of those top-tier save options early and then fill in the rest of your relievers in the middle and late rounds of your draft. This year in particular feels like a great year to find value in your RP slot, with a handful of players with ADPs in the middle tiers of the position that have the talent and opportunity to catapult themselves into the ranks of fantasy baseball’s best late-inning assets. Let’s take a look at those value picks further down your draft board.


Andrés MuñozSeattle Mariners

2024 ADP: NFBC RP12, 109 Overall / ESPN RP11, 128 Overall / Yahoo! RP17, 138 Overall / CBS RP19, 183 Overall

Over the last two seasons, Muñoz has been one of the very best relievers in the big leagues. He’s thrown 114 innings over that period, posting a 2.68 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 17 saves, and 163 strikeouts. His 2.32 FIP over those years is the best among all relievers who’ve tossed at least 110 innings, and his 35.3% strikeout rate is third, trailing only Félix Bautista and Devin Williams.

Muñoz has the statistical track record to stand among the very best of today’s closers, and now he has the opportunity as well. Muñoz took over as the Mariners’ go-to closer after the team traded away Paul Sewald last summer. From August 1st on, Muñoz secured 11 of the team’s 18 saves, and he should be in line to continue locking down wins in 2024.

The highlight of Muñoz’s arsenal is his devastating slider. He throws it nearly half the time to great success. Both the pitch’s chase rate and CSW% are in the 90+ percentile of sliders. When batters do make contact, they produce a .276 wOBA against the pitch, but that’s backed by a remarkably high .375 BABIP so the slider could get even better results this year.

Muñoz’s nasty breaking ball is complimented by a pair of fastballs – a four-seamer and sinker both coming in at nearly 100 mph. Both pitches have a CSW% over 30% and generate weaker-than-average contact, strongly complimenting Muñoz’s deadly slider.

The Mariners haven’t had a closer get more than 21 saves since Edwin Diaz’s 57-save extravaganza in 2018, but I think Muñoz easily reaches the mid-20s. Seattle has been phenomenal at developing effective late-inning arms, and although I think Matt Brash steals at least a handful of save chances, Muñoz is the clear frontrunner.


Pete FairbanksTampa Bay Rays

2024 ADP: NFBC RP13, 114 Overall / ESPN RP16, 145 Overall / Yahoo! RP15, 131 Overall / CBS RP22, 192 Overall

There is no question about Fairbanks’ talent. He’s one of the very best relief pitchers in the game today. The reason he’s going off draft boards in the middle rounds is simply because he plays in Tampa Bay.

Since 2020, Fairbanks has tossed 138.2 innings to the tune of a 2.66 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 34.8% strikeout rate, and has accumulated 4.1 fWAR. Each of those stats, aside from WHIP, are Top-20 among relievers with at least 130 innings over that four-year period.

More recently, Fairbanks put on a show in 2023. A right forearm strain and left hip inflammation sent the 30-year-old righty to the IL on two separate occasions, but he still managed to rack up 45.1 innings with a 2.58 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and a 37% strikeout rate. Those numbers were among baseball’s best bullpen arms. His Pitcher List page is a beautiful sea of dark red.

Fairbanks’ walk rate leaves something to be desired, but his sky-high punch-out rate means his K-BB% of 26.1% was still a Top-10 mark. With both his zone and strike rates being above the 90th percentile, it feels like his walk rate is more of a factor of him refusing to give into batters with something to hit (aka the Blake Snell blueprint), rather than a troubling inability to throw strikes.

PLV loves both of Fairbanks’ offerings – a slider and four-seamer that he tosses about an even amount of the time – giving both pitches a grade above the 80th percentile.

If you’re not interested in Fairbanks it’s because you’re scared of the Rays’ typical bullpen shenanigans, but you shouldn’t be. As Pitcher List’s own Rick Graham mentioned in his Top 50 Closers for 2024 article, Fairbanks secured 20 of the Rays’ 24 saves from June 15th on with no other reliever getting more than one. The closer job is Fairbanks’ to lose, and with the kind of numbers he puts up, he should have it locked down all season long.


Ryan HelsleySt. Louis Cardinals

2024 ADP: NFBC RP15, 123 Overall / ESPN RP14, 139 Overall / Yahoo! RP13, 109 Overall / CBS RP16, 177 Overall

Helsley has some of the nastiest pitches in baseball, and it’s not just one pitch he dominates with, it’s three. Using Eno Sarris’ Stuff+ pitch modeling, Helsley’s overall arsenal ranked second among all relievers who tossed at least 30 innings last year with a 155 Stuff+. He trailed only Ryan Pressly. Looking at each pitch, Stuff+ graded Helsley’s fastball as the fourth-best, his slider as the sixth-best, and his curveball as the 18th-best.

With an arsenal that strong, you expect elite results and that’s what he’s done the last two years. Over 101.1 innings in 2022 and 2023, Helsley put together a 1.69 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, and 28.3% K-BB%. All three of those are the second-best in baseball over the last two years.

Elite results and a lethal arsenal should put Helsley near the top of the RP draft rankings, but his ADP has been held back by injuries. Helsley missed nearly three full months last year with a right forearm strain, but when he returned he was his typical self.

The Cardinals activated Helsley from the 60-day IL on September 1st. In 11 appearances the rest of the way, he earned seven saves with a 0.77 ERA and 0.86 WHIP. I don’t think the injury was bugging him anymore.

Like the other pitchers already mentioned in this article, Helsley has the potential to finish as a Top-5 RP this year. You’ll want to keep an eye on the Spring Training results to be sure he’s got that velocity cranked up near triple digits like usual. In his first appearance of the spring, he was sitting around 96. It’s not a cause for panic, but something to monitor as your draft approaches.


Adbert AlzolayChicago Cubs

2024 ADP: NFBC RP20, 154 Overall / ESPN RP20, 167 Overall / Yahoo! RP20, 152 Overall / CBS RP39, 275 Overall

Alzolay marks a change on this list. The three pitchers ahead of him all have unbelievable stuff and clear opportunities for saves. They each carry RP1 upside. Alzolay has a legitimate shot at being a phenomenal value at his current ADP but doesn’t necessarily have the makings of one of the best late-inning arms in baseball.

Once Alzolay had sole possession of the Cubs’ closer role last season, he made the most of it. From July 5th through September 9th, the 28-year-old tossed 26.2 innings and notched 18 saves to go along with a 3.04 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and a 23.6% strikeout rate. His 18 saves were the most by any reliever over that stretch. Unfortunately, a right forearm strain put an end to Alzolay’s incredible second half. He wound up making just one more appearance in late September

All indications are that Alzolay is fully healthy this spring, and he should be primed for a return to the ninth-inning job in Wrigleyville. In a recent interview, Cubs’ manager Craig Counsell wouldn’t outright say Alzolay has the closer job, but it feels like more of a move to get the best out of everyone in camp rather than it is to hand the reins to a different reliever.

With the Cubs recently bringing back Cody Bellinger, the North Siders bolstered a roster that was already one of the best in the division. If things go well in Chicago, Alzolay could very well finish the year with 30+ saves and solid ratios, he just won’t post the gaudy strikeout rates of his fellow late-inning arms.


José AlvaradoPhiladelphia Phillies

2024 ADP: NFBC RP21, 200 Overall / ESPN RP24, 198 Overall / Yahoo! RP28, 207 Overall / CBS RP29, 235 Overall

Alvarado was a valuable fantasy option at times last year even without owning the closing role in Philadelphia. He finished 2023 with 10 saves and a 1.74 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and a 37.2% strikeout rate.

With Craig Kimbrel departing this winter, Alvarado is the heir apparent to the closer job for the Phillies. He’s been with the club for the past three years and has been a reliable option which should earn him some goodwill with Phillies’ manager Rob Thomson. In 148 innings over those three years, he’s collected 17 saves to go with a 3.16 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, and a 33.4% strikeout rate – the 13th-best mark in the majors during that period.

Aside from Alvarado, the other veteran closer options in the Philadelphia bullpen are Jeff Hoffman, Gregory Soto, and Seranthony Domínguez. Each of those three earned a few saves last year, but none got more than three. Orion Kerkering has had some pre-season fantasy buzz after a flashy late-season debut and a solid postseason performance, but managers don’t typically thrust rookies straight into a closer role, especially for a team that has World Series aspirations.

Alvarado feels like an absolute steal going after pick 200 in most drafts. He has the strongest track record among his fellow arms and should have a clear path to saves on one of the best teams in the National League. Reaching 30 saves is a real possibility here if Alvarado can stay healthy. He’s only reached the 60-inning threshold once during his six full MLB seasons, so tempering expectations to 20 saves with a good ERA and reliable strikeouts may be wise. That outcome would still be a value this late in drafts.

Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)

Mark Steubinger

Mark loves everything talking and writing about baseball - from every fantasy league format you can imagine to the unending greatness of Mike Trout. Mark has a degree in Sports Communication from Bradley University and works in radio production. He lives in central Illinois where his TV is permanently tuned to Chicago Cubs games.

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