Closing Time 5/2: Ranking the Top 30 Closers Every Tuesday

Ranking baseball's closers for the 2023 season.

Ryan Helsley was one of the hardest closers to rank this week, as there’s really an argument for him to be further up the list or further down, depending on what metrics you favor. I’ll start with the bad, which isn’t just the lack of saves, but the 1.60 WHIP, 3.88 xFIP, and 18.2% K-BB rate don’t give me confidence in Helsley as a top-10 reliever. However, the stuff still seems to be there, as a 16.6% swinging strike rate isn’t exactly poor and his 152 Stuff+ is actually 2nd amongst closers on this list, only behind Ryan Pressly. While he may not be a top 1 or 2 tier closer we may have hoped for when drafting him, and despite the dip in the rankings, I still think Helsley is someone to hold onto or potentially even buy low on if another manager is growing impatient and looking to move on from him.




  • David Bednar and the Pirates have gotten off to a fantastic start this season, and while it remains to be seen if the Pirates as a team can keep this going, don’t expect Bednar to be the reason for any sort of collapse. Bednar currently leads all relievers in swinging strike rate (25.6%), is second in CSW% (39.5%), and third in K-BB% (32%).
  • While he is leading the league in saves, I still have some concerns with Emmanuel Clase and his ability, or inability, to miss bats. Clase’s 14.8% strikeout rate, 10.6% swinging strike rate, and 27.5% CSW rates aren’t exactly inspiring for someone we want to consider an elite-level closer, but he is still limiting hard contact at a high rate and PLV (5.59) and Stuff+ (148) still favor him highly.


  • On the flip side of Clase, José Alvarado and Alexis Díaz are missing bats at an extreme rate, with the two holding 56% strikeout rates. Alvarado has been the better pitcher this season, with a 21.1% swinging strike rate and 38.4% CSW rate as well as a 0.01 xFIP and 5.44 PLV. Diaz currently holds a 20.8% swinging strike rate, a 34.9% CSW rate, and a 0.91 SIERA, but metrics like PLV (4.86) and Stuff+ (94) aren’t as favorable.
  • Two veterans who remain the top closing option for their teams despite having the label are David Robertson and Andrew Chafin. Even at his age with diminished velocity, Robertson continues to be a dominant reliever, with 30% K-BB and 37.2% CSW rates while doing an elite job limiting hard contact (21.4% HardHit rate). Chafin is doing a great job missing bats with a 35.7% strikeout rate, an 18.3% swinging strike rate, and a 36.6% CSW rate thanks to his great slider.


  • Kenley Jansen continues to battle ailments and seemed to be really laboring this past weekend in his outing against Cleveland. At his age given his size/body type, I worry about his ability to stay on the active roster for a full season a little bit. He’s pitched well so far though, and at this point, you are holding on to him if you drafted him.
  • Evan Phillips is still my favorite option for saves for the Dodgers, but we should expect to see Brusdar Graterol (and others) mix in from time to time. Phillips currently leads relievers in CSW (39.7%) and we’ll certainly take his 25.6% K-BB rate. Now we just need some more save chances.


  • It’s tough to put Pete Fairbanks this far down the list, but he’s now dealing with Raynauds Syndrome again and just has not been himself this season. Fairbanks 6.5% K-BB and 9.9% swinging strike rates both rank 4th worst on this list of closers, and PLV isn’t exactly optimistic either (4.98). Making matters worse is that he pitches for the Rays, so while he starts the season as the team’s closer, we know how quickly things can change with this team.
  • Clay Holmes hasn’t gotten off to a great start either, and it may be time for the Yankees to consider removing him from the closer role. Holmes has paltry 15.6% K-BB and 10.4% swinging strike rates and a 4.82 PLV, good for 283rd amongst all pitchers. Michael King has looked much better lately, and should probably get a look as the teams closer, so now’s the time to add him.


  • Carlos Estévez and Kyle Finnegan were both able to hold on to their closer roles despite rough starts, and while neither one is exactly “thriving”, they have both pitched better as of late and have at least made themselves rosterable again in most leagues. Just don’t expect them to help in 3+ categories.
  • José Leclerc has probably lost his job to Will Smith, but Smith isn’t exactly someone to get excited about anymore. I don’t trust any of the Daniel Bard, Kendall Graveman, or Brad Boxberger group yet, and even with Raisel Iglesias returning soon, I’d still prefer to roster A.J. Minter for now despite how bad he’s looked lately. Bard clearly isn’t right still, and Graveman is just a mediocre temporary fill-in until Liam Hendriks returns. Boxberger is, just not someone you want to chase, although he is significantly more interesting than Jeurys Familia.


And if you want more daily reliever updates, please check out our Reliever Ranks series

Watch List


Rank Pitcher Change
1Devin WilliamsT1+3
2Félix Bautista+1
3Josh Hader-1
4David Bednar
5Emmanuel Clase-4
6Jordan Romano-1
7José Alvarado
8Alexis Díaz+8
9Paul Sewald+2
10Jhoan Duran-1
11Kenley Jansen
12Ryan Pressly-
13Ryan Helsley-7
14David Robertson+6
15A.J. Puk
16Evan Phillips+3
17Andrew Chafin+5
18Alex Lange-
19Camilo Doval-2
20Jason Adam
21Clay Holmes-6
22Carlos Estévez
23Scott Barlow-
24Kyle Finnegan+4
25Will Smith
26A.J. Minter-
27Daniel Bard-6
28Kendall Graveman+UR
29Brad Boxberger+UR
30Zach Jackson


Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

Rick Graham

Rick resides in the Boston area and has experience as a player and coach at the collegiate level. He has been covering relievers for Pitcher List since 2017.

4 responses to “Closing Time 5/2: Ranking the Top 30 Closers Every Tuesday”

  1. John says:

    LOL at Tier 9.

  2. Bobbo says:

    Great work as always Rick. 6×6 roto with Saves and Holds as separate categories. Have Clase, Fairbanks, and Hendricks sitting on the IL. Time to move on from early season speculations in Reynaldo Lopez, Floro, and Kimbrel and move on to better ratio holds guys? Available arms are: Graterol, Jax, Stephan, Nick Anderson

    • Chris says:

      Not sure why Clase is on your IL. He is healthy and leading the league in saves, so you might want to get him in there.

      I would absolutely drop Lopez/Floro/Kimbrel if you have those quality of hold guys on waivers. Cleveland pitches Stephan/Clase 1-2 in the 8th/9th, so it is essentially a free hold+save everytime they are in the situation. Jax is a beast and looks to be used in same sitch with Duran.

      Graterol/Anderson are better than those crap-tier closers too, and won’t kill your ratios.

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