Fantasy Baseball Relief Pitcher Rankings – 9/17/23 Depth Chart

Breakdowns of key bullpen usage from yesterday's slate of games.

Welcome back to the latest edition of our Reliever Ranks series! This will bring you up-to-date bullpen depth charts every morning for the day’s games and makes for an excellent tool for those looking to stream saves or wins. This series runs seven days a week, so check in every morning to get your daily bullpen fix!



Transaction and Schedule Notes


  • There were 16 games on Saturday as the Giants and Rockies partook in a doubleheader. Every single team will be back in action on Sunday.


  • The Chicago Cubs placed Michael Fulmer on the 15-day IL with a strained right forearm. The right-hander just returned from the same injury on Monday and has already landed back on the IL. His season is likely over. Drew Smyly will enter the chart as a holds option.


Yesterday’s Performances


BOS 3 – TOR 4

H: Josh Winckowski (19), Brennan Bernardino (4), Chris Martin (23)

  • With Kenley Jansen on the COVID-related IL, we got a chance to see the pecking order in the Red Sox bullpen. The general consensus was that Chris Martin would be the temporary closer, but instead, he set up in the eighth and John Schreiber got the save opportunity. Schreiber blew a one-run lead which led to four innings of free baseball. Schreiber is probably not out of the running just yet, but I’d expect Martin to get the next shot.
  • In a tie game, Jordan Romano pitched the ninth and tenth innings without allowing a run to score. It’s been good to see him bounce back over his last couple of outings after a trio of appearances in which he allowed eight baserunners and three runs (two earned). Since returning from the IL in mid-August, he’s pitched to an impressive 1.38 ERA (13 IP) while striking out 32.7% of the batters he’s faced. The flip side is that he’s begun to issue walks at an alarming 15.4% rate, a nearly 7% increase from his walk rate prior to the injury. Is he still injured or is this something else to be concerned about altogether? Romano has now pitched on back-to-back days, but so has setup man Jordan Hicks, so Erik Swanson is likely to close out a win on Sunday.


TEX 1 – CLE 2

H: Martín Pérez (1), Will Smith (8)

SV: Emmanuel Clase (41)

  • The bullpen struggles continued for the Rangers on Saturday. Will Smith got the final out in the seventh and then stayed on for the eighth, but wound up surrendering two runs to blow the lead and take his sixth loss. He’s been terrible in the season’s final two months with a 6.75 ERA (16 IP) since the beginning of August but has yet to officially lose the closer role because of Aroldis Chapman’s inability to thrive in the ninth. Smith’s continued struggles are likely to keep affording Chapman and José Leclerc opportunities, but if someone doesn’t step up soon, the Ranges may miss the playoffs.
  • Emmanuel Clase increased his lead in the running for the Major League save crown. He may be out of reach at this point and is just two saves shy of setting a new career high. Reynaldo López earned the win with a perfect eighth and has yet to surrender a run in 6.2 innings since joining the Guardians at the waiver deadline. He’s getting away with a lot though, as his strikeout rate has fallen without any improvements in the walk department. His 4.30 xFIP is in line with how he pitched with the White Sox and Angels.


CIN 3 – NYM 2

H: Sam Moll (9), Fernando Cruz (6)

SV: Derek Law (2)

  • It was a weird sight to see Derek Law close out a win for the Reds. The team found it a good time to rest closer Alexis Díaz after he had pitched in three of the previous four days. This should not be an indication that the role is changing hands. Fernando Cruz tossed two perfect frames to continue his underrated season. His 4.05 ERA (60 IP) doesn’t stand out, but his 35.1% strikeout rate certainly does. It ranks 13th among relievers and is a direct result of his nasty splitter which induces whiffs at a 31.1% rate (96th percentile).
  • Both Brooks Raley and Adam Ottavino pitched in a tie game in this one. Save chances have been few and far between for the platooning closer committee. Raley shook off the rust from having not pitched since Monday by striking out three of the four batters he faced while Ottavino had a perfect outing of his own while fanning two. Neither pitcher has been exceptional since the trade deadline, with Ottavino’s 1.23 ERA (14.2 IP) offset by his 3.82 xFIP. It’s difficult to roster them in all but the deepest of leagues because of their lack of save opportunities.


MIN 6 – CHW 7

H: Lane Ramsey (3)

SV: Tanner Banks (1)

  • Jhoan Duran pitched the eighth with a two-run deficit and it nearly paid off as the Twins attempted a late comeback. He gets a lot of hype because of his 100 mph splinkers, but I feel like he doesn’t get enough credit for how good of a pitcher he is. Duran owns the highest fastball velocity in baseball at 101.8 mph. His 18.8% swinging strike rate is seventh among relievers and is carried by his heater’s 99th percentile production in that category. Even with all of those swings and misses, hitters have no chance when they do make contact because he induces grounders at a 68.1% rate, the sixth-highest among relievers. Those skills should parlay into another fantastic season in 2024.
  • The White Sox turned to Gregory Santos in the eighth with a six-run lead and it didn’t go well. He surrendered four runs (three earned), nearly blowing the comfortable lead. Then in the ninth, up by two, they turned to Lane Ramsey. He recorded just one out and allowed a run before calling upon Tanner Banks for some help. Banks worked around a couple of free passes but got the job done. If there were any competition in this bullpen, Santos may be in jeopardy of losing his job, but even after this blowup, I think he’s safe.


CHC 6 – ARI 7

  • Mark Leiter Jr. and Julian Merryweather both got into a tie game in the desert, covering the final three innings of regulation before four innings of free baseball. It seems as though Merryweather has the leg up on the closer role, but with Michael Fulmer on the IL, Leiter Jr. has a clear shot at being the second in command. Since the beginning of May, Merryweather owns a 2.28 ERA (551. IP) with a 33.9% strikeout rate. These are the same skills that incited a FAAB frenzy back in April of 2021.
  • Paul Sewald got a shot to pitch despite the lack of a save chance. He pitched a perfect 10th to keep the game tied. Both he and Kevin Ginkel have pitched on consecutive days, so Scott McGough could get a shot at a save on Sunday. It may not be the best stream considering McGough owns an 8.63 ERA (24 IP) since the All-Star Break.


DET 5 – LAA 4

H: Beau Brieske (4), Jason Foley (25)

SV: Will Vest (1)

  • Alex Lange was called upon to protect a three-run lead in the ninth but the failed to do so, coughing up two long balls. The blown save forced extras where Will Vest worked around the zombie runner to record the save. Lange has dealt with adversity in the second half but it rarely has been caused by homers. It’s usually walks that bite him, so given that he didn’t hand out any free passes, I wouldn’t be too worried about him.
  • Carlos Estévez pitched the ninth down by three in what can be considered a maintenance outing. His previous outing came last Sunday, so he was in need of some work. After struggling to a 7.80 ERA in 15 innings between the All-Star Break and August 18th, Estévez has gotten back on track. He’s allowed just two runs in nine innings since then, and with little competition in his arm barn, should retain the closer role through the season’s completion.


LAD 6 – SEA 2

  • With a one-run lead in the 10th, the Dodgers turned to their closer. Evan Phillips was unable to stop the zombie runner from crawling home and was tagged with his third blown save. He’s quietly replicating last year’s breakout. He hasn’t been nearly as good, but it’s difficult to maintain a 1.14 ERA (63 IP) and 33% strikeout rate. Nonetheless, fantasy managers will definitely take a 2.38 ERA (56.2 IP) and a 28.4% strikeout rate, especially when it comes with 23 saves and the seventh-best WHIP (0.85) among relievers. Phillips has pitched on consecutive days, but so has setup man Brusdar Graterol, so Caleb Ferguson and Joe Kelly are likely to be the favored options depending on matchups.
  • Andrés Muñoz pitched the ninth in a tie game and forced extra after a perfect outing. Matt Brash also recorded four outs across the eighth and ninth. If he wasn’t incredibly unlucky to start the year, we’d be talking about him more as one of the best relievers in baseball. Many people consider Muñoz the reason the Mariners were willing to deal Paul Sewald at the deadline, but I think Brash is equally responsible for that determination. He owns a 2.30 ERA (43 IP) since the start of June and his 36.1% strikeout rate on the year is ninth among relievers. If you’ve ever watched him pitch, it’s a wonder that anyone can hit his stuff.


Best of the Rest


  • Gavin Hollowell recorded the final eight outs in the first half of the doubleheader, working around two runs to record his first career save. Tyler Kinley recorded his fourth save in the nightcap and it looks like he’s officially taken the closer role from Justin Lawrence.
  • Josh Hader tallied his 29th save with a scoreless ninth against the A’s. Scott Barlow (5th hold) and Robert Suarez (7th hold) set up with four outs apiece across the sixth, seventh, and eighth.
  • Tanner Scott finished off the eighth in a tie game and then stayed on to close out the ninth with a six-run lead. He’s pitched on consecutive days and in three of the past four, so expect A.J. Puk or David Robertson to close things out on Sunday depending on matchups.


  • Clay Holmes notched his 21st save with a perfect outing against the Pirates. Ian Hamilton set up in the eighth to earn his fourth hold. Holmes has pitched on consecutive days, so Tommy Kahnle or Wandy Peralta could get a shot in the ninth depending on matchups.
  • Carlos Hernández was called upon to pitch the ninth up by four but surrendered two runs and needed the help of Taylor Clarke to get the final out. Clarke earned his second save and this might have been the final straw for Hernández’s shot at the closer role. Both have pitched on consecutive days but so has the next best option, Collin Snider. Clarke needed just eight pitches to get his singular out, so he may be available for the third day in a row.
  • Kyle Finnegan pitched the eighth in a newly tied ballgame but gave up four runs and took his fifth loss. His ERA is 8.74 (11.1 IP) since August 18th.


Bullpen Depth Charts

The Hold Up: Ranking the Top 100 Relievers for Holds Every Thursday

Closing Time: Ranking the Top 30 Closers

Top 100 Relievers for Save+Hold Leagues


(Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)

Jake Crumpler

A Bay Area sports fan and lover of baseball, Jake is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz with a B.A. in English Literature. He currently writes fantasy articles for Pitcher List, is the lead baseball writer at The Athletes Hub, and does playing time analysis at BaseballHQ. Some consider his knowledge of the sport to be encyclopedic.

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