After weeks of pouring through data, I’ve finally finished my “Way Too Early Rankings” for next season. A lot of the stats I mention in the notes are part of the data used to come up with these preliminary rankings, amongst other metrics and considerations. The reliever position is the most volatile in the game and creates more turnover on a year-to-year basis than any other position. That and a fluid (and very deep) free agent/trade market will lead to these rankings being very different come March as we are yet to know how roles will shake out in most bullpens and who we can trust for save and hold opportunities. For now, I’d stress that you look more at each tier rather than the actual number rankings as the deeper down the list you get, you’ll see a much wider variety of potential outcomes per player.
As far as draft strategy goes, I prefer to take a strong, foundational reliever early (someone safe) before taking fliers on high upside targets later on…but then again, is there even such a thing as a “safe” reliever anymore? I think in 2023 we saw the closer role stabilize and provide steady value throughout the season more so than any season in recent memory (maybe since 2015?). We saw 23 relievers finish the season with 21 or more saves in 2023 (12 with 30+ saves, most since 2016), that number was just 14 last year and 18 in 2021. As far as holds go, we saw 27 relievers with 21 or more holds (3 with 30 or more) which was also the highest mark we’ve seen since 2016 as there were just 19 in 2022 and 17 in 2021. What does it all mean? Probably nothing, but perhaps reliever reliability continues to trend in the right direction in 2024.
- Yennier Cano (Closer?) – After exploding onto the scene in the first two months of the season, Cano really slowed down as the season went on, having a 3.69 SIERA, 1.35 WHIP, and just an 18.5% K rate over his last 51 innings. I’d expect the Orioles to bring in a veteran closer for the year so Cano, a sinkerball with limited swing-and-miss ability, can work in a set-up role.
- Danny Coulombe – Another Oriole breakout reliever, Coulombe was the team’s top left-handed option for much of the year. The crafty lefty tops out around 92 MPH but throws 6 different pitches and does a great job suppressing hard contact and limited walks (5.7% BB rate).
- DL Hall – Hall has bounced back and forth between the minors and the big league club as well as between being a reliever or starter, but he could be a huge asset for the Orioles out of the pen next year (as he showed down the stretch and in the postseason). It was only 19.1 IP, but Hall finished the second-highest PLV this year (5.42).
- Tyler Wells – After looking great as a starter in the first half, Wells fell off a cliff as the second half rolled around but did come back and provide 5 scoreless relief innings while striking out six and allowing just one baserunner.
- Jacob Webb – Journeyman has an interesting changeup that helps get whiffs but is likely not a holds league option still.
- Kenley Jansen (Closer) – Only managed 44.2 IP this season, but the veteran is still mostly effective in a closer role and even saw an increase in velocity last year at age 35. I’d be fine with him as my second closer in 2024.
- Chris Martin (Setup) – Veteran just continues to be an effective late-inning reliever as his 2.86 pCRA and 2.90 xFIP were both good for top 15 amongst all relievers last season.
- Josh Winckowski – Starter turned reliever with no real plus offering, would be surprised to see his ERA under three again next year.
- John Schreiber – Took a step back last season after 2022 breakout, but also battled injuries. Walk rate needs to come back down (12.3% in 2023) to be trustworthy next year.
- Garrett Whitlock – No guarantee what his role will be next year, but after trying to turn him into a starter the past two seasons, it probably makes sense to move him back to the bullpen permanently.
- Clay Holmes (Closer) – Holmes took a small step back this season but still set career highs in saves (24) and continues to be an above-average reliever (.307 xwOBAcon, 2.88 xFIP) who relies on groundballs to get outs (70.1% GB rate). He should be the Yankees closer again in 2024.
- Tommy Kahnle (Setup) – The changeup specialist got a late start to the year but was effective once he got settled into the Yankees bullpen as he managed to limit hard contact (.299 xwOBAcon, 27.8% ICR), while also missing bats at a good clip (33.7% CSW).
- Jonathan Loáisiga – Battled through injuries for much of the season, ending up with just 17.2 innings pitched. The good news is the velo is still there and he only walked 1.4% of batters, but he really struggled to miss bats last year (8.7% K, 23.3% CSW, and 8.5% SwStr rates). Just like with Graterol, the stuff is much better than the swing-and-miss numbers show.
- Ian Hamilton – Hamilton was a great find for the Yankees this past year, giving them 58 innings with an ERA of just 2.64. His ability to limit hard contact (6.5% DHH) and miss bates (34.4% Whiff rate).
- Scott Effross – Missed all of 2023 while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, Effross should be ready on opening day. If healthy, Effross should give this bullpen another sinker/slider specialist.
- Pete Fairbanks (Closer) – Fairbanks finished the year top 10 amongst relievers in xwOBA (.252), pCRA (2.45), speX (86.93), K% (37%), CSW (36%) and secured 20 of the Rays 24 saves from June 15th on (no other reliever had more than 1). Take advantage of any Rays bullpen stigma in drafts as the only thing that will hold Fairbanks back from finishing as a top 5 closer will be his ability (or lack thereof) to stay healthy.
- Jason Adam (Setup) – Adam wasn’t able to finish the season on the active roster but should be healthy for next year and return as Fairbanks’ top setup man. Adam had another impressive season, finishing with an ERA under 3 and a WHIP of 1.01 over 54.1 IP while also holding a 31.1% K rate and 5.19 PLV.
- Colin Poche – The Rays top left-handed reliever may not miss bats at an elite rate, but he was exceptional at inducing weak contact last year as shown by his .265 xwOBAcon, and 30% ICR. Poche trusted his slider more than ever before in his career last season, leading to the career year.
- Andrew Kittredge – Kittredge was a little rusty last year as he returned from Tommy John surgery but he was an All-Star in 2021 so don’t be surprised if he works his way back into a high-leverage role.
- Shawn Armstrong – One of the more underrated relievers last year, Armstrong finished in the top 10 amongst relievers in dERA (1.74) and xwOBA (.253). Procuring only six holds kept him under the radar, but perhaps his role will grow next year.
- Jordan Romano (Closer) – Romano had a down season by his standards this year with career “highs” in ERA (2.90) and WHIP (1.22) this season but was still effective enough to secure 36 saves again while posting an elite SwStr rate (18%). Romano remains a strong RP1 for next year.
- Erik Swanson (Setup) – One of the most reliable setup men in baseball last year, Swanson finished the season with 29 holds (4th most in MLB) and continued to miss bats at a good clip (16.4% SwStr) and finishing the year with an impressive .271 xwOBA.
- Tim Mayza – Mayza’s 1.52 ERA was 5th best amongst relievers last year, and while he was certainly lucky, his xFIP (3.01), and DHH (6.3%) are not too shabby. The sinker/slider lefty doesn’t get a lot of swings and misses but does produce plenty of weak groundballs (63.9% GB rate).
- Yimi García – Despite the surface ratios (4.09 ERA, 1.24 WHIP) there were a lot of positives to take from Garcia’s 2023 season such as his xFIP (3.14) and K-BB rate (22.7%). His upped curveball usage led to a career-high 79 strikeouts.
- Trevor Richards – Similarly to Armstrong above, Richards is often the forgotten man in this bullpen but he is coming off a season where he had a 33.3% K rate (thanks to a 17.6% SwStr rate). Richards racked up 105 strikeouts, due in large part to his changeup which is threw 19% more often this year and held a 47.8% Whiff rate.
- Gregory Santos (Closer) – Struggles over the past month shouldn’t keep him from being the favorite to open next season as the White Sox closer. Santos did a great job limiting hard contact last year, with a 4.6 DHH% (dynamic hard hit rate), and also posted an impressive 5.29 PLV for the season despite finishing with just a 22.8% K rate.
- Aaron Bummer (Setup) – Looking beyond the gross 6.79 ERA, Bummer still showed some upside with a 29.2% K rate and a 60.1% GB rate. His sweeper was a plus pitch this year with a 44.8% Whiff rate and .210 xWOBA and he actually finished third amongst all relievers over the second half with a 36.9% CSW rate.
- Garrett Crochet – Didn’t pitch well in just 12.2 innings of work this year with his velo down and not being able to find his plus slider from 2020-21. Still not someone to count out in 2024 just yet.
- Luis Patiño – He didn’t show much as a reliever, but there’s still prospect pedigree here (and some skills) to keep him on your watch lists in deep leagues.
- Deivi García – See above
- Emmanuel Clase (Closer) – Even after a down season by his standards (3.22 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 21.2% K rate), Clase remains one of the safer targets in drafts. Still showed positively in Stuff+ (154) and PLV (5.38) so it shouldn’t shock anyone if he taps into more strikeout upside.
- Trevor Stephan (Setup) – Had some struggles later on in the season but had a strong first half. Swing and miss stuff is still above average with a 15.2% SwStr rate as his splitter was once again dominant (49.1% Whiff rate)
- Sam Hentges (Setup) – Had some struggles early on in the season but turned things around and had a strong second half. Upped his curveball usage this season and finished with an impressive 3.00 xFIP and 59% GB rate.
- Nick Sandlin – 2023 was a solid season for Sandlin with a 1.03 WHIP, 27.6% K rate and 32.7% ICR. Should be in the mix for double-digit holds next season.
- Eli Morgan – Struggled a bit this year but still held an impressive 5.11 PLV and 33.8% Chase rate. His pitch mix should keep him in the middle/long relief mix.
- Alex Lange (Closer) – Lange can be frustrating at times with his shaky command (15.6% BB rate) but also an impressive 39.1% SwStr rate due in large part to his two plus off-speed offerings.
- Jason Foley (Setup) – Sinkerballer with a big arm that fails to generate Whiffs (17.9% Whiff rate) but also limits free passes (5.4% BB rate) and had a 5.24 PLV this season.
- Will Vest – Just kind of above average all around without standing out, Vest should have a chance to finish 2024 with double-digit holds again.
- Tyler Holton – Doesn’t rack up a ton of K’s from the left side, but Holton does a great job keeping hitters off balance and limiting hard contact with his six-pitch mix.
- Miguel Díaz – Changed up his pitch mix and got his slider working again, could be a potential breakout reliever next season as another sinker/breaker/changeup righty in this bullpen.
- James McArthur (Closer?) – McArthur finished the year as the Royals closer and in fashion as well, allowing just 5 hits (0 runs) over his last 16.1 IP while posting a stellar 19/0 K/BB rate. There’s a pair of interesting breaking balls here, although the fastball/sinker is nothing to get too excited for.
- Carlos Hernández – Struggled in the second half of the season after the team traded away Scott Barlow, but he has a big arm and an interesting four-pitch mix.
- John McMillon – McMillon is an interesting pitching prospect with a plus slider (75% Whiff rate on 32 thrown) and fastball (97 MPH) who made the jump from AA to the MLB bullpen in September. Future closer upside.
- Taylor Clarke – Nothing really to get excited about in the profile, but the Royals do like to trust him in high-leverage spots, and likely gets a bullpen spot next year.
- Austin Cox – Again, not too exciting here but he could very well end up the Royals’ top left-handed reliever to begin the season.
- Jhoan Duran (Closer) – Duran may have the best stuff in the league, and I think could be even better in 2024 (some middle ground between 2022 and 2023). Duran held an 18.2% SwStr rate (11th best in baseball) and a 2.72 xFIP while closing out 27 games.
- Griffin Jax (Setup) – May not have the best swing-and-miss stuff (although his 32.4% CSW ain’t too shabby), but Jax is elite at limiting hard contact and a PLV darling (5.36).
- Brock Stewart – One of the biggest breakout relievers of 2023 (despite the injury), Stewart upped his fastball velocity to over 97 MPH while mixing in both a sweeper and cutter to keep hitters off balance. His 21.2% SwStr and 37.1% CSW rates were both third-best in baseball this year.
- Caleb Thielbar – Remains one of the better left-handed relievers in the game when healthy (25% K-BB rate) but will be 37 entering next season.
- Kody Funderburk – Could be the new high-leverage lefty in the near future as he impressed in his first 12 innings at the MLB level with a 40.4% K rate while allowing just one run. Doesn’t throw hard but his slider is a problem for hitters.
- Ryan Pressly (Closer) – Pressly saw his ERA and WHIP rise this season but still finished with 31 saves and 74 strikeouts. Is the 34-year-old’s stuff diminishing at all? Well, he finished with a 5.29 PLV and 156 Stuff+ which was the highest among all relievers, so I wouldn’t write him off anytime soon.
- Bryan Abreu (Setup) – Abreu was one of the most dominant non-closer relievers this season with a 1.75 ERA and a 39.8% Whiff rate while his Stuff+ graded out at 139, good for 4th highest amongst qualified relievers. He also reached double-digit holds for the first time with an impressive 24.
- Rafael Montero – Montero took a step back this season, but he did turn things around a little over the second half. There’s still some intriguing stuff here, as he did finish with a 5.15 PLV.
- Kendall Graveman – Graveman had 13 Holds and 8 Saves this year and a 3.12 ERA but it came with a poor 10.6% K-BB rate and 4.74 PLV.
- Hector Neris – Neris has an 8.5 mil Player Option which I would imagine he opts into at his age, although he is coming off a great season with a 1.75 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 15.4% SwStr rate, and 29.8% ICR. If he returns to Houston, he should remain in a setup role.
- Carlos Estévez (Closer) – Estevez was great over the first half (1.80 ERA) but was quite terrible over the second half (6.59 ERA, 1.76 WHIP) so buyer beware this upcoming draft season. He still showed some interesting stuff, (115 Stuff+, 27.8% K rate) but I would bet strongly against him saving 31 games again next year.
- José Soriano (Setup) – Soriano has a plus curveball and fastball that sits around 98 MPH so there’s some big-time upside in his arm. He showed some of that potential last year finishing with 36.2% Whiff and 34.7% CSW rates.
- Ben Joyce – Joyce has a big-time fastball that sits at 100 MPH but has had trouble staying healthy in his career and has also had issues with walks (18.8% in 10 IP last year).
- Jimmy Herget – Wasn’t able to build on his successful 2022 season, but should still find an opening-day spot in the Angels bullpen.
- José Suarez – Suarez was pretty terrible last year in 7 starts, but perhaps moving to the bullpen could help salvage his career?
- Lucas Erceg (Closer?) – Erceg has some interesting stuff as the former infielder can touch triple digits and was able to rack up 68 K’s over 55 innings last year. As of right now, the most intriguing closing option on the roster.
- Dany Jiménez – Jimenez only appeared in 23.1 innings this year but did end up with a 1.07 WHIP despite a 14.9% BB rate. His slider is interesting but the fastball is a huge liability.
- Zach Jackson – Jackson held a 2.50 ERA this year in 18 innings but that came with a 1.56 WHIP.
- Kirby Snead – nothing really to get excited about with Snead, but he could wind up as the team’s top left-handed reliever.
- Andrés Muñoz (Closer) – After the Mariners traded Paul Sewald at the deadline, Muñoz finally got his shot to be the full-time closer in Seattle. The swing-and-miss ability is still elite (36.4% CSW) and ERA estimators are great (3.02 pCRA) but he did finish with a 1.27 WHIP last year, as his command was hit-and-miss throughout the year. He still has the potential to be the top closer in baseball.
- Matt Brash (Setup) – Brash put things together over the second half of his first full season as a reliever, establishing himself as one of the best setup men in baseball. Brash finished with an 86.02 speX, 2.73 pCRA, and 34.7% K rate, all top 15 amongst all relievers.
- Justin Topa – Topa won’t miss a lot of bats (9% SwStr rate) but he was excellent last year at limiting hard contact (27.9% ICR, .297 xwOBAcon) and also. held a 58.5% groundball rate.
- Gabe Speier – One of the more underrated relievers this season was perhaps Gabe Speier. He finished the year in the top 10 amongst relievers in SIERA (2.62) and xFIP (2.71), while also posting an impressive 24.5% K-BB%. The lefty isn’t overpowering but improved his slider this year (45.7% Whiff rate).
- Trent Thornton – Thornton was fairly effective as a middle/long relief option this year as he doesn’t walk many batters (4.8% BB rate) and also finished with an impressive .274 xwOBA and 5.29 PLV.
- José Leclerc (Closer) – Leclerc started the season as the team’s closer before losing his job early on to Will Smith but has taken the role back this postseason as Bruce Bochy’s most trustworthy reliever at this point. 2023 wasn’t Leclerc’s best season but he still showed an ability to miss bats and limit hard contact as shown by his 17.1% overall SwStr% rate but his slider did most of the damage with a 49.6% Whiff rate and 22.2% ICR.
- Josh Sborz (Setup) – The Sborz breakout was on full display in the first half of the season, before taking a turn for the worst in the second half as he battled injuries. He finished the year with a great 35.2% CSW and he’s looked great so far this postseason for the Rangers.
- Cody Bradford – Had success as a reliever with a 0.72 WHIP and 23.8% K-BB rate over 22.1 relief innings. The lefty should remain the team’s top left-handed reliever unless they add someone this offseason.
- Jonathan Hernández – Hernandez still throws hard but he took a significant step back last year as he finished with a 5.40 ERA and 1.58 WHIP. Still has an intriguing pitch mix and I wouldn’t rule out a positive 2024 season from him.
- Brock Burke – Burke does a great job of limiting free baserunners (3.6% BB rate) but not much else is interesting here.
- Raisel Iglesias (Closer) – Even with a late start to the season, Iglesias still managed to rack up 33 saves on the season. Despite his highest WHIP (1.19) since 2019, Iglesias was still able to miss bats at a good rate with a 17.5% SwStr and 35.4% Chase rates. Iglesias changed up his pitch mix this season, throwing more changeups than any other pitch.
- A.J. Minter (Setup) – Minter regressed from his dominant 2022 campaign but still managed a mostly successful season finishing with a 31.5% K rate and 5.22 PLV.
- Dylan Lee – Only managed 23.2 IP this year but was still able to miss bats at a high rate (32.2% CSW, 16% SwStr). Underwent a shoulder procedure recently but should be ready for Opening Day.
- Nick Anderson – Was pitching well before getting shut down with a shoulder injury (34% CSW, 1.10 WHIP). He’s had a hard time staying healthy over the past few seasons, totaling just 57.2 IP over the past four seasons.
- Tyler Matzek – A year removed from Tommy John surgery and should be back by Spring Training. Gives the Braves a strong third left-handed reliever.
- Tanner Scott (Closer) – After years of teasing us with his upside, Scott finally put it all together last year by finally lowering his walk rate (to 7.8%). Scott finished in the top 10 amongst all relievers in xwOBA (.221), pCRA (2.32), xFIP (2.66), CSW% (35.8%), and PLV (5.33).
- Andrew Nardi (Setup) – Nardi broke out this season, finishing the year as the Marlins top setup man. Nardi uses a fastball/slider combo to limit hard contact and finished with an impressive .257 xwOBA and 5.28 PLV.
- A.J. Puk – Puk was having a fantastic season before July or so when he started to run into some bad luck. Puk still finished the year in the top 10 amongst relievers in SIERA (2.66), K-BB% (27%), and CSW% (36.1%).
- Anthony Bender – 13 months removed from Tommy John, Bender should be ready to go by Opening Day. 2021 Bender was one of the better relievers in the game, and the Marlins sure could use the right-handed relief help.
- Steven Okert – Okert is the most volatile of the Marlins left-handed relievers, but he still held an impressive 29.6%.
- Edwin Diaz (Closer) – Missed all of 2023 with the unfortunate knee injury he suffered in the WBC earlier in the year. He should be fully recovered for next season and given the injury was to his knee and not arm-related, I see no reason to believe he can’t return to his 2022 form where he was far and away the best closer in baseball.
- Adam Ottavino – Ottavino has a player option ($6.75 mil) that I’d imagine he exercises although he may try to get a multi-year deal elsewhere. Although he wasn’t able to duplicate his 2022 season, Ottavino was still a solid reliever last year, doing a good job of limiting hard contact with his 28.4% ICR% and .317 xwOBAcon.
- Brooks Raley – Raley on the other hand has a club option that should be a lock for the Mets to pick up ($6.5 mil), and similar to Ottavino, makes up for his lack of swing and miss ability by inducing weak contact (32.6% ICR%, .326 xwOBAcon).
- Trevor Gott – Not a lot of positives to take away from Gotts in 2023, but he did manage a 3.28 pCRA and there are more volatile options out there. I still wouldn’t consider him a lock for the roster next year.
- Drew Smith – Smith had a down 2023 after putting together fairly impressive 2021-2022 seasons, but there aren’t many positives from this past season for Smith. He too likely isn’t a lock for the Mets bullpen in 2024.
- José Alvarado (Closer) – Alvarado got off to a scorching start to the season before an injury slowed him down. Alvarado still finished the year with an impressive 2.52 pCRA, 2.26 xFIP, and 37.2% K rate, and assuming the Phillies don’t add a significant bullpen piece, he should be considered the favorite for saves next year.
- Jeff Hoffman (Setup) – Hoffman was the unsung hero of the Phillies bullpen this year, as he started throwing his slider more often (up over 24%). The change in pitch usage led to a 2.54 pCRA, 17.7% SwStr and 33.2% K rates.
- Gregory Soto – Hoffman wasn’t the only reliever the Phils were able to unlock this season as they also got the best out of Soto who also increased his slider usage. The change led to an increase in swing and miss (34.2% CSW rate) and better hard-hit metrics (.303 xwOBAcon, 28% ICR).
- Seranthony Domínguez – On the flip side, Seranthony took a step back this season as he struggled with commanding his fastball. The good news is he still throws hard and his slider still can be devasting (46.6% Whiff rate).
- Matt Strahm – Strahm transitioned to the bullpen early on in the season and impressed the rest of the way. Strahm finished with a 5.34 PLV and 24.8% K-BB% and can be a real asset in holds leagues if he gets enough opportunities.
- Orion Kerkering – Despite having some issues this postseason, Kerkering’s pure stuff is undeniably nasty with a near 3000 RPM Sweeper and a fastball/sinker that sits in the upper 90s. This bullpen is already super deep so it’s hard to tell what his role may be next year, but he has a chance to make a Matt Brash-type impact.
- Kyle Finnegan (Closer?) – Finnegan throws hard and was able to put together a solid stretch of games in the middle of the season, but there are a ton of question marks here as he allows a ton of hard contact and only managed a 21.9% K rate. Despite tallying an impressive 28 saves last year (8 holds), I’d advise staying away from him in drafts.
- Hunter Harvey (Setup) – Harvey finished the season with a 3.04 SIERA and was even better in the second half where he had a 2.72 pCRA. Perhaps the most impressive number for Harvey last year was 60.2 IP, as he finally was able to stay (mostly) healthy for a season. He should take over as closer at some point next year as the team’s top returning reliever.
- Tanner Rainey – Appeared in one game late in September last year as he worked his way back from TJ surgery and showed some impressive velocity (96-97 MPH). Will be a wild card as he hasn’t looked great since 2020.
- Jordan Weems – Weems throws hard and was able to hold a 25.9% K rate last season, but his command is way too inconsistent to make him trustworthy.
- Robert Garcia –Lefty put together an intriguing 32 innings for the Nationals last year, finishing with a 3.12 pCRA and 18.1% HC rate.
- Adbert Alzolay (Closer) – Alzolay wound up taking over the Cubs’ closer role halfway through the year and never looked back, securing 22 saves and also providing fantasy managers solid ratios along the way (2.67 ERA, 1.02 WHIP). The strikeout ability isn’t exactly top-tier, but Alzolay provides some stability as a potential second closer in save-only leagues.
- Julian Merryweather (Setup) – The long-awaited Merryweather breakout finally happened this season as the reliever was able to stay healthy for a career-high 72 innings. The walk rate became an issue later in the year, but his ability to miss bats (32.3% K and 16.6% SwStr rates) increases his upside in holds leagues.
- Mark Leiter Jr. – The Cubs’ top high-leverage reliever for much of the first half, Leiter Jr took a step back in the second half of the year and fell out of favor in that bullpen. His splitter is still an intriguing out pitch that keeps him on the radar in holds leagues.
- Daniel Palencia – Palencia has a big arm and some strikeout upside if he’s able to stick in this bullpen.
- Drew Smyly – Smyly looked pretty good in a relief role for the Cubs (2.51 ERA, 33.1% K rate) and if he stays there next year, could be a sneaky holds league option. If he’s in the rotation, look for Luke Little to be the team’s top lefty reliever.
- Alexis Díaz (Closer) – Tale of two halves for Díaz which makes him a boom or bust closer target for 2024. He was one of the worst closers in baseball over the second half (5.78 xFIP, 6.5% K-BB rate) so I’d probably stay away from him unless you are getting a big discount.
- Lucas Sims – 3.10 ERA and 1.10 WHIP for Sims last season came with a disappointing 5.53 xFIP and 12.8% K-BB rate. He’s better than this and it’s good to just see him finally healthy again.
- Ian Gibaut – Gibaut had himself a career year with a 3.33 ERA with PLV being a fan of his stuff (5.25) and appeared in a whopping 74 games.
- Sam Moll – Moll was excellent for the Reds after joining them at the trade deadline, finishing with a 0.90 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in the second half. He should return as the teams top left-handed reliever.
- Fernando Cruz – Posted big time strikeout numbers (35.1% K rate) thanks to his splitter, but was inconsistent for much of the season
- Devin Williams (Closer) – Williams was one of if not the most productive closer throughout the entire 2023 season, picking up where he left off finishing with 37.7% K and 17.8% SwStr rates. Expect another dominant season from Williams in 2024.
- Joel Payamps (Setup) – Had some hiccups over the second half but should return in a setup role to begin next season. Payamps had a 3.02 pCRA and 78.16 speX placing himself in the top 40 amongst all relievers in those categories.
- Trevor Megill – Megill is one of my favorite sleeper picks for next season as the hard-throwing right-hander really took off down the stretch for the Brewers. 2.84 pCRA, 27% K-BB rate, and 2.75 SIERA were all good for top 10 last year amongst all relievers. His fastball averaged 99.1 MPH and he paired it with a curveball that held a 53% Whiff rate and .196 xwOBA.
- Abner Uribe – Uribe has a sky-high ceiling with his elite fastball/slider combo, but his success will likely come down to improving his command (15.7% BB rate). His slider is already one of the best swing and miss pitches amongst all relievers.
- Elvis Peguero – Despite the gross 10% K-BB rate, Peguero remained highly effective most of the season as he did a great job limiting hard contact and inducing ground balls. There should be more K upside in there as well with his slider garnering a 41% Whiff rate.
- Hoby Milner – Milner deserves a mention as well as he’s coming off a career year with a 1.72 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. He should return as the Brewers’ top left-handed reliever.
- David Bednar (Closer) – Bednar will return as the Pirates’ closer next year (unless traded) after falling one save shy of reaching the 40-save mark this year. Bednar doesn’t rank in the top 10 of any categories (close in SwStr% with 17.8% rate) but is solid across the board and one of the safer RP1 options in fantasy drafts for next year.
- Colin Holderman (Setup) – Despite the 27 holds this season, Holderman still finished with a 1.34 WHIP and 4.79 xFIP while posting a below-average 15.8% K-BB rate (and 26.5% CSW rate).
- Ryan Borucki – The Pirates do have some sneaky exciting left-handed options in this bullpen, with one of them being Borucki who held a 2.34 dERA and 0.74 WHIP this past year and despite just a 21.7% K rate, he did post an impressive 2.6% BB and 33.5% CSW rate.
- Angel Perdomo – Another lefty in this bullpen who may be in line for a big breakout, Perdomo is the same size as Félix Bautista but doesn’t have the same velocity. He still posted an awesome 37.6% K rate and 2.62 SIERA over 29 innings.
- Carmen Mlodzinski – Could work his way into a setup role next year as he held his own in 2023 with a 2.25 ERA (4.33 xFIP) over 36 innings.
- Ryan Helsley (Closer) – Was a surprise to see him not only dominant in September but also pitch on back-to-back days and account for all 7 of the Cardinals’ saves after September 4th. Even after missing significant time, Helsley was still dominant over 36.2 IP this year with 35.6% K and 17.5% SwStr rates (plus a 5.32 PLV).
- Giovanny Gallegos (Setup) – 2023 was certainly a down year for Gallegos as he finished with a 4.42 ERA and 25.8% K rate (low by his standards) but he should return in a setup role. His slider is still elite and he did finish with an 18.8% SwStr rate while walking just 5.2% of hitters.
- JoJo Romero – Romero was breaking out in a big way prior to missing the remainder of the season with a knee injury as the lefty finished top 10 amongst relievers in pCRA (2.74), xFIP (2.68), xwOBA (.258), Whiff (36.3%), and CSW (36.3%) rates. His three-pitch mix makes him effective against righties as well as lefties and he should be on your radar in all holds formats.
- John King – Sinker baller lefty had a 1.85 ERA over 18.2 with Cardinals, but just a 13.2% K rate (and 1.34 WHIP).
- Andre Pallante – Skills have not translated to success yet, but his 78.7% GB rate (1st in MLB) is certainly intriguing. Can he put up a Graterol-esque season in the future?
- Paul Sewald (Closer) – Sewald’s not your typical hard-throwing closer as he tops out around 94 MPH but is still super effective living up in the zone with his gyro fastball. He finished with the second-highest PLV (5.42) and held a 3.00 pCRA and 32.1% K rate.
- Kevin Ginkel (Setup) – What a great story Ginkel has been this year after he was mostly written off following his impressive debut season in 2019. Not a ton changed in his repertoire, it just looks like he’s been able to command his stuff better which led to better contact rates (2.18 dERA, 30.2% ICR).
- Ryan Thompson – The submariner has had a great run with the Diamondbacks since being DFA’d by the Rays and even finished with the lowest ICR in baseball (20.5%), and a career-low .288 xwOBAcon. Don’t expect strikeouts from him, but he belongs in that Tyler Rogers category, assuming he continues to see consistent hold chances next year.
- Miguel Castro – It was mostly a disappointing season for Castro who had and lost a chance to close out games around the midway point of the season. The good news is Torey Lovullo has still gone to him frequently in the playoffs and Castro did finish the year with a solid 33.9% ICR and 5.13 PLV.
- Andrew Saalfrank – didn’t allow a run in 10 games this regular season and has been leaned on heavily in the postseason as well. He doesn’t have a big fastball or swing-and-miss curveball but is crafty enough to keep hitters off balance.
- Justin Lawrence (Closer?) – Lawrence finished the season with 11 saves and may very well be the best reliever to target on this roster, but that doesn’t mean he’s someone for you to target in your fantasy leagues. For someone who pitches half the time in Coors, I’d prefer to see some more swing-and-miss ability, but he did have a 6.8% DHH.
- Tyler Kinley (Setup?) – Wound up with 5 saves in 16.1 innings in his return to the Rockies bullpen, but that also came with a 6.06 ERA, 1.65 WHIP, and 22.4% K rate.
- Jake Bird – Was able to appear in 70 games and 89 innings but nothing really sticks out to suggest roster Bird next year.
- Daniel Bard – Bard was arguably the worst reliever in baseball last year and I while I wouldn’t expect a bounceback performance from him in 2024, he has surprised us before.
- Evan Phillips (Closer) – Phillips finished the season with 24 saves and great ratios (2.05 ERA, 0.83 WHIP) and turned out to be a fantastic second closer option for most fantasy managers. The advanced metrics agree with Phillips’ success (1.51 dERA) and he also had the 7th-best PLV (5.34) in baseball.
- Brusdar Graterol (Setup) – Graterol may not be able to miss bats but his ability to suppress hard contact is what makes him successful. His .312 xwOBAcon, 4.8% DHH, and 2.30 dERA are all near the top of the leaderboard and as long as he’s inducing weak ground balls, he should remain in a high-leverage role for the Dodgers.
- Caleb Ferguson – Ferguson had a bit of an up-and-down 2023, but finished with a very respectable 3.04 pCRA and I’d imagine that WHIP (1.44) will come down next year with some better luck on his side.
- Alex Vesia – Speaking of up-and-down lefties in the Dodgers bullpen, Vesia struggled mightily to begin the season but was awesome over the last two months and even finished the year with the best PLV (5.55) in all of baseball and a solid 29.5% K rate.
- J.P. Feyereisen – Feyereisen never got to pitch this season but should be ready to go next year. Lot of potential outcomes here, but he’s probably worth keeping an eye on.
- Scott Barlow (Closer) – Barlow got off to a hot start before struggling mightily for the middle portion of the season. He did get things back on track over the last month or so of the season and did have a solid 33.2% CSW and 6.2% DHH. The closer role (unless they sign or trade for someone) should be between him or Suarez, with Barlow’s experience giving him the edge for now.
- Robert Suarez (Setup) – Suarez dealt with injuries this season and failed to reach 30 innings but did hold solid numbers across the board, with a 4.5% DHH, 29.7% ICR, and 0.90 WHIP showcasing his ability to limit hard contact.
- Steven Wilson – Wilson started off the season as the team’s top set-up option before fading down the stretch but still finished with a 3.91 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. He did have an impressive 5.28 PLV and 28.8% ICR but neither of his two primary pitches are particularly intriguing at the moment.
- Tom Cosgrove – Cosgrove falls under the crafty lefty parameters as he doesn’t have overpowering stuff or strikeout numbers but was exceptional at limiting hard contact this past season (.258 xwOBAcon, 24.1 % ICR, 1.96 dERA).
- Ray Kerr – Kerr is an intriguing lefty who came over from Seattle and held a 30.7% K rate and 3.24 xFIP in 27 major league innings last season.
- Camilo Doval (Closer) – Doval took a step forward from his first full season in 2022 this year as he fell just one save short of the 40-save mark. He held impressive marks with a 2.96 pCRA, 79.86 speX, and 31% K rate and should be drafted as a top 15 closer next year.
- Taylor Rogers (Setup) – Rogers was terrible in the first month of the season last year but turned things around and put together a solid season with a nice 5.21 PLV, and a 34.2% CSW rate. He should return in a setup role.
- Tyler Rogers – The other Rogers brother is different in his approach as he doesn’t miss many bats from his arm angle, but is great at limiting hard contact (.282 xwOBAcon, 5.5% DHH) and while it’s hard to count on him to help across the board, he does have 75 holds over the past 3 seasons, second most in baseball behind A.J. Minter.
- Luke Jackson – Jackson looked pretty good for the most part returning from TJ surgery last season, as he finished with an ERA under 3 in 33.1 innings. He showed an ability to limit hard contact (29.8% ICR) as well as strike hitters out (30.1% K rate).
- Ryan Walker – Walker will likely see time as the Giants’ long reliever again next season and does have an intriguing mix of stuff with a slider that had a 42% Whiff rate on 542 pitches thrown.
Top Free Agents
- Robert Stephenson – The best free agent reliever on the market, Stephenson’s career was turned around once he got to Tampa, with the Rays just making a simple tweak to his slider (throw it harder/make it a cutter). He finished the year first amongst relievers in Whiff (46.3%), SwStr (25%), and CSW (41%) rates, and was top three in speX (88.6), K-BB% (30.3%), and SIERA (2.40). If he gets a chance to close next year, he’s a top-10 option.
- Josh Hader – Hader will be the highest-paid free agent reliever, and his ranking will likely change depending on where he ends up signing. Strikeouts were still there last year (36.8% but just a 30% CSW rate) but continues to allow a lot of hard contact and refused to enter the 8th inning last year to get four outs (almost like he was just trying to survive last year and get to free agency…) If he is/stays healthy, he should be productive no matter where he lands.
- Aroldis Chapman – Chapman had a big bounce-back season, especially in the early part of the year with the Royals, and while the walk issues got worse in Texas, he’s still been mostly reliable for them. Chapman’s swing and miss stuff came back this year as well, finishing the season second in K% (41.4%) and CSW% (38%) but the command will be what keeps Chapman from being elite again (14.5% BB rate).
- Jordan Hicks – Hicks returned to a full-time bullpen role this season, thriving for the Cardinals as their interim closer before being traded to Toronto at the deadline. Hicks has always had elite stuff, but this year he was finally able to turn that into a career-high K rate (28.4%) while continuing to suppress hard contact (28% ICR).
- Joe Jiménez – Had a quietly productive season for the Braves this season (24.8% K-BB rate), and should be in high demand in free agency as someone with some closer experience (20 career saves). (EDIT: Resigned with Atlanta for 3 years/$26m)
- Joe Kelly – Despite the 6.08 ERA last year and 4.12 ERA this season, Kelly should still draw significant interest in free agency given his Statcast metrics and the fact he’s still averaging 99 MPH on his fastball.
- Craig Kimbrel – As a Red Sox fan, I feel for Phillies fans getting a first-hand experience of the Craig Kimbrel experience this postseason. Despite his issues in October, Kimbrel still had a productive regular season and would make sense for teams looking for a stop-gap closer option (Orioles).
- Reynaldo López – Lopez was an exciting late-round closer target heading into the year and while that didn’t work out as he struggled early on, he was able to turn things around in the second half and put together a good season.
- Pierce Johnson – May have struggled in his stint as the Rockies closer but turned things around in Atlanta working in a setup role. Johnson finished with impressive 32.5% K and 34.4% CSW rates and should find a nice deal for himself this winter. (EDIT: Resigned with Atlanta for 2 years/$14.25m)
- Keynan Middleton – Put together a successful season for both the White Sox and Yankees, posting an impressive 18.6% SwStr rate over 50+ innings. Middleton’s closer experience (15 career saves) could help him out this offseason as well.
- Phil Maton – Maton is kind of like Paul Sewald light, and held an impressive 5.25 PLV this year along with a 16.4% SwStr rate. Unlike most of the names on this list, Maton has just two career saves and likely will be viewed as a set-up man only.
- Ryan Brasier – Brasier turned his season around with the Dodgers (of course) and should be able to secure an MLB contract this offseason.
- David Robertson – Will be 39 for most of the 2024 season and fading down the stretch for the Marlins, but 38 saves over the past two seasons.
- Emilio Pagán – Pagan had a great season for himself heading into free agency with a 2.99 ERA and 0.95 WHIP, but I feel like there are some buyer beware warning signs here (hard contact rate, swing and miss ability are questionable).
- Matt Moore/Will Smith/Jake Diekman – These veteran lefties will be in demand as well as the left-handed reliever market kind of falls off after Hader and Chapman.
Top 40 Potential Closers for 2024
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