RankingsMarch 15, 2012

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Cafeholic Rankings: Relief Pitcher (and Credits) - 3 comments

By Brendan Horton

Well, we’ve reached the end of the road, our final destination. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200. Before we dive into the topsy-turvy world of relief pitchers, and essentially throw darts at a board with these rankings, I’d like to first extend a tremendous, heartfelt thank you to all of those who contributed their rankings to this project. Whether it be one single position or you took the local and provided rankings for every stop along the way, these rankings are first and foremost a product of your hard work and dedication to the Cafe and to fantasy baseball in general. So with that I’d like to thank the following Cafeholics for their ranking contributions (I don’t think I missed anybody, and I apologize in advance if I did): MaudDib, ayebatter, GiantsFan14, J35J, daullaz, TheRock, ironman, Tavish, Rance Mulliniks, and wrveres. Your effort has certainly not been overlooked since Day 1 on this end, guys.

In case you just got on at the last stop, here’s what you may have missed along the way:
Catcher – Napoli to Iannetta
First Base – Pujols to Davis
Second Base – Cano to Hill
Shortstop – Tulowitzki to Desmond
Third Base – Bautista to Bonifacio
Outfield – Kemp to Bay
SP Part 1 – Kershaw to Cueto
SP Part 2 – Lewis to Paulino

So, that all said, here are our final Cafeholic Rankings for 2012. Hopefully this will keep you from too many sleepless nights patrolling the waiver wire, chasing saves.



1Craig KimbrelATL1.501
2Mariano RiveraNYY2.252.5
3Jonathan PapelbonPHI2.752.5

I can’t be the only one worried about Craig Kimbrel, right? Right? To me this guy has all the make-up of somebody who is going to visit the DL three times this year and leave owners cursing up and down that they spent such a high pick on him, trying to outsmart their competition so they wouldn’t end up chasing saves, while Johnny Venters owners laugh all the way to the bank. Not only did Kimbrel’s pitch count jump by a thousand from ‘10 to ‘11, the percentage of sliders he threw rose from 21.6% up to 30.3%. That’s a lot of added stress on the arm. Now, don’t get me wrong, Kimbrel could easily come out and rock and roll like he did in 2011. All I’m saying is I’m not willing to commit that early a pick on any reliever, never mind one I’m not confident I’m going to be able to put in my lineup every day. I’d rather one of Rivera or Papelbon in this group. They’re both rock solid, in good situations, with proven track records, and best of all; they can be had two full rounds later. If this is the year Mariano finally isn’t in this top tier, I’m willing to roll the dice.


4John AxfordMIL5.254.5
5Drew StorenWAS6.507
6Ryan MadsonCIN7.507

I actually really like all three of these guys. Axford’s mustache is a thing of beauty. It sits on his upper lip, curled, taunting opposing batters from 60 feet, 6 inches away as he channels Rollie Fingers. There’s nothing not to love here, folks. Storen and Madson are both young with live arms, and if you want to talk about a guy pitching with a chip on his shoulder in 2012, it’s Madson. The Phillies refused to pony up the green backs to re-sign Madson, electing instead to back the truck up to the Papelbon residency, leaving Ryan with a one-year deal in Cincinnati. He was up and down when given ninth inning duties in Philadelphia, but I believe he’ll earn his spot in this tier this season in Ohio. The Reds are a team who should be very fun to watch this season, top to bottom.


7Heath BellMIA10.5010.5
8J.J. PutzARI10.5011
9Joakim SoriaKC11.259.5
10Brian WilsonSF11.5011
11Joel HanrahanPIT12.0012.5
12Rafael BetancourtCOL13.258.5
13Jose ValverdeDET13.2512.5

For reasons I can’t explain, I like fat Heath Bell in Miami. I hate Putz, hate Wilson, hate Valverde. Soria I think has a nice bounce-back year before possibly being traded, Betancourt I’m not as high on as many others, and Hanrahan I have a serious bromance with cause I love his name, his game, and the fact that he’s a Pirate. If any of that made sense to you, kudos. If I can find the prop line in Vegas with odds on Brian Wilson ending up on the DL in 2012, I’m betting the farm on it. Would not surprise me at all to see Sergio Romo lead the team in saves, and not because of Wilson’s ineffectiveness (though it could be because of that, too). Soria maintains one of the sweetest nicknames in the game (The Mexicutioner), and is too good to repeat last year’s performance, in my opinion.


14Jason MotteSTL15.2514
15Carlos MarmolCHC15.5017.5
16Andrew BaileyBOS15.7516.5
17Huston StreetSD16.2615

I think people forgot how good Carlos Marmol is. One bad season makes people get awfully forgetful. In 2012, the guy’s K/9 was just shy of sixteen. He’s still that same pitcher. Even last season, where he was up and down and erratic, he still held down a K/9 of 12.04. How many guys is your closer striking out? While I don’t think he has another 2.55 ERA season like in 2010, I don’t think we see his ERA rise above 4.00 like it did last year, either. Yes, he’s prone to walking batters which can put him in hot water at times, but his BB/9 was actually better last season than in 2010! Still, pencil him in for me with a low to mid-3 ERA at worst, a WHIP in the 1.30 range, and 30+ saves. The Cubbies aren’t trotting anyone else out there in the ninth, so you can either treat one of your RP slots as a revolving door, or you can resolve to not freak out when Marmol hurts your ratios, and will instead enjoy all the positives he brings to the table. If you’re in a league with an IP limit, he’s even more valuable. He’s giving you an elite K-rate, and his questionable ratios are only counting as a small percentage towards your total. He’s a win-win.


18Brandon LeagueSEA18.7518.5
19Sergio SantosTOR19.7520.5
20Jordan WaldenLAA20.0016.5

Meh. These guys should hang onto their jobs for the full year. Otherwise there’s not much that I find particularly exciting about any of them. If they stick they’ll provide great value, if they don’t, they won’t. I know I’m blowing your mind with my Earth shattering analysis here. Moving along…


21Mike AdamsTEX21.2521
22Matt ThorntonCHW22.2522
23Kyle FarnsworthTB22.7523.5
24Sergio RomoSF23.0024
25Joe NathanTEX24.2523.5
26Tyler ClippardWAS24.523
27Kenley JensenLAD25.5029
28Frank FranciscoNYM27.5026
29Chris PerezCLE27.7523

And we’ve finally reached non-closer territory. Ratio specialists, as some refer to them as. Speculative saves. I name-dropped Romo earlier, but the same can be said of Mike Adams, who is actually ranked ahead of team closer Joe Nathan, as well as Clippard and Jensen. They’re all one shoulder tweak or three consecutive bad outings away from getting their own theme music at home games, and that’s what being a closer is really all about, isn’t it? You get your own theme music. Like you’re a superhero, or in the WWE or something. Clippard is a guy who worries me due to the sheer amount he’s been used the past few seasons. We make such a big deal about the innings that starters log, eating up Keith Law and whoever else weighs in on the matter, but relievers are up, they’re down, they’re warming, they’re in, they’re sitting, they’re back up, they throw 100 pitches and never even make it into the freakin’ game. Clippard has been leaned on by the Nationals for several seasons now, and this season he’s either going to show me that he has a rubber arm if they continue to use him in such a way, or he’s finally going to begin to break down, which I think is more likely. Rounding out the bottom of this tier is the closer everybody loves to hate. The man who was assuredly going to be replaced by Tony Sipp last year only he never was, and is now assuredly going to be replaced by Vinnie Pestano, and he’s already hurt, only I bet he still saves 20 or more games for the Tribe. Was that a run on sentence? I’m pretty sure that was a run on sentence. Perez isn’t good by any means, but he isn’t as bad as he was last season, and I don’t think Cleveland is going to take the ball out of his hands in the ninth, as badly as fantasy players wish they would. Sorry, folks.


30Sean MarshallCIN30.2529
31Matt CappsMIN31.2529
32Jim JohnsonBAL31.5027
33Javy GuerraLAD32.2531.5
34Addison ReedCHW34.5031.5
35Eric O’FlahertyATL35.2531.5

Some more speculative set-up men and guys whose ninth inning jobs aren’t the safest here in Capps, Johnson, and Guerra. It’s like a who’s who of closers on my fantasy teams, I swear. I think Johnson and Guerra hang onto their jobs for the season unless they injure themselves and open the door for someone else. Reed looks like he may get a shot out of the gate in the Windy City, though, and should definitely be monitored.

You know the most beautifully horrific thing about relief pitchers in fantasy? There’s probably a name who didn’t make this Top 35 who will finish Top 10 in Saves this year with ridiculous ratios, and will be drafted with the big names in the game next season. You may rotate eleven different relievers into your spot and just miss the aforementioned player, while one of your league-mates takes a flyer cause he has a free roster spot due to someone going on the DL, and he steps in feces and it turns to gold. Isn’t this fun? Are you having fun yet? I’m having fun.

Thank you all again for joining me as we ranked every position for the 2012 season. Special thanks again to the Cafeholics who provided their wealth of knowledge, time, and effort into making this possible, and best of luck to everybody at the Cafe this upcoming season!!

Brendan Horton is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Brendan in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of bigh0rt.
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3 Responses to “Cafeholic Rankings: Relief Pitcher (and Credits)”

  1. Ender says:

    I’m very impressed by your ranking of Mike Adams. I’ve been going after him in drafts as well because I think there is a great chance Nathan doesn’t last the year and because he is just so amazing from a peripheral standpoint.

  2. User avatar bigh0rt says:

    @Ender: Guy’s been a great reliever for a good amount of time now. Arlington had no negative effects on him, and my guess is that the thought is even if he doesn’t pitch the 9th inning and Nathan holds onto the role, he’s going to have a ton of value. If he does wind up closing games, you’re talking about a guy who propels himself to being one of the most valuable RP in all of fantasy baseball.

    Thanks for your comments throughout this entire series!

  3. User avatar MaudDib says:

    bigh0rt thanks for compiling all of this. All of them were a good read and probably a lot of work to do, so thanks.

    On another note, I am surprised people are so down on Walden. I realize he blew a lot of saves last year but a lot of the other numbers were pretty good plus the Angels are going to be a good team with an average offense which could mean a lot of save opportunities. I realize he shouldn’t be much higher on the list but I think he as the upside of being a top 10 guy next year.


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