Nicklaus Gaut’s 2022 Reliever Ranks

There are a myriad of differences between valuing players and general drafting strategy for a 15-team (or deeper) league versus a 12-team (or shallower) league but I believe the starkest ones lie at reliever. Since this makes doing ‘one-size fits all” rankings particularly difficult, here are a few notes about how I approached them.

  1. The first half of these rankings are geared more towards 12-team (and shallower leagues) with a player’s likelihood to get saves driving their value. That’s not to say that there isn’t some relief to be found without saves but in those size leagues, you’re better off not trying to guess where it will come from in drafts. That’s a different story in-season, when, if necessary, you can try and help your ratios by adding non-closers with dependable usage.
  2. This is wildly different in deeper leagues, say, for example, in NFBC, where anyone who might sniff a save is likely drafted, as well as most of the top set-up men. That makes the post-draft reliever pool pretty junky from jump street and anyone who pops up in-season will often instigate all-out FAAB warfare. For me, this pushes up the value of good relievers without a guaranteed job (think Paul Sewald) and does the reverse to bad relievers with a job (think Carlos Estevez). But this kind of thinking also folds in your personal preferences on roster construction and whether you’d rather have the backend of your reliever corps filled out with saves with bad numbers or good numbers with no saves.
  3. I don’t have much time for murky closing situations in 12-team leagues unless I’m really, really confident in a player being valuable even without saves. Which is almost no one. This can change rapidly, say, for example, if Seattle named Ken Giles as their closer in (hypothetical) spring training. But for right now, I want to avoid situations like that in shallower leagues.

Enough notes; here are the first run of my 2022 RP ranks, with ADP from NFBC and 2021 statistics. After that, we can have some good, ol’-fashioned Tier talk.

Nicklaus Gaut’s Top-75 RP (2021 Stats)
Player ADP Rk ADP IP SV HD W SO K/9 ERA FIP WHIP
1 Liam Hendriks 1 36 71 38 0 8 113 14.3 2.54 2.34 0.73
2 Josh Hader 2 39 58.2 34 0 4 102 15.7 1.23 1.69 0.84
3 Raisel Iglesias 3 58 70 34 0 7 103 13.2 2.57 2.83 0.93
4 Ryan Pressly 6 75 64 26 1 5 81 11.4 2.25 2.06 0.97
5 Emmanuel Clase 4 67 69.2 24 6 4 74 9.6 1.29 2.11 0.96
6 Giovanny Gallegos 11 116 80.1 14 24 6 95 10.6 3.02 2.75 0.88
7 Edwin Díaz 5 71 62.2 32 0 5 89 12.8 3.45 2.48 1.05
8 Aroldis Chapman 7 85 56.1 30 1 6 97 15.5 3.36 3.99 1.31
9 Kenley Jansen 8 95 69 38 0 4 86 11.2 2.22 3.08 1.04
10 Jordan Romano 9 109 63 23 5 7 85 12.1 2.14 3.15 1.05
11 Will Smith 10 110 68 37 0 3 87 11.5 3.44 4.17 1.13
12 Lucas Sims 24 264 47 7 9 5 76 14.6 4.40 3.00 1.11
13 Blake Treinen 15 176 72.1 7 32 6 85 10.6 1.99 2.88 0.98
14 Scott Barlow 16 180 74.1 16 14 5 91 11.0 2.42 2.63 1.20
15 Mark Melancon 12 139 64.2 39 0 4 59 8.2 2.23 3.36 1.22
16 Taylor Rogers 20 224 40.1 9 8 2 59 13.2 3.35 2.13 1.14
17 Corey Knebel 17 181 25.2 3 7 4 30 10.5 2.45 2.90 0.97
18 Craig Kimbrel 13 156 59.2 24 6 4 100 15.1 2.26 2.43 0.91
19 Camilo Doval 14 159 27 3 5 5 37 12.3 3.00 3.47 1.04
20 David Bednar 19 210 60.2 3 13 3 77 11.4 2.23 2.69 0.97
21 Garrett Whitlock 23 255 73.1 2 14 8 81 9.9 1.96 2.84 1.10
22 Gregory Soto 18 203 63.2 18 7 6 76 10.7 3.39 4.14 1.35
23 Andrew Kittredge 28 294 71.2 8 7 9 77 9.7 1.88 3.04 0.98
24 Dylan Floro 22 239 64 15 11 6 62 8.7 2.81 2.81 1.22
25 Ken Giles 25 269
26 Paul Sewald 32 320 64.2 11 16 10 104 14.5 3.06 3.08 1.02
27 Joe Barlow 21 233 29 11 3 0 27 8.4 1.55 3.45 0.83
28 Rowan Wick 33 325 23 5 2 0 29 11.4 4.30 3.17 1.35
29 Lou Trivino 27 288 73.2 22 8 7 67 8.2 3.18 3.78 1.25
30 Tyler Wells 43 435 57 4 1 2 65 10.3 4.11 3.63 0.91
31 Kyle Finnegan 38 415 66 11 13 5 68 9.3 3.55 4.52 1.48
32 Carlos Estévez 47 480 61.2 11 15 3 60 8.8 4.38 4.03 1.49
33 Ian Kennedy 34 359 56.1 26 0 3 62 9.9 3.20 4.75 1.10
34 Dinelson Lamet 36 387 47 0 1 2 57 10.9 4.40 3.94 1.49
35 Tanner Rainey 41 423 31.2 3 10 1 42 11.9 7.39 5.63 1.71
36 Matt Barnes 26 277 54.2 24 0 6 84 13.8 3.79 3.21 1.12
37 Jonathan Loáisiga 39 415 70.2 5 17 9 69 8.8 2.17 2.58 1.02
38 Alex Reyes 30 303 72.1 29 3 10 95 11.8 3.24 4.40 1.35
39 Jake McGee 29 301 59.2 31 8 3 58 8.8 2.72 3.35 0.91
40 Michael Fulmer 35 372 69.2 14 9 5 73 9.4 2.97 3.46 1.28
41 Chris Stratton 57 547 79.1 8 7 7 86 9.8 3.63 3.76 1.30
42 Anthony Bender 45 464 61.1 3 12 3 71 10.4 2.79 3.19 1.06
43 Drew Steckenrider 37 397 67.2 14 7 5 58 7.7 2.00 3.35 1.02
44 Diego Castillo 40 416 58.1 16 10 5 75 11.6 2.78 3.74 0.98
45 Devin Williams 31 311 54 3 23 8 87 14.5 2.50 2.82 1.19
46 Pete Fairbanks 53 538 42.2 5 14 3 56 11.8 3.59 2.70 1.43
47 Pierce Johnson 46 477 58.2 0 9 3 77 11.8 3.22 3.31 1.26
48 Cole Sulser 50 522 63.1 8 6 5 73 10.4 2.70 2.98 1.12
49 A.J. Puk 64 610 13.1 0 0 0 16 10.8 6.08 3.32 1.80
50 Emilio Pagán 67 633 63.1 0 17 4 69 9.8 4.83 5.22 1.17
51 José Alvarado 68 642 55.2 5 16 7 68 11.0 4.20 4.80 1.60
52 Trevor Rosenthal 55 543
53 Chad Green 42 433 83.2 6 18 10 99 10.7 3.12 3.59 0.88
54 James Karinchak 44 449 55.1 11 13 7 78 12.7 4.07 4.31 1.21
55 Josh Staumont 48 482 65.2 5 16 4 72 9.9 2.88 3.49 1.07
56 Alex Colomé 52 532 65 17 5 4 58 8.0 4.15 4.23 1.40
57 Daniel Bard 71 655 65.2 20 4 7 80 11.0 5.21 4.28 1.60
58 Kendall Graveman 54 541 56 10 11 5 61 9.8 1.77 3.19 0.98
59 Jorge Alcala 51 527 59.2 1 11 3 61 9.2 3.92 4.06 0.97
60 Trevor May 66 630 62.2 4 16 7 83 11.9 3.59 3.74 1.26
61 Jake Cousins 75 719 30 0 7 1 44 13.2 2.70 3.84 1.17
62 Aaron Bummer 72 692 56.1 2 21 5 75 12.0 3.51 2.96 1.26
63 Codi Heuer 59 576 67.1 2 17 7 56 7.5 4.28 3.97 1.31
64 Seth Lugo 73 706 46.1 1 13 4 55 10.7 3.50 3.77 1.29
65 Daniel Hudson 65 619 51.2 0 16 5 75 13.1 3.31 3.21 1.08
66 Jake Diekman 74 706 60.2 7 14 3 83 12.3 3.86 4.46 1.34
67 Garrett Crochet 56 547 54.1 0 12 3 65 10.8 2.82 2.80 1.27
68 Tyler Matzek 61 587 63 0 24 0 77 11.0 2.57 3.20 1.22
69 Héctor Neris 49 513 74.1 12 11 4 98 11.9 3.63 4.08 1.17
70 Brad Hand 60 586 64.2 21 3 6 61 8.5 3.90 4.58 1.27
71 Andrés Muñoz 63 592 0.2 0 0 0 1 13.5 0.00 9.17 3.00
72 Brusdar Graterol 69 646 33.1 0 4 3 27 7.3 4.59 3.95 1.41
73 Tyler Rogers 62 591 81 13 30 7 55 6.1 2.22 3.28 1.07
74 Tyler Duffey 70 652 62.1 3 22 3 61 8.8 3.18 3.49 1.22
75 Richard Rodríguez 58 558 64.1 14 8 5 42 5.9 2.94 4.04 0.93

 

Tier: One By a Country Mile

  • Liam Hendriks, 36 ADP (RP 1)
  • Josh Hader, 39 ADP (RP 2)

They’re the best, around. Nothing ever gonna keep them down. And they’re the best by a substantial margin, giving elite production in every category. The number of save opportunities is always the question but both are on teams with playoff aspirations and both are as locked into their roles as anyone.

The only question is what you’re willing to pay; if you want one of the two aces, be prepared to use one of your first three picks.

Tier: Two-A

  • Raisel Iglesias, 58 ADP (RP 3)
  • Ryan Pressly, 75 ADP (RP 6)
  • Emmanuel Clase, 67 ADP (RP 4)
  • Giovanny Gallegos, 116 ADP (RP 11)

These four are mostly a tossup for me but the job safety of the first two makes them slightly more appealing. With the highest ADP, Gallegos looks like the best value but I also really like  Ryan Pressly, who is a good closer on a good team with a manager who will happily run him out for almost any chance they have.

Tier: Two-York Panic

  • Edwin Díaz, 71 ADP (RP 5)
  • Aroldis Chapman, 85 ADP (RP 7)

At some point in 2022, it will seem like one or both might lose their job, whether to performance issues or injury. And both fanbases will have very incredibly strong opinions about what is the correct way to handle it. This is known.

My values have them very close to each other and not too far below the guys in 2A. But what really separates them for me is the general unease I’ll feel if they wind up as my RP 1. And if I draft* Chapman in deeper leagues, I’ll feel a lot more comfortable if I also lock up a Jonathan Loáisiga handcuff.

*I totally failed in the one DC league where I have Chapman.

Tier: Three-ish

  • Jordan Romano, 109 ADP (RP 9)
  • Will Smith, 110 ADP (RP 10)
  • Lucas Sims, 264 ADP (RP 24)

Romano is one of my favorites, closing on a contending team and giving four-category production. Even without holding the job all season, he finished 2021 with 23 saves, a 12.1 K/9,  2.14 ERA, and 1.05 WHIP over 63 IP. He’s my choice if you make me pick someone out of the top-100 who could finish in the top-three in 2022.

I’m not worried about his job security and Atlanta should again give him plenty of save chances but while I like Will Smith for saves and strikeouts, his already questionable ratios could be an even bigger drag in 2022. A 1.13 WHIP (9.9% BB%) in 2021 was his highest since 2016 and a 3.44 ERA that is already high relative to the tiers above had a 4.17 FIP and 4.06 xFIP behind it. Although, a 3.39 SIERA is more optimistic.

Lucas Sims in the top-12 is my first big outlier compared to recent ADP where, on average, he’s the 24th RP off of the board. And that price makes sense, I suppose, as Sims had a 4.40 ERA in 2021 and got his last save on June 16th. But I think there are good reasons to be bullish.

For one, I think he’s the best option in a Reds bullpen that surely learned from the Amir Garrett experiment and won’t have Tejay Antone lurking while he recovers from TJ surgery. The 4.40 ERA was ugly but it was backed by a 3.00 FIP, 3.03 xFIP, and 2.50 SIERA. And after returning from the elbow injury that cost him nearly two months, Sims put up a much more palatable 3.44 ERA.

Sims also had a big jump in his strikeout rate, posting a 39.0% K% that was up from 33.0% in 2020 and 32.2% in 2019. A new (and faster) pitch mix drove some of that bump, with his fastball usage dropping nearly 10-points compared to the previous two seasons but averaging a career-high 95.1 mph that was up from 93.9 mph last season.

The slider saw the biggest bump in usage, increasing from around 20% in 2019-2020 to 33% in 2021. It was also thrown about two ticks faster (85.2 mph) and finished the season with a 36.5% CSW that was up from 30.1%. And his curveball was no slouch in that department either, posting a 43.3% CSW that was second only to Craig Kimbrel (min 200 thrown) but a ridiculous 48.4% CSW in the second half.

If you believe Sims has the job in Cincinnati, his categorical profile looks a lot like Will Smith, just on a lesser team (and the with the fewer save opportunities that comes with it). But an ERA in the mid-3.00’s and a plus strikeout rate feels even nicer when it’s about 150 picks later.

Tier: The Jansen Colloraly

  • Kenley Jansen, 95 ADP (RP 8)
  • Blake Treinen, 176 ADP (RP 15)

Jansen still being unsigned doesn’t really change his value in my mind because of the belief that he’ll get 30 saves wherever he winds up. I’d rather it be back in LA than in Texas but if he winds up in the latter I’m not going to lament the drafts where I’ve already rostered him. Treinen’s value, on the other hand, will utterly tank if Jansen returns to the Dodgers and he’ll be virtually unrosterable in shallower leagues.

Tier: The Kimbrel Fallacy

  • Craig Kimbrel, 156 ADP (RP 13)

The good news is that Craig Kimbrel can return enough value with his excellent ratios and strikeouts even without closing. The bad news is that his draft price seems to bake in an assumption that he will be traded and thereby accumulate a decent amount of saves, even if it’s not full-timer’s numbers.

The worst news – and the reason I doubt I’ll have any Kimbrel in my 2022 life – is that I think there is little to no chance he gets traded and that save total will be light, barring a Hendriks injury. The White Sox are contenders with an ancient-school manager who might not even be around to reap the fruits that a Kimbrel trade would bear. Unless they fall apart (and early) in 2022, I have a hard time believing that LaRussa would be in favor of moving him, particularly given the teams most willing to pay the price would likely be their championship competitors.

But maybe this is just a regional thing? Because I feel like St. Louis people know that, much like a belly grows warm when it’s full of wine, TLR is positively glowing with the love of having two premium (and veteran!) closers that he can run out in the eighth and ninth innings until their arms fall off. But also with wine, probably.

Tier: (Theoretically) Big Values Built on Sand

  • David Bednar, 210 ADP (RP 19)
  • Taylor Rogers, 224 ADP (RP 20)

Drafting a good closer on a bad team can be the most dangerous of games. One minute you’re dancing with saves royalty but then midnight of the trade deadline hits, and your prince gets turned into a high-leverage fantasy pumpkin on a new team.

If you could guarantee me that Rogers and Bednar would stay on their respective teams for all of 2022, I’d move the latter around the top-15 and the former near the top-10. But unfortunately, both will likely look very appealing for any summer contenders needing a bullpen upgradde.

Bednar had a 2.23 ERA (2.69 FIP) over  60.2 IP, posting a 32.5% K% that was backed by a 15.5% SwStr%. After being mathematically eliminated in July, the Pirates will likely, if they so desire, be able to command a good package for someone still two years away from arbitration.

Prior to having his season ended by a finger injury, Rogers had a 35.5% K% over 40.1 IP, and his somewhat mediocre 3.35 ERA was backed by much better evaluators (2.13 FIP, 2.11 xFIP, 2.20 SIERA). But with a rotation led by Dylan Bundy and currently including Randy Dobnak and Lewis Thorpe, the Twins aren’t likely going anywhere in 2022. So, with Rogers making $7 million in his final year before free agency, he’ll basically be catnip for summer contenders.

Tier: Lesser Values on Sandy Foundations

  • Dylan Floro, 239 ADP (RP 22)
  • Rowan Wick, 325 ADP (RP 33)
  • Lou Trivino, 288 ADP (RP 27)

Dylan Floro could be the Marlins closer all season, or he could be supplanted by the sexier profile of Anthony Bender. Or, he could be traded at the deadline with the rest of the good relievers on bad teams. Probably to Houston. Pick your poison.

Ditto for the trade-bait paradox of Rowan Wick and Lou Trivino, who are both slotted to close for teams currently turning things over. If they’re good enough to keep the job, they’ll probably be good enough to be traded.

Tier: Seattle Shenanigans

  • Paul Sewald, 320 ADP (RP 33)
  • Drew Steckenrider, 397 ADP (RP 37)
  • Ken Giles, 269 ADP (RP 25)

I firmly believe that Sewald is the best reliever in what is shaping up to be an excellent Seattle bullpen. Unfortunately, I don’t think he’ll be the closer because I don’t think that Seattle signed Ken Giles for two years (when he’d spend the first one recovering from TJ surgery) to make him a setup man. But even if Sewald is locked out of the role, the innings, ratios, and strikeouts he’ll harvest should be enough to earn his keep but in deeper leagues.

Steckenrider may have finished the year as the closer but I have zero faith he’ll be there again. And while Giles has been an effective closer before, it’s hard to trust that someone with just 3.2 IP over the past two seasons will hit the ground running. My guess is that Steckenrider starts with the job but ultimately cedes it to Giles but when that actually happens will be the big hangup on projecting his value.

Tier: Tampa Bayjinx

  • Andrew Kittredge, 294 ADP (RP 28)
  • Peter Fairbanks, 538 ADP (RP 53)
  • Player To Be Named Later Who Comes Out of Nowhere to Get 15 Saves, 751 ADP (RP 100)

You know it’s coming. And probably just in time to ruin the value of Kittredge and/or Fairbanks. I’ll throw my dart at Brooks Raley 레일리 but their ultimate identity is beyond the point. To invest significant resources in a Tampa Bay reliever is to simply play with fire.

Tier: We Don’t Talk About Barlow, No, No-No

  • Joe Barlow, 233 ADP (RP 21)
  • Scott Barlow, 180 ADP (RP 16)

Okay, so we can talk about Barlow but I’d much rather have Scott than Joe, who collected 16 Saves over 74.1 IP, with a 2.42 ERA (2.63 FIP), 1.20 WHIP, and 29.7% K% (15.6% SwStr%). And if you put aside his no-good, rotten July (5.11 ERA), Barlow was even better, with a 1.89 ERA over the other five months.

The Royals starting rotation still keeps them from being any sort of contender but the offense is sneaky fun and could keep Kansas City in more games – and give Barlow the opportunities to have a best-case scenario closer to 30 Saves than to 20. He’s my choice if you make me pick someone out of the top-175 who could finish inside the top-10 in 2022.

Even though he finished with 11 saves after taking over the closing job in August, I’m having a hard time understanding the love for Joe Barlow, who is being drafted around a top-20 option. His ratios were excellent but a shiny 1.55 ERA over 29 IP was backed by a 3.45 FIP, 4.56 xFIP, and 4.18 SIERA. And things weren’t any better when looking at just his 16.1 IP as the closer, with Barlow running a 2.20 ERA, 4.82 FIP, and 5.93 xFIP – with a 5.5 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9.

Will the big-spending Rangers really be content to roll with Barlow in 2022? And if so, do his mediocre numbers really say he can keep the job? I don’t think so but to be fair, I’m going to take a closer look after seeing some smart fantasy players chance his risk in early drafts.

Tier: They’re Definately Going to Stay the Closer, Right?…Right??

  • Camilo Doval, 159 ADP (RP 14)
  • Corey Knebel, 181 ADP (RP 17)
  • Garrett Whitlock, 255 ADP (RP 23)
  • Gregory Soto, 203 ADP (RP 18)

Doval finished the season as the Giants closer and posted a 3.00 ERA (3.47 FIP, 2.85 xFIP, 2.75 SIERA) and 33.9% K% over 27 IP. He also had a 4.99 ERA (4.98 FIP, 5.09 xFIP) over 30.2 IP at Triple-A in 2021 and is in a bullpen with Jake McGee (31 Saves in 2021) and Tyler Rogers (11 Saves in 2021). Can we really guarantee that the data-driven Giants will limit the mixing-and-matching and give Doval the full job for the whole year? I have my doubts.

Knebel may have bounced back in 2021 with a 2.45 ERA and 0.97 WHIP over 25.2 IP but if the Phillies want to keep pace with an improving NL East, I’m not sure he’s a big enough upgrade to a shaky bullpen. After giving him $10 million, the Phillies won’t be pushing in for Kenley Jansen but having a backup plan like Trevor Rosenthal (or his ilk) might be preferable to pinning all hopes on Knebel and Jose Alvarado.

I love Whitlock, in general, but still have no confidence in what his actual role will be in 2022. And while I do think he’ll be good, regardless of role, a move to the rotation could upset your categorical targets if not prepared for the likelihood.

The Detroit Tigers fancy themselves a team on the rise and I’m not comfortable assuming that Gregory Soto will be their guy all season. Soto collected 18 Saves in 2021 but ran a 3.39 ERA over 63.2 IP that was only backed by a 4.14 FIP, 4.32 xFIP, and 4.27 SIERA.

And the Tigers also have Michael Fulmer looming, who I, admittedly, have a hard time quitting. But did you know that he finished with 14 Saves in 69.2 IP, with a 2.97 ERA (3.46 FIP, 3.87 xFIP, 3.60 SIERA)? That’s not spectacular but it’s enough to shake my confidence that Soto is the full-time guy all season.

Tier: Abandon Hope All Ye That Enter Here

  • Tyler Wells, 435 ADP (RP 43)
  • Kyle Finnegan, 415 ADP (RP 38)
  • Carlos Estévez, 480 ADP (RP 47)

Wells might be the currently listed closer in Baltimore but is he (and his 4.11 ERA over 57 IP) is the best option? Cole Sulser has a 2.70 ERA (2.98 FIP) over 63.1 IP with a 28.4% K% and the 27-year-old Wells might be more appealing to trade partners when the Orioles start their inevitable summer sell-off.

Finnegan took over the closing job in Washington and wound up with 11 Saves. He also ran a 3.55 ERA over 66 IP that was backed by a 4.52 FIP, 4.48 xFIP, and 4.30 SIERA, while an already below-par 23.1% K% had a 10.6% SwStr% behind it. I’m not touching him 12-team leagues and would much prefer to roster the hope of Tanner Rainey in deeper leagues.

You’ll get little sympathy if your ratios get blown up after pinning hopes on a Rockies closer with a career 4.79 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. And speaking of hope…

Tier: Straight Hopecasting

  • Matt Barnes (277 ADP) – Hope that Garrett Whitlock is in the rotation.
  • Tanner Rainey (423 ADP) – Hope that he looks like the 2020 version (2.66 ERA, 42.7% K%) and Finnegan trots out his gas can.
  • Dinelson Lamet (387 ADP) – Hope that he can stay healthy and ascend to the position he was born to dominate – in theory.

Tier: Someone Will Probably End Up Giving Ian Kenndey About $2 million to Close

  • Ian Kennedy, 359 ADP (RP 34)

Because whether it’s the Rangers again or someone else looking for an affordable stop-gap, you just know someone will give Ian Kennedy about a mill fiddy to close.





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LightenUpFGmember
3 months ago

The must effusively written write up about the middle relief quagmire I’ve seen yet! Nice one…