2015 Fantasy Baseball Preview: Relief Pitchers to Target and Avoid
Drafting the first handful of relievers isn't the difficult. Guys such as Craig Kimbrel, Greg Holland, and Aroldis Chapman are no-brainers who will get you strikeouts, saves, and help bring your fantasy baseball's staff ERA and WHIP down. Finding your second and third (or even fourth) tier of relievers isn't as simple though, especially when holds are involved in the process.
Drafting the right back-end relievers can make the difference in winning two to four categories, especially if your starters have a rough week. However, it's just as important to realize that not all closers who are household names are solid picks.
Here are five relievers to watch entering the 2015 season and five more who you may want to avoid.
5 Relievers to Target
numberFire 2015 Projections
As great as Holland was last year, Wade Davis was the story out of the Kansas City bullpen. The setup man had the lowest ERA among qualifying relievers (1.00), was second in strikeouts (109), and was third in holds (33). Davis has shown he's much better out of the pen than as a starter and will continue to provide the stable bridge to Holland in the ninth in 2015. The righty is projected to have another great year, although not as good. He still ranks among the best setup men in the league, and if holds are a stat in your league, Davis is the number-one guy to get.
Dellin Betances came hot on the scene as David Robertson's wingman -- so hot that he's taking the reins with Robertson now out of town. Bentances is anticipated to see a slight drop in his numbers, too, but he ranks highly among other relievers. The only issue with drafting the 2014 All-Star is that he may not get a ton of save opportunities. The Yankees are expected to scuffle, starting at 19 in our MLB power rankings. No matter what, the new Yankee closer will be a nice addition as a number-two closer on any fantasy staff.
The Marlins are rejuvenated and expected to compete for the playoffs. As a result, Steve Cishek will now have his chance to log even more saves. The funky-throwing righty is one of the more underrated closers in the game, so you can wait on picking him up as your second or maybe ever your third reliever. However, he's going to be one of the best second-option relievers based on our projections.
Tyler Clippard has been the most reliable setup man over the past few seasons. He led the league with 40 holds last year and has since moved to Oakland. With the move, it might be tough to maintain that total with Oakland's offseason decisions, putting them in an interesting circumstance. He's a great cog in their machine, but the A's have to put him in positions to get holds. He's still worth taking the risk if that's a stat in your league because he almost always executes in those situations.
Jenrry Mejia is not a name most will be familiar with. The Mets' closer fared well in his first season as the ninth-inning man, and he's expected to put up similar numbers to last year, making him a good third reliever option. If the Mets' starting rotation is supposed to be as good as projected, then he will get a lot of save opportunities.
5 Relievers to Avoid
numberFire 2015 Projections
Jonathan Papelbon is coming off a year with some of the best numbers of his career and is projected to put up good ones yet again. The only thing to worry about is the fact that the Phillies aren't expected to perform very well, starting 29th in our power rankings. Papelbon might see a change in scenery during the season, though, which might increase his value.
Jonathan Broxton's save numbers won't be as high now that Francisco Rodriguez is back in town. He turned into a decent setup man last year in front of Chapman on the Reds but not so much as a Brewer. With Will Smith as Milwaukee's go-to guy last year, it will be tough for Broxton to put up similar hold numbers unless he starts becoming the seventh-inning guy.
The Shark Tank leader got shipped off to Anaheim last year, and he wasn't the same guy he was in 2013. With Huston Street's performance last year, Jason Grilli will serve as a setup man. Grilli is a name many have become familiar with, but he isn't a guy you should go with in the draft unless there are four reliever spots to fill on your roster.
Addison Reed has been a bit of a disappointment since he came on the scene back in Chicago. He had a rough year last year but is projected to do a little better in this one. Although Reed is projected to see his numbers improve, he's still a risk to take in the now hitter-friendly National League West. He's a guy worth taking as an experimental third option but nothing more at this point.
Although he has a long career of success, Joe Nathan is not the pitcher he once was. After a tough first year in Detroit, the righty has to prove that he's still got gas in the tank. While most would pick him as their first option because of his cache, you should avoid him until it's time for you to take your second reliever -- and even then could be a bit too soon. Tread cautiously when making a decision to pick Nathan, and make sure you have a solid backup plan with him.