A ranking of the 15 best relief pitchers to target in fantasy baseball drafts for the 2017 MLB season.
1. Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers(Credit: Getty Images / Rob Carr)
Jansen arguably has been the most dominant closer for the past several seasons, but he outdid himself last year. The hard-throwing righthander had career bests in saves (47), ERA (1.83) and WHIP (0.670) and recorded at least 100 strikeouts for the third time in his career. Jansen's 9.45 strikeout-to-walk ratio was second among relievers with at least 50 innings pitched. His strikeout stuff combined with his ability to keep runners off the basepaths make him an elite closer.
2. Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees(Credit: Getty Images / Jim McIsaac)
The Yankees know Chapman can succeed in New York and brought him back in free agency after dealing him to the Cubs at the deadline last year. After serving a 30-game suspension, Chapman spent the first half of 2016 with the Yankees and had a 2.01 ERA, 0.894 WHIP, 20 saves and 44 strikeouts in 31.1 innings. He was even more dominant with the Cubs -- 1.01 ERA, 0.825 WHIP, 16 saves and 46 strikeouts in 26.2 innings. The lefthander's average velocity on his fastball was 100.4 mph last season, a career high, and he topped out at 105 mph for the first time since his debut season in 2010.
3. Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles(Credit: Getty Images / Tom Szczerbowski)
Britton found a home as the Orioles' closer after struggling his first few seasons as a starter. Last season he finished fourth in AL Cy Young voting after recording a 0.54 ERA, an AL-best 47 saves and a career-best 0.836 WHIP in 67 innings. The lefthander converted on all 47 of his save opportunities and hasn't blown a save since Aug. 23, 2015. After throwing a bullpen session on Feb. 20, Britton felt oblique soreness, so the Orioles are being cautious but don't think it's serious. In six seasons, Britton has gone on the DL once -- left shoulder impingement in 2012.
4. Mark Melancon, San Francisco Giants(Credit: AP / Chris Carlson)
The Giants struggled to shut the door in the ninth inning last season with a combined total of 32 blown saves. They found their answer to that problem in Melancon, who's been one of the best, albeit underrated, closers in the game the past several seasons. Melancon's coming off arguably his best season with a 1.64 ERA, 0.897 WHIP, 47 saves and 65 strikeouts in 71.1 innings split between the Pirates and Nationals. Melancon doesn't have the strikeout numbers of other dominant closers -- his season-best is 71 -- but he keeps the ball in the ballpark. The righthander has allowed 10 home runs in the past four seasons, and he's moving to the most pitcher-friendly stadium around, making him a top-five fantasy reliever.
5. Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox(Credit: Getty Images / Maddie Meyer)
Kimbrel hasn't been quite the same since getting traded by the Braves just before the start of the 2015 season. In his first season with the Red Sox, his control really got away from him as he had a career-worst 5.1 walks per nine. Kimbrel did convert 31 of 33 save opportunities but also had a career-high six losses. His 14.1 strikeouts per nine ranked fourth among those with at least 50 innings pitched, so he still has swing-and-miss stuff. Kimbrel will need to regain control to be the elite closer he once was, but on a winning team, he's still a top-notch option.
6. Seung-Hwan Oh, St. Louis Cardinals(Credit: Getty Images / Justin K. Aller)
After Trevor Rosenthal's rocky start, Oh, then a 33-year-old rookie, took over as the Cardinals' closer in July. He converted 19 of 23 save opportunities. Oh, who pitched in Korea and Japan for 11 years before signing with the Cardinals in 2016, had a 1.92 ERA, 0.916 WHIP and 103 strikeouts in 79 2/3 innings. With the concerns about his transition to the majors behind him, Oh should be in for a big year.
7. Wade Davis, Chicago Cubs(Credit: Getty Images / Jamie Squire)
In anticipation of Aroldis Chapman leaving in free agency, the Cubs got Davis for Jorge Soler to lock down a top-tier closer. But there is some concern with Davis after he twice landed on the DL last July with a right forearm strain. From April to June, Davis had a 1.23 ERA, 1.023 WHIP, 19 saves and 28 strikeouts in 29.1 innings pitched. Upon his second return from the DL in September, he had a 2.79 ERA, 1.241 WHIP, six saves and 15 strikeouts in 9.2 innings pitched. The move to the NL benefits Davis, but the injury history is a concern.
8. Roberto Osuna, Toronto Blue Jays(Credit: Getty Images / Elsa)
After earning the Blue Jays' closer role as a rookie in 2015, Osuna had to battle Drew Storen for the job in 2016. The young righthander beat out the veteran and recorded 36 saves with a 2.68 ERA, 0.932 WHIP and 82 strikeouts in 74 innings. With an average fastball velocity of 95.6 mph, according to FanGraphs, Osuna recored 10.0 strikeouts per nine, and more impressively, 1.7 walks per nine. At just 22, Osuna could be a top closer for many years to come.
9. Alex Colome, Tampa Bay Rays(Credit: Getty Images / Mike Carlson)
Colome is the latest starter-turned-reliever success story. Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey has compared his stuff to Wade Davis, who started to make the transition with Tampa Bay in 2012 before getting traded to Kansas City. In 30 relief appearances in 2015, Colome went 5-1 with a 2.66 ERA, 1.131 WHIP and 44 strikeouts. Colome went 3-4 with a 4.70 ERA, 1.406 WHIP and 44 strikeouts in 13 starts that season. After finding success out of the bullpen, Colome won the Rays' closer job in 2016. He recorded 37 saves (fourth-best in the AL) with a 1.91 ERA, 1.024 WHIP and 11.3 K/9.
10. Edwin Diaz, Seattle Mariners(Credit: Getty Images / Stephen Brashear)
Diaz, who will turn 23 before the start of the season, finished fifth in AL Rookie of the Year voting after recording 18 saves with a 2.79 ERA, 1.161 WHIP and 88 strikeouts in 51 2/3 innings. The young righthander matched Dellin Betances with 15.3 K/9, the best among pitchers with at least 50 innings. Diaz's fastball and two-seamer both maxed out over 101 mph, making him one of the hardest throwers in the game.
11. Andrew Miller, Cleveland Indians(Credit: Getty Images / Jamie Squire)
The Indians are sticking with Cody Allen as their closer, but Miller's the better pitcher in both fantasy and reality. As a setup man, Miller may not earn as many saves -- he had 12 last season -- as the rest of the players on this list, but his other numbers make him too good to pass up. Split between the Yankees and Indians, Miller recorded career bests in ERA (1.45), WHIP (0.686) and strikeouts (123) in 74 1/3 innings. His pinpoint control (1.1 BB/9) combined with his swing-and-miss stuff (14.9 K/9) make him a big-time fantasy asset.
12. Kelvin Herrera, Kansas City Royals(Credit: Getty Images / Duane Burleson)
With Wade Davis now in Chicago, Herrera officially will become the Royals' full-time closer. Herrera converted 12 of 15 save chances last season and went 10-for-10 while Davis spent time on the DL. The righthander had a 2.75 ERA with career bests in WHIP (0.958) and strikeouts (86) in 72 innings. Herrera, who was mostly a fastball-changeup pitcher in his first five seasons, started to work in his slider more, using it 16 percent of the time. The move paid off as he recorded a career-best 7.17 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Herrera already was one of the best relievers around. The addition of saves makes him that much more valuable.
13. Ken Giles, Houston Astros(Credit: Getty Images / Richard Carson)
Despite it taking until August for Giles to overtake Luke Gregerson for the Astros' closer role, he managed to match his 15 saves from 2015 with the Phillies. Giles got off to a rough start, recording a 9.00 ERA and 2.000 WHIP in 11 appearances in April before finishing the year with a 4.11 ERA and 1.294 WHIP. While still not great, his 2.86 FIP is encouraging going forward. Giles hit the 100-strikeout mark for the first time in his career and fanned batters at a 35.7 percent rate.
14. Dellin Betances, New York Yankees(Credit: Getty Images / Rich Schultz)
Much like his former teammate Andrew Miller, Betances isn't going to put up big save numbers, but he's a dominant force worth looking at in the later rounds. Betances has combined to pitch 247 innings the last three seasons, which seemed to start to wear on the 28-year-old's right arm. He started the year with a 2.66 ERA, 1.000 WHIP and 16.0 K/9 in 44 innings. In the second half, while he took over the closer role and earned 12 saves after Miller and Chapman were dealt, he had a 3.72 ERA, 1.310 WHIP and 14.9 K/9. The rest and return to his usual eighth-inning role should help Betances return to form.
15. Jeurys Familia, New York Mets(Credit: Getty Images / Jim McIsaac)
With a potential suspension still looming, Familia's value takes a hit. The righthander tied a Mets record with 43 saves in 2015 then broke in 2016 with an NL-best 51. Despite the jump in saves, Familia actually struggled more in 2016. His walks per nine jumped from 2.2 in 2015 to 3.6 in 2016, which hurt him across the board. Familia has thrown more than 77 innings in each of the last three seasons, but it'd be hard to reach that if MLB decides to discipline him for his alleged domestic violence incident.