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Top 15 fantasy baseball relief pitchers

A ranking of the 15 best relief pitchers to target in fantasy baseball drafts for the 2016 MLB season.

15. Shawn Tolleson, Texas Rangers

Neftali Feliz began the 2015 season as the
Photo Credit: Getty Images/ Hannah Foslien

Neftali Feliz began the 2015 season as the Rangers' closer, but after landing on the disabled list with an axillary abscess on his right side, Shawn Tolleson took advantage. The righthander had a 2.99 ERA, 1.147 WHIP and 35 saves in 73 appearances after never recording a single save in his first three big-league seasons. Tolleson's biggest issue is his high home run rate -- he's allowed 19 combined over the past two seasons.

14. Jonathan Papelbon, Washington Nationals

Jonathan Papelbon's on-field performance was enough for the
Photo Credit: Getty Images/ Mike Ehrmann

Jonathan Papelbon's on-field performance was enough for the Nationals to hold onto their hot-headed closer after he choked reigning National League MVP Bryce Harper last season. The Nats acquired Papelbon just before the trade deadline, and while he wasn't as good in the second half as he was in the first, his full-season stats prove he's still a capable closer. He finished with a career-low 24 saves, but also had a 2.13 ERA and 1.7 walks-per-nine rate. At 35, age is a slight concern, but it seems like that will only affect his strikout rate as his average fastball was down to 91.4 mph last season.

13. Francisco Rodriguez, Detroit Tigers

After falling off from the stud he was
Photo Credit: Getty Images/ Jason O. Watson

After falling off from the stud he was with the Angels from 2002 to 2008, "K-Rod" has revived himself later in his career. The righthander, 34, had back-to-back seasons with at least 38 saves for the Brewers. In 2015, Francisco Rodriguez displayed great control with a career-best 0.860 WHIP and 1.7 walks-per-nine rate. He's always been able to strike out batters, but with added control, Rodriguez is back among the stud closers as he makes the move back to the AL for the first time since 2013.

12. Hector Rondon, Chicago Cubs

It was a career year for Hector Rondon
Photo Credit: Getty Images/ Dilip Vishwanat

It was a career year for Hector Rondon in 2015. In his second season as the Cubs' closer, he had career-bests in saves (30), ERA (1.67) and WHIP (1.000). While he doesn't have the big strikeout stuff of most elite closers -- a modest 8.9 strikeouts-per-nine rate last season -- Rondon is among the best at keeping runners off the basepaths. The soon-to-be 28-year-old has walked just 15 batters each of the past two seasons.

11. David Robertson

After leaving the Yankees for the White Sox
Photo Credit: Getty Images/ Jason Miller

After leaving the Yankees for the White Sox in free agency last offseason, it was more of the same for David Robertson. He had a second straight season of at least 30 saves and a career-best 0.932 WHIP. He also upped his strikeout-to-walk ratio to a career-best 6.62. Robertson's ERA isn't what it once was -- his 3.41 mark was his highest since 2010. But his 2.52 FIP -- which measures a pitcher's effectiveness at preventing home runs, walks, HBPs and causing strikeouts -- indicates that's a bit misleading. Even with a slightly inflated ERA, Robertson stands to be a big contributor in three categories.

10. Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles

Zach Britton entered the 2015 season with a
Photo Credit: Getty Images/ Greg Fiume

Zach Britton entered the 2015 season with a lot of doubters despite his 37 saves and 1.65 ERA in 2014. The questions stemmed from his strikeout-to-walk ratio lingering below 3.0 in his first four seasons. In an All-Star year, Britton jumped to a 5.64 strikeout-to-walk ratio with 36 saves with a 1.92 ERA. At 28, Britton seems to have found a groove.

9. Jeurys Familia, New York Mets

The Mets thought they had their closer of
Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Mets thought they had their closer of the future in Jenrry Mejia, but after he dealt with elbow soreness on Opening Day and later was suspended, Jeurys Familia got his opportunity. He didn't let them down. Familia tied the Mets' single-season record with 43 saves in 76 appearances. He also posted career-bests in ERA (1.85) and WHIP (1.000).

8. Ken Giles, Houston Astros

The Philadelphia Phillies traded Ken Giles to the
Photo Credit: AP/ Pat Sullivan

The Philadelphia Phillies traded Ken Giles to the Astros as part of a seven-player trade this offseason, which should hugely benefit the reliever. Giles had 1.72 ERA, 4.75 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 15 saves in 17 attempts with the bottom-feeder Phillies after taking over as the closer when Jonathan Papelbon was traded to the Nationals last season. Giles, 25, has a chance to become a top-tier closer.

7. Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians

Only three full-time relievers struck out at least
Photo Credit: Getty Images/ David Maxwell

Only three full-time relievers struck out at least 100 batters last season, and they're all on the Yankees' roster this year. But Cody Allen, 27, came incredibly close with a career-best 99 for a 12.9 strikeouts-per-nine rate. The righthander also put up a career-best 34 saves with a 2.99 ERA and 1.82 FIP in 70 appearances. Allen does have some control issues -- an 8.7 percent walk rate last season.

6. Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates

In a career-high 78 appearances, Mark Melancon led
Photo Credit: Getty Images/ David Banks

In a career-high 78 appearances, Mark Melancon led MLB with 51 saves. But, he lacks the shutdown stuff most closers have. Melancon had a strikeout rate of just 21.2 percent, second lowest among relievers who had at least 30 saves last season. The 30-year-old benefits from pitching at PNC Park, one of the more pitcher-friendly stadiums, and playing for a team that won 98 games last season.

5. Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees

After receiving a 30-game suspension, Aroldis Chapman takes
Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas Ferrara

After receiving a 30-game suspension, Aroldis Chapman takes a slight hit in the rankings. Before the suspension, GM Brian Cashman had said the Yankees would be going with the Cuban defector as their closer heading into the season. Instead, Andrew Miller, who recorded 36 saves for the Yankees last season, will start the season as the Yanks' ninth-inning man. Chapman, who spent his first six seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, joined the Yankees in a five-player trade this offseason. Chapman had a 1.63 ERA, 1.146 WHIP and 33 saves in 66.1 innings last season. His astronomical 15.7 strikeouts-per-nine rate was the best among pitchers with at least 35 innings. Miller and Dellin Betances finished right behind him at 14.6 and 14.0, respectively, giving the Yankees arguably the best bullpen in baseball. The soon-to-be 28-year-old lefthander should continue to sit down batters at a high clip with a fastball that maxed out at 103.4 mph last season. Chapman won't see the field until May, but he's still a top-five closer.

4. Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis Cardinals

Trevor Rosenthal recorded at least 40 saves and
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Dilip Vishwanat

Trevor Rosenthal recorded at least 40 saves and 80 strikeouts for a second consecutive season and seems on track to repeat those numbers again. The righthander, 25, brought down his ERA to a career-best 2.10 and his walks per nine down to 3.3 from 5.4 in 2014. Rosenthal, who relies heavily on his fastball and changeup, doesn't strike out batters at as high of a rate as fellow top-tier closers, but if he improves that, he'll be one of the best.

3. Wade Davis, Kansas City Royals

The first-time All-Star put up career-bests in ERA
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Jamie Squire

The first-time All-Star put up career-bests in ERA (0.94), WHIP (0.787) and saves (17) in 69 appearances last season. Wade Davis will take over as the Royals' full-time closer with Greg Holland out for the year while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Davis, a former starter, has been one of the best relievers around since fully transitioning to the bullpen in 2014.

2. Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox

Craig Kimbrel is on his third team in
Photo Credit: Getty Images/ Scott Cunningham

Craig Kimbrel is on his third team in as many seasons, but its his first season in the AL. Kimbrel, who spent his first five seasons with the Atlanta Braves, wasn't quite as dominant in his lone year with the San Diego Padres, but that says more about just how good he was in Atlanta. Kimbrel had 39 saves, a 2.58 ERA and 1.045 WHIP in 61 appearances -- all career worsts. Those stats are slightly misleading though because Kimbrel was much more himself in the second half, logging a 1.73 ERA and 0.731 WHIP over his final 26 appearances. Moving to the AL will be an adjustment for the hardthrowing righthander, but at 27, he shouldn't have much trouble.

1. Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

After starting 2015 on the disabled list because
Photo Credit: Getty Images/ Stephen Dunn

After starting 2015 on the disabled list because of offseason foot surgery, Kenley Jansen was as good as ever last season. In 54 appearances, he had 36 saves, a 2.41 ERA and a career-best 0.783 WHIP. The righthander also had a 13.8 strikeouts-per-nine rate and improved his walks-per-nine rate to a career-low 1.4. Jansen's swing-and-miss stuff along with his ability to keep the bases empty make him the best closer out there.

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