Staff rankings: Relief pitchers

The staff rankings by position end with our top 35 relief pitchers for the 2012 season. Don’t fret, though! A top 200 will come soon (hint, starting tomorrow). The following writers have ranked their top 35 relievers: Josh Shepardson, Ben Pritchett, Brad Johnson, and yours truly.

We used to create our composite rankings, and if you follow the link provided in our rankings, you can see how ours compared with a slew of other experts’. Assume a 12-team, mixed league with standard 5×5 settings.

Click on the links with our names to get to our Twitter accounts, where we’ll happily answer your baseball and fantasy questions year-round.

2012 Relief Pitchers Rankings
Player Name Nick
Expert Consensus
Craig Kimbrel 2 3 1 2 1 view
John Axford 3 5 3 5 2 view
Jonathan Papelbon 5 8 2 3 3 view
Mariano Rivera 4 6 4 4 4 view
Brian Wilson 8 7 9 6 5 view
Matt Moore 1 1 1 6 view
Drew Storen 10 9 5 11 7 view
Heath Bell 13 4 13 10 8 view
Joel Hanrahan 9 18 7 7 9 view
Ryan Madson 11 12 11 8 10 view
J.J. Putz 6 16 8 15 11 view
Cory Luebke 7 2 23 20 12 view
Jose Valverde 12 11 15 18 13 view
Andrew Bailey 17 13 14 14 14 view
Kenley Jansen 16 19 6 19 15 view
Rafael Betancourt 15 17 20 9 16 view
Sergio Santos 14 26 10 12 17 view
Joakim Soria 19 21 12 23 18 view
Jason Motte 18 22 18 17 19 view
Huston Street 21 24 16 16 20 view
Carlos Marmol 20 14 21 24 21 view
Chris Sale 24 15 24 22 22 view
Jordan Walden 26 25 22 13 23 view
Joe Nathan 22 20 19 35 24 view
Neftali Feliz 28 10 26 36 25 view
Brandon League 27 23 25 21 26 view
Kyle Farnsworth 23 27 17 37 27 view
Frank Francisco 25 32 28 28 view
Matt Thornton 33 38 27 26 29 view
Addison Reed 35 43 29 25 30 view
Jim Johnson 37 28 32 27 31 view
Jonny Venters 30 41 28 32 view
Matt Capps 29 31 30 33 view
David Robertson 36 29 34 view
Daniel Bard 29 34 35 view

Fantasy Baseball Rankings powered by FantasyPros, the leading aggregator of expert fantasy advice.

Tomorrow… Top 200

Print Friendly
 Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Google+0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone
« Previous: The continuing adventures of Hiroki Kuroda
Next: Introducing the Rate Similarity Score »


  1. Ben Pritchett said...

    @Donald Trump- Ditto what Brad said. We only ranked starters that had reliever eligibility and relievers that had starter eligibility.

    Miggy does not have 3B eligibility which is why we and every other service have not yet ranked him as a third baseman.

    I do wish Josh would have ranked Moore I think he would’ve agreed that he should be considered the number one reliever eligible player.

    In regards to Luebke, I actually think he is going to be good for near 200 strikeouts which is why he is number 2 on my list. Others might not be so convinced with such a small sample size. I get it.

  2. Brad Johnson said...

    Luebke’s one of those guys where I look at the stat sheet and see something different than what my eyes told me (only saw two starts though). I tend to penalize players whose stats don’t coincide with my personal scouting report. He’s one that may require a re-evaluation.

    I’ve talked a lot about guys I ranked fairly highly but would almost never draft. Luebke might be the inverse case.

  3. Mark Himmelstein said...

    Interesting list. There are a bunch of guys with two wildly divergent consensuses or three agreements and one dissenter. 

    The tiers of closers I’m generally trying to select from are as follows:






    These are the guys I’m finding myself winding up with, and I try to get one guy I indicated here with one *, one with **, and one or two with***. Here’s the notes:

    -Hanrahan’s the earliest closer I’ve found myself willing to draft, and the best of this group.

    -Madson and Santos are close, though I’m slightly worried about Santos’s platoon split and his additional exposure to lefties.

    -Betancourt and Motte also look similarly similar to me as guys who could be completely dominant, but their lack of track record in the role could be an issue for their managers if they get off to slow starts.

    -Farnsworth’s price is still being haunted by the ghosts of his past, even though he’s had three really good seasons in a row now since refining his approach to pitching.

    -No reliever is going to benefit more from his team shift than Francisco. Even if he misses some time, he should still be a bargain.

    -Thornton and Reed make one of the better handcuffs I ever remember seeing, since they both could/should be good enough where you can afford to be patient with the situation early in the year.

    -Speaking of handcuffs, I’d have both Chris Perez and Vinnie Pestano on this list, in favor of Bard and one of Capps or Robertson. Perez’s peripherals were notoriously awful last year, but Pestano makes and excellent handcuff for him as a rosterable setup man, and I don’t really think Perez is really inferior to Capps as a closer.

    -I don’t trust Joe Nathan at all. I’m with Brad on that one. I’d at least knock him below Reed. I’d rather spend two roster spots on Thornton and Reed than have Nathan. His combination of injury two years ago, poor performance last year, and ballpark shift seem like almost the perfect storm for problems.

    -In fact, I generally avoid relievers who have long histories of serious injury, so I always shy away from guys like Street and Putz too, though I’d draft them if they fell far enough. Guys like Francisco who tend to get nicked up but don’t usually get shut down for long periods of time, and who are also cheap, don’t bother me as much.

  4. Dave Shoveoin said...

    I agree with Brad that Betancourt should be ranked higher on the list. I also think that Jason Motte is far too low.

  5. Jthom17 said...

    You think Moore being #1 RP is ameaningful list. Moore, Luebke, Feliz, Sale & Bard should not be on a list as TOP 35 RP for 2012.
    Since most fantasy RP value comes from saves, how do you omit Chris Perez, Javy Guerra or even Grant Balfour from the list? History has shown that if they open the year at closer, they will get close to 20 saves. Capps better than Chris perez is a laugh. I do not see Pestano as the future closer in CLE. As great as he was v. RHP, he equally bad v. LHP (4.50 xFIP &5.6 K/9).

  6. Mark Himmelstein said...


    The problem was, Perez was that bad against EVERYONE.  I’ll even buy that Perez is a guy who perhaps can keep his ERA ~1 run lower than his xFIP (career 3.13 / 4.33, though thats only 221 IP and if an SP did that over one full season, we’d be screaming fluke), but his xFIP was 5.01! If he’s anything close to that again this year, he’s just a balloon waiting to burst, and Pestano was pretty clearly the best reliever in that pen last year.

  7. Brad Johnson said...

    I don’t understand. If a player has a position designation, then he can be used there and should be ranked. There are leagues where those RP eligibilities will be valuable.

    I’m with you on Capps, he’s right next to Kevin Gregg on my poop list. I’d go as far as to draft Glen Perkins before Capps.

    Derek Carty convinced me that Pestano is not as good an option as he appears at first glance. I was one of the first on that Pestano for closer bandwagon, but now I’m off. I do think that Manny Acta could potentially platoon Pestano in the 9th inning since he’s beyond lethal to righties. Chris Perez appears to be losing effectiveness rapidly, but he could bounce back.

    As for ranking non-closers ahead of closers, I personally refuse to pay more than $1 for a reliever who isn’t going to help my ratios. Which means they have to post elite ratios, average numbers like those from Guerra won’t cut it.

    If I can’t get the saves outside of the draft, I don’t want them. Time and time again, I’ve been vindicated for spending $5 on 3-5 elite set up men and drafting/trading for one elite closer. It bumps up the ratios significantly and you usually end up competing for the saves lead by the end of the season. April and May might be ugly in that column though.

  8. Brad Johnson said...


    Josh clearly didn’t get the memo about Moore’s eligibility for this list.

    Sticking with Josh, he’s really confident that Jansen will win the closing job out of spring training. If Guerra leaches 15+ saves, which seems like a reasonable expectation, then Jansen loses a lot of value.

    Similarly, I’m confident saying my colleagues are too bullish on Betancourt. He’s got similar numbers to Madson, an equally long track record of success, and a semi-secure job.

    Overall, reliever’s the position where this kind of variance in ranking is expected.

  9. Donald Trump said...

    it seems silly to have starters (even if they have rp eligibility) in here.  Four people ranked Moore #1 and one guy didnt even rank him. Leubke ranges from 2-23.  It messes up the purpose of this article. It is better to keep SP with the SP, regardless of designation. 
    Likewise, Miggy should be ranked with both 1B and 3b.

  10. Brad Johnson said...

    The software we used only includes eligible positions. Aside from Moore and Luebke, the other relievers who are being converted (Sale, Feliz, Bard, Chapman (unranked)) could very well end the season in the pen.

    Further, while Moore and Luebke are eligible at SP, Sale, Feliz, Bard, and Chapman are not. That leaves RP as the only position we can use to give a sense of value.

  11. Ben Pritchett said...

    Brad, I think you meant we are “bearish” on Betancourt. I actually like his skills and potential if he were 29 or 33 or even 35 but he’s 37. I think that he should be fine, but his age makes me look to the guys like Ryan Madson.

    Also Brad, great point about the relievers’ positional variance in our rankings.

    People that deviation from the mean is exactly the reason why you shouldn’t draft closers early!

  12. Donald Trump said...

    “Anyone in a standard H2H league will be very interested in Moore and Luebke’s RP eligibility.”… agreed, but he should be compared to SP, not RP.  Nobody is debating taking Moore or Papelbon, they are considering him vs another SP.
    I can, and people certainly will, draft Cabrera as a starting 3b, even if he cant play there the first week.  To argue otherwise is ridiculous. He IS a 3B, regardless of what some software program says.

    So what if fantasy pros does the software, you posted it here… me and my friends could all rank the top 3B in Microsoft Excel and we would all have Miggy at #1.  Again, you seem to be missing the point, it is best to compare Miggy vs other 3b, and Moore vs other sp. Essentially, most of your crew have said that your first RP chosen in the draft will likely be Moore.

  13. Brad Johnson said...

    I’m not following your rationale. Howie Kendrick is on my 1B board but I’m going to draft him as a 2B if I pick him. Is there a problem with knowing where he stands as a 1b? The same concept applies except we’re simply more certain we will use Moore as a SP. It still doesn’t hurt to know where he would go purely as a reliever.

    We can’t do anything about Miggy yet, period. We discussed him in the comments and we’ll discuss him again tomorrow. For instance, I’ll have to explain why Pujols is my top ranked 1B and Cabrera is my top ranked player (hint: it’s because of his impending 3b eligibility).

    I don’t think these lists were for anyone who doesn’t already do something like their own rankings. I don’t think we actually have readers who would use somebody else’s rankings wholesale.

  14. Donald Trump said...

    ” Is there a problem with knowing where he stands as a 1b?”… agreed, everyone should be ranked at all the positions they are eligible in.  I now agree that Moore should be ranked at RP, I got sidetracked and am not sure why I was arguing against.  My only point should have been that a guy like Miggy should also be ranked at 3B in addition to 1B even though he doesn’t have the eligibility yet, because that is the position most people will draft him for.

  15. Donald Trump said...

    I get that adding Miggy at 3B is impossible because of fantasy pros, but i think you get that it is a bit ridiculous to publish a blog and not rank miggy at 3B when every single person has miggy ranked at 3B in their personal rankings.  I get that it is not your fault or choosing.

  16. Donald Trump said...

    Just to beat this to death… you ranked Moore as the #1RP because he is actually an SP (who happens to be really good), but you then ranked the next best SP/RP, Cory Leubke, as the #20rp.  So Moore is better than all the closers in baseball, and Leubke is better than basically none of them?  Maybe this is the problem with ranking SP with the RP, the valuation system is clearly messed up.

  17. Ben Pritchett said...

    If you look Trump, I had Luebke as number 2, Feliz at 10, and Sale I have at 15 (I love, love, love Sale. I’d rank him higher if I had the guts to live with being wrong). I think I did a better job than my cohorts at ranking starters as relievers. In all fairness, I play in a league where using a starter as a reliever is not only important, it’s essential. The rest of my leaguemates haven’t figured this strategy out, and they don’t know I write here either. But what they don’t know, won’t hurt me.

  18. Donald Trump said...

    My bad.  I looked at Ben Johnsons rankings before, not yours.  You are correct to have ranked Moore and Leubke together. You actually did a great job in ranking the SPs here (I had not taken the time to analyze the individual picks in detail).  Your cohorts did not do as well.
    I agree with you 100% on strategy, I just discovered the value of SP/RP last year as well. On that note… Champman is a must grab.  Long shot, but could be a huge game changer if he is a starter.

  19. Brad Johnson said...

    I think we all let the formats we play bias our rankings significantly. I tend to play and favor formats that don’t distinguish between SP and RP. I’m also pretty bearish about Luebke, or I was when I made these rankings. I actually don’t know why, so it’s probably something I need to correct. And because I do auctions, I think in terms of dollars.

    Anyway, to get back on track, the three factors combined caused the low ranking on Luebke. Reconceptualizing it a little, I should have ranked him 14th between Jordan Walden and Andrew Bailey.

    The low ranking on Feliz is because I don’t buy him as a starter in 2012. I think he can stick but I also think he’ll struggle.

    I also like Sale a lot but I’m more comfortable with a closer. There’s a significant bust factor on Sale while the upside is mid-teens $ value.

    I avoid watching the Red Sox when I can, so I don’t have much to go on in terms of expectations for Bard.

  20. Donald Trump said...

    “I don’t understand. If a player has a position designation, then he can be used there and should be ranked. “… most people will use Moore as a SP, so that is where he should be ranked.  I guess it comes down to: Why would anyone do a 3B ranking and not include Miggy?  It would be ridiculous, as we ALL know he will be 3B eligible in one week and we all are going to draft his as a 3b. 
    Comparing Moore and Luebke to RP is like comparing Kinsler to Carlos Santana, it is apples and oranges. These starters with RP eligibility should only be ranked with the starters.  If you are using them as RP then you have a totally different ranking system than most, and that deserves a different post.

  21. Brad Johnson said...


    Anyone in a standard H2H league will be very interested in Moore and Luebke’s RP eligibility. That’s a pretty large audience.

    We can’t rank Cabrera as a 3b, just as you can’t draft him as a 3b. We’re beholden to the settings that Fantasy Pros established which I believe are based off Yahoo! settings.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>