The World Series begins Friday, meaning the MLB offseason is just around the corner. But there never really is an offseason as the action just changes from the field to the front office.

And just like the majors, there is no offseason when it comes to fantasy baseball. Fantasy baseball GMs are already thinking about next year, and that is especially true for those who are in keeper leagues.

Since the last pitch of the regular season, those who play in keeper leagues have been looking at trade targets to shore up weaknesses exposed during this past season and wondering who the top keepers are going to be in 2023 fantasy baseball.

Well, I’m here to try to help you with that last part of the sentence – who are the top keepers for next season. Each week I am going to reveal my list of top keepers for 2023, starting with relievers. Next week I will focus on starting pitchers before going around the infield and then ending with the top outfielders.

A CRAZY GROUP

Before we move ahead, a disclaimer about relievers. The three things we know about relievers are this:

  • They are wildly inconsistent from year to year
  • They are wildly inconsistent from year to year
  • And they are wildly inconsistent from year to year

The inconsistent play even takes place during the season, with Josh Hader being a prime example of that. If there is one position that could use a dartboard to help with the rankings, it is relievers. Thus, these rankings are based a little on past performance, a little on the eye test and a lot of what my gut is telling me.

Unlike other positions, where age weighs in heavily for my top keepers, the age of a reliever doesn’t factor in as much. It may move them down the list if I think other relievers on the staff can become the closer in 2023 (I’m looking at you, Jose Alvarado), but if they are proven closers and also 33, I’m fine with that.

Also, I am assuming that most keeper leagues don’t just use saves but also have holds or saves+holds. A deep league doesn’t just showcase closers. A real pitching staff has starters, middle relievers and closers, so this list features top closers and setup men.

With that in mind, let’s get on with the Top 40 keepers for 2023 – reliever edition.

TIER 4

RANK PLAYER TEAM AGE
40 Hunter Brown HOU 24
39 Jorge Lopez MIN 29
38 David Robertson PHI 37
37 Andrew Kittredge TB 32
36 Brandon Hughes CHC 26
35 Jose Leclerc TEX 28
34 Tanner Scott MIA 27
33 Garrett Whitlock BOS 26
32 Seranthony Dominguez PHI 27
31 Bryan Abreu HOU 25

Unknown Roles, But…

Coming in at No. 40 is Hunter Brown, who I wrote about during the season after being recalled from Triple-A Sugar Land. Brown’s future is as a starter with the Astros. But most of his appearances this season came out of the bullpen, giving him relief pitcher eligibility. Considering the depth of the Houston starting rotation, Brown may see more time out of the pen once again in 2023. But whether he is a starter or reliever, he is a must grab for dynasty owners as his upside is too good to pass up.

Another pitcher whose role is not clear yet is Garrett Whitlock. He made nine starts for the Red Sox this season with another 22 games out of the pen. Considering he’s made only nine starts out of his 77 career appearances, I’m considering him a reliever at this point, one with future closer upside. He strikes out more than a hitter per inning and he lowered his WHIP to 1.021 this year.

No Saves? Holds Count As Well

Seranthony Dominguez of Philadelphia and Bryan Abreu of Houston are two pitchers who could be closers on other teams. Dominguez had a strikeout rate of 10.8/9 this season and allowed only 36 hits in 51 innings of work. However, for him to grab the closer job in Philly, he is going to have to cut down his walk rate of 3.9/9.

Abreu had a breakout season with the Astros this year. Struggling with command issues throughout his career, the right-hander finally learned to consistently throw strikes to take advantage of his high-90s fastball and wipeout slider and curve. While Abreu still walked too many hitters this year at 3.9/9, he lowered that from 4.5/9 last season while posting a 13.1/9 strikeout rate. Opposing batters hit .246 against Abreu’s slider and .194 against his curveball in 2022. This season those averaged dropped to .163 and .167

Even if Whitlock, Dominguez and Abreu don’t take over closing duties at some point, they will all pitch in high-leverage situations to earn holds and post great strikeout rates while not hurting your ERA or WHIP.

TIER 3

RANK PLAYER TEAM AGE
30 Jose Alvarado PHI 27
29 Daniel Bard COL 37
28 Giovanny Gallegos STL 31
27 Evan Phillips LAD 28
26 Gregory Soto DET 27
25 Rafael Montero HOU 31
24 Paul Sewald SEA 32
23 James Karinchak CLE 27
22 Brusdar Graterol LAD 24
21 Matt Brash SEA 24

A Future Closer

Jose Alvardo has a strong change to end the 2023 season as a Tier 1 reliever, but right now I put him in Tier 3 due to the lack of save opportunities given to him in 2022 and uncertainty heading into next season about his exact role.

If it were up to me, he’d be the closer for the Phillies next season – especially if he gets his walks under control. He was in the 98th percentile in strikeout percentage and whiff percentage, 93rd percentile in fastball velocity and 89th percentile in chase rate. Relying on a sinker and cutter, opponents hit only .119 against his cutter, which saw opposing hitters rack up a 55.7 whiff percentage.

Saves Still Count…

Daniel Bard and Gregory Soto are the closers for Rockies and Tigers, respectively, and will likely be the closers next season. Bard had a great season, but he posted a 5.21 ERA in 2021 and is 37,. While there is no heir apparent on the Rockies staff to take the closer’s role, Bard’s future is still an uncertainty.

Meanwhile, Soto is the Detroit closer basically because no one else has stepped up. He had a decent ERA of 3.28, but he struck out only 60 batters in 60.1 innings of work with a 1.38 ERA. Not really the numbers you want to see in a closer, but if in need of saves, they will do the job.

Is The Pen His Future?

2022 was a tail of two seasons for Mariners’ rookie, Matt Brash. He started the season in the Seattle starting rotation, only to crash and burn. In five starts he had a 7.65 ERA and 2.05 WHIP before being optioned to Triple-A in May. When Brash returned to Seattle in July, he was put into the bullpen and thrived.

In 30.2 innings of work, he posted a 2.34 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP while striking out 12.6 batters per nine innings. He still walked too many hitters, but his stuff played better in the pen and I wouldn’t be surprised if that is where he sticks and be a solid reliever on a fantasy team.

TIER 2

RANK PLAYER TEAM AGE
20 Camilo Doval SF 25
19 Pete Fairbanks TB 28
18 Clay Holmes NYY 29
17 David Bednar PIT 27
16 Scott Barlow KC 29
15 Kenley Jansen ATL 35
14 A.J. Minter ATL 29
13 Alexis Diaz CIN 26
12 Andres Munoz SEA 23
11 Jhoan Duran MIN 24

Just Need To Command Their Pitches

There is a lot to like about Camilo Doval. He recorded 27 saves for the Giants and posted a 2.53 ERA while striking out 10.6/9 this past season. But Doval won’t become an elite closer unless he decreases his walks as he issued 3.99 BB/9 last season. If he learns to command his pitches, he could be a Tier 1 closer.

Like Doval, if Alexis Diaz could avoid walking hitters, he’d be a Tier 1 reliever and a must-have closer. The Reds righty features a 4-seam fastball that limited hitters to a .127 average with a 31.1 whiff percentage and a slider that held opposing batters to a .133 average with a 45.0 whiff percentage. In 63.2 innings of work, he allowed only 28 hits while recording 83 strikeouts. The bad news is that he issued 33 walks in those 63.2 innings of work.

Future Tier 1 Closers

For whatever reason, Scott Servais didn’t use Andres Munoz as his fulltime closer. Why did Munoz give way to Paul Sewald? Go ask Servais. But the numbers say Munoz is one nasty reliever. All he did was strike out 13.3 hitters per nine innings and post a 2.49 ERA and 0.892 WHIP in 65 innings of work.

Munoz ranked in the 99th percentile in xBA, xSLG, K%, Whiff% and Chase Rate while his fastball was in the 100th percentile. To me, that says the man should be the closer for the Mariners in 2023.

Like Munoz, Duran has everything it takes to be a top closer. In 67.2 innings of work, he recorded 89 strikeouts with a 0.975 WHIP and 1.86 ERA. He ranked in the 90th percentile or better in xBA, xSLG, Barrel%, K%, Whiff% and Chase Rate. And like Munoz, he was in the 100th percentile in Fastball Velocity.

TIER 1

RANK PLAYER TEAM AGE
10 Jordan Romano TOR 29
9 Raisel Iglesias ATL 32
8 Ryan Pressly HOU 33
7 Felix Bautista BAL 27
6 Devin Williams MIL 28
5 Liam Hendriks CWS 33
4 Josh Hader SD 28
3 Ryan Helsley STL 28
2 Emmanuel Clase CLE 24
1 Edwin Diaz NYM 28

Oldies But Goodies

Raisel Iglesias, Ryan Pressly and Liam Hendricks are the old men in this group. But age is just a number when it comes to these three.

Iglesias was a shell of his former self with the Angels, posting a 4.04 ERA with a 1.07 WHIP and 16 saves. After being traded to Atlanta, he recorded only one save, but he still posted a 0.840 WHIP and a 0.34 ERA. That’s right, a 0.34 ERA, allowing only one earned run in 26.1 innings of work. With Kenley Jansen hitting free agency, Iglesias should step into the closer’s role for Atlanta in 2023.

Pressly doesn’t blow the ball past hitters. Instead he relies on four pitches to induce strikeouts and weak contact. Leading a deep Houston bullpen, Pressly recorded 33 saves while recording 12.1 K/9 to go along with a 0.890 WHIP and 2.98 ERA. Hendricks notched 37 saves and struck out 13.3 batters per nine and posting a 1.04 WHIP and 2.81 ERA.

The Final Four

Josh Hader looked lost midway through the season, but he rebounded into form the last month and looked like the Josh Hader of old. After posting a 12.54 ERA in July and a 19.06 ERA in August, Hader came back to post a 0.87 ERA in September/October with a 0.581 WHIP. In 10.1 innings, he allowed only four hits and two walks while striking out 13.

Ryan Helsley was dominant on the mound for the Cardinals, striking out 13.1 batters per nine and allowing only 48 base runners in 64.2 innings of work for a 0.742 WHIP. Giovanny Gallegos may steal a few saves here and there, but Helsley is the clear-cut closer for the Cardinals in 2023.

There is not much to say about Emmanuel Clase and Edwin Diaz that you already don’t know. Clase doesn’t blow batters away, striking out only 9.5 batters per nine, but he has impeccable control, allowing only 43 hits and 10 walks in 72.2 innings for a 0.729 WHIP while posting a 1.36 ERA. Clase could be the top-ranked closer, but I am still going with Edwin Diaz.

The veteran right-hander has closing games for years, and 2022 may be one of his best seasons yet. Let’s just start with the absurd number of 17.1. That was his K/9 ratio this past season. In 62 innings of work, he struck out 118 batters while allowing only 34 hits and 18 walks for a 0.839 WHIP.

Thanks for reading.

Next week: 2023 Top Keepers – Starting Pitchers

11 Comments
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Jose Hernandez
Jose Hernandez
2 months ago

Hi Jakkers,
I love this article, unfortunately I found it a little late and probably will have a hard time finding this article again.
I have two “NL only” Scoresheet teams. In Scoresheet we can put anybody that we want as closers, it could be a starter or setupman, your choice. I am keeping Helsley in one and Munoz on the other team.
Could you give me a list of about 15 to 20 NL setup man for next year’s draft.
The best closers are going to be kept. From this list I pick seven Iglesias, A.Diaz, A.J. Minter, Graterol, Phillips, Alvarado and Dominguez.
I love power arms, 96+ – 100 MPH. I have Alvarado at the top of my list because he is the best power lefty around.
Can you please send me an Email. I will probably not find this article again. When I look for it. Thanks, Jose

Gordeon
Gordeon
3 months ago

Do you see Ben Joyce in the mix for saves next year? I sure do…nothing to really prove in Minors.

Ryan
Ryan
3 months ago

Any thoughts on Dylan Floro? Was debating keeping him for next year

Frank Drebin
Frank Drebin
3 months ago

In a 20 keep forever league, I currently have Hader, Helsley, and Bautista. I am able to select 20 keepers and have Hader and Bautista to keep. Would you keep them over Helsley? I found Hel was sharing the role more than the others. Do you think it will still be a Committee approach for the Cards next season also?

Frank Drebin
Frank Drebin
Reply to  Jakkers
3 months ago

Thank you it was a debate for me!

Philip
Philip
3 months ago

Great list! Where would you put Jimmy Herget, Alex Lange and Sam Hentges if you continued the list?