I take a lot of antacids.

Rolaids created an award (not for me)–a gold-plated firefighter’s helmet–to honor baseball’s best relief pitcher every year from 1976 to 2012. The history behind this fascinates me. Feels like some seeds of analytics were born in the bowels of Rolaids’ 1970’s corporate office.

Relief pitching events were each given a point value. Three points per save. Two points per win. Two points per loss. The biggest end-of-season number won, period. 

Blown saves (-2) were introduced in 1987.

Tough saves (+4) came along in 2000. Surprises me that I’ve never seen this as an option by fantasy providers, especially in points leagues or daily games. An antacid company was using it 20 years ago ffs. Refers to any time a reliever enters the game with a tying run on base and secures a save. 

Relievers might be my favorite thing about fantasy baseball, for reasons I can’t explain except to say I love games that resist attempts to shrink/minimize/categorize/rubricate them. The more multi-layered the better. And saves bring that to fantasy baseball. (As do stolen bases.) I also love Holds leagues because they throw the math off a nudge further and open another market of elite players who just happen to pitch the not-ninth. 

Ranking RP’s is kind of a paradox. It might be the least accurate yet most useful of any positional ranking, especially for dynasty leagues.

So that’s the caveat. 

These rankings are for standard 5×5 leagues, btw. Would look totally different in a Holds league.

Relief pitching is a strength for me in fantasy, year over year. I tend to trade from it and trade for it on a regular basis, sometimes within the same week. Still, I’m a little leery to put fingers to keys on this one. The yearly upheaval at this position is like no other, so I’m not surprised there’s very little on the market right now covering relief pitching in dynasty leagues. 

The very thought of the task has my hand reaching for the (insert highest-bidding antacid company here).

Kidding. I love this stuff. My full geek breathes fire when researching the K-BB % leaders across all leagues, digging into their game logs, skipping to their innings, even watching/reading an interview here and there.  

Let’s get to the list.


Rank Player Age Team
1 Josh Hader 26 MIL
2 Roberto Osuna 25 HOU
3 Jordan Hicks 23 STL
4 Edwin Diaz 26 NYM
5 Nick Anderson 29 TB
6 Aroldis Chapman 32 NYY
7 Kirby Yates 33 SD
8 Ken Giles 29 TOR
9 Hector Neris 30 PHI
10 Kenley Jansen 32 LAD
11 Liam Hendriks 31 OAK
12 Brad Hand 30 CLE
13 Craig Kimbrel 31 CHC
14 Jose Leclerc 26 TEX
15 James Karinchak 24 CLE
16 Will Smith 30 ATL
17 Taylor Rogers 29 MIN
18 Alex Colome 31 CHW
19 Archie Bradley 27 ARI
20 Hansel Robles 29 LAA
21 Raisel Iglesias 30 CIN
22 Brusdar Graterol 21 LAD
23 Brandon Workman 31 BOS
24 Ryan Pressly 31 HOU
25 Emilio Pagan 29 SD
26 Andres Munoz 21 SD
27 Keone Kela 27 PIT
28 Giovanny Gallegos 28 STL
29 Alex Vesia 24 MIA
30 Joe Jimenez 25 DET
31 Austin Adams 29 SEA
32 Reyes Moronta 27 SF
33 Seth Lugo 30 NYM
34 Michael Lorenzen 28 CIN
35 Nick Burdi 27 PIT
36 Emmanuel Clase 21 CLE
37 Drew Pomeranz 31 SD
38 Daniel Hudson 33 WAS
39 Shane Greene 31 ATL
40 Adam Ottovino 34 NYY
41 Colin Poche 26 TB
42 Blake Treinen 31 OAK
43 Keynan Middleton 26 LAA
44 Rowan Wick 27 CHC
45 Luke Jackson 28 ATL
46 Zack Burdi 25 CHW
47 Kevin Ginkel 26 ARI
48 DeMarcus Evans 23 TEX
49 Mychal Givens 30 BAL
50 Sean Doolittle 33 WAS

Thanks for reading! I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter and reddit.

  1. d says:

    Hi Itch. Appreciate the work you do here. RPs are hard to pin down, but can be difference makers for sure.

    Didnt see Melancon/Will Smith. Curious where you would put them, and what you think of Smith’s chances at taking over?

    Love the Karinchak ranking!

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:

      Thanks d!

      Melancon was on initially and got bounced as I moved around some younger pieces. He’s at 53 today.

      The WILLenium . . . I have no idea how he got deleted, but he’s back on there now. Thanks!!

  2. Nick says:

    Hi Itch,

    been looking for young new RPs in dynasty,

    already catched Karinchak, and i’m looking to get Graterol

    dropped Pagan last season, and i have Raisel Iglesias

    No Hunter Harvey in BAL?
    is Keynan Middletopn really coming back? with Robles struggling earlier on?

    BUT : about your rankings :
    Muñoz had Tommy John –> back in mid 2021
    Clase been suspended 80 games for PEDs
    so that should affect these rankings

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:

      Thanks, Nick!

      Had Harvey just outside lookin in but could see that changing as I toggle things around this week.

      Munoz and Clase stuff is already factored. Rankings are for 2021 and beyond.

      Oh and RE Middleton: Joe Maddon = wild card

      Suspect it’s Robles w some decent leash today, but things can change fast around that dude

  3. Trent Cohan says:

    Thanks for these rankings, FWIW I’ve never played in a dynasty league that doesn’t count holds.

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:

      You’re infinitely welcome, Trent!!

      Holds in dynasty are fascinating. Are yours typically S+H or two separate categories? Huge profits available to the aggressive move-maker in S+H especially. I tend to trade away closers and use a larger-than-normal portion of the squad to speculate on high-K guys working their way toward the back of their bullpen. Kinda paint by numbers, I know, but it’s fun.

  4. Jolt In Flow says:

    Hey Itch,

    I’ll be sad the day you stop posting reports on Sunday mornings. There’s something comforting about waking up on a Sunday, making coffee, and being about to read your post with no worry about work (thankfully, I still have a job). It’s become a habit over the last few weeks. So thanks for pumping these out.

    A couple of things I noticed:

    – Graterol being ranked and ranked pretty high (as commentor Nick above already made note of Graterol). Do you figure the changing of the guard will happen this year for LAD?

    – three SD pitchers ahead of the first Baltimore pitcher. The fourth of who is ranked 12 spots ahead of 48th ranked Givens; sad state of affairs in Baltimore. But as well, a bit of a log jam in SD by the looks of it.

    – nice ranking of Giles. In the 6 leagues I’ve drafted in this year, I’ve seen Giles get taken after guys like Jansen, Hendriks, Hand, Colome, Robles, and Iglesias. Makes absolutely no sense. Glad you’re giving him love.

    Much appreciated for the write-up.

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:

      Thanks, Jolt in Flow!

      I’ve got some good ideas for where to go from here but am going to miss this series for sure. I feel honored to be a part of the Sunday coffee routine!

      I think Kenley could share it pretty soon. He has an opt out after this year, but I can’t see him taking that. If he stays around, he’ll be cashing checks either way, so I don’t think it would blow up the club house to share that workload, which is kind of how the Dodgers handle everything else.

      I think Friedman can see Tampa and should be (/has been) spending a lot of time thinking about how to best build a sustainable bullpen, and I’m wondering if Graterol is part of that. I mean, Maeda is a better asset on a contender, no? And I know they had to do what they had to for Mook in the moment, but they really needed an apex bullpen piece that wasn’t waiting for his chance to start. And maybe Brusdar is biding his time in relief, too, but I’m leaning/hoping the other way.

      I may have to move Harvey up. I don’t love Baltimore’s chances anytime soon, but they’ve gotta have a 20 save arm someday in the not-too distant.

  5. Dong Show says:

    Dynasty: Hicks is available and I’ve been debating grabbing him by dropping one of Pagan or Alfaro (Grandal is main catcher) but I’m also a top 3 team this year.

    I guess my worry is grabbing Hicks and him not being used much when I might get more from
    Alfaro or Pagan since my team is projected to do well.

    Is it worth dropping one of those two for him?

    Thanks Itch!

    • NUX says:

      Yes it’s worth it. I’m thinking you’re talking about a dynasty squad, right? But the question is mostly around 2020 value. I think a 2nd catcher in shortened 2020 season is something you can shed. But I can see the argument from the other side as to why having multiple solid catchers this year might be worthwhile, but it’s not for me. If you can’t find a trade partner for Alfaro or Pagan (or Grandal), then I would drop Alfaro for the #3 RP on this list.

      Best of luck!

    • NUX says:

      Lol the first word in your comment is dynasty haha my b brother

      • Dong Show says:

        Hahah no worries, Thanks Nux!

        You kind of nailed my exact thought process. With a short season, for some reason I just feel better about having a backup catcher and one who I know might have some decent upside. He kind of felt like the drop to me if I do this because I think it might be better to have the extra RP on my squad (have Chapman, Hendricks and Pagan right now) I feel great at SP with Stras, Paddack, Greinke, Sonny G, Robbie Ray, Lynn, Bundy and Eovaldi.

        We have a roster freeze right now on FA grabs in our league (trades still allowed) so I’m just kind of proactively trying to get ahead of everyone once our commish opens things back up.

        • Dong Show says:

          Also have Civale as a SP, but not sure what to expect from him this year.

          • The Itch

            The Itch says:

            What’s up fellas!?

            Been thinking about this a while . . .

            I’m w Nux that Hicks has gotta be scooped up when you can.

            I’d be more likely to drop Bundy or Eovaldi than Alfaro, thinking I could more easily stream SP than C if I had to.

            Maybe you can pull off another 2-for-1 before the freeze thaws?

            Alfaro and Bundy might pull some intriguing offers

            • Dong Show says:

              My favorite kind of deal is the 2-1 because of the ability to always restock a player you lose and get a guy you want. I’ll look into that option, think that’s a pretty solid idea actually. If not, the SP drop is probably the way to go.

              Appreciate the response as always Itch!

  6. NUX says:

    Drinking up a King Sue right now for breakfast, in your honor! Hell of a start to the day. Cheers bruv, hope all is well by you

    Loved seeing my guy Middleton on here. For my dynasty squad that I often pester about, I had traded for Buttrey and Middleton over the offseason in separate deals. Would have expected to see Buttrey over Middleton, so seeing this has me pretty happy to have scored Keynan as a cheap throw in. We have Holds. But I took over the last place team, so hoping that when Hansel maybe falters, I have a really nice trade piece in one of those guys.

    • Jolt In Flow says:

      And my alcohol knowledge expands. Wasn’t sure what a King Sue was until this moment. Had never even heard the name until now.

      You’re hardcore, Nux! This early in the AM.

      • The Itch

        The Itch says:


        I had to look up the King as well. I’ve had the Pseudo but haven’t seen the King around here much. IPAs tend to send me straight to the Rolaids. I swim in the Hefeweizen end of the beer pool.

        Mmmmmmm beer pool.

        I feel kinda funny about the Angels bullpen in general. Could even see someone totally off the radar find themselves in Maddon’s good graces. I might just be scarred by following his Cubby bullpens too closely.

        Anyway I like Robles but love your move of trading for his caddies. Maddon has rarely had the same closer for three months in a row.

  7. Hernan says:

    wow, Itch, excellent article as always, navigating the volatility infested waters of MLB
    Bullpens= hardest thing in Fantasy Baseball…, aside from The Colorado Trainwreck, my favorite bullpen to speculate on is the one in Seattle…,

    I see you have the” Major Leaguer” (Adams) with the best stuff as the only ranked arm, maybe he can become a slight version of Kirby Yates, lol.., but considering they still have Magil, signed Hirano and Edwards Jr, Altavilla still hanging around plus the likes of Art Warren , Joey Gerber and THE SAM who I think will claim the job eventually, Sam Delaplane(planting my flag on him as my favorite MiLB bullpen arm…, of course that can change any minute)………., any thoughts on him and the mariners bullpen??,

    I know, your Crystal Ball is somewhat rusty with this Pandemic thing…, still , no excuse, lol,

    Stay Safe Man, You and Your Family

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:

      Thanks, Hernan!!

      Hope you and yours are staying safe*, too!

      That autocorrected to sane, which seems equally valid.

      Good call on Seattle. I’m a little worried they’ll be bad for quite a while yet, but before the Baltimore tire fire I wouldn’t have let that stop me from investing.

      I’ve kinda placed my bets on Art Warren but need to get some long looks at Delaplane. When I was drafting Warren, Adams was going to be out for a long time. Looking like he might get back when baseball does now.

  8. Harley Earl says:


    It amazes me how many baseball “Nerds” still play standard 5 x 5 category fantasy baseball. There’s nothing better than adding more categories and forcing your mind to open up to other aspects of the game, especially the Holds category. Holds creates an entirely new dimension and way of thinking about players and roster makeup and how to get creative and yet create a balanced team in all aspects.

    My league adopted Holds nine years ago and while I thought it was dumb at first, I quickly realized it was one of the smartest moves we could make. Now I know and understand bullpens far better than I ever did before.

    So that brings me to two questions for you. First, how about these same rankings but for leagues that do play with Holds? You said it would look totally different. I’d like to see that. I know that means more work for you. But that’s no skin off my back!! Haha!

    Second question, would Emanuel Clase be higher were he not suspended and had he not gotten injured? He seems low to me. I think the Indians are still very enamored with him, and Karinchak appears to be more in the mold of Hader … multiple innings guy at any point of the game … while Clase should get the 9th. Thoughts?

    Thanks Itch!!

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:

      Hiya, Harley!

      My home league had a similar early response to Holds, but some people liked it a lot, so it stayed, and now I think everyone likes it. Course ours is a 10×9 head to head. I’m not sure how I’d feel about Holds making a much bigger impact on the scoring. I REALLY like S+H in deep roto.

      Which brings me to a thank you! I’m pretty sure I’m gonna run with that idea of a Holds league ranking!

      Definitely on Clase. I initially thought that same thing: they were gonna multi-inning Karinchak and use Clase in the 9th and could see that playing out before 2021 comes to a close.

      • The Itch

        The Itch says:

        I even traded Karinchak in a 15-team, saves-only league thinking he had so much competition.

  9. dill says:

    I’ll say it again : Love your reports !

    Like you said, you seem to be the only one covering dynasty relief pitchings so this is really useful.

    You seem to be lower on Ginkel than you were 3 months ago. Any reasons ?

    Great work and thanks again !

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:

      Thanks again for the kind words, dill!!

      I thought I’d already responded with a link here but must’ve timed out or something.


      Could be nothing, and I’ll bump him back up, but I faded him just a touch bc he wasn’t right this spring, and that scares me a little because his stuff ticked up last year and was used quite a bit down the stretch in 2019.

      The time off might be great for him . . . or . . .

      Well I’ll just stick w that first part.

      Might be an overreaction on my part.

  10. Nice to see Vesia and Evans made the list. Took them both in an early (Nov.) 50 rounder with a couple of late darts. Nice compilation Itch! Do believe Graterol has a shot, not sure Kenley’s decreased velo and flat cutter makes it through the season as the closer

  11. Thomas Beckering says:

    I was wondering about the Kansas City Royals situation. I know they might still struggle but I drafted Ian Kennedy in the late rounds hoping he may be an overlooked player.

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:

      Hi, Thomas!

      I like how Kennedy reinvented himself but think the Royals are one of the few teams for whom he’d be the closer, and this Spring, Matheny was coach-speak waffling on even that.

      I think it’s Scott Barlow or Tyler Zuber eventually.

      Not ruling out Rosenthal or Staumont either.

      And ‘course it could be an SP prospect that can’t cut through a big league lineup twice. I might nominate Singer for that.

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