The 2011 fantasy baseball rankings are just about in the bag, but first we look at the top 20 middle relievers for 2011 fantasy baseball.  No, next we’re not going to do the Top 20 Guys Who Will Have The Most Balks.  Chillax.  The only people that seem to pay attention to middle relievers are those that play in a Holds league.  That’s wrong, I tell ya.  A great way to balance out your ratios is by carrying a few middle relievers on your staff.  (BTW, Ron Jeremy can carry three middle relievers on his staff.)  Say you had Scott Baker last year and he mistook your team’s ERA for his toilet, but you also had Daniel Bard.  With just Baker, you had the 4.49 ERA dump to clean up.  With Bard and his brand new toilet brush, you had a 3.71 ERA.  If you also carried Matt Thornton, you had a combined 3.51 ERA.  Not to mention, you had 11 vulture saves.  Oh, and your WHIP went from Baker’s 1.34 to 1.20 and had an additional 157 Ks. Okay, school’s out, Alice Cooper.  Now, with that said — yes, I pulled out the “with that said” — this middle men post is for 5×5 leagues where you want to handcuff your closer to potentially snag some saves and get good ratios.  I projected Holds for these guys, but they are not the top 20 Holds guys.  Anyway, here’s the top 20 middle relievers for 2011 fantasy baseball:

1. Aroldis Chapman – The Reds say Chapman is going to be in the bullpen.  When Dusty figures out it’s a lot harder to ruin a young arm from the bullpen, Aroldis may be starting.  Or maybe the Reds are hit with injuries.  Chapman will probably stay in the bullpen or will be sent to the minors to get stretched out before he starts, which means there will be a mad scramble to grab him off waivers, where he shouldn’t be, because he’ll have value as a middle reliever.  2011 Projections:  7-2/2.75/1.10/90, 24 Holds, 3 Saves

2. Chris Sale – Because my heart’s telling me Matt Thornton will be the closer, Sale is on the middle reliever list.  If Sale’s the closer, Thornton’s a quality middle man.  Tomato-tomato said with a different emphasis.  2011 Projections:  3-3/4.25/1.28/60, 20 Holds, 10 Saves

3. Joe Nathan – He’s saying he’ll be ready for the start of the season.  The Twins are saying he’ll be ready.  So, of course, I’m going on the assumption he’s going to have a setback.  Maybe it’s because I was led to believe the Easter Bunny was real until the age of 15, but I don’t trust adults.  If Nathan’s good to go, he’ll move off of this list and right up the ranks of top closers.  2011 Projections:  2-1/3.00/1.15/40, 15 Holds, 10 Saves

4. Octavio Dotel – Before Frank2 signed with the Blue Jays, I was looking forward to owning Dotel in all of my leagues as a sneaky donkeycorn.  Now he’s a solid middle man with a chance to take over the donkeycorn role.  2011 Projections:  3-5/3.70/1.30/80, 15 Holds, 10 Saves

5. Brandon League – Aardsma’s supposed to miss a few weeks of the season due to hip surgery.  Justin Duchscherer called and said he wants his surgery back.  League will work as the closer for at least the first month.  Wouldn’t be surprised if this turns into one of those situations where League is the closer the whole year.  As of right now, I’ll be conservative and say he won’t be.  2011 Projections:  2011 Projections: 4-4/4.25/1.28/60, 10 Holds, 12 Saves

6. Clay Hensley – I’ve heard rumors that Hensley will be the closer over Leo Nunez.  A journeyman with one good season under his belt vs. a 27-year-old that should be the closer according to me.  I’m going with the guy who should be the closer according to me.  2011 Projections:  3-3/4.25/1.28/60, 12 Holds, 10 Saves

7. Ryan Madson – On any other team, Madson would probably be in his third year of closing and about to sign a deal worth $15 million per year.  But unless Scott Boras is reading this, no one cares.  2011 Projections:  3-3/3.25/1.28/60, 18 Holds, 7 Saves

8. Jason Motte – As I mentioned somewhere on the blog or in the comments or maybe I just mentioned it to my loofah while I was showering — I don’t know, I write a lot of words about fantasy baseball — I think Franklin loses the job to Motte at some point this year.  Just my gut talking.  Or maybe that’s gas.  2011 Projections:  4-3/3.15/1.16/60, 15 Holds, 7 Saves

9. Rafael Soriano – Conventional wisdom says Soriano is a middle man more than a handcuff, but I actually think by the time the season is over we’ll look back at Soriano and see him more as a handcuff.  A small difference that I dragged out to a 34 word sentence, but a difference nevertheless.  2011 Projections: 6-2/3.00/1.12/65, 18 Holds, 5 Saves

10. Brian Fuentes – I’m not sure if Andrew Bailey breaks down in April, but I’d be shocked if he made it to the All-Star Break healthy.  2011 Projections:  2-3/3.65/1.18/45, 10 Holds, 10 Saves

11. Takashi Saito – Me looking at Saito’s player card, “Saito’s going to be 41 years old in February?!”  Forget pitching, he should be selling skin cream.  “Is that the Avon Lady?”  Takashi Saito, “Um, land shark.”  2011 Projections:  4-2/3.00/1.12/60, 15 Holds, 3 Saves

12. Hong-Chih Kuo – I’m really hoping that Kuo is nothing more than a middle man this year, because I’m going all in on Broxton again.  Good chance that whichever way the chips fall — Family Guy cutaway to Pablo Sandoval, “Are those potato chips falling?” — that Kuo will be worth owning with or without saves.  2011 Projections:  4-1/2.85/1.10/60, 17 Holds, 3 Saves

13. Daniel Bard – Should do fine in all of the middle man categories and may even get some saves if Papelbon is hurt krumping.  2011 Projections:  4-2/2.45/1.06/60, 15 Holds, 5 Saves

14. Koji Uehara – Some expect Koji to be the closer in The ‘More.  I’d agree if the O’s didn’t just sign Gregg to a multi-year deal.  As I sorta said when Gregg first signed the deal, Gregg will either be terrible and lose the job by May 1st or he’ll be terrible and keep the job all year while everyone’s calling for Koji or Gonzalez to take over.  And that’s me paraphrasing me!  2011 Projections:  2-2/3.65/1.18/50, 12 Holds, 7 Saves

15. Mike Gonzalez – See Koji Uehara or 1/8th of an inch above.  2011 Projections:  2-3/3.35/1.24/75, 14 Holds, 3 Saves

16. Jonny Venters – I wouldn’t be surprised if Venters has the most Holds in 2011.  As far as achievements go, that’s like being the tallest midget.  Kimbrel and Venters will be fun to watch.  Like Chumlee in a Smart car.  2011 Projections:  5-3/2.65/1.24/80, 18 Holds

17. Luke Gregerson – Was the number one Holds guy last year, but the number one Holds guy has never repeated in back-to-back seasons*. (*That could be false since I only went back to 2008, but usually these Holds guys come out of nowhere.)  2011 Projections:  1-3/3.05/1.10/80, 16 Holds

18. Hisanori Takahashi – Some thought the Sciosciapath would put Takahashi in as the closer.  I’m guessing Rodney is instilled in that role.  And once someone is anointed closer, i.e., once Scioscia makes up his mind on someone, it usually stays that way.  2011 Projections:  7-4/3.85/1.32/90, 12 Holds

19. Joaquin Benoit – If I had to choose one guy that will bust badly from this list, I’d pick Benoit.  Going into last year, his ERA was in the high 4’s in close to 600 major league innings and he’s 33 years old.  His K-rate is purty though.  2011 Projections:  4-2/3.45/1.12/65, 17 Holds

20. Evan Meek – On one hand, I’m not worried about Hanrahanananan.  On the other hand, it wouldn’t shock me to see Meek get some closing opportunities.  On my other, lesser known mannequin hand that I use to hold my mittens, Meek’s worth owning just as a middle reliever.  2011 Projections:  4-5/3.30/1.28/65, 10 Holds, 5 Saves

  1. Steve says:

    It’s not enough to make me tear up my MR. B card in disgust (I prefer to save that kind of angst up for the actual season), but any reason why Mike Adams isn’t on the list?

    I’d have thought he’s likely to get as much work as Gregerson this year. Or is it because G’s K-rate is better?

    Of course if you just forgot about him, I’m OK with that too.

  2. chata says:

    91 IP
    3.07 ERA
    1 save
    112 K’s
    41 BB’s
    and , although he finished with a record of 11-8 ,
    tyler clippard led the nationals (and cy young f-her) with 7 wins through july

  3. Earl Battey says:

    Woo hoo! I have the #1 middle reliever in my keeper league!

    Thanks, Dusty.

  4. MR T says:

    Mike Adams has consistantly been one of the best set up men in baseball. He deserves a spot on this list.

  5. Ben says:

    Nice call on Saito. I could easily see him being that guy who slides into that closer role. With his career success and spot as set up, he should make that move soon.

    Axford is way too much of a crap shoot. His minor league numbers are terrible. Plus I’ve never seen his injury history but he’s a Canadian pitcher, so he’s bound to already have one TJ surgery or shoulder surgery on his resume. Just ask Erik Bedard, Rich Harden, and Adam Loewen.

  6. Who do you think is Minnesota’s first fallback if Nathan is still hurt or comes back and blows? Capps? Fuentes? Brand X?

  7. Oh, Fuentes is in Oakland now. Never mind, I suck.

  8. jewtangclan03 says:

    What about Matt Thornton? Did you leave him off because he might be the closer?

  9. jewtangclan03 says:

    By reading comment #2 I answered my own question…

  10. TheRealTaz says:

    Fun fact about Gregerson: I play in a holds league, so I saw ESPN’s preseason projections on holds, and they had Gregerson at number one. They called it last year, so who knows? Maybe they’ll do it again. Bard is their man this year, unless Nathan/Frank Frank/Thornton turn out to be setup men.

  11. Fair to say that this is a list of best MR for leagues that do NOT have holds? Otherwise it seems a little screwy.

    Don’t take it the wrong way, I think Razzball’s preseason predictions are the best around.

  12. Bartaksu says:

    8 Team AL only, standard 5×5, keep 2. Anyone want to make a case for keeping Joe Mauer over either Hamilton or Felix? Standard roster slots.

  13. RandomItalicizedVoice says:

    Kerry Wood??

  14. Fantasy OCD says:

    Nick Masset’s K-rate is offended! I also agree with the Adams and Clippard posts above. The Giants’ Soto should also be a top 10 candidate IMO. It looked like the intro was setting us up for holds guys, which any legit deeper league should be using along with saves. But I think it’s safe to say these are just guys you think have the best shot at vulturing saves or falling into the lead role. We’re still good, Grey. I’ll take a questionable piece from you over the best ESPN has to offer any day!

  15. Josh says:

    I know I’m a day or two late on mocking ESPN, but Karabell wrote yesterday “1B is the only strong position for hitters this season, so taking Utley 10th over Adrian Gonzalez, and then Adam LaRoche 10 rounds later to play 1B is better than Gonzalez with a bad 2B.”

    I’d absolutely love to play in a league with people who think they have the slightest chance when LaRoche is their starting 1B. Can’t wait for your full top 100 Grey, best top 20 anywhere. I’ll probably wind up with two high ranked 1B (one for CI) and all of a sudden that “deep” 1B pool ESPN has will be gone by the 3rd.

  16. Eddy says:

    ****only three spots left in tonight’s razzmock****

    It’s one of the final ones of the off-season so come and join! It’s at 7pm EST. Password is balboni.

  17. Beardawg says:

    @ Alpine, I’m thinking the same thing. And whycome nobody projects over 18 holds?

  18. wilsoniam says:

    grey, in a highly competitive keeper league where we have a pool of minors/prospects…i was offered votto/trout for te(i)x/kemp… what say ye?

    is it close to being fair?

  19. Mr2Bits says:

    Grey : Do you have a single spreadsheet with all your rankings?

  20. wilsoniam says:

    i ask that b/c i know this year te(i)x is good for it, but a lot of articles ive read say he’s “aging fast” hes going to be another giambi in a couple years, etc…

    better to be a year ahead of the curve than behind. idk.

  21. Brian says:

    No Kenley Jansen love? Insane K rate, great minor league track record, gives up no HRs, and a MR on a team with a shaky closer.

  22. RemDog Whisperer says:

    It appears that P. Alvarez had a couple extra pieces of cake with his cup of coffee. It’s too early for those Dominican genes (size 40’s) to kick in.

  23. Malacoda says:

    “Should do fine in all of the middle man categories and may even get some saves if Papelbon is hurt krumping.”

    Hilarious! I am glad I read this even post even though I just switched my league over to Quality Starts from the b.s. stat of wins.

  24. Eddy says:


    There is a possibility that Sale will open the year with the starting rotation for the first month in order to cover while Peavy is gone.

    If so, where would you put him on your SP rankings?

  25. Eddy says:

    I know some commenters mentioned that they would create a spread sheet with the rankings (separated by tiers within those rankings).

    I’d be eternally grateful for the person that comes through and does that!

  26. wilsoniam says:

    i hear you re: my last question…
    but do you think the end of elite production is near (1-2) years for teix?

  27. Russ says:

    No Jordan Walden? He’s my pick for the best reliever in that Angels pen. I can see Scoscia going to him if… or should I say when.. Rodney falls apart.

  28. little bunny foofoo says:

    Aight grey I gots a question

    12man keeper 5×5

    Is cruz (rd 3 with 2 years of keep left) for reynolds (rd 14 with 1 year left) a good deal?

    Current keeper roster:
    – Cruz rd 3
    – Zimmerman rd 7
    – Lilly rd 13
    – Weeks rd 15
    – Tim hudson rd 17
    – Tommy Hanson rd 20

  29. RandomItalicizedVoice says:

    Pettitte’s retiring. I guess Hughes gains some value.

  30. tom thumb says:

    I have yet to fill my RF position. With that in mind do I draft
    T Snider
    Garrett Jones
    Frank Frank

  31. Eric W says:

    16 man roto league normal cats 14th pick
    1.ryan howard
    2.matt kemp
    3.ian kinsler

    round 4 potential picks.
    elvis andrus, krispie, pence,reynolds,beltre


  32. Indyball says:

    I think Downs leads the way in holds for Sciosciapath

  33. Jonny Venters, Kenley Jansen, Mike Adams, and Bobby Parnell are better than some players on this list.

  34. Frankie says:

    Not a single Giants’ relievers on the list?

    At least 3 of them scored sub 3.00 era last year posed to be real key of WS.

  35. Matt says:

    I would love to know how someone came up with the theory that Gregerson’s hold told drops from 40 to only 15-20.

    Last I checked more than one reliever can get a hold in the same game.

    Even if his ERA and blown saves total increases, he’s gonna get 25-30 holds. Because almost every close game the Padres are winning, their gonna call on him in the 7th or 8th (depending on if Gregerson is the #1 or #2 setup man).

    I projected Gregerson for 35 holds at the beginning of last year (drafted him as a top 10 reliever in leagues where holds are as valuable as saves), I saw him as the new Heath Bell, and everyone else should do the same. There are no signs present that show a possibility he will get less than half the holds he got in 2010.

    Yes I understand thinking he will only get 25-30 holds but 15-20? Please. I suggest doing more actual research to find a pattern that shows the possibility of such a droppage.

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