Fantasy baseball 2020 tiered relief pitcher rankings

Josh Hader (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)
Josh Hader (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

This tier of relievers are perfect in their current role but could see increased usage should an injury occur.

Adam Ottavino, NYY

Leaving Colorado would do wonders for any pitcher. However, going to the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium may not help. Ottavino was able to dominate his opponents to the tune of a 190 ERA, 1.312 WHIP, 11.9 K/9 and 5.4 BB/9. The walk rate isn’t going to help many fantasy owners, though.

The Yankees bullpen is full of talented arms. With Dellin Betances gone, Ottavino moves up the depth chart as the top righty in the bullpen. He should be able to post a sub-2.50 ERA with 80 strikeouts and a handful of saves.

Blake Treinen, LAD

After an amazing 2018 season, Treinen saw a lot of regression. Outside of the main stats, his ground ball and fly ball rates went in the wrong directions. Opposing batters were making harder contact, likely due to his inability to make batters miss.

Now, Treinen joins the NL-favorite Dodgers in a weaker division. A few of the parks favor pitchers and he won’t have the pressure of pitching in the ninth inning. He’ll post good ratios with a solid number of strikeouts.

Dellin Betances, NYM

Speaking of Betances, he took his talents across the state to the Mets. He pitched in just 0.2 innings for the Yankees last season but if we look at his 2018 numbers, there’s a lot to like. He had a 15.5 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 with a 2.70 ERA and 1.050 WHIP. That stat line is pretty much in line with his career numbers.

Betances is not good in the ninth inning. He will only get saves if Edwin Diaz is hurt and there’s no other viable option. He’s best suited for the seventh and eighth innings, where he’ll rack up the strikeouts and holds. Betances is a great bullpen arm if you don’t need saves.

Ryan Pressly, HOU

Pressly looked good in the few years he spent in Minnesota. In his first full season with the Astros, he looked even better. Despite just pitching in 54.1 innings, he posted a 2.32 ERA, 0.902 WHIP, 11.9 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9. He rarely walks any batters and strikes out the other ones he faces.

With Roberto Osuna as the closer, Pressly is locked as Houston’s setup man. But, he’ll still be able to help fantasy owners in three of the five main pitching categories. His 288 ADP makes him a steal late in drafts.

Scott Oberg, COL

As I mentioned in the Ottavino section, pitching in Colorado is not idea for fantasy baseball. Yet, Oberg was able to post a great season last year. In 56.0 innings, he had a 2.25 ERA, 1.107 WHIP, 9.3 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 with five saves.

He took over for Wade Davis as the Rockies closer at the end of last year. Davis will be the closer this year but I don’t expect it to last long. Oberg as the skills to be effective in Colorado and should get saves this season.

Emilio Pagan, SD

Pagan is away from the crowded bullpen in Tampa Bay and joins a more defined bullpen in San Diego. Though, the trade removes him from getting saves with Kirby Yates set as the closer. Regardless, he’ll be able to post viable numbers for most fantasy owners.

He had a 2.31 ERA, 0.829 WHIP and 96 strikeouts in 70.0 innings in the AL East. The NL East is a weaker division, outside of the Dodgers, plus he’ll get the face a pitcher or pinch hitter every so often. I like him for his ratios and strikeouts.

Seth Lugo, NYM

Since moving from the rotation to the bullpen, Lugo has been a reliable reliever for both the Mets and fantasy owners. In the last two seasons, he owns a 2.68 ERA, 0.998 WHIP, 10.3 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and nine saves.

While he won’t be getting as many saves with Diaz and Betances around, he will rack up the innings and strikeouts. Should injury fall upon either of those relievers, though, Lugo could be looking at another five to six saves. And in this time for fantasy baseball, every one counts.

Will Smith, ATL

There were rumors that the Giants would attempt to trade Smith at the deadline. With the team just a few games back of a wild card spot, they decided to hold onto their pieces. That allowed Smith to sign with any team without the Giants getting anything in return.

Smith chose the up-and-coming Braves who had a clear need for a closer. He will pitch in a tough division with the Phillies, Mets and Nationals. However, the offense is great enough to give the pitchers run support late into games. He has good ratios and strikeout potential to make him worth drafting in all leagues.

Ian Kennedy, KC

No one thought about drafting Kennedy last season but he finished with a respectable 3.41 ERA, 1.279 WHIP and 30 saves. He also had a 73:17 K:BB ratio. If you are the type to wait on saves, Kennedy was your man last season.

However, entering the 2020 season, he may not hold the same clout as others in this tier. The Royals somehow got worse, which will limit his save chances. Also, Kennedy is in the last year of his deal so he will likely be traded and become a setup man to a more established closer.

Jose Jimenez, DET

Jimenez has not been the best reliever over the last two seasons. He’s had an ERA over 4.00 in each season. He does have good strikeout potential, at least an 11.2 K/9 in each of the last two years.

With the Tigers lack of significant bullpen arms, Jimenez becomes the de facto closer for Detroit. He’ll have some pretty tough bats to face in the AL Central. So, while he may get you 25 to 30 saves, expect an ERA over 3.50 and a WHIP over 1.20.