Relievers are having a moment. It’s been slowly building for a while, but this year might be the crescendo. Zach Britton foolishly being left out of the wildcard game paired with Cleveland’s excellent deployment of Andrew Miller seems to have ignited something of a reliever revolution. Their importance – especially in the playoffs – has never been questioned, but the prevalence of lockdown relievers throughout many bullpens has changed their value in fantasy leagues, too.
Saves still run the show, but many leagues have incorporated holds as a way of adding value to studly middle relievers and some are just so good that it doesn’t matter if they’re getting saves. Eight relievers logged 100+ strikeouts and only Kenley Jansen was a full-time closer. Seung Hwan Oh had 19, Ken Giles had 15, both Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller had 12, while Kyle Barraclough and Brad Hand combined for one (it was Hand’s).
Today, I have five high upside relievers who could be closing in 2017 or be so good that they’re useful enough without saves. They are listed in order of likeliness to close:
OK, we’re cheating right out of the gate a little bit. Ottavino was just starting to close for Colorado when he was felled by Tommy John surgery in 2015 and he reassumed the role in September of this season after a couple months in a setup role. He finished with the role and will likely start with it again in 2017 while the others on this list will likely need to leapfrog a guy or three to get there.