2023 Fantasy Baseball: Five relievers with elite upside — and friendly ADPs

Last year, a herd of high-stakes fantasy baseball thought leaders collectively decided that we needed to begin using early picks on top-tier closers, selecting them in rounds to which such relievers had never previously belonged. This phenomenon resulted in a top-30 ADP on certain platforms for Josh Hader, who was great for three months, then unplayable for two and widely dropped in August, when he briefly lost his closing role.

Liam Hendriks, the consensus No. 2 fantasy reliever in 2022, fared much better than Hader, finishing third in MLB in saves and ninth in the year-end relief pitcher ranks. Hendriks of course didn't produce a top-75 overall finish because he gave us 57.2 innings of merely good-not-great ratios (2.81 ERA, 1.04 WHIP), but at least he wasn't a glaring problem.

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Meanwhile, five of the relievers who ultimately finished among the position's top 12 in terms of full-season value — Ryan Helsley, Daniel Bard, Evan Phillips, Paul Sewald and Alexis Diaz — were actually midyear waiver adds. Various other fantasy-relevant saves sources were acquired in-season via waivers as well, including Clay Holmes, Felix Bautista and Jorge Lopez. Saves, as ever, were available on the wire throughout the year, pretty much every week. They were also available in the middle and late rounds of your 2022 draft.

While it's true that we might currently have eight or nine major-league teams with unsettled and/or unknown closer situations, no more than three or four will be true multi-headed committees in the end. (We track every team's bullpen hierarchy for you in the Closer Depth Chart, by the way. Feel free to double-check my committee estimate.)

Saves are not vanishing from our fantasy lives. Don't galaxy-brain your way into burning a top-of-draft pick on a 60-inning pitcher. Instead, I would recommend that you embrace bullpen uncertainty and target a few relief aces tied to murky closing situations.

Here are five potential top-of-the-ranks relief options you can land many rounds after the super-geniuses in your draft have selected Emmanuel Clase and Devin Williams.

Jhoan Duran, Minnesota Twins (Yahoo ADP 125.3)

Duran struck out more than a third of the batters he faced last season on his way to a 0.98 WHIP and 1.86 ERA. He and his triple-digit heat and obscene splinker are utterly unfair:

Jorge Lopez hasn't yet been bounced from the ninth, so we probably have a co-closer scenario on our hands. Duran has the stuff necessary to finish as a top-10 reliever with or without saves, thanks to being unhittable. If he finds his way to the full-time closing gig, he can absolutely finish as our game's most valuable RP.

Evan Phillips and Brusdar Graterol, Los Angeles Dodgers (ADPs 199.0 and 247.8)

Phillips finished among the most valuable relievers in fantasy last season despite saving only two games because he was so outrageously untouchable: 33.0 K%, 0.76 WHIP, 1.14 ERA. Meanwhile, Graterol's stuff is nightmare fuel for opposing hitters:

He and Phillips are the two flashiest names in the mix for saves in L.A. Either of them would be a Tier 1 reliever if they took command of the ninth for the Dodgers. Graterol has the perfect closer's nickname ("Bazooka"), which should honestly be worth, like, three rounds of ADP.

When healthy, Daniel Hudson (knee) will presumably be a relevant piece of the ninth-inning picture for L.A. as well. We strongly encourage you to take fliers in this team's bullpen; we're talking about a club coming off a 111-win season, so saves should be plentiful.

Andres Muñoz, Seattle Mariners (ADP 152.6)

Muñoz shouldn't sneak up on anyone after last year's dominance, yet he's going well outside the first dozen rounds in drafts. At age 23, he struck out 96 hitters and walked just 15 in 65.0 innings for the Mariners, delivering a 0.89 WHIP and saving four games along the way. Muñoz produced a 21.4% swinging-strike rate, which is of course ridiculous. His four-seamer averaged 100.2 mph last season, and his slider might very well have been Earth's best pitch. This year, he has added a two-seamer to the arsenal, so, um ... good luck, hitters.

Jimmy Herget, Los Angeles Angels (ADP 246.8)

Herget doesn't quite have the K-rate or the velocity of the pitchers listed above, but he did deliver a 0.91 WHIP last season for the Angels. He also has this in his bag of tricks, which is nice:

He picked up nine saves and seven holds last year and has some closer buzz this spring, too, because Carlos Estevez has been such a sloppy mess in exhibition appearances (4.2 IP, 8 ER, 10 BB, WP, 5 Ks).

Baseball is frankly better when we have at least one sidearming closer, so here's hoping Herget finds his way to the ninth.