2023 Positional Power Rankings: Bullpen (No. 16-30)

© Antranik Tavitian/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

After wrapping up our position player rankings with the league’s designated hitters, we turn our attention to the pitchers, starting with the bullpens in the bottom half of the reliever rankings.

Relievers are really, really tough to project. From the tiny sample sizes of previous seasons’ work to uncertainty over a pitcher’s role and the wide variety of offseason mechanical and pitch mix adjustments they make in search of a big breakout, it’s uniquely difficult to accurately forecast the future effectiveness of individual relievers. Still, some relievers are clearly a cut above the rest, and a commonality among the teams in the bottom half of there rankings is that they don’t have many of them. Less than two wins separate teams no. 16 and 30, and in order to exceed their projections, they’ll be looking for their up/down or replacement-level arms to hit their high-percentile upside and factor as high-leverage options on their respective squads.

2023 Positional Power Rankings – RP 16-30
16. Diamondbacks
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Andrew Chafin 62 9.2 3.0 0.9 .297 73.7% 3.61 3.55 0.6
Kevin Ginkel 61 10.1 3.7 1.0 .297 73.9% 3.76 3.66 0.4
Joe Mantiply 63 8.7 2.5 0.9 .306 74.0% 3.45 3.39 0.6
Miguel Castro 64 9.4 4.5 0.8 .291 71.9% 3.87 3.80 0.2
Scott McGough 62 8.9 3.2 1.1 .301 74.1% 3.90 3.86 0.2
Cole Sulser 58 9.3 3.6 1.0 .297 73.3% 3.89 3.83 0.2
Ryan Hendrix 52 9.1 5.0 1.0 .298 71.9% 4.38 4.41 -0.0
Carlos Vargas 50 8.1 4.4 0.9 .297 70.1% 4.39 4.31 -0.0
Mark Melancon 42 6.4 3.3 1.0 .310 72.2% 4.25 4.25 0.0
Kyle Nelson 40 8.5 4.6 1.0 .293 70.7% 4.36 4.34 -0.0
Luis Frías 32 9.5 4.2 1.0 .299 72.9% 4.06 3.93 0.0
Austin Adams 26 11.4 4.8 0.9 .291 69.3% 4.23 4.01 0.0
Drey Jameson 24 7.8 3.0 1.0 .300 70.9% 4.13 4.02 0.0
Peter Solomon 21 7.5 3.6 1.0 .297 71.8% 4.25 4.26 -0.0
Tommy Henry 20 7.7 3.6 1.1 .296 72.0% 4.27 4.29 -0.0
Justin Martinez 18 9.3 5.0 1.0 .298 71.7% 4.37 4.42 -0.0
Zach McAllister 14 9.2 3.8 1.3 .302 70.8% 4.56 4.45 -0.0
Corbin Martin 12 8.3 3.9 1.2 .300 71.5% 4.53 4.38 -0.0
Jandel Gustave 10 7.9 3.1 1.0 .293 71.4% 3.99 3.95 0.0
Ryne Nelson 8 7.9 3.1 1.2 .291 71.3% 4.32 4.27 -0.0
Jesse Biddle 4 8.5 4.2 0.9 .305 72.8% 4.09 4.12 0.0
Total 546 8.9 3.8 1.0 .298 72.3% 4.02 3.96 2.1

The Diamondbacks have a solid chance to be a sleeper contender this season. While they lost 88 games last year, their outfield trio of Corbin Carroll, Alek Thomas, and Jake McCarthy along with new catcher Gabriel Moreno should make for an exciting offense, while Ryne Nelson and Brandon Pfaadt could make big leaps in the starting rotation. Unfortunately, the bullpen that ranked 25th in reliever ERA in 2022 has made few impact upgrades, instead choosing to run it back with last year’s squad and some unheralded free agent signings.

Kevin Ginkel has never pitched more than 30 big league innings in a season, but he had a 2.74 FIP last year, mostly due to a slider with plus chase and swinging strike rates that he was also able to land in the zone at a high rate. On the opposite end of the stuff spectrum is the 38-year-old Mark Melancon, projected for a measly 16% strikeout rate. He’ll begin the year on the IL with a shoulder injury, but he manages contact well enough to make him a potentially average middle reliever when he returns.

Joe Mantiply was one of baseball’s best control freaks last season, walking just six batters in 60 innings. He primarily accomplished this by stealing called strikes with his sinker at an excellent rate while getting hitters to chase his slider and changeup at a 99th-percentile clip. Specifically, his slowball’s elite plate discipline numbers have allowed him to thrive against opposite-handed hitters even with the three batter minimum, holding both lefties and righties to a wOBA below .300.

The newly re-signed Andrew Chafin is a fellow lefty who doesn’t have platoon issues. Despite a sinker/sweeper arsenal, he actually ran reverse splits in 2022 with a 51% groundball rate. Miguel Castro, another free agent signing, should also benefit from playing in front of an infield that includes Nick Ahmed and Geraldo Perdomo.

Scott McGough hasn’t been in the majors since 2015 and just signed with Arizona after spending the past four years with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows (and getting the win in the final game of the 2021 Japan Series). He had a 2.35 ERA and 2.85 FIP last year while throwing splitters a career-high 30% of the time.

With Ryne Nelson named the D-backs’ no. 5 starter on Sunday, Drey Jameson will begin the 2023 season as a member of the bullpen. Jameson threw 24.1 innings as a starter in 2022, and his hellacious slider generated incredible results in the small sample; he fanned 10 batters with it while only allowing eight balls in play. Without a need to face the order multiple times in a starting role, he can limit the use of the four-seamer and changeup that saw poor results, instead opting for greater arsenal synergy with his sinker and slider.

Some other options include Cole Sulser, who was claimed off waivers from Miami; the Diamondbacks hope to help him rediscover a feel for his changeup, which he landed in the strike zone less than a quarter of the time. Austin Adams defined what it means to be effectively wild for a season, putting up average results in 2021 despite 6 BB/9 (and 4.1 HBP/9!).

17. Brewers
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Devin Williams 65 12.7 4.3 0.8 .287 78.4% 2.95 3.03 1.3
Matt Bush 63 10.9 3.4 1.2 .281 74.2% 3.71 3.75 0.5
Peter Strzelecki 63 10.2 3.5 1.3 .290 74.5% 4.00 4.06 0.1
Hoby Milner 62 9.1 2.4 1.2 .297 73.5% 3.75 3.76 0.3
Javy Guerra 60 8.7 4.1 1.2 .289 72.4% 4.35 4.46 -0.1
Bryse Wilson 58 7.0 2.3 1.4 .290 70.8% 4.41 4.42 -0.1
Jake Cousins 54 10.9 3.8 1.1 .285 74.8% 3.71 3.79 0.1
Aaron Ashby 50 10.5 3.9 0.9 .299 74.5% 3.54 3.52 0.2
Gus Varland 48 7.9 4.5 1.4 .288 70.3% 4.89 5.02 -0.1
Ethan Small 42 9.0 4.8 1.2 .286 73.3% 4.29 4.51 -0.0
Joel Payamps 38 7.6 2.9 1.2 .289 72.5% 4.10 4.20 0.0
Cam Robinson 34 8.9 4.8 1.0 .294 72.6% 4.19 4.27 -0.0
Janson Junk 26 7.8 2.8 1.3 .291 71.7% 4.34 4.27 -0.0
Adrian Houser 22 6.6 3.8 1.0 .290 70.8% 4.40 4.56 -0.0
Lucas Erceg 20 8.2 6.7 1.2 .290 71.2% 5.26 5.51 -0.1
Justin Yeager 18 9.9 4.9 1.3 .288 72.9% 4.48 4.60 -0.0
Jason Alexander 16 6.3 3.1 1.2 .300 70.0% 4.65 4.68 -0.0
Tyson Miller 14 8.7 3.7 1.1 .292 71.5% 4.24 4.20 -0.0
Justin Wilson 12 9.1 3.9 1.2 .298 75.1% 4.09 4.24 -0.0
Elvis Peguero 10 8.2 3.3 1.1 .294 70.7% 4.22 4.17 -0.0
Abner Uribe 8 9.8 6.7 1.4 .290 71.0% 5.18 5.33 -0.0
Alex Claudio 6 6.7 3.2 1.0 .294 71.5% 4.15 4.29 -0.0
Robert Stock 4 9.0 4.4 1.5 .291 71.4% 4.77 4.82 -0.0
Total 561 9.3 3.7 1.2 .290 73.1% 4.06 4.14 2.0

The back of Milwaukee’s bullpen was significantly depleted by the team trading Josh Hader to San Diego at last season’s deadline, relegating the Brewers to the bottom half of these rankings for the first time in a while. Brad Boxberger, who had 1.5 WAR after being replacement level prior to joining Milwaukee, is another significant departure; he signed a deal with the Cubs this offseason.

Despite those losses, there’s no shortage of high octane stuff in the Brewers’ bullpen. Devin Williams has seamlessly moved into the closer role, and his 41.7% strikeout rate since 2020 is second to only Edwin Díaz’s. Matt Bush, acquired in a trade with the Rangers last season, has one of the best curveballs in baseball and posted a 2.64 xERA in 2022. And keep an eye out for Peter Strzelecki, who fanned 27% of hitters in a half-season rookie campaign. ZiPS is even more optimistic about his strikeout abilities going forward.

The Brewers’ depth options are decent but not out-of-this-world. They’ve brought back their two specialists, the right-handed Jake Cousins and left-handed Hoby Milner. Joel Payamps, acquired from the A’s in the three-team deal that sent Sean Murphy to Atlanta, should contribute some middle relief innings.

Milwaukee’s long relief options include a variety of pitchers with experience as starters, including Adrian Houser, Aaron Ashby, Bryse Wilson, and Ethan Small. Despite strikeout and walk numbers that resemble those of a different era of baseball, Houser has had some successful seasons due to his ability to keep the ball on the ground. Wilson and Small are yet to find big league success but should contribute length or spot starts in the case of injury.

Ashby was a highly ranked prospect with two plus breaking balls, but the Brewers have managed his workload carefully, averaging 3.5 innings per appearance split between the rotation and bullpen. He’s put up roughly average results but has experienced some tough fly ball luck; his 3.41 SIERA and 3.24 xFIP might better reflect his talent going forward. He’s dealing with a shoulder injury and will hope to return in mid-May.

18. Marlins
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Dylan Floro 64 7.8 2.9 0.9 .298 73.0% 3.72 3.71 0.5
Tanner Scott 63 11.6 5.0 0.7 .299 75.3% 3.43 3.48 0.6
A.J. Puk 62 9.9 3.3 1.0 .295 74.0% 3.62 3.65 0.4
Matt Barnes 61 9.8 4.1 1.1 .303 73.0% 4.11 4.02 0.0
Steven Okert 58 10.3 3.7 1.2 .279 74.0% 3.77 3.95 0.1
JT Chargois 56 8.6 3.5 1.1 .289 71.8% 4.11 4.22 -0.1
Huascar Brazoban 53 10.2 4.3 0.9 .295 74.5% 3.72 3.73 0.1
Andrew Nardi 48 10.5 4.1 1.2 .297 73.6% 4.05 3.97 0.1
Tommy Nance 45 9.6 3.7 1.1 .300 71.8% 4.05 3.91 0.0
Sixto Sánchez 42 8.4 2.8 1.1 .296 72.7% 3.97 3.94 0.0
Josh Simpson 38 10.1 4.3 1.0 .294 72.8% 3.98 3.99 0.0
George Soriano 34 8.1 4.2 1.3 .292 70.0% 4.80 4.85 -0.1
Sean Reynolds 28 8.5 5.4 1.0 .295 68.3% 4.99 4.80 -0.1
Braxton Garrett 22 8.3 3.2 1.1 .299 71.7% 4.19 4.10 -0.0
Eli Villalobos 20 9.0 3.7 1.3 .296 73.0% 4.32 4.36 -0.0
Daniel Castano 18 6.6 2.4 1.3 .295 71.5% 4.31 4.38 -0.0
Devin Smeltzer 16 6.5 2.4 1.3 .289 71.4% 4.30 4.43 -0.0
Richard Rodríguez 14 7.3 2.5 1.4 .282 70.1% 4.45 4.51 -0.0
Geoff Hartlieb 12 7.8 4.2 1.1 .301 70.5% 4.57 4.47 -0.0
Trevor Rogers 10 9.3 3.1 1.1 .297 71.9% 4.00 3.82 0.0
Nic Enright 6 9.4 2.7 1.2 .291 73.5% 3.79 3.69 0.0
Anthony Maldonado 4 9.0 3.1 1.2 .292 72.2% 4.10 4.06 0.0
Total 553 9.3 3.7 1.1 .295 72.7% 4.00 4.00 1.6

The Marlins relief corps has some tremendous strikeout upside for a group ranked around the bottom third of the league. Tanner Scott has never walked fewer than 12% of batters, but he pumps 97 mph from the left side with gyro sliders up to 90, a look hitters don’t often see. AJ Puk has a similar stuff ceiling but with slightly better control (40-45 grade); he also allows more fly balls, has a considerable injury history, and just finished his first full big league season. Steven Okert and Andrew Nardi come from a similar build: slider-slinging southpaws who will end a substantial percentage of plate appearances with a strikeout or a walk. Okert is dealing with a groin injury and won’t make the Opening Day roster.

He might not strike out a dozen batters per nine, but Dylan Floro has built an excellent career, with a 76 ERA- and 74 FIP- in seven seasons. Impressively, he’s suppressed aerial contact so effectively that his career HR/FB sits at 6.8%, nearly cutting the league average in half. He’s saved 25 games in the past two seasons and should continue getting opportunities going forward. Matt Barnes joins the Marlins after nearly a decade in Boston. He had an odd luck 2022 season. His breaking ball command fell off significantly from his career norms, and he’ll need to build back his stuff or rely more on his fastball to regain sustained effectiveness.

JT Chargois has bounced around the league; Miami is his fifth team in just six seasons. He had a strikeout rate north of 30% in two partial seasons with the Dodgers from 2018-19 but has fallen to about league average since then. The projection systems are universally out on his whiff abilities, forecasting league average rates in that department. Still, he should be a solid middle reliever against strings of right-handed hitters. 32-year-old waiver claim Tommy Nance and independent ball signee Huascar Brazoban should round out the back of the bullpen; we project both to fan their opponents at a surprisingly high clip, though a shoulder injury will keep Nance off the Opening Day roster.

One of the biggest question marks looming over the Marlins staff as a whole is the status of Sixto Sánchez, a former top prospect who hasn’t appeared in a game since 2020. Sánchez started seven games in the pandemic-shortened season but might be moved to relief coming off a pair of major shoulder injuries. Our projections think he’ll be about average, but in his limited experience he flashed special arm talent, averaging 99 mph with his four-seamer with a plus or better changeup. However, his heater’s subpar shape may spell doom for his profile if he lost significant velocity in his time off. Most importantly, Miami is hoping to simply have Sánchez healthy and throwing again.

19. Mets
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Adam Ottavino 64 10.3 3.8 0.9 .290 75.1% 3.43 3.58 0.6
David Robertson 62 10.9 4.4 1.0 .287 75.2% 3.66 3.79 0.3
Brooks Raley 62 9.7 3.1 1.0 .289 73.6% 3.68 3.69 0.3
Drew Smith 59 9.6 3.1 1.2 .274 73.8% 3.76 3.86 0.3
John Curtiss 56 9.3 3.4 1.3 .291 72.5% 4.21 4.11 -0.0
Dennis Santana 53 9.0 4.2 1.0 .294 71.8% 4.07 4.07 0.0
Tommy Hunter 52 7.8 2.7 1.2 .291 72.7% 4.06 4.15 -0.0
Stephen Nogosek 50 9.4 3.5 1.1 .289 73.4% 3.90 3.89 0.1
Elieser Hernandez 44 9.7 2.5 1.4 .278 73.1% 3.95 4.03 0.0
Joey Lucchesi 40 8.3 3.0 1.2 .287 72.5% 4.06 4.06 0.0
Tylor Megill 38 9.9 2.6 1.2 .291 73.7% 3.73 3.63 0.1
Jeff Brigham 34 10.1 3.7 1.3 .278 73.1% 4.08 4.12 0.0
Bryce Montes de Oca 32 11.4 5.1 0.8 .292 73.4% 3.74 3.81 0.0
Sam Coonrod 28 8.3 3.8 1.0 .293 71.3% 4.22 4.19 -0.0
David Peterson 24 9.8 3.6 1.0 .294 74.0% 3.72 3.76 0.0
Jimmy Yacabonis 16 9.3 4.2 1.2 .294 71.5% 4.39 4.36 -0.0
Stephen Ridings 14 10.4 3.6 1.1 .291 72.8% 3.84 3.81 0.0
T.J. McFarland 12 5.9 2.9 1.0 .302 70.6% 4.38 4.40 -0.0
Zach Muckenhirn 10 8.0 4.2 1.1 .292 73.1% 4.24 4.38 -0.0
Jose Butto 8 8.3 2.8 1.2 .287 71.8% 4.06 4.11 0.0
Total 539 9.5 3.5 1.1 .288 73.3% 3.89 3.93 1.6

You might be surprised to see this team this low – I was, too. When we first generated these rankings last month, the Mets placed second, sandwiched between Atlanta and San Diego. One freak Edwin Díaz injury later, they’ve been relegated to the bottom half of the league in bullpen efficacy. Díaz is coming off possibly the greatest relief season of all time, striking out over half of the batters he faced while posting a 1.31 ERA and 0.90 FIP. His 15.3 K/9 and 2.02 FIP ZiPS projection comfortably led all relievers. Without him, the projected WAR of this group gets cut nearly in half, as their other late-inning options are significant downgrades from Díaz (to be fair, anyone would be), while the talent of their middle and bulk relievers lags significantly behind the rest of the roster.

The trio of Adam Ottavino, David Robertson, and Brooks Raley should get the highest-leverage appearances. Ottavino has been rather inconsistent for the past decade, but his good seasons have been brilliant and he has a ERA- of 77 in over 600 career innings. His cross-bodied delivery and outlier horizontal release point make his sweeper absolutely lethal against right-handed hitters, but he has a clear vulnerability to lefties and will likely be used in more targeted situations. Raley is an expert at managing contact quality, allowing just three home runs in 2022 with a 99th-percentile barrel rate allowed despite averaging just 91 mph on his sinker. The 37-year-old Robertson has the most ninth inning experience on the roster (157 career saves) and just had a nice rebound season with the Phillies that saw him notch his highest swinging strike rate since 2017.

After the high-leverage guys, the next set of names looks pretty grim for a team that won 100 games last year and is running a record payroll. John Curtiss hasn’t pitched since suffering a UCL injury in 2021; the Mets will be his sixth team in 86.2 career innings. He had a 1.80 ERA on the 2020 Rays team that won the AL pennant. Unsurprisingly, he fits the “Rays reliever who was good for a season” mold, throwing a 95 mph fastball and a gyro slider with equal frequency. Drew Smith has a similar arsenal and is entering his fourth season on the Mets. He’s been bitten by the home run bug his whole career, allowing 1.47 long balls per nine even in the pitcher-friendly confines of Citi Field.

Stephen Nogosek is an up/down reliever with just 31 career innings, but he’s out of options and probably has a roster spot with his name on it given the other depth relievers on the team. He struck out 30% of batters in Triple-A while making frequent multi-inning appearances and should contribute in long, lower-leverage stints. It seems like Tommy Hunter has been in the majors for forever. He no longer possesses the upper-90s velocity he had during his days with the Orioles but still figures to be an average reliever. Dennis Santana, claimed off waivers from Texas, keeps the ball on the ground enough to take on some low-leverage innings despite poor command and underwhelming stuff.

20. Royals
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Scott Barlow 72 9.8 3.3 1.1 .296 74.8% 3.68 3.67 0.8
Dylan Coleman 68 9.9 4.2 0.9 .291 73.7% 3.80 3.85 0.4
Taylor Clarke 66 7.9 2.8 1.2 .295 70.4% 4.34 4.20 0.1
Aroldis Chapman 63 11.3 5.2 1.0 .291 74.7% 3.77 3.84 0.3
Amir Garrett 60 9.6 4.8 0.9 .295 71.8% 4.08 4.00 0.2
Carlos Hernández 58 7.1 3.7 1.2 .295 69.4% 4.72 4.60 -0.1
Josh Staumont 52 9.6 4.8 1.0 .292 71.8% 4.25 4.15 0.0
Nick Wittgren 46 7.0 3.0 1.1 .299 68.2% 4.63 4.36 -0.1
Collin Snider 44 6.2 4.1 1.0 .304 69.1% 4.84 4.71 -0.1
Josh Taylor 38 9.1 3.6 0.9 .302 74.3% 3.67 3.75 0.1
Jose Cuas 30 7.6 3.9 1.0 .301 70.8% 4.40 4.41 -0.0
Richard Lovelady 28 8.1 3.2 0.8 .305 72.0% 3.80 3.67 0.1
Jackson Kowar 24 8.4 3.8 1.1 .305 70.6% 4.48 4.27 -0.0
Brad Keller 22 7.0 3.5 1.0 .304 70.2% 4.48 4.34 -0.0
Max Castillo 20 7.3 3.4 1.2 .299 70.4% 4.57 4.46 -0.0
Ryan Yarbrough 18 6.0 2.3 1.3 .296 67.2% 4.78 4.59 -0.0
Kris Bubic 16 7.8 3.7 1.1 .300 71.3% 4.44 4.39 -0.0
Jonathan Heasley 12 6.8 3.3 1.3 .295 69.5% 4.79 4.74 -0.0
Angel Zerpa 10 6.9 3.2 1.0 .299 71.3% 4.17 4.16 -0.0
Brooks Kriske 8 9.3 4.7 1.3 .296 69.6% 4.89 4.69 -0.0
Mike Mayers 6 8.0 3.4 1.2 .295 71.5% 4.34 4.32 0.0
Jake Brentz 4 9.9 5.3 1.0 .297 70.9% 4.40 4.27 0.0
Total 552 8.5 3.9 1.0 .297 71.5% 4.22 4.15 1.5

The Royals of recent years have struggled mightily with pitching development, whiffing on several high draft picks who simply don’t seem to have major league-quality stuff, especially when it comes to their fastballs. Indeed, most of the high-octane gas in this bullpen has come from other teams – of the six relievers projected to strike out at least a batter per inning, just one (Josh Staumont) has spent his whole career as a Royal.

Scott Barlow is the clear relief ace here, with a CSW% of at least 32% in each of the past three seasons. His arsenal features two plus breaking balls in his slider and curveball, and he also puts up more volume than almost any other reliever; he’s completed 74 frames in each of the last two seasons.

Staumont had a disastrous 2022 after some solid seasons before that. The trouble was primarily caused by a drastic reduction in his zone rate, which led to a spike in walks. Given that his control was already iffy at best, this further inability to find the strike zone tanked his performance. When he’s working, he has one of the better fastball/curveball combinations around, but the Royals will have better options in the back of their bullpen. Dylan Coleman also experienced command issues in his first full season, though they weren’t as serious as Staumont’s. If the results on his sweeper improve, he’ll profile as an above-average reliever with big velocity.

The Royals have made considerable additions to their left-handed relief contingent through trades and free agency. Aroldis Chapman is still a flamethrower who projects to lap his teammates in strikeout rate, but he’s far from the unhittable pitcher he was in Cincinnati a decade ago. Amir Garrett, another former Red, dominated lefties last year (.136 SLG) leaning on his tumbling gyro slider. Josh Taylor is returning from injury, but he had solid seasons with Boston from 2019-22 in the traditional “95 and a slider” middle relief role.

The long relievers here are mostly struggled in their opportunities as starters. Carlos Hernández had a 7.39 ERA as a swingman last season, but sat 99 mph with plus ride as a single-inning reliever in the World Baseball Classic, which should bode well for his strikeout abilities in the majors. Kris Bubic and Jackson Kowar will likely start the year in Triple-A, but expect them to be up at some point as injury replacements or rotation depth; it’s possible they could perform better in short relief, where they can focus more on their plus secondary pitches.

21. Orioles
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Félix Bautista 65 11.6 3.3 0.9 .278 77.1% 3.04 3.09 1.3
Cionel Pérez 63 9.3 4.0 0.9 .296 74.0% 3.78 3.80 0.2
Mychal Givens 62 9.5 3.8 1.3 .288 73.8% 4.11 4.23 -0.2
Keegan Akin 68 8.9 2.9 1.1 .298 73.7% 3.88 3.83 0.1
Bryan Baker 61 9.7 3.7 1.0 .291 73.1% 3.77 3.69 0.3
DL Hall 54 11.7 4.3 1.1 .295 75.6% 3.63 3.58 0.2
Dillon Tate 52 7.5 2.6 0.9 .292 69.9% 4.00 3.93 0.0
Joey Krehbiel 48 7.7 3.3 1.3 .292 70.8% 4.58 4.57 -0.1
Mike Baumann 46 8.5 3.5 1.1 .298 71.8% 4.16 4.08 0.0
Austin Voth 44 8.2 2.9 1.4 .295 72.0% 4.42 4.36 -0.0
Nick Vespi 40 9.4 3.2 1.2 .295 73.6% 3.94 3.97 -0.0
Bruce Zimmermann 37 7.2 2.3 1.4 .299 71.8% 4.42 4.40 -0.0
Andrew Politi 27 8.6 3.8 1.3 .293 71.6% 4.45 4.48 -0.0
Tyler Wells 22 7.6 2.4 1.5 .278 70.3% 4.47 4.48 -0.0
Logan Gillaspie 20 7.4 2.8 1.4 .299 69.8% 4.73 4.63 -0.0
Spenser Watkins 16 6.3 2.4 1.5 .301 69.3% 4.86 4.71 -0.0
Yennier Cano 14 8.6 4.2 1.0 .305 72.2% 4.31 4.22 -0.0
Darwinzon Hernandez 12 11.1 5.5 1.0 .293 73.2% 4.17 4.29 -0.0
Noah Denoyer 10 8.7 3.2 1.3 .295 71.4% 4.35 4.26 -0.0
John Means 8 7.5 2.1 1.3 .277 72.9% 3.97 4.17 0.0
Cole Irvin 4 6.5 2.0 1.5 .294 69.7% 4.66 4.62 -0.0
Total 579 9.0 3.3 1.2 .293 72.9% 4.02 4.01 1.5

A number of Orioles relievers enjoyed breakouts last year, which contributed to the team’s over-performance in what proved to be Baltimore’s first winning season since 2016. But while a number of relievers had career years in 2022, our projections don’t view them as likely to repeat those performances. That isn’t so surprising when you look at their peripherals from last season – while the Orioles ranked ninth in relief ERA, their squad was 22nd in strikeout rate, (successfully) playing the odds with balls in play.

Félix Bautista was one of the best relievers in baseball in his rookie year, sitting 99 mph with a fastball he paired with a splitter that had the best Stuff+ in the league by a wide margin. ZiPS (and all the other projection systems) are fully bought into his success, forecasting him to roughly match his WAR total from last season. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Cionel Pérez is projected to nearly triple his 1.40 ERA from last year, as he experienced significant fly ball luck. His 3.62 xERA is likely more representative of his true talent, but his fastball/sweeper combo from the left side still makes him a valuable piece of this ‘pen.

Other relievers who enjoyed big success last season include groundballer Dillon Tate, who cut down on his walk rate by posting career-best zone and chase rates; a forearm strain is expected to sideline him until mid-May. Bryan Baker added a tick to his fastball while throwing enough strikes to remain effective. The always-solid Mychal Givens has rejoined the Orioles after touring the league for the past three years. Lefty Keegan Akin took a step forward after converting to a relief role, but he can still contribute length, completing 81 frames in 45 appearances in 2022.

Possibly the most electric arm on Baltimore’s entire staff is DL Hall, who had a cup of coffee last September; he was optioned to Triple-A on Sunday as he builds up from a back injury but should see significant time with the big league club this season. He’s never walked fewer than 10% of batters at any minor league level, but he pairs a high-90s fastball with a plus slider and a good changeup from the left side and has immense strikeout potential. He ranked 64th on our Top 100 prospect despite profiling in a relief role. Indeed, Hall projects as one of the game’s most exciting multi-inning relief weapons, though the Orioles are still interested in trying him as a starter.

22. Cubs
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Brandon Hughes 64 10.2 3.4 1.3 .285 73.9% 4.00 4.09 0.2
Brad Boxberger 62 9.2 3.9 1.2 .289 72.3% 4.27 4.28 0.0
Adbert Alzolay 68 9.5 2.8 1.2 .290 72.8% 3.87 3.81 0.6
Michael Fulmer 62 9.0 3.7 1.0 .299 72.2% 4.08 3.98 0.3
Rowan Wick 60 9.2 3.7 1.1 .302 73.3% 4.02 3.94 0.2
Julian Merryweather 58 9.1 3.0 1.0 .298 72.8% 3.88 3.77 0.3
Keegan Thompson 70 8.7 3.3 1.3 .290 73.3% 4.14 4.29 -0.0
Michael Rucker 52 8.2 3.3 1.3 .298 71.3% 4.45 4.41 -0.0
Codi Heuer 46 7.7 3.1 1.1 .300 71.9% 4.09 4.07 0.0
Javier Assad 38 7.2 3.3 1.3 .296 70.7% 4.64 4.66 -0.0
Jeremiah Estrada 32 10.9 3.8 1.1 .296 74.0% 3.75 3.62 0.1
Ryan Borucki 30 8.6 4.4 1.0 .296 72.7% 4.17 4.23 -0.0
Adrian Sampson 28 6.4 2.6 1.4 .296 70.3% 4.74 4.83 -0.1
Drew Smyly 22 8.1 2.8 1.6 .295 72.7% 4.57 4.64 -0.0
Caleb Kilian 20 8.4 3.9 0.9 .302 71.6% 4.11 3.94 0.0
Mark Leiter Jr. 18 9.4 2.8 1.1 .293 71.9% 3.82 3.73 0.0
Tyler Duffey 16 8.3 3.3 1.2 .296 72.8% 4.12 4.20 -0.0
Roenis Elías 14 7.1 3.1 1.2 .296 72.3% 4.38 4.43 -0.0
Ben Leeper 12 8.5 3.7 1.1 .286 71.5% 4.21 4.28 -0.0
Cam Sanders 10 8.6 4.6 1.3 .293 71.1% 4.73 4.85 -0.0
Manuel Rodríguez 10 8.0 4.3 1.3 .297 70.4% 4.81 4.84 -0.0
Vinny Nittoli 8 8.8 2.9 1.2 .298 71.5% 4.12 3.99 0.0
Nick Burdi 4 10.9 3.6 1.0 .293 74.9% 3.57 3.48 0.0
Total 581 8.8 3.4 1.2 .295 72.4% 4.15 4.14 1.3

This Cubs bullpen staff is quite solid and balanced, but it’s lacking in high-leverage options. In other words, their seventh-best reliever might be better than most other teams’ seventh best, but their late-inning guys are a tier below those of most contending bullpens. During the offseason, they added two potential closer options in Brad Boxberger and Michael Fulmer. Boxberger just had two good seasons in Milwaukee, but he posted a career-low swinging strike rate last year, and Steamer thinks his career 29% strikeout rate will decline to just 22%. Fulmer has been solidly above average since moving to the bullpen, where he’s thrown his 90 mph slider nearly two-thirds of the time.

The Cubs have a number of the returning options, including Rowan Wick, who showed inconsistent flashes of brilliance in his first full season. His results ended up about average, but he also fell victim to a .376 BABIP allowed. Adbert Alzolay has been a great multi-inning weapon and starter in the past, but was limited to just 13 innings last year due to injury. Still, his solid strikeout and walk numbers combined with a diverse repertoire should make him an effective long-man if his health holds up. Keegan Thompson should also factor in as a spot starter or long reliever. Thompson doesn’t have the stuff or command that Alzolay does, but he threw 115 innings in 2022 as both a starter and reliever, appearing better suited for longer outings. Michael Rucker is a similar option, though he was used in shorter relief appearances last year.

The team also has some younger options, including Brandon Hughes, who had a 3.14 SIERA in his rookie season. His gyro slider had a swinging strike rate nearing 25%, and he could take a step forward if he can limit the damage against his dead zone four-seamer. He seems likely to start the season on the IL. Jeremiah Estrada came out firing in a brief 2022 call-up, pumping 97 mph fastballs with 20-plus inches of carry. The pitch is an elite bat-misser, and Estrada has a chance to excel if given a full season’s opportunity.

Julian Merryweather, an offseason waiver claim from Toronto, has plus velocity and a slider. He’s yet to produce sustained success in the majors, but he should factor into the bullpen this year as he’s out of options. Codi Heuer missed all of 2022 after undergoing Tommy John surgery but showed promise in 2021 with stellar swinging strike and chase rates. He’ll miss at least the first chunk of the season but could factor later on if the Cubs are still competitive in the Wild Card race down the stretch.

23. Rangers
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
José Leclerc 67 10.3 4.1 1.0 .282 73.0% 3.86 3.88 0.6
Jonathan Hernández 66 9.0 4.6 0.9 .299 72.3% 4.14 4.11 -0.0
Brock Burke 69 9.5 3.1 1.0 .286 72.8% 3.72 3.68 0.5
Will Smith 62 9.7 3.4 1.4 .284 74.9% 3.98 4.15 0.1
Taylor Hearn 60 9.0 3.6 1.2 .292 71.4% 4.30 4.15 0.0
Josh Sborz 56 10.4 4.1 1.0 .298 72.8% 3.94 3.68 0.3
Cole Ragans 48 8.0 3.4 1.2 .290 71.5% 4.31 4.29 0.0
Joe Barlow 46 8.6 4.1 1.2 .279 70.6% 4.45 4.45 -0.1
Ian Kennedy 42 8.2 3.3 1.7 .296 71.5% 5.00 4.98 -0.1
Dane Dunning 40 8.3 3.1 1.1 .303 70.4% 4.33 4.14 -0.0
Jake Odorizzi 34 7.9 2.9 1.4 .291 71.4% 4.52 4.47 -0.0
John King 28 6.5 2.8 0.9 .300 71.5% 4.03 4.07 0.0
Jacob Barnes 26 8.1 3.7 1.2 .300 69.7% 4.63 4.42 -0.0
Spencer Howard 24 9.0 3.4 1.3 .293 70.2% 4.41 4.20 -0.0
Yerry Rodriguez 20 9.0 3.9 1.0 .297 71.4% 4.09 3.97 0.0
Glenn Otto 18 8.1 3.5 1.3 .292 69.1% 4.66 4.46 -0.0
Danny Duffy 16 9.6 3.1 1.2 .287 73.4% 3.93 3.93 0.0
Kyle Funkhouser 14 8.4 5.0 1.1 .300 71.7% 4.67 4.69 -0.0
Zack Littell 12 8.0 3.0 1.3 .287 71.9% 4.24 4.33 -0.0
Brett Martin 10 7.5 2.9 0.9 .302 73.3% 3.72 3.74 0.0
Marc Church 8 9.8 3.2 1.3 .293 72.3% 4.11 3.95 0.0
Fernery Ozuna 4 8.2 3.3 1.2 .292 65.9% 4.83 4.54 -0.0
Total 556 8.9 3.6 1.2 .292 71.9% 4.20 4.15 1.3

Despite signing an entire starting rotation and middle infield in free agency over the past two offseasons, the Rangers still have big holes on their roster, the biggest being this relief group. While Jacob deGrom, Andrew Heaney, and Nathan Eovaldi have joined the rotation, their sole relief acquisition of the offseason was lefty Will Smith, who is coming off a few average seasons in Atlanta and Houston. Texas certainly isn’t lacking in lefties, so Smith can take on a more specialist role, as righties slugged nearly .500 against him last season.

After Smith, their most experienced reliever is José Leclerc, who has spent his entire professional career as a Ranger. Despite being a fly ball pitcher, Leclerc has consistently been able to keep the ball in the yard, posting a 6.8% HR/FB rate. His fastball features plus carry and as a result, about a fifth of his fly balls have been of the infield variety. With Matt Moore departed, Leclerc should slot back into the closer spot. Setting up behind him will be Jonathan Hernández, who hasn’t pitched a full major league season yet but has shown promise as a groundballer in a limited sample.

Another reliever who has earned save opportunities in the last two years is Joe Barlow. Barlow, who throws a slider over half the time, has shown a strong ability to get swings and misses against his breaking ball, though it hasn’t yet translated to a high strikeout rate. His underlying per-pitch metrics are why projection systems believe he’ll strike out more batters than last year.

Brock Burke had a stellar season as a multi-inning reliever after being converted from a starting role. He completed 82 frames across 52 appearances, with a 1.97 ERA and 3.29 FIP. Much of his success was due to added velocity, as he threw three ticks harder than his previous stint in the rotation. He’s projected to lead his squad in innings pitched for the second year in a row. Josh Sborz, acquired from the Dodgers in 2021, had an ugly 6.45 ERA in the majors last year, but that came with an unsustainably high .396 BABIP. Still, he struck out 32% of batters faced and had a 3.05 SIERA. He has three pitches with above-average swinging strike rates and our projections view him as a viable middle reliever.

This bullpen group is rounded out by a collection of former starters and swingmen who have been supplanted by the Rangers’ big name rotation signings. Dane Dunning made 29 starts in 2022, but his severe lack of velocity limited his performance. Averaging just 89 mph on his sinker, Dunning was considerably below league average in terms of results. Cole Ragans debuted last season in the rotation, but he finished just 4.4 innings per start and had a FIP around 5.00. While Ragans featured a plus changeup that had a 20% swinging strike rate, the rest of his arsenal got hit hard.

Taylor Hearn has bounced between the rotation and bullpen, pitching 100 innings in each of the past two seasons but only starting 24 games total. He doesn’t have much of a standout skill, with his best asset being his ability to pitch in any role. Finally, Jake Odorizzi was primarily signed as injury insurance for the starting rotation, but he is dealing with an arm fatigue injury of his own that may require a 60-day IL stint. There’s a good chance someone from the rotation will be out when he returns, thrusting him into a starting role, but if not, Odorizzi will pitch out of the bullpen for the first time in his career.

24. Nationals
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Kyle Finnegan 66 9.4 3.4 1.0 .294 73.7% 3.79 3.75 0.7
Carl Edwards Jr. 64 8.6 3.6 1.1 .291 71.9% 4.18 4.08 0.3
Hunter Harvey 62 9.5 3.1 1.3 .295 72.5% 4.10 4.01 0.3
Erasmo Ramírez 60 7.4 2.4 1.3 .294 70.5% 4.33 4.26 0.1
Mason Thompson 58 7.8 3.8 1.1 .297 71.4% 4.36 4.42 0.0
Hobie Harris 56 8.6 4.6 1.4 .292 70.6% 4.90 4.90 -0.2
Thad Ward 52 8.8 3.7 1.3 .292 70.8% 4.50 4.43 -0.0
Víctor Arano 50 9.1 3.2 1.1 .295 71.1% 4.03 3.91 0.1
Sean Doolittle 44 8.5 3.0 1.5 .290 72.5% 4.48 4.53 0.0
Anthony Banda 40 8.3 3.6 1.2 .304 71.4% 4.46 4.35 0.0
Paolo Espino 36 7.1 2.3 1.7 .300 69.6% 5.01 4.83 -0.1
Andres Machado 32 7.3 3.6 1.2 .292 70.6% 4.53 4.62 -0.0
Alex Colomé 28 7.3 3.8 1.1 .297 70.8% 4.46 4.43 -0.0
Jordan Weems 24 9.0 3.7 1.2 .293 71.2% 4.43 4.25 0.0
Cory Abbott 20 8.6 4.1 1.6 .288 71.5% 4.92 4.99 -0.0
Wily Peralta 18 7.5 4.0 1.1 .294 71.8% 4.43 4.56 -0.0
Chad Kuhl 16 7.6 3.9 1.5 .295 68.7% 5.21 5.06 -0.0
Matt Cronin 12 8.9 4.6 1.1 .290 72.2% 4.37 4.40 -0.0
Zach Brzykcy 10 9.8 4.4 1.2 .290 72.1% 4.38 4.37 -0.0
Trevor Williams 8 7.4 2.7 1.4 .299 69.5% 4.72 4.52 -0.0
Jackson Tetreault 4 6.3 3.7 1.5 .296 69.2% 5.20 5.20 -0.0
Total 589 8.4 3.5 1.3 .294 71.4% 4.40 4.35 1.3

Kyle Finnegan has been one of the few bullpen constants on some dismal Nationals teams since their World Series championship in 2019. He took another step forward last season, adding another tick of velocity to his fastball, quite important for one of the most fastball-heavy pitchers in the league. He also saw a significant drop in his walk rate, in total reducing his SIERA by a full run compared to previous seasons; he easily profiles as the best reliever in this odd group.

Carl Edwards Jr. has come a long way from his days with the Cubs. While he used to be a strikeout artist with one of the best curveballs in the game, the quality of his stuff has significantly declined while his walk rates have only marginally improved. His first season in Washington was great results-wise, but it came with a 104 FIP-, and that appears to be how he profiles going forward. Hunter Harvey excelled in his first extended chance in the majors. He’s in a similar fastball-spamming mold as Finnegan and our projections see him as having the best K/BB ratio of anyone here.

In the middle of this bullpen are groundball specialists Victor Arano, Alex Colomé, and Mason Thompson. Arano is a righty specialist who uses his east/west movement profile to keep hitters guessing and has largely succeeded throughout his career, posting an 81 FIP-; he is expected to start the season on the 60-day IL. In one of the more predictable declines from any pitcher to sign with Colorado, Colomé’s cutter hit a wall last season in Coors Field. In his previous few years in ballparks at reasonable altitudes, his peripherals were those of a solidly average middle reliever. The 25-year-old Thompson looks to get his first full season in the majors; his sinker’s ability to get both chases and whiffs will certainly be tested.

Erasmo Ramírez led this staff in workload last season, tossing 86 innings across 60 appearances. The former starter and swingman has found a new home in long relief, where he could help ease the workload of young rotation arms like Josiah Gray and Mackenzie Gore. All 88 mph of Paolo Espino should serve a similar role, provided his home run issues don’t bounce him from the team.

The Nationals will be quite interested in tracking the performance of Thad Ward, taken in the Rule 5 draft from Boston. His scouting report on The Board describes him as a polished starter with a good slider and cutter, and he’ll likely be pitching in relief for the first time in his professional career. Finally, lefty Sean Doolittle is back with the club, one of few remnants from their title winning squad. He’s also one of their few left-handed options, but his high fly ball rate combined with diminished fastball stuff could hurt him in the homer department. He’s unlikely to be ready for Opening Day.

25. Reds
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Alexis Díaz 68 11.2 4.3 1.2 .275 73.5% 3.92 3.96 0.5
Reiver Sanmartin 62 8.3 3.2 1.2 .309 72.4% 4.25 4.14 0.3
Buck Farmer 61 9.7 4.2 1.4 .301 73.3% 4.49 4.47 0.2
Ian Gibaut 60 9.5 4.3 1.2 .308 73.1% 4.33 4.25 0.2
Fernando Cruz 58 9.2 3.8 1.4 .298 71.3% 4.72 4.61 -0.1
Lucas Sims 54 10.4 4.1 1.2 .294 72.3% 4.28 4.12 0.1
Alex Young 52 8.5 3.4 1.4 .303 72.5% 4.51 4.51 -0.0
Tony Santillan 48 9.8 4.3 1.3 .300 72.6% 4.48 4.46 0.0
Joel Kuhnel 44 8.4 2.7 1.3 .305 72.3% 4.26 4.12 0.0
Bennett Sousa 38 8.7 3.9 1.4 .295 71.0% 4.64 4.58 -0.0
Derek Law 36 8.4 3.9 1.2 .314 73.2% 4.46 4.42 -0.0
Connor Overton 32 7.1 2.8 1.4 .301 70.5% 4.68 4.63 0.0
Daniel Duarte 28 9.1 4.9 1.4 .303 70.8% 5.07 4.95 -0.0
Tejay Antone 26 9.4 3.8 1.3 .301 72.8% 4.31 4.30 0.0
Luis Cessa 22 7.1 3.3 1.3 .298 71.2% 4.57 4.59 -0.0
Chase Anderson 18 7.3 3.7 1.8 .295 69.4% 5.47 5.44 -0.1
Silvino Bracho 16 9.3 2.8 1.5 .297 71.5% 4.46 4.27 0.0
Ricky Karcher 12 10.6 6.1 1.4 .295 71.6% 5.02 5.04 -0.0
Eddy Demurias 10 8.0 5.0 1.5 .301 70.6% 5.31 5.38 -0.0
Levi Stoudt 6 7.2 3.5 1.6 .304 70.4% 5.18 5.14 -0.0
Brandon Williamson 4 8.2 4.6 1.5 .299 71.4% 5.11 5.22 -0.0
Total 603 9.1 3.9 1.3 .300 72.2% 4.48 4.42 1.2

Alexis Díaz has nasty stuff in almost the exact same mold as his brother, Edwin. He fires in the mid-90s from a sub-5-foot release point with 7.5 feet of extension, putting up one of the flattest vertical approach angles in the league. Díaz also throws a hard slider, though he shows a clear preference for the heater. Joining him in high-leverage relief is Lucas Sims, who missed last season with injury but fanned 39% of batters in 2021. If he remains healthy and his sweeping slider stays effective, Cincinnati should have an enviable 8-9 combo at the back of their bullpen.

After that, the options thin out significantly. Soft-tossing lefty Reiver Sanmartin gets a good number of groundballs from his changeup, but he’ll need to cut down on the walks to be effective. Buck Farmer had a good first year with the Reds after struggling in Detroit for most of a decade and will hope to keep the ball in the park enough to repeat his performance. Ian Gibaut has been an up/down reliever all over the league but finally posted the strikeout results that the stuff he showed in the minor leagues indicated he was capable of. His FIP was just above three, though his ERA looked far worse due to a .412 BABIP allowed, which should come down considerably.

The Reds should be able to get some length out of Connor Overton, who had one of baseball’s most perplexing performances in a small sample last year. Among all starters, Overton was second to Justin Verlander in OPS against, but he struck out just 11% of batters and had a SIERA above five. His utter inability to miss bats is strong evidence he won’t repeat that performance, but he throws the kitchen sink and should be able to eat some innings. Tony Santillan is also a recently converted starter who will be a designated long-man for this Cincinnati squad; he’s targeting a mid-April return from a back injury.

Look out for Fernando Cruz this season. One of the oldest rookies in recent memory, Cruz debuted late last season at the age of 32 after being signed out of the Mexican League. Every projection system forecasts his strikeout rate to drop precipitously from his 32.8% mark last year, but his underlying chase and swinging strike rates appear quite strong, especially on his splitter, which struck out 17 batters while allowing just one hit.

26. Rockies
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Daniel Bard 66 10.2 4.0 1.0 .313 71.4% 4.19 3.81 0.9
Brent Suter 64 6.7 3.0 1.3 .313 70.4% 4.89 4.64 -0.2
Pierce Johnson 62 9.9 3.5 1.3 .319 72.5% 4.45 3.99 0.5
Brad Hand 60 8.3 3.9 1.4 .307 70.5% 4.91 4.79 -0.1
Dinelson Lamet 58 10.7 3.5 1.3 .310 71.0% 4.50 4.05 0.3
Justin Lawrence 56 9.4 4.5 1.0 .318 70.0% 4.64 4.16 0.1
Ty Blach 51 5.8 2.7 1.4 .323 66.7% 5.47 4.83 -0.1
Gavin Hollowell 44 8.8 3.5 1.4 .307 68.3% 5.04 4.55 -0.0
Jake Bird 40 8.1 3.9 1.0 .314 68.5% 4.68 4.28 0.0
Nick Mears 38 8.6 4.6 1.5 .310 69.5% 5.32 5.05 -0.1
Connor Seabold 33 7.4 2.6 1.6 .308 67.2% 5.28 4.88 -0.0
Riley Pint 32 8.6 5.2 1.3 .314 67.6% 5.54 5.17 -0.1
Peter Lambert 26 6.6 3.3 1.4 .316 66.9% 5.41 4.89 -0.0
Logan Allen 24 7.0 3.7 1.4 .314 67.3% 5.41 4.98 -0.0
Tyler Kinley 22 8.8 3.5 1.4 .303 70.6% 4.66 4.37 0.0
Noah Davis 18 7.5 3.9 1.6 .306 67.1% 5.60 5.29 -0.1
Austin Gomber 16 7.4 2.9 1.5 .309 68.5% 5.09 4.67 -0.0
Karl Kauffmann 14 6.6 4.4 1.3 .320 68.6% 5.52 5.20 -0.0
Blair Calvo 12 7.5 3.7 1.5 .319 68.4% 5.44 5.04 -0.0
Fineas Del Bonta-Smith 10 7.5 3.1 1.5 .313 69.0% 5.20 4.78 -0.0
Stephen Jones 8 7.8 3.9 1.5 .311 69.3% 5.30 5.00 -0.0
Ryan Feltner 4 7.8 3.4 1.6 .309 68.3% 5.35 4.94 -0.0
Total 561 8.4 3.7 1.3 .313 69.4% 4.93 4.54 1.1

Pitching at Coors Field is incredibly difficult. Despite this, the Rockies have at times solved their pinball machine of a ballpark, putting up above-average relief ERAs 15 times in their 30-year history. Unfortunately, this doesn’t appear to be one of these years.

Daniel Bard’s 2020 resurgence with Colorado after a seven-year break from the majors (and a brief retirement from baseball) was an incredible story, one he’s continued by signing a two-year deal last July to stay in Denver after wrapping up his best season to date. He had his highest strikeout rate since 2009 with a career-low fly ball rate. He walked his fair share of batters like many other high-octane closers, but free passes are certainly preferable to balls in the air at his home ballpark. Still, it’s worth keeping an eye on his performance early in the season after his command seemingly disappeared during the World Baseball Classic, hitting or walking three of four batters he faced in the quarterfinals versus Venezuela while landing just 5-of-17 pitches in the strike zone.

The only other reliever here with pure stuff rivaling that of Bard is Dinelson Lamet, whose fastball/slider mix made him at times a dominant starter for the Padres before a steep decline that ended in him being claimed off waivers by the Rockies. He struck out a third of batters faced after joining the Rockies with a 2.94 SIERA and has a chance to reinvent his career in a single inning relief role. Another former Padre now playing for their division rival is Pierce Johnson, who throws more curveballs than any other pitcher. He had a few great seasons with San Diego, but his heavy reliance on the spin-based movement of his curveball could significantly limit its effectiveness in the thin air.

The Rockies also added a couple of free agent lefties in the offseason. Brent Suter’s pitch data looks like it could have come out of the 1950s, but he had a string of remarkably effective seasons despite averaging just 86.4 mph on his fastball and 77.2 on his changeup. Brad Hand was a solid contributor to last year’s Phillies, but his peripherals looked rather uninspiring, with his 7.6% K-BB by far his worst since he moved to the bullpen in 2016.

Rounding out the back of the bullpen are some home-developed arms. Justin Lawrence and Jake Bird are sinker-heavy groundballers who have been rather unimpressive by their raw results during their time in the majors. While Lawrence throws an above-average slider that led him to a respectable strikeout rate, Bird’s arsenal simply doesn’t get enough out-of-zone chases for a hurler who gets so few whiffs. Finally, look out to see if Riley Pint makes his big league debut this season after being added to the 40-man roster. A former top high school draft pick with premium velocity, Pint has never shown any sort of command in pro ball and has pitched fewer than 100 total innings in the past five seasons. In Triple-A last season, he showed off a solid sinker/cutter mix while sitting around 95 mph.

27. Pirates
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
David Bednar 66 11.0 3.0 1.0 .292 74.1% 3.39 3.15 1.2
Wil Crowe 68 8.1 3.9 1.3 .298 70.7% 4.63 4.51 -0.3
Chase De Jong 65 8.1 3.7 1.5 .291 70.1% 4.89 4.85 -0.3
Duane Underwood Jr. 63 8.4 3.7 1.0 .304 70.4% 4.27 4.04 0.1
Colin Holderman 58 8.3 3.8 1.0 .292 68.8% 4.34 4.08 0.2
Robert Stephenson 56 9.2 3.0 1.1 .287 72.0% 3.90 3.72 0.3
Dauri Moreta 52 8.2 3.1 1.3 .285 70.7% 4.44 4.37 0.0
Yerry De Los Santos 48 8.8 3.2 1.0 .293 70.2% 4.01 3.86 0.1
Jose Hernandez 44 8.1 4.5 1.2 .297 70.9% 4.68 4.64 -0.1
Jarlín García 38 7.9 2.8 1.3 .282 72.6% 4.14 4.29 -0.0
Johan Oviedo 30 8.2 3.7 1.1 .294 70.5% 4.37 4.33 -0.0
Vince Velasquez 28 8.4 3.6 1.4 .293 69.3% 4.85 4.65 -0.0
Yohan Ramirez 24 9.1 4.9 1.2 .289 69.4% 4.72 4.75 -0.0
Caleb Smith 22 8.8 4.0 1.5 .274 73.1% 4.52 4.82 -0.0
Mike Burrows 20 8.4 3.4 1.2 .288 71.0% 4.36 4.27 -0.0
Colin Selby 18 7.8 4.7 1.1 .294 69.7% 4.76 4.71 -0.0
Wei-Chieh Huang 16 8.8 3.9 1.1 .297 71.3% 4.33 4.21 0.0
Daniel Zamora 12 8.0 4.2 1.0 .301 71.8% 4.41 4.38 -0.0
Cody Bolton 10 8.0 4.1 1.2 .296 70.7% 4.67 4.55 -0.0
Luis Ortiz 8 8.1 3.4 1.1 .297 69.9% 4.41 4.22 0.0
Total 619 8.6 3.6 1.2 .292 70.9% 4.34 4.23 1.0

David Bednar has been the ninth-best reliever of the past two seasons by ERA, but his accomplishments have largely flown under the radar due to him pitching for a noncompetitive Pirates team. His results the last two years have been remarkably consistent, with an ERA and FIP below 2.70, a strikeout rate above 32%, and an average walk rate. Provided he doesn’t get traded (as was rumored at last season’s deadline), he should post another stellar season as a closer on a team lacking in high-leverage opportunities.

Outside of Bednar, this bullpen is defined by middling pitchers with experience as starters or bulk low-leverage relievers. Wil Crowe and his secondary-focused arsenal improved from dreadful to average after transitioning out of the rotation, while Chase De Jong and Duane Underwood Jr. have made frequent two-to-three inning relief appearances over the past couple seasons. Johan Oviedo, acquired via trade last August, started for Pittsburgh down the stretch but doesn’t look to have a safe rotation spot this year. Besides their stamina on the mound, another trait each of these arms share is a walk rate north of 9.5%, a big reason why the Pirates’ bullpen ranked 25th in chase rate and 28th in zone rate last year.

Some other names here include sinker/slider guys Yerry De Los Santos and Colin Holderman, who also have issues with free passes. Robert Stephenson and his slider-focused arsenal might have the best strikeout upside of anyone besides Bednar. He’s looking to find his form after some rough years in the hitters’ paradises of Cincinnati and Colorado, though he’ll have to wait a little bit, as he’s likely to open the season on the IL. New free agent lefty Jarlín García is coming off a few average seasons with the Giants, but won’t be seen in action for at least a month as he recovers from a bicep nerve injury. Once he returns, he should provide some stability to a bullpen somewhat lacking in big league experience.

The most intriguing young name to look out for here is Luis Ortiz, who averaged four innings per appearance in a starting role last September. Ortiz has some of the best pure stuff in baseball, throwing an upper-90s fastball and wipeout slider in near equal proportion. It’s unclear whether his future is in the rotation or bullpen, but his lethal two-pitch mix may play best in short bursts.

28. Tigers
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Alex Lange 65 10.7 4.2 0.8 .296 73.6% 3.55 3.46 0.7
Jason Foley 64 7.0 2.6 0.7 .308 70.4% 3.89 3.62 0.5
José Cisnero 64 8.5 4.6 0.9 .291 71.6% 4.20 4.27 -0.2
Tyler Alexander 61 6.6 2.4 1.3 .292 69.5% 4.54 4.43 -0.2
Trey Wingenter 60 10.5 3.8 1.1 .288 69.6% 4.16 3.85 0.2
Chasen Shreve 54 8.0 3.8 1.2 .289 70.2% 4.48 4.40 -0.2
Mason Englert 52 7.5 3.0 1.2 .291 69.8% 4.40 4.30 -0.0
Garrett Hill 48 8.3 3.5 1.2 .290 70.5% 4.43 4.35 -0.0
Trevor Rosenthal 42 11.2 5.6 1.0 .284 71.2% 4.28 4.21 -0.0
Will Vest 36 8.4 3.3 0.9 .300 71.9% 3.94 3.81 0.0
Tyler Holton 32 7.8 3.0 1.0 .296 72.7% 3.94 3.99 0.0
Matt Wisler 28 8.5 3.0 1.3 .284 72.1% 4.20 4.23 0.0
Miguel Diaz 24 8.0 4.1 1.1 .292 69.9% 4.58 4.47 -0.0
Beau Brieske 22 7.1 2.7 1.4 .287 69.8% 4.53 4.51 -0.0
Brendan White 20 7.3 2.9 1.0 .296 68.9% 4.34 4.25 -0.0
Jace Fry 18 9.1 4.8 0.9 .293 72.2% 4.18 4.21 -0.0
Rony García 16 8.5 3.3 1.4 .287 70.1% 4.60 4.53 -0.0
Reese Olson 15 8.5 3.5 1.0 .292 71.2% 4.13 4.01 0.0
Freddy Pacheco 13 9.7 4.7 1.2 .284 73.5% 4.23 4.39 -0.0
Alex Faedo 12 8.2 3.1 1.4 .297 70.7% 4.62 4.47 -0.0
Spencer Turnbull 11 7.8 3.3 0.9 .298 69.2% 4.27 4.08 0.0
Michael Lorenzen 10 7.4 3.7 0.9 .285 70.9% 4.17 4.19 -0.0
Edwin Uceta 8 9.5 4.2 1.1 .290 71.0% 4.28 4.15 0.0
Kervin Castro 6 8.0 4.5 1.1 .293 70.4% 4.62 4.51 -0.0
Joey Wentz 4 7.8 4.3 1.3 .291 70.7% 4.82 4.84 -0.0
Total 584 8.5 3.6 1.1 .293 70.9% 4.22 4.12 0.7

Alex Lange had a tremendous 2022. While he threw the ball in the strike zone less than all but one other reliever, he still had a 3.25 FIP thanks to a 95th-percentile chase rate and the third-highest swinging strike rate in baseball (behind only Edwin Díaz and Andrés Muñoz). He has incredible synergy in his pith arsenal with a curveball (used as his primary pitch), sinker, and changeup – three pitches with downer action that also gave him a 55% groundball rate. Projections view all these qualities as repeatable, with ZiPS being the most optimistic, predicting a 30% strikeout rate. Regardless, Lange is easily the best reliever on this team, with a chance to ascend to being one of baseball’s best.

Jason Foley and José Cisnero also had solid results last year, but both experienced extreme levels of fly ball luck and Cisnero walked nearly as many hitters as he struck out in his 25 innings of work. The soft-tossing Tyler Alexander has had a roughly equal split of starts and relief appearances during his career, but we project him to factor more in the bullpen going forward. None of those three arms has the strikeout upside to give them a high ceiling as setup and middle relievers, significantly capping their potential contributions.

Non-roster invitee Trey Wingenter looks like one of the better arms in this group and is expected to make the Opening Day roster. Formerly a well-regarded relief prospect with the Padres, Wingenter has pitched just three innings since 2019 after a lengthy recovery from Tommy John surgery. When he was healthy and in the majors, he averaged 96 with his fastball and paired it with a lethal bullet slider that earned him chases, whiffs, and stolen strikes alike.

Another NRI expected to break camp with the team is Chasen Shreve. Shreve had a 6.49 ERA with the Mets last season, but his 3.42 SIERA and 3.68 xFIP indicate that was mostly due to an elevated home run rate in a 26 inning sample. He had a few solid seasons early in his career and has a 94 ERA- in nine seasons, and the Tigers hope he’ll return to that form.

The last couple hurlers to make the team will likely be Garrett Hill and Mason Englert. Hill debuted as a starter and long reliever last season, but his strikeout numbers from the minor leagues have yet to translate to the highest level, as his fastball velocity and the shape of his wide variety of secondary pitches are subpar. Englert was a Rule 5 pick from the Rangers and could have a future as a backend starter.

29. Angels
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Carlos Estévez 63 9.5 3.4 1.3 .295 74.4% 4.04 4.07 0.3
Jimmy Herget 70 8.5 3.2 1.2 .294 72.1% 4.18 4.11 0.3
Ryan Tepera 64 8.4 3.6 1.2 .283 71.6% 4.23 4.28 0.0
Matt Moore 62 9.1 4.2 1.3 .287 72.2% 4.37 4.40 0.0
Aaron Loup 60 7.9 3.1 1.1 .293 72.3% 3.97 4.17 0.0
Jaime Barría 56 6.7 2.4 1.4 .290 72.1% 4.45 4.60 -0.1
José Quijada 54 11.0 4.3 1.2 .286 74.3% 3.97 4.05 0.1
Andrew Wantz 48 9.3 3.5 1.5 .290 73.0% 4.44 4.52 -0.0
Zack Weiss 42 9.7 4.3 1.3 .295 72.8% 4.39 4.36 0.0
Ben Joyce 40 9.3 3.6 0.8 .289 70.0% 3.77 3.58 0.1
Kolton Ingram 36 8.7 4.0 1.2 .297 72.7% 4.37 4.47 -0.0
Griffin Canning 32 8.9 3.5 1.3 .290 72.5% 4.31 4.37 -0.0
Tucker Davidson 26 8.1 3.8 1.3 .298 71.7% 4.53 4.55 -0.0
Eric Torres 22 10.5 4.4 1.1 .289 73.3% 4.05 4.19 0.0
Chris Devenski 20 8.5 2.6 1.6 .298 71.3% 4.59 4.54 -0.0
Chris Rodriguez 18 8.4 4.3 0.9 .300 72.3% 4.11 4.13 0.0
Chase Silseth 16 9.1 3.3 1.2 .294 72.7% 4.06 4.04 0.0
Jose Marte 14 10.0 5.6 1.2 .297 73.3% 4.53 4.68 -0.0
Jacob Webb 12 8.9 3.2 1.3 .295 72.5% 4.17 4.17 0.0
Justin Garza 10 8.9 4.9 1.7 .299 71.3% 5.32 5.40 -0.0
Austin Warren 8 7.7 3.9 1.2 .299 71.7% 4.59 4.65 -0.0
Sam Bachman 6 6.6 4.2 1.2 .297 70.4% 4.81 4.95 -0.0
Davis Daniel 4 6.7 2.9 1.5 .289 70.0% 4.82 4.89 -0.0
Total 553 8.9 3.6 1.2 .292 72.4% 4.24 4.29 0.5

The Angels spent most of last offseason making big-name upgrades to their bullpen, inking Raisel Iglesias to a four-year extension worth $58 million while giving Ryan Tepera and Aaron Loup multi-year deals coming off career campaigns. Unfortunately, these contracts are yet to pay off for them. Tepera and Loup had rather pedestrian results during their first seasons in Anaheim, while Iglesias was inexplicably moved to Atlanta nearly for free at the trade deadline. We project Iglesias for a 3.06 FIP and 1.3 WAR this season; had the Angels not traded him, their placement on these rankings would jump a dozen spots.

The team was about average by relief ERA last season, largely thanks to the contributions of some previously untested faces. Low-slot breaking ball artist Jimmy Herget led the group with 1.5 WAR by inducing weak contact and keeping the ball in the yard at an elite level. Unfortunately, the projections aren’t believers in his contact suppression skills, forecasting his HR/9 to jump from 0.55 to 1.2. José Quijada put up average results last season, but had a 2.87 xERA. His steady diet of high, flat fastballs from a low release point struck out nearly 31% of batters while inducing popups and harmless fly balls when batters did make contact. Jaime Barría averaged 2.3 innings per appearance with a 2.61 ERA (despite a 4.39 FIP), munching on low-leverage innings with his slider.

Through free agency, they’ve added Matt Moore, who is coming off the best relief season of his career, and Carlos Estévez, whose fastball pitch data looks quite intriguing outside the pitcher’s graveyard of Coors Field.

The Angels will likely also rely on contributions from new, less experienced pitchers. Zack Weiss received an extended tryout last September when the team was out of contention. The 30-year-old, who had just one previous big league appearance (he allowed four runs without recording an out), showed up during his time with the team, racking up strikeouts with a plus sweeper that he threw two-thirds of the time. Last year’s third-round pick, Ben Joyce, has a chance to get fast-tracked to the majors after being the hardest-throwing college pitcher in history. Joyce has re-tooled his arsenal to add a hard gyro slider and even at the age of 22, his fastball plays with the best in baseball. Other relievers yet to make their debuts who could factor into the Angels bullpen this season include Kolton Ingram and Eric Torres, both of whom had big performances in Double-A last season.

We often think about projections as single statlines – “Loup will have a 3.97 ERA and not a single point higher or lower” – but the numbers you see above are merely the medians of a wide range of outcomes captured by our projections. Taking these numbers at face value would make you think each Angels reliever will end up within a quarter run of the league average ERA, but in reality a few will vastly exceed their expected performance while others will fall significantly short. While the Angels have certainly bolstered the depth of their position players and starting rotation, ZiPS clearly doesn’t think Estévez and Moore are game-changing arms who will make this bullpen look like that of top contending teams. The key for them to beat these abysmal projections comes in maximizing the high-leverage opportunities given to those who excel in the chances they’re given and generating above-average value from the right few guys.

30. Athletics
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Trevor May 62 10.0 3.4 1.2 .287 75.4% 3.78 3.85 0.4
Domingo Acevedo 65 8.6 2.7 1.3 .281 73.7% 3.88 4.07 0.0
Dany Jiménez 64 10.1 4.4 1.1 .286 74.6% 3.92 3.95 0.3
Zach Jackson 62 11.0 5.0 1.0 .286 74.2% 3.82 3.87 0.2
Sam Moll 60 9.1 4.5 0.9 .292 72.5% 3.92 4.04 0.1
Jeurys Familia 56 8.4 4.2 1.0 .306 73.1% 4.16 4.24 -0.1
Chad Smith 48 9.5 4.5 0.9 .292 74.0% 3.78 3.98 -0.0
Adam Oller 44 7.2 3.9 1.3 .287 71.2% 4.68 4.86 -0.2
Drew Steckenrider 40 7.1 3.3 1.3 .283 71.4% 4.39 4.59 -0.1
Freddy Tarnok 38 9.0 3.5 1.2 .287 73.5% 3.95 4.10 -0.0
Hogan Harris 34 9.7 4.4 1.1 .287 73.3% 4.02 4.18 -0.0
Adrián Martínez 30 7.9 2.9 1.1 .293 71.5% 4.07 4.08 -0.0
Deolis Guerra 28 8.3 3.4 1.4 .289 71.6% 4.50 4.60 -0.1
JP Sears 24 8.3 2.7 1.1 .288 72.7% 3.86 3.92 0.0
Kirby Snead 20 8.4 3.6 0.9 .296 72.2% 3.88 3.88 0.0
Ken Waldichuk 18 9.6 3.6 1.0 .285 73.2% 3.79 3.87 0.0
Drew Rucinski 16 8.4 3.1 1.2 .298 72.1% 4.20 4.17 -0.0
Luis Medina 12 8.4 4.9 0.9 .293 72.3% 4.21 4.35 -0.0
Rico Garcia 10 8.2 3.7 1.2 .293 73.1% 4.19 4.27 -0.0
Shintaro Fujinami 8 8.7 4.7 0.9 .293 72.8% 4.07 4.15 -0.0
Jake Fishman 4 6.9 3.1 1.0 .290 70.0% 4.27 4.40 -0.0
Total 563 9.0 3.9 1.1 .289 73.2% 4.02 4.13 0.5

Former minor league Rule 5 pick Zach Jackson had a promising rookie year, fanning 12.5 batters per nine innings but also walking six. His fastball, which has 19 inches of carry, and gyro slider were clearly adept at missing bats, but he lacked the ability to draw chases out of the zone and often wasted pitches nowhere near it. His 2.78 FIP was boosted by a minuscule 1.9% HR/FB rate, though the forgiving nature of Oakland’s home park should prevent regression from ballooning his home run rate too much.

Another rookie aided by generous fly ball luck was Dany Jiménez, who even served as closer while healthy, saving 11 games in 34 innings. Jiménez leans heavily on his bullet slider and has similar command struggles to Jackson, but he struck out far fewer batters despite better marks in both his swinging and called strike rate. ZiPS is perhaps most bullish on these underlying metrics, predicting Jiménez’ strikeout rate to jump from 23.4% to 28.6%.

A new acquisition who could certainly take advantage of a ballpark below sea level is Trevor May, whose home run problem has put a stain on his record despite excellent strikeout and walk rates. Peripheral metrics struggle to account for this discrepancy, as his career ERA is a full run higher than his SIERA. A new homer-suppressing ballpark should allow May to embrace his fly ball-heavy approach without too much fear of being taken deep. With just a few days before Opening Day, they’ve signed another former Met in Jeurys Familia to a one-year major league contract. Once a dominant closer, Familia’s career has entered a tailspin and he wrapped up by far the worst season of his career in 2022. His formerly dominant sinker has lost a few ticks of velocity and horizontal movement as batters enjoyed a 230 wRC+ against it last season.

Oakland also has a pair of specialists in Sam Moll and Chad Smith. From a pitch data perspective, Moll’s sweeper ranks among the best in the league, and he held lefties to a .231 wOBA last season. The right-hander Smith, acquired via trade with Colorado, doesn’t have a great track record of throwing strikes but has a 100-point gap in wOBA between lefties and righties.

The A’s will have more pitchers who can start than spots in the rotation, so we’ll likely see some bulk appearances from some starters moving to the bullpen. Adrián Martínez debuted last season, showing off his plus changeup. Lefties JP Sears and Ken Waldichuk, who came to Oakland in the Frankie Montas trade, could also get some shorter appearances if the team tries out new faces in the rotation. Freddy Tarnok and Kyle Muller (moved in the Sean Murphy deal) will probably start the year in the minors, but expect to see them up in the case of injury or poor performance.





Kyle is a FanGraphs contributor who likes to write about unique players who aren't superstars. He likes multipositional catchers, dislikes fastballs, and wants to see the return of the 100-inning reliever. He's currently a college student studying math education, and wants to apply that experience to his writing by making sabermetrics more accessible to learn about. Previously, he's written for PitcherList using pitch data to bring analytical insight to pitcher GIFs and on his personal blog about the Angels.

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David Klein
11 months ago

Santana’s fastball velo was at 97 mph last year and his statcast page shows promising signs. I’m not saying he’s good but calling his stuff underwhelming? Not sure I agree.