New York Yankees relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman
New York Yankees relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman throws during a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels Wednesday, Sep. 1, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)


Mike Shara

In the least surprising news of the week, it appears that the meeting between the MLB Players Association that took place on Tuesday February 1 ‘got heated’ and now a delayed season looks distinctly possible. Honestly, baseball fans should band together like WWE fans do. Whenever Vince McMahon & co. try to put over an idea that the fans hate (Roman Reigns’ initial run as a babyface, sexist women’s matches, etc.), WWE fans let them know loud and clear that they ain’t havin’ it. They boo relentlessly, chant mercilessly (and crudely) and create social media campaigns that force Vince and his corporate lemmings to change direction because ultimately, he has to acknowledge that the fans are the only reason that his company exists. Baseball fans should get together and do the same. The owners and players’ inability to divide up billions of dollars properly during a time of real struggle for a lot of people is unbecoming at the very least and probably shameful, too. Fans should threaten to just walk away if the season doesn’t start on time. I’ve seen enough MLB ‘labor strife’ where that is starting to become a distinct possibility. We’ll see how these next two months go.

Until that time arrives, here are my Fantasy Baseball Relief Pitcher rankings for 2022. I’ve ranked them from 1-30, based on 1) if they are their teams’ current closer – a reliever who doesn’t get saves isn’t much use, especially in Roto leagues, 2) the stranglehold they have on the position as we head into the season – guys who might lose their job by late April are not much use to you in Fantasy and 3) who’s in line to take the job from them if they falter a bit. Almost every closer has a wobbly point in the season. If your guy does, is there someone waiting in the wings to replace him right away or does he have some wiggle room? Sometimes it’s nice to have a reliever who’s not necessarily a top-end guy but doesn’t have an immediate replacement breathing down his neck, either. I’ve also listed the guy who’s probably likely to be next in line for saves on each team, so if your league has big enough rosters and you want to draft both guys from a team to cover your butt, you can use that strategy, too. Butt-covering in the preseason is sometimes a savvy approach.

(Mea culpa – I just realized that somehow I accidentally left Tampa’s Shane Baz off of my list of 2022’s top starting pitchers. If you go back and read that list of the top 64, put him somewhere around 43-45. Sorry about that but there are a lot of names to keep track of!)

RANK    TEAM          CLOSER                    NEXT IN LINE

1             CHW             Liam Hendricks           Craig Kimbrel

2             MIL               Josh Hader                 Devin Williams

3             LAA              Raisel Iglesias             Aaron Loup

4             NYY             Aroldis Chapman        Jonathan Loaisiga

** Loaisiga might be the better pitcher now, but he’ll be a multi-inning guy again.

5             HOU             Ryan Pressly               Ryne Stanek

6             ATL              Will Smith                    Tyler Matzek

7             NYM             Edwin Diaz                  Trevor May

8             CLE              Emmanuel Clase        James Karinchak

** once Clase took the job from Karinchak midseason, he ran away with it

9             ARI               Mark Melancon           J.B. Wendelken

** Melancon might only get 30 save chances all year, but he’ll make them count

10           TOR             Jordan Romano          Julian Merryweather

11           MIA              Dylan Floro                 Anthony Bass

12           MIN              Taylor Rogers             Tyler Duffey   

13           STL              Giovanny Gallegos     Alex Reyes

 ** Reyes had more saves last year, but Gallegos was/is the better pitcher.

14           BOS             Matt Barnes                Garret Whitlock

** Barnes had better hope Whitlock’s conversion to starting works out

15           DET              Gregory Soto              Michael Fulmer

** like last year, the Tigers may use both guys equally in save situations

16           KC                Scott Barlow                Josh Staumont

17           LAD              Blake Treinen              Daniel Hudson

** where Kenley Jansen signs (or re-signs) is a huge factor here

18           PHI               Corey Knebel              Jose Alvarado

19           CIN               Lucas Sims                 Tejay Antone

20           SEA              Ken Giles                    Paul Sewald

** this is all about Giles’ health – if he’s ok, he’ll have a long leash

21           SF                Jake McGee               Tyler Rogers

** Camilo Doval pitched well in late relief last year, too. Keep an eye.

22           OAK             Lou Trivino                  A.J. Puk

23           COL             Carlos  Estevez           Daniel Bard

24           BAL              Cole Sulser                 Tyler Wells

25           SD                Pierce Johnson           Craig Stammen

** hard to believe a Padres team that wants to win it all won’t add to this mix

26           TEX              Joe Barlow                  Spencer Patton

27           CHC             Rowan Wick               Codi Heuer

28           PIT               David Bednar              Chris Stratton

* *Bednar might be a top 15 reliever – I’m just not sure he’ll get many save chances.

29           WAS             Kyle Finnegan             Tanner Rainey

30           TAM             Andrew Kittredge        Pete Fairbanks

**…and Nick Anderson and JP Feyereisen and Jeffrey Springs and…you get the idea. The Rays will have 60 games saved in 2022, but they will be divided up between 24 different pitchers, half of whom no one has heard of yet.               

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