2012 Fantasy Baseball Head-to-Head Points League Rankings: Relief Pitchers 1-25

ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 13: John Axford #59 of the Milwaukee Brewers throws a pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals during Game 4 of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium on October 13, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

This post is the 12th in a series of rankings catered specifically to fantasy baseball head-to-head points leagues and the first of two focused on relief pitchers.

All pitchers in this post and future points league rankings are based on these scoring values:

(W x 7) + (SV x 7) + (IP x 3) + (K x 0.5) - (ER x 2) - (H x 1) - (BB x 1) = Total

Notes on Relief Pitchers:

Sneaky Ace - While RP and closers in standard roto scoring are typically only valued for their potential for saves, there are some closers such as Kimbrel, Rivera, Bell and Wilson that can offer similar point totals to an ace pitcher most weeks at a potentially much cheaper price.

SP/RP - There are quite a few relief pitchers possibly transitioning to the rotation in 2012 (Sale, Feliz, Bard, Chapman) including some who made the jump midway last year (Luebke). If your league separates SP and RP than these pitchers are an excellent source of points from your RP slot on two-start weeks as they're likely to double the point total of a potential closer or setup man in that spot.

K/BB - Because relief pitchers don't offer the same potential as starting pitchers to earn points via innings pitched, it's imperative that they be able to strike out a significant number of hitters per appearance while limiting BB.

Rankings after the jump:

2012 Fantasy Baseball H2H Points League Relief Pitcher Rankings: 1-25

1) Craig Kimbrel, ATL
2011 Points Scored: 514

Last season only Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Jered Weaver scored more points than Craig Kimbrel amongst pitchers, starting or relief. There may not be a clearer #1 for any other position in baseball.

2) Mariano Rivera, NYY
2011 Points Scored: 438

Could Mariano Rivera still be getting better? Last season he increased his K/9 and lowered his BB% while posting an ERA under 2.00 and adding another 44 saves to his historic total. There hasn’t been a closer controversy in New York in nearly two decades, making Rivera as safe a bet as there is for saves.

3) John Axford, MIL
2011 Points Scored: 472

On one hand, the Brewers are now without Prince Fielder and could be without Ryan Braun for the first 50 games, meaning runs and leads could be scarce before June for Milwaukee and John Axford. On the other hand, the leads the team does have should be secure with Jose Veras and K-Rod as setup men for Axford as opposed to Kameron Loe, Zach Braddock and (insert no-name relief pitcher here) that were pitching the 7th and 8th to start the season while LaTroy Hawkins and Takashi Soto were on the DL.

4) Jonathan Papelbon, PHI
2011 Points Scored: 374

In 2011 Jonathan Papelbon improved his K/9 and BB% before packing his bags for the City of Brotherly Love. The transition from the AL to the NL is almost always a positive for a pitcher, especially when leaving the AL East, and there should be plenty of leads from the Phillies’ three aces to protect, even if Cliff Lee or Roy Halladay toss the occasional complete game.

5) Drew Storen, WAS
2011 Points Scored: 468

In his first full season with the Nationals Drew Storen took the reins of the closer job and doesn’t figure to let go anytime soon after an impressive 2011. However, while the talent is legit, his 6 W were tied for the most amongst closers, so, unless that luck continues, Storen’s point total figures to regress a bit in 2012.

6) Joel Hanrahan, PIT
2011 Points Scored: 403

There’s some concern that his K/9 rate dropped, but overall it didn’t hurt Joel Hanrahan as he limited his BB% and HR while increasing his GB/FB rate.

7) Brian Wilson, SF
2011 Points Scored: 347

There are now injury concerns surrounding Brian Wilson that you have to consider before drafting him. He started the season on the DL and elbow injuries cost him a month later in the year. Meanwhile, his velocity dropped as did his K/9, which isn’t a good trend for a closer. With that being said, if the Giants are going to win games in 2012, they’re going to be close and save opportunities shouldn’t be scarce for The Bearded One.

8) JJ Putz, ARZ
2011 Points Scored: 443

Amazingly JJ Putz was able to score the fifth most points amongst relief pitchers despite pitching in less than 60 innings in 2011. When healthy, he is among the elite RP in baseball, but his injuries continue to prove that drafting him does not come without risk. It would be wise to handcuff him with David Hernandez if possible as Arizona figures to win a lot of games in 2012.

9) Heath Bell, MIA
2011 Points Scored: 409

Similar to Hanrahan and Wilson, Heath Bell saw his K/9 drop in 2011 and while it marked the third straight season in which he reached 40 saves or more, it would seem as though he may be at the start of his decline.

10) Jose Valverde, DET
2011 Points Scored: 467

Not only will it be extremely hard for Jose Valverde to repeat perfection in 2012, but he’s also unlikely to repeat his .247 BABIP and 82.9% LOB. Jim Leyland could do Valverde and his fantasy owners a favor by keeping him out of non-save situations as he earned 4 losses in such appearances.

11) Ryan Madson, CIN
2011 Points Scored: 353

No longer second fiddle to Brad Lidge in Philadelphia, Ryan Madson will close games right out of the gate for the second best offense in the NL and a team that Francisco Cordero earned 153 saves for in the last four seasons.

12) Jason Motte, STL
2011 Points Scored: 225

After pitching in the 9th throughout the playoffs in 2011 and with Tony LaRussa’s mind games out of the picture, Jason Motte should be penciled into the closer role for the defending World Champions and what was the best offense in the NL last season. He offers a solid 8.34 K/9 and miniscule 0.26 HR/9, although his ERA was 1.14 better than his xFIP.

13) Joakim Soria, KC
2011 Points Scored: 286

Last season was nowhere close to Joakim Soria’s best effort and he even lost the closer role for a brief time, but when he returned to the 9th inning in June he converted 21 of 23 save opportunities and offered a 2.58 ERA.

14) Brandon League, SEA
2011 Points Scored: 344

Although he doesn’t offer the K/9 of elite closers, Brandon League provides exceptional control and keeps the ball on the ground. If and when the Mariners win ball games in 2012, it’s a good bet it won’t be by more than three runs very often.

15) Jordan Walden, ANA
2011 Points Scored: 334

There were ups and downs for Jordan Walden in his first season as the Angels closer. On one hand, he had a 9.9 K/9 rate and earned 32 saves, whereas on the other hand he blew 10 save opportunities (tied for most with Carlos Marmol) and had a 3.88 BB/9.

16) Carlos Marmol, CHC
2011 Points Scored: 325

There seems to be little competition for the closer role at Wrigley Field, otherwise there’s a good chance Carlos Marmol would rank worse than this as both his velocity and K/9 plummeted in 2011 while his BB/9 sat at a terrible 5.84. Last season Marmol blew 10 saves and if that performance continues, Theo Epstein and Dale Sveum could look elsewhere ASAP.

17) Sergio Santos, TOR
2011 Points Scored: 329

Sergio Santos gave his owners an amazing 13.07 K/9 in 2011, but it came at the cost of a 4.12 BB/9 and 0.86 HR/9. The latter ratios could be a serious issue at the Rodgres Center and in the high-powered AL East and with Francisco Cordero now looming in the bullpen, Santos might be on a short leash with the Blue Jays.

18) Andrew Bailey, BOS
2011 Points Scored: 217

There should be a lot more leads for Andrew Bailey to protect in Boston than there ever were in Oakland, but that increase in opportunity could be costly as his GB/FB rate might not play well at Fenway Park and he’ll still need to prove he can stay healthy. Handcuff him with Mark Melancon if you can.

19) Huston Street, SD
2011 Points Scored: 271

Injuries have derailed Huston Street’s career the past couple of seasons, but Heath Bell had quite a bit of success in San Diego the last three seasons and Street’s 6.11 K/BB should play well at Petco while his fly ball concerns could diminish.

20) Rafael Betancourt, COL
2011 Points Scored: 200

It was Rafael Betancourt’s excellent finish to the season that allowed Colorado to move on from Street and Betancourt should be the closer to start the season for the Rockies. He’ll need to continue his dominance though as the team’s bullpen is ripe with arms ready and able – Lindstrom, Brothers and Belisle.

21) Kenley Jansen, LAD
2011 Points Scored: 163

If the Dodgers announce Kenley Jansen as their closer prior to the start of the season, he rockets up the rankings thanks to his 16.9 K/9 rate. The question will be whether he is more Kimbrel or Marmol as his 4.36 BB/9 is fairly discouraging.


22) Joe Nathan, TEX
2011 Points Scored: 162

If 2009 Joe Nathan returns then you’ve got yourself an excellent source of points via saves in 2012, but that doesn’t seem extremely likely. He’ll have the closer job in Arlington out of the gates but if injuries arise or his performance suffers in his new hitter-friendly home park, it won’t be too long before Mike Adams steps in.

23) Kyle Farnsworth, TB
2011 Points Scored: 318

Kyle Farnsworth earned the closer role in Tampa Bay for 2012 and should get the nod in the 9th most nights but it’s worth noting that he had a .250 BABIP and FIP 0.98 better than his ERA.

24) Jonny Venters, ATL
2011 Points Scored: 247

There’s no question on almost any other team Jonny Venters would be the closer, but even though he won’t accumulate a ton of saves over the season (barring injury to Kimbrel), Venters proved in 2011 that he is still an excellent source of points in your RP slot.

25) Javy Guerra, LAD
2011 Points Scored: 232

Considering his performance to end 2011, Javy Guerra has likely earned the Dodgers closer role out of the gate, but with Jansen looming, I don’t think it will be too long before Mattingly goes in that direction for the 9th inning.

Honorable mention:

Daniel Bard, BOS
Aroldis Chapman, CIN
Neftali Feliz, TEX

It’s still somewhat up in the air as to whether Bard, Feliz and Chapman will be in the rotation or bullpen for their respective teams which will greatly impact their rankings. If they find themselves in the rotation, they will be a sneaky source of points in two-start weeks thanks to their potential SP/RP eligibility.

Is there a relief pitcher that didn't make the Top 25 that you think is worthy? Feel free to comment on these rankings or ask any points league, H2H or fantasy baseball questions below.

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