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2022 Fantasy Baseball: 5 relief pitchers to target

Garrett takes a look at who to target at the relief pitcher position in fantasy baseball this season.

World Series - Atlanta Braves v Houston Astros - Game Four Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Closers, setup men, relievers, RPs, whatever you call them, you gotta have them for fantasy baseball. And boy are they frustrating. The old adage of "don't pay for saves" has been challenged the past several seasons. The top tier of closers is being drafted earlier and earlier. It's definitely one strategy. Take the best ones and forget about it. After all, scavenging the waiver wire for saves can be a tedious, head-scratching ordeal. However, only one or two teams can take the best closers. If you aren't one of them, you'll need backup options. Well, I have a solid group of guys to consider.

Here are a few names I’m targeting in 2022 drafts at relief pitcher.

Ryan Pressly, Houston Astros

My Rank: 4
ECR: 6
NFBC ADP: 70.02

ATC projection: 63 IP, 75 K, 2.90 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 33 SV

Ryan Pressly was great last season. Over 64 innings, he had a 2.25 ERA with a 0.97 WHIP. He owned a 32.4% K-rate and a 5.2% walk rate. He also had elite Statcast numbers and spin rates. The only downside was his save total. It was just 26 saves. The Astros as a team had just 34 saves. This seems awfully low, especially on a team which won 95 games. Well, it was! I took every team’s save total and put it over the win total to get the percentage of wins that involved a save. Wouldn't you know it, Houston was dead last with just 35.79% of games won requiring a save. I have to believe this was an outlier. I expect a much greater save total for both the Astros and Pressly in 2022.

Jordan Romano, Toronto Blue Jays

My Rank: 7
ECR: 8
NFBC ADP: 101.89

ATC projection: 64 IP, 83 K, 3.14 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 28 SV

Speaking of teams which didn't earn many saves, the Blue Jays aren't far from the Astros. In fact, Toronto was the 2nd worst team with a 37.36% saves/wins ratio. Romano, like Pressly, had a great 2021 campaign. The 28-year-old fireballer posted a 2.14 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 85 strikeouts over 62 innings pitched. He had an 85th percentile hard hit rate allowed and was 95th percentile or better in xERA, xBA allowed, xSLG allowed, and xwOBA allowed. But, he had just 23 saves. Perhaps the advantage he has over Pressly is the Blue Jays will win more games in 2022 compared to the Astros. This should help Romano in save chances.

Minnesota Twins v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Scott Barlow, Kansas City Royals

My Rank: 14
ECR: 15
NFBC ADP: 178.19

ATC projection: 68 IP, 80 K, 3.55 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 20 SV

If you wait on saves, like I did in TGFBI, Scott Barlow is a solid consolation prize. He seems to be the favorite for saves in Kansas City. And although wins may be hard to come by, it is likely the wins they do get will be in close games. Barlow had a 29.7% K-rate in 2021 to go with a .283 xwOBA allowed. On the surface, the righty had a 2.42 ERA with 91 strikeouts over 74 13 innings. I am forecasting a mid-20s number for Barlow in terms of saves this coming season.

Joe Barlow, Texas Rangers

My Rank: 20
ECR: 26
NFBC ADP: 239.51

ATC projection: 56 IP, 61 K, 4.00 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 17 SV

Why have just one Barlow, when you can have two?!? Joe Barlow, of the Texas Rangers, is the current favorite to close games for his AL West team. The 26-year-old appeared in just 31 games at the major league level in 2021 and logged 29 innings. He posted a smooth 1.55 ERA and 0.83 WHIP. His xwOBA was comparable to that of Scott Barlow as well. Small sample size, yes, but why not take a risk on a guy when he has a clear path to saves right out of the gate?

Rowan Wick, Chicago Cubs

My Rank: 24
ECR: 34
NFBC ADP: 343.97

ATC projection: 57 IP, 63 K, 4.04 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 16 SV

If you've read my work in past seasons you'd know I have been touting Rowan Wick for years. I projected him as the heir apparent to Craig Kimbrel after the latter had messy seasons with the Cubs. Alas, Kimbrel figured it back out in 2021 while Wick dealt with an oblique injury and was held to just 23 innings pitched. However, 2022 is a new year. Kimbrel is gone and Wick seems poised to step in as Cubs closer, potentially unchallenged. Over his three seasons with Chicago, Wick has a 3.18 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and a 10.3 K/9. If Wick is indeed the closer all season, his current ADP outside the top 300 represents a huge return on investment.