2018 Outlook: A one-pitch pitcher wielding a cutter on a similar career path to Mariano Rivera's, Jansen has already done four times what Rivera did only once in his career: strike out 100-plus batters. In fact, Jansen in 2017 became only the second player in history with at least 40 saves and 100 strikeouts in a season, and in the process he significantly improved both his strikeout and walk rates. He had an eye-popping 15.6- 1 strikeout-walk ratio! Fantasy analysts often advise you go the cheap route for saves, but Jansen entering 2018 is about the most surefire relief pitcher in any season in history. He's the exception to the rule that you wait beyond at least the top 50 picks to pick a reliever and has even greater value in leagues that score relievers more heavily.
2018 Outlook: Just when it looked like he was drawing back to the rest of the pack among fantasy closers, Kimbrel broke through with not just one of his own best single years, but one of the best single years by any relief pitcher all-time. He whiffed 49.6 percent of the batters he faced, the third-best rate by a reliever in history, and coupled it with a career-best 5.5 percent walk rate, resulting in the second season in his career with at least 35 saves and 125 strikeouts -- he owns two of the five such campaigns by any player all-time. Having answered the injury questions that popped up late in 2016, Kimbrel has re-established himself as the "1A" to Kenley Jansen's "1." He's a viable top-50 option in any format, and if your league heavily weights relief scoring, he could be worth a pick a round or two sooner.
2018 Outlook: On the surface, Osuna's 2017 had the look of his spinning his wheels, especially in points leagues -- he finished exactly 90th in 2016 and 2017, only declining by 16 points in the process. Now dig deeper: He had the majors' third-best relief FIP (1.74), thanks in large part to a 9.2:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio that suggests he was supremely unlucky, as well as a substantial boost to his ground-ball rate (54.7 percent in the second half) due to his leaning more upon his sinker and cutter as the year progressed. Osuna dealt with anxiety issues during the season, which could've contributed to his poor fortune in terms of ERA. He should rebound in that department this season, and has the look of a potential top-five fantasy closer in all formats.
2018 Outlook: Chapman has been a closer for six seasons now, and during that time, 19 different closers have saved at least 40 games in a season. Remarkably, despite his 100 mph fastball, filthy slider and elite strikeout totals, Chapman is not on that list. His raw ability elevates him into the upper tier of fantasy closers; but he did miss time early last season with rotator cuff inflammation, and his August struggles due to a problem with his fastball grip illustrate how important both full health and elite command of his pitches are to his success. Chapman again will serve as the Yankees' closer, but the team does have competition behind him if he endures any struggles, which is the main reason he's not ranked in the very top tier at his position. After Kenley Jansen and Craig Kimbrel are off the board, though, Chapman is as strong a selection as any save-getter.
2018 Outlook: Diaz's raw stuff is superb: He whiffed 32.0 percent of the batters he faced last season, after 40.6 percent the year before, propelling him to a 34-save, 89-strikeout campaign. He'll return to the Mariners' closer role this season, again serving as one of the 10 best sources of saves in fantasy. Until Diaz reins in his control or lowers his fly-ball rate, however, he'll be unlikely to elevate himself to the position's upper tier. He walked a career-high 11.5 percent of batters he faced and had a 42.2 percent fly-ball rate, 18th-highest among qualified relievers, in 2017.
2018 Outlook: Rivero's 2017 was one of the quieter breakthroughs among relievers, as he concluded the year with the seventh-best ERA (1.67) and 13th-best WHIP (0.89) among relief pitchers, propelling himself into the Pirates' closer role in June after Tony Watson proved to be too inconsistent for the role. Rivero saved the seventh-most games from June 10 forward (21), thanks in large part to his strength in getting right-handed hitters out. He limited them to a .272 wOBA in 2016 and .253 in 2017, and last season he was purely dominant against lefties. Rivero's skills are that of a potential top-10 fantasy closer so long as he holds the role, and without any clear competition for saves in Pittsburgh, he should be drafted as such.
2018 Outlook: It's funny what one bad postseason will do for your perceived value: Giles' 11.74 ERA in his seven appearances last October will probably stick in many memories ahead of his sterling regular season, which concluded with a sparkling 1.11 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 36.1 percent strikeout rate during the second half. While it served a reminder that closer roles are fickle, Giles' skills remain excellent, which is the important thing when analyzing him for fantasy purposes. He's still one of the few closers capable of a sub-2.50 ERA, 30 saves and 100 strikeouts, and if the room is hesitant to trust him to do so after what everyone saw on the big stage, scoop him up as a top-10 position option with confidence.
2018 Outlook: Though he's often not even considered the best reliever in his own bullpen, Allen is one of the best at his position in fantasy, mainly because the Indians typically hand the ball to him, rather than Andrew Miller, in the ninth. There's a reason, and it's Allen's elite stuff -- even if it's not quite "Miller-esque" -- which has made him the only reliever with 85-plus strikeouts in each of the past five seasons. He is also the only reliever with at least that many strikeouts as well as at least 30 saves in each of the past three years. Allen even improved his control in 2017, posting a career-low 7.5 percent walk rate -- an important step for a pitcher who has an extreme fly-ball leaning. He's a locked-in top-10 option at his position.
2018 Outlook: Iglesias moved into the Reds' closer role in 2017 and thrived, vaulting himself more than 150 Player Rater spots and adding more than 100 fantasy points to his seasonal total. In the process, he significantly boosted his average fastball velocity, which went from 93.0 mph in 2016 to 96.1 mph in 2017, and coupling that with his filthy slider gives him an excellent chance at a top-10 finish among fantasy relief pitchers in 2018. Iglesias' primary obstacle to joining his position's elite is finding a pitch to neutralize left-handed hitters, as they had a wOBA 92 points higher than did right-handers (.327-.235).
2018 Outlook: Hand made huge strides in his first full season as a relief pitcher in 2016, then took yet another step forward en route to capturing the Padres' closer role in 2017. Almost entirely removing his so-so changeup from his mix, while leaning heavily on one of the game's most effective sliders, was largely behind the improvement, helping Hand become one of only three relievers to strike out 100-plus batters in both of the past two seasons (Dellin Betances, Kenley Jansen). While Hand's control could be slightly better, he'll begin the year as the Padres' clear closer, with skills that make him one of the more likely candidates in the league to hold the role all season. He's a top-10 fantasy closer who might come at a slightly lower price.
2018 Outlook: After posting a top-12 fantasy closer season in his one year with the Cubs in 2017, Davis took his wares to Colorado, where he'll attempt to become the first Rockies pitcher in history with at least 30 saves and a sub-2.50 ERA. Unfortunately, while his role is likely assured thanks to his three-year, $52-million contract, his skills have shown signs of slightly fading in the past year and a half. In 2017, Davis' walk rate rose to 11.6 percent, his well-hit average allowed rose by more than 40 points and his average fastball velocity dipped to 94.4 mph, his lowest since his move to the bullpen in 2014. These things could snowball at hitter-friendly Coors Field, though Davis' excellent strikeout rate gives him a fighting chance at being a top-10 fantasy closer nevertheless. He's probably smarter selected outside that group, however.
2018 Outlook: Doolittle emerged as the primary closer for the Nationals following a deadline trade to Washington, recording a save in 21 of his 22 opportunities down the stretch. His numbers were strong throughout the season, with a 2.81 ERA which was well supported by a 31.5 percent strikeout rate and 5.1 percent walk rate. Injury risk is the biggest thing separating Doolittle from the top tier of closers as the 31-year-old lefty has spent time on the disabled list in each of the past four seasons. There is also the risk of the Nationals upgrading the back end of their bullpen at some point and bringing in an even more established closer, in which case Doolittle would likely be relegated to setup duty. As a result, it's best to not pay for a full season's worth of saves.
2018 Outlook: Thanks in large part to an uptick in both the velocity and spin rate of his fastball, Knebel enjoyed a closer season for the ages. He became only the third pitcher in history with at least 35 saves, 125 strikeouts and an ERA beneath 2.00, with the strikeouts especially attractive in an era when starting-pitcher workloads are declining. Knebel's skills improvements now lock him into a top-10 floor in fantasy with top-five draft value regardless of format, but he'll need to improve his 12.9 percent walk rate and/or increase his 39.0 percent ground-ball rate if he's to repeat his sparkling ERA. Expect some regression with his ratios, which is the main thing keeping him from making a legitimate run at the top spot at his position.
2018 Outlook: Colome's 47 saves paced all major leaguers by six, but his strikeout rate plummeted from 31.4 to 20.6 percent, resulting in a bloated 4.36 FIP. While that suggests he was supremely lucky to have the kind of ninth-inning success that he did, bear in mind that his greater reliance upon a cutter last year -- he threw them 65.3 percent of the time -- showed a distinct attempt to go for ground balls and weaker contact, rather than an overpowering approach. The greater concern is that Colome, as the closer for a rebuilding Rays team, is one of the top candidates for a trade, meaning he could see his saves turn into holds if dealt. He's a worthwhile No. 2 option for a fantasy team, but he's not without risk.
2018 Outlook: Familia missed significant time last season to both a suspension and a long stint on the disabled list. He wasn't immediately reinstated as the closer upon his return and he finished the year with just six saves and a 4.38 ERA in 24.2 innings. The 28-year-old could be a good buy-low candidate, as he looks to be the Mets' primary closer heading into this season. However, the presence of former Marlins closer AJ Ramos and addition of Anthony Swarzak leave Familia with little margin for error. There are some real red flags which suggest Familia could continue to struggle in 2018 (a falling strikeout rate and rising walk rate), though they can probably be attributed in part to his injury issues. A fully healthy Familia could be a bargain at his reduced cost.