In case you missed the opening frames, here’s a link to the Top 25 Relief Pitcher Prospects for Dynasty Fantasy Baseball in 2022.
Of all the positions I’ve ranked, this one feels the strongest from 26-50, relatively speaking, held up against the elite players at that position in the majors. For example, Eric Orze could be pitching late innings in front of Edwin Diaz as early as April this year. Domingo Acevedo is at 26 here, and he could be universally rostered as the closer in Oakland at some point this season. Not, like, a one percent chance, either. We’re talking 25-plus percent, in my opinion. In a saves-only league, I’d have him on speed dial and maybe stashed away in my minors. Heck, they could clean house in the bullpen shortly after Wayne and Garth say “Game On.” Relief is a wonky endeavor. Wyatt Mills was cartoonishly dominant in AAA, with a 38.6 percent K-BB rate. It feels endless. You click in to watch someone then see a different guy come in throwing fire and have to go look him up. Rinse repeat. Lotta nasty stuff in the game today. Tough time to be a hitter.
Format = Player | Team | Age on 4/1/22 | Highest Level Played | ETA
28. RHP Freddy Pacheco | Cardinals | 23 | AAA | 2022
A starter until 2019 in AA, Acevedo dominated for 32.2 innings at AAA (37.3 K-BB%) then carried some of that success over to the majors (1.18 WHIP in 11 innings). He’s 6’7” 240 lbs but repeats his delivery well, relying on plus command of a 93 mph fastball and a unique slider at 85 mph (per statcast) and plus changeup at 86. It’s a rare look for a reliever to mix and command three solid pitches at his height. He could coax a lot of foul ball outs in that enormous ballpark.
Hernandez seemed to have a lane on the closer role in Texas when his arm gave out early in 2021. He had Tommy John surgery in April and should be just about ready whenever the owners are.
Pacheco will soon be in the mail on his way to St. Louis fresh off an age-23 season that saw him traverse three levels and dominate as a closer at AA: 33.8 K-BB%, 0.76 WHIP in 19.2 innings. He’s listed at 5’11” 203 lbs, and as you might imagine, his fastball works well atop the strike zone. Sits 97-98 and wipes people away with a nasty slider at 85-86.
Cronin is a Karinchakian-lefty who asked a teammate to punch him in the face before he entered the games as the closer at Arkansas. His command abandoned him late in 2021, but the closer role in Washington is ripe for the plucking if he gets himself sorted out.
31. RHP Eric Orze | Mets | 24 | MLB | 2022
32. RHP Ron Marinaccio | Yankees | 26 | AAA | 2022
35. RHP Daniel Robert | Rangers | 27 | AA | 2022
Sandlin had a great rookie season across 33.2 innings: 2.94 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 34% K-rate. He specializes in precisely what Cleveland does best: off-speed command and pitch mix. Good holds-league piece this year if the shoulder injury that ended his season is behind him.
Marinaccio throws a knockout changeup that pairs well with a solid fastball/slider combo. He dominated his way through AAA last year, delivering a 30.6 K-BB% and .0.98 WHIP across 26.2 innings at AAA. He also collected five saves in 66.1 innings across two levels. Not a likely closer option in New York but a nice set-up man.
Tapia was throwing 98 with an 88 mile per hour slider last season. Both had plus horizontal movement. Might be a little too low here.
Tago never really had a chance as the 47th overall pick out of high school back in 2010. That’s probably unfair to the Rockies, but anytime they take a high school pitcher, you can probably cross him off your lists. After five seasons in that system, he wound up with Chicago, where he’s been pretty good in their minor league bullpens since 2015, especially where limiting long balls is concerned. I watched a fair bit of him this month, and it looks great right now to me: 97 mph fastball he spots well atop the zone both in and out to both righties and lefties, slider he starts up high to tunnel with the heater against righties. The combo of high fastball outside with high slider breaking off the plate just annihilated right handed hitters when I watched. He can steal a strike with a curveball against lefties, but he doesn’t back-foot the slider consistently, leaving lefties the deciding factor in his success. Should be a successful middle inning piece this season.
Daniel Robert was incredible last season, especially in 17.1 innings at AA where his 0.81 WHIP and 41.8 percent K-BB rate jumps off the page. He was old for the level, but he hadn’t pitched much since being drafted in the 21st round of the 2017 draft out of Auburn, so I’m not really worried about that. Age is just a number for relievers. Still matters, of course, but doesn’t bother me the way it might elsewhere. On the mound, Robert looks even bigger than his listed 6’4” 210 lbs and commands his double-plus slider well enough to use it a few different ways. If he can command his fastball like he did last year, he’ll soon be a late-inning option for Texas.
Weird grouping here. None is likely to be a closer at peak unless Lange gets a lot better, which he did throughout the year even as he finished with a 1.49 WHIP. He was a first-round pick by the Cubs in 2017 and last season was his first as a full-time reliever, giving him some upside that’s obscured by the final line.
Dr. Justin Bruihl followed the Dodgers’ rules and succeeded in his debut season even though he struck out just 15.1 percent of opposing hitters across 18.2 innings. He has minimized home runs throughout his career and could replicate something like his 1.07 WHIP with a few more strikeouts across a full season in 2022.
Wilson could become a menace at the back of San Diego’s pen this season. He’s coming off a AAA season with a 0.92 WHIP and 31.2 K-BB%. Robert Suarez gets all the attention, and he’s earned it, but Wilson is worth a watch.
40. RHP Nick Mikolajchak | Guardians | 24 | 2022
43. RHP Charles Hall | Athletics | 27 | A+ | 2022
44. RHP Ethan Roberts | Cubs | 25 | AAA | 2022
48. LHP Jovani Moran | Twins | 24 | MLB | 2020
50. RHP Randy Rodriguez | Giants | 22 | A | 2024
In almost any other organization, I’d consider Mikolajchak a sleeper for saves in 2022. In Cleveland, we simply wait for them to break in another dominant set-up man who can cover the ninth if needed.
Roberts was a 4th round pick in 2018 as a college reliever out of Tennessee Tech. He’s listed at 5’10” 180 and does the thing short guys do, spotting a four-seam across the top of the strike zone to collect strikeouts in the high, higher, highest fashion I’ve seen a lot of over the past month prepping this piece. He also features a neat little cutter to say off lefty barrels and a plus curveball to collect those K’s down and out. Pretty much big league ready.
Perez is 40-man waiver run-off from Cleveland who should be able to establish himself where opportunity abounds in Washington. He’s a lefty who’s mostly fastball-slider but can drop a changeup in there to keep righties honest. Just a short-term holds play here more than anything.
Burl Carraway is ironically scrawny looking. Not many named guys among relief prospects, but here we find one of them struggling to throw strikes. Maybe the Cubs get it fixed, but I’m not waiting around for a guy walking more than he strikes out.
Moran made me look stupid for adding and playing him in the Razz30 last year, but his double-plus changeup from the left side portends a long career in relief.
A Michel Baez variant could be number one on this list in a different universe. He’s an athletic 6’8” who ended 2021 on the IL with an elbow injury, but the topside is tremendous. Another outside-lane saves flier in San Diego.
Randy Rodriguez could jump up this list in a hurry. He’s the only A-baller here, and his pace will pretty much come down the Giants level of aggression with his assignments and promotions. He’s six foot even and mostly fastball slider, and by this point you better believe he can spot the fastball atop the zone.
Thanks for reading!
I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.