A list of the top relief pitchers to draft for 2015 fantasy baseball.
1. Craig Kimbrel Atlanta Braves
At this point, Kimbrel's reputation as the most dominant end-gamer in baseball is well established. While his ERA jumped by 40 points in 2014, his FIP actually dropped by 10 points (from 1.93 to 1.83), and his strikeout, contact and swinging-strike rates all improved. He did take a step back with his control, posting a 10.7% walk rate, up from 7.8% a year before, but the right-hander averaged better than 97 mph on his fastball (a career high) and notched an NL-leading 47 saves, marking the fourth straight season in which he's led the league in that statistic. Right-handers had a bit more success against Kimbrel, but they still managed just a .436 OPS against him, and Kimbrel was equally dominant against lefties, improving his OPS against southpaws by nearly 150 points (from .574 to .425). The workload is starting to add up, and he could see fewer save opportunities in 2015 on a regressing Braves team, but he hasn't shown any real signs of slowing down to this point and is thus still the safest relief option on the board.
2. Aroldis Chapman Cincinnati Reds
Somehow Chapman found a way to be more dominant in 2014 than he had ever been before. He struck out a record 52.4% of the batters he faced, averaging 100.3 mph on his fastball, a full 2.0 mph faster than in 2013. He did all of that despite the scary spring training head injury that forced him to miss the first five weeks of the season. If Chapman has a weakness, it's his command -- he walked 12.0% of the batters he faced. Chapman is still evolving as a pitcher, too. He added a changeup (throwing it 6.7% of the time) and threw his slider more often (24.5%, as opposed 14.6 in 2013). The only question is how early do you want to take the plunge, and if you do get him, how do you support him with other pitchers?
3. Greg Holland Kansas City Royals
Holland was one of the elite fantasy baseball closers for the second season in a row, as the right-hander collected 46 saves in 2014, which was second to only Fernando Rodney's mark of 48 in the American League. He also provided support in other categories, striking out 90 batters to go along with a 1.44 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. Even though the Royals have several options in their bullpen that would make exceptional closers, Holland is their guy, and there's little reason to think otherwise heading into 2015. He's still on the better side of 30 years old, and his 2014 average fastball velocity of 95.8 mph was an exact match with his career average. Holland also possesses a devastating slider that he deploys frequently, and although he used a split-fingered fastball on just 2.3% of his pitches last season, it remains a weapon in his arsenal that can catch hitters off guard. He's one of the safest ninth-inning options in AL-only formats, and is arguably a top-five closer in mixed leagues.
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2015 Fantasy Rankings
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