Every year MLB Network puts on a series entitled “Top 10 Right Now” at each position in the game of baseball. And over the years I have joined along and made my list. Now before last season, it didn’t mean much beyond being a personal exercise. Last year having had LaracuenteLedger.com, I now have a platform to display my list. And this year I’ll be keeping with the decade-long tradition. I follow along with MLB Network and release my list as they air the corresponding episode of each position. So we begin with the Top 10 Relief Pitchers Right Now.
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Each time I sit down to make out my list of the Top 10 at each position I look to the graphic above that MLB Network releases. I usually have an idea in mind of my top players at each position, but then I research and try to make my best decision. Now the selection process is somewhat like a fantasy draft of each position as an individual draft. But by the same token one must take into account previous output and estimate what the player can do in the upcoming season at that position. And be sure to listen to tomorrow’s episode of The Laracuente Ledger Podcast for a complete recap of both my Top 10 Relief Pitchers & Shortstops Right Now. So number ten on my Top 10 Relief Pitchers Right now is…
No. 10: Chad Green
When it comes to relief pitching, it is difficult to find consistency, as pitching is such a volatile endeavor. And much like starting pitching becomes a personal choice in what you are looking for from your relievers. So my list begins with Chad Green. Chad Green had a stellar sophomore campaign in 2018. Green honestly found his calling in the bullpen during the 2017 season. And in 2018 showed that he is one of the best. Now his season wasn’t as spectacular as 2017, but he managed an ERA of 2.50 in 75.2 innings pitched with 94 strikeouts. Going into 2019, Chad Green is a guy I would place my faith in and thus his entry into the list.
No. 9: Zach Britton
We start this list with Zach Britton. When looking at Britton’s 2018 campaign, we have to temper our expectations a bit as Zach was recovering from injury. So when I was sitting down to make my evaluations for this list, I look back over the previous three seasons and a little further back on some candidates. Britton is a guy that did not need much retrospection whatsoever. In 2017, Britton pitched to an ERA of 2.89 and with that heavy sinker had a groundball percentage of 72.6%. When going back just one prior year to 2016, Britton was otherworldly. Zach pitched to the tune of an ERA of 0.54, a FIP of 1.94 and a groundball percentage of 80%. Once again healthy, Zach Britton can regain that lights out dominant form and merits a place on this list.
No. 8: David Robertson
When it comes to relief pitching, consistency is rare. And when you have a reliever that delivers consistently, you must value that player. That is why David Robertson makes the list. Robertson may not be the flashiest player or throw the ball 100 plus mph, but he provides consistent top-tier level production each and every season. David better known as Houdini Robertson also has a knack for getting out of tight jams. David should have another stellar campaign roaming high leverage spots for the Philadelphia Phillies.
No. 7: Adam Ottavino
Adam Ottavino may have been relatively unknown before the 2018 season to most. But following a tremendous campaign last season, Ottavino makes the leap into the upper echelon of relief pitching. Some may question his addition on my list and say that it is because he is now a member of my favorite team the New York Yankees. But that couldn’t be further from the truth as we get into the rest of the list. Adam Ottavino would put together an incredible 2018 season. Ottavino would post an ERA of 2.43 with 112 strikeouts in just 77.2 innings pitched. Adam may not have been a guy many people knew before 2018 but going into the 2019 season, Ottavino is a guy you don’t want to miss.
No. 6: Blake Treinen
The Oakland A’s closer Blake Treinen is another name many on the east coast may not hear much, but it’s a name to be mindful of in relief. Over the last two seasons in Oakland, Treinen has become nearly unhittable late in games. The idea of missing bats is the strength of Treinen’s game. Blake would strikeout 100 in 80.2 innings in 2018 but most impressive was his FIP of 1.82 and ERA of 0.78. An ERA under 1.00 is absolutely incredible and if Blake produces similar results, next season will jump into the next level pantheon of the top relievers list.
No. 5: Dellin Betances
A player that often gets overshadowed by bigger names on his own team and in the league overall. And that man is Dellin Betances. Dellin has been one of the most valuable relievers in a star-studded Yankee bullpen. Moving into his walk year in 2019, Betances is going to want to put on a show. And a that has managed to strikeout 619 batter in just 381 innings for his career is going to dominate.
No. 4: Aroldis Chapman
Aroldis Chapman is known for his legendary fastball. And in a sport dominated by high-octane fastballs, Chapman’s fastball is still a level above everyone else. When facing a team with a lead and coming out of the bullpen is Aroldis Chapman teams are wary. For his career, Chapman has 236 career saves, and 798 strikeouts in 319 innings pitched. And looking at his most recent All-Star campaign in 2018, Chapman sat down 93 men in just 51.1 innings. And all while having a 16.3 K’s per 9.
No. 3: Craig Kimbrel
Craig Kimbrel has been a household name for a long time in the reliever game. And Kimbrel was looked at as the elite level guy. Kimbrel has pitched to an ERA of 1.91 for his career to go along with 868 strikeouts and 333 saves. Now the most recent memory of Kimbrel isn’t the best visual, but Kimbrel is an elite arm in the backend of the bullpen. And thus his placement on this list reflects that status.
No. 2: Edwin Diaz
In 2018 Edwin Diaz went next level. In 73.1 innings, Diaz would punch out 124 batters, and it was all done with an ERA of 1.96. Diaz was a highly valued commodity as even the 36-year-old Robinson Cano’s $100 million contract was made desirable. Diaz is a hard thrower with a unique delivery. And it’s that unorthodox nature that stuns batter as they step in the box against him. Edwin Diaz will be pitching in the Big Apple this season as a member of the New York Mets. The young Puerto Rican right-hander will have the chance to dominate
No. 1: Josh Hader
And at number one for me, this season is Josh Hader. If you check out the stat line of Hader in his two Major League seasons, you will see incredible numbers. In 2018, Hader would pitch 81.1 innings, and that would be to an ERA of 2.43. In those 81.1 innings, Hader would strikeout an unbelievable 143 batters. Yes, that is not a typo, 143 strikeouts in 81.1 innings. The 2018 All-Star would have nearly 16 K/9 and a lowly FIP of 2.23. Looking ahead to the 2019 season, one can easily expect a productive trend to continue. And while that pace can’t be assumed even a slight dip is ahead of nearly the entire league, and that’s why Josh Hader makes number one.