10. Seth Lugo
Seth Lugo was used as a starter for part of 2020, but he will likely be part of the bullpen once again next season. Lugo struggled as a starter, but in his 10.1 relief innings, he had a 2.61 ERA and 2.90 FIP. With Marcus Stroman and Noah Syndergaard returning to the rotation, Lugo will be able to be a reliever, where he is a much better pitcher. Since 2018, he has a 2.51 ERA and 4.77 K/BB out of the bullpen. Lugo will be a part of a great Mets bullpen with Edwin Diaz and Trevor May in 2021 and starts off the top ten list of relievers in MLB entering the season.
9. Brad Hand
Hand, a free agent, will be a great pickup for many contenders to close games. He has been one of the most consistent relievers in MLB since his breakout 2016 season, posting a 2.70 ERA, 12.21 K/9, and 2.92 FIP in 320 innings. Since being traded to Cleveland in 2018, he has been one of the most reliable closers in the American League. No team picked him up off of waivers for $10M, but he will certainly be offered a contract to pitch for a team looking to make a playoff push in 2021.
8. Ryan Pressly
Pressly has been one of the most underrated relievers in the league for a few years, and he will be the Astros’ closer next season if Roberto Osuna leaves. Since being traded to Houston at the 2018 trade deadline, he has an impressive 2.19 ERA in 98.2 IP. He served as the closer this year in Osuna’s absence and will be a reliable option in the back-end of their bullpen once again, even if they bring in a different closer.
Williams was the hardest player to place on this list. An argument could be made to put him at number one spot, and an argument could be made to leave him completely off this list as one of the top relievers in MLB. His rookie season in 2020 was one of the best seasons from a reliever in the history of baseball, but he only has 40.2 career innings in the major leagues. Williams won the ROTY and Reliever of the Year in 2020 with his 0.33 ERA, 0.86 FIP, and 1.56 SIERA, each leading the league by a significant margin. Although still the setup man, and second-best reliever on the Brewers, Williams will look to replicate his record-breaking 2020 season in 2021.
The flamethrower has been one of the best relievers in MLB since he debuted in 2013. Although he no longer throws 105 mph, he is still one of the most effective closers in the big leagues. He has a career 2.25 ERA, 2.03 FIP, and 19.7 WAR. Since returning to the Yankees in 2017 following his World Series championship win the Cubs had in 2016, he has racked up 94 saves and a 14.21 K/9. Chapman has a reputation for choking in the playoffs and has ended the past two Yankees’ seasons, but his 2.40 ERA in the postseason is still great. Chapman is one of the most consistent and reliable relievers in MLB and will lock down the ninth inning for the Yankees in 2021.
5. Kirby Yates
The former Padres‘ closer missed most of 2020 and struggled when he pitched, but his past two seasons were elite and he definitely deserves a spot on this list. From 2017-2019, Yates racked up over 60 saves and in 2019, posted a 1.19 ERA and 1.30 FIP. The 33-year-old is a free agent following his injury-riddled 2020, but he could be a great option if they strike out on Liam Hendriks. The Padres should look to bring him back, but if he leaves, he could be a great option to close games for any contender next season.
The Rays’ reliever has established himself as one of the best in the league since he was called up by the Marlins in 2019. He doesn’t close many games for Tampa, but he is definitely the best reliever out of their bullpen. He was one of many Ray relievers who missed time this season due to injury, but when he pitched, he was lights out. In 16.2 IP, he had a 0.55 ERA and 1.35 FIP with a 14.33 K/9 as Kevin Cash‘s favorite high-leverage option. The 30-year-old was a late bloomer, and the Rays control him till 2024.
3. Edwin Diaz
Outside of Diaz’s bad 2019 season, he has been one of the top relievers in MLB. Even in 2019, when he blew seven saves and had a 5.59 ERA, he still had great peripherals, especially his 2.63 SIERA and 39 K%. Since his outstanding 2018 season, when he racked up 57 saves in Seattle, Diaz has a 3.27 ERA, 2.77 FIP, 42.4 K%, and 2.09 SIERA. Entering 2021, in a Mets’ bullpen that now features Seth Lugo and Trevor May, Diaz projects to close games for Luis Rojas and the Mets.
2. Liam Hendriks
The former A’s closer has become one of the elite relievers in MLB since breaking out in 2019. From 2018 to 2019 he nearly doubled his K%, while completely eliminating his sinker from his pitch arsenal, and dropped his ERA from 4.72 (2011-2018) to 1.79 (2019-20). Hendriks has recorded 39 saves since he became Bob Melvin‘s favorite 9th inning option in mid-2019. Hendriks, the best free-agent reliever on the market, will make a big impact, whether in Oakland or somewhere else.
1. Josh Hader
Hader was overshadowed by Rookie of the Year and Reliever of the Year Devin Williams this season, but he is still the best reliever in baseball. Hader had a “down year” in 2020, but still put up a 3.79 ERA and 14.68 K/9, with half the runs he gave up coming in one outing. Since his debut in 2017, Hader has recorded 62 saves, with a 15.29 K/9, 2.54 ERA, 2.85 FIP, and 2.09 SIERA. Hader may not have been the best reliever in the league in 2020, but it was a shortened season where his stats were inflated by one bad outing. Hader is still the best reliever in baseball entering the 2021 season.
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