Loading scores...
Magazine Content

Reliever Showdowns

by NBC Sports EDGE Staff
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Often in the midst of your draft, you’ll find yourself deciding between a couple players at the same position. With Player Showdowns, we take two players who are closely ranked and have writers take a side and debate who should be selected first. Whose side will you be on?


Aroldis Chapman vs. Raisel Iglesias




Chapman heading into 2018 has the same feeling to me that Craig Kimbrel did heading into the 2017 season. Elite stuff, terrific resume, but one outlier year (being the most recent) to bring down the public opinion. Chapman is still an absolutely dominant force in the ninth inning and he's still set to close out games for perhaps the best team in the American League. The 30-year-old southpaw still puts up monster strikeout numbers and is virtually unhittable when he's locating properly. I don't see any reason why he should be falling out of the elite closers and he should still be drafted as the third or fourth guy off the board. Iglesias, like Chapman, is a dynamic talent in the ninth inning. Sure, he doesn't have the track record to lean on, but he has been every bit as good when given an opportunity in the ninth inning. Where Chapman gets the nod for me is in the elevated strikeout rate and the fact that he'll close out games for a team that should win around 100 games, while Iglesias is slamming the door for a club that may only win 70. – Dave Shovein (@DaveShovein)




After last year’s early shoulder troubles and the August struggles that cost him his spot for a time, Chapman seems pretty risky to me. He’s the top-10 closer most likely to spend time on the disabled list, and while I do believe he’ll be just fine when he’s on the mound, it’s worth noting that the Yankees have the best set of closer alternatives in the business. Iglesias isn’t perfectly safe himself, but he hasn’t had any additional arm problems since the Reds decided to put him in the bullpen. He did fine holding up under a 76-inning workload last year, and the Reds probably won’t ask quite as much of him this year, given that they used him as more of a traditional closer as last year went along. That will allow him to add a few more saves, too. – Matthew Pouliot (@matthewpouliot)


Brad Hand vs. Brandon Morrow




The biggest knock against Brad Hand is that he's Brad Hand. Like, who's getting excited about Brad Hand? A closer for the Padres? And certainly when pitted against Brandon Morrow, a slightly more recognizable name who's now in line to finish games for the big bad Cubs, Hand doesn't move the needle much. Name recognition is for the owners in your league who still think Miguel Cabrera is a fringy first-rounder, though -- the astute know Hand has been one of the league's best relievers for two years now. The soon-to-be 28-year-old southpaw struck out 33.4 percent of batters faced last season, fifth-best among pitchers who logged at least 70 innings of work. He moves further down the list when the innings limit is lowered slightly, but he's still in the thick of it, just behind Ken Giles and ahead of guys like Roberto Osuna, Cody Allen, Edwin Diaz and Felipe Rivero. Hand pitches in a great home ballpark, he's locked in as the team's closer and the Padres are on the upswing after hitting bottom. It's time to buy in. – Nate Grimm (@Nate_Grimm)




Last season, Morrow was used as a full-time reliever for the first time since his rookie season with the Mariners all the way back in 2007. The results were something to behold, as he posted a 2.06 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 50/9 K/BB ratio across 43 2/3 innings for the Dodgers. His 1.55 FIP will tell you that he more than earned those sparkling numbers. Morrow’s success was no surprise if you watch him pitch, as the stuff – which includes a fastball sitting in the upper-90s – was electric. The problem, of course, is that Morrow’s track record of durability – or lack thereof – is poor, to put it kindly. That he was able to stay healthy in 2017 while sticking with one role was encouraging, and the Cubs planning to use him only one inning at a time and strictly in the ninth inning should give him a better shot to stay on the field in 2018. The save opportunities will certainly be there with him being a part of one of the best teams in baseball. Hand has been one of the best relievers in the game over the last two seasons, but his workload (no reliever threw more innings or faced more batters from 2016-17) and reliance on a slider (44.7 percent usage in 2017, up from 30.3 percent in 2016) make him an injury risk in my book. I also believe there’s a pretty decent chance Hand is traded in July even after his contract extension, and if he’s dealt he could be used in a setup role on his new team. There are elements of risk with both of these relievers. I’ll take the guy on the much better team who I think has a better chance to be a closer all season as long as he’s healthy. – Ryan Boyer (@RyanPBoyer)


Jeurys Familia vs. Archie Bradley




I’m a believer in what Bradley did last year. If he gets a legitimate shot in the closer role with the Diamondbacks, he could be a fantastic value given where he’s being selected in drafts. But there’s a reason he’s going where he is. It’s not a sure thing he’ll close and the Diamondbacks have alternatives with offseason additions Brad Boxberger and Yoshihisa Hirano. Meanwhile, Bradley could be more valuable to the Diamondbacks in higher-leverage situations in the seventh and eighth innings and even on a multiple-inning basis. Familia comes with his own share of questions. He missed significant time last year to remove a blood clot near his pitching shoulder and new Mets manager Mickey Callaway has indicated a willingness to use multiple options at closer. Still, Familia appears likely to begin the year in the role and possesses immense upside if he’s anything close to his old self. The Mets have an experienced alternative with A.J. Ramos, but he’s never been quite on Familia’s level. Familia at least shook off some rust last September and looked pretty good to finish the year, so I’m confident he’ll have the most saves in this bullpen if healthy. - D.J. Short (@djshort)




Relievers are volatile by nature -- it’s a small sample size game for them -- and so it can be difficult to project their fantasy output for a given season, especially when you get down to the mid-to-lower tiers. But to me this is an easy debate. Familia had a dreadful 2017, starting with a 15-game domestic violence suspension to open the season and then a three-and-a-half month absence because of a blood clot in his shoulder. When he was active and healthy, the 28-year-old right-hander struggled to a 4.38 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, and 25/15 K/BB ratio in 24 2/3 innings. Also working against him is that the Mets have a new manager in Mickey Callaway, who has broached the idea of playing the matchups in the later innings of games rather than sticking to set roles. Bradley is much safer, coming off a fantastic debut season as a reliever during which he registered a 1.73 ERA and 79/21 K/BB ratio over 73 frames. He doesn’t quite have the “proven closer” label yet, but that should be a non-issue soon enough. The new humidor coming to Chase Field only helps his case. – Drew Silva (@drewsilv)



Previous Showdowns


First Base

Second Base


Third Base