Top 10 Relief Pitchers for 2023

Relief Pitching. The glue that holds together wins and saves bad starts. This list contains some of baseball’s most talented arms, including starting pitching. There are so many elite talents in the bullpen that some will be left off this list entirely. It was tough to rank just 10, but this is what we came up with. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Yardbarker.com

Honorable Mentions:

Andres Munoz – Seattle Mariners

Andres Munoz had a breakout year in 2022 for the Mariners, posting a 2.49 ERA with 96 strikeouts and 15 walks in 65 innings. While Munoz likely won’t close for Seattle in 2023, he’s bound to be their best bullpen arm. Munoz missed the entire 2020 season and most of the 2021 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in March of 2020, yet he still is one of the hardest-throwing RHP in baseball, topping out his fastball at 103.2 MPH in 2022. Expect another big leap from Munoz on the mound in 2023.

Daniel Bard – Colorado Rockies

Daniel Bard, at the age of 37, is still one of the best closers in baseball, and it’s very under the radar. In 2022, Bard posted a 1.79 ERA with 69 strikeouts and 25 walks in 60.1 innings and 34 saves, the best season of Bard’s lengthy career. Did you know Daniel Bard finished 16th in NL MVP voting in 2022? For a bullpen arm, in Colorado of all places, that’s insanely impressive. Going into his age-38 season, Bard is showing no signs of slowing down and no dip in velocity, topping his sinker out at 101.1 MPH in 2022 to go along with a nasty 90.2 MPH changeup. Keep an eye on Colorado this year because Daniel Bard is bound to have another great season as the Rockies closer.

Jordan Romano – Toronto Blue Jays

Jordan Romano had a very similar season to his 2021 outing in 2022, posting a 2.11 ERA with 73 strikeouts and 21 walks in 64 innings and 36 saves. Romano has one of baseball’s most lethal fastball/slider combos, producing a 30.3% whiff rate, well above league average. With the Blue Jays looking to contend in 2023, Romano has a big task to fill, save lots of games, and he’s shown that he’s more than capable of doing so. While we expect a big season from Romano on the mound, he barely misses out on our top 10, but don’t let that fool you. Romano will be one of baseball’s best closers in 2023.

Baseball Prospectus

10. Felix Bautista – Baltimore Orioles

6’5″ flamethrower, Felix Bautista, had an outstanding rookie year in 2022, in which he posted a 2.19 ERA with 88 strikeouts and 22 walks in 65.2 innings, along with 15 saves. “The Mountain” got his opportunity to shine after Orioles closer at the time, Jorge Lopez, was traded to the Minnesota Twins on August 2nd, sliding Bautista into the closer role, and he made the most of it. Bautista has one of the scariest fastballs to face in baseball, topping out at 103.1 MPH and having a next-level vertical run, giving it a rising look. Bautista looks to be the closer all year in 2023 for a young, fun Orioles team that looks to sneak into the postseason. Expect big (literally) things from Felix Bautista in 2023.

CBS Sports

9. Ryan Pressly – Houston Astros

The closer for the World Series champions had to be here. Ryan Pressly gives the Astros exactly what they need out of him, consistently great pitching. In 2022, Pressly posted a 2.98 ERA with 65 strikeouts and 13 walks in 48.1 innings and 33 saves. Pressly has one of the most effective curveballs in all of baseball, having above-average vertical and horizontal movement, which helped Pressly produce a stellar 38.7% whiff rate. Pressly has been a huge part of the Astros dynasty, and alongside the Houston lineup, Pressly shows no sign of slowing down. Look out, AL.

Spectrum News

8. Evan Phillips – Los Angeles Dodgers

Evan Phillips had a big breakout year for the Dodgers in 2022, posting a 1.14(!) ERA with 77 strikeouts and 15 walks in 63 innings. Although the Dodgers won’t announce who their closer will be in 2023, with Kenley Jansen long gone and Craig Kimbrel heading to Philadelphia, Phillips is the best candidate for the job come March. Phillips has one of the nastiest sliders in all of baseball, with an average velocity of 85.3 MPH and 16 inches of horizontal movement (the league average is 7 inches!). With RHP Blake Treinen most likely out for the majority of 2023, Phillips will have a big ask from the Dodgers as their potential closer, and we believe he will be among the league’s best this season.

Philadelphia Inquirer

7. Seranthony Dominguez – Philadelphia Phillies

Seranthony Dominguez, one year removed from Tommy John surgery, had a great 2022 season, posting a 3.00 ERA with 61 strikeouts and 22 walks in 51 innings. Dominguez showed his full potential in the 2022 postseason, in which he posted a 1.69 ERA with 18 strikeouts and only one walk in 10.2 innings. Dominguez rarely closed out games in 2022, but when he did, he was electric. We fully expect Dominguez to take over the closer role in Philadelphia in 2023. Dominguez, 28, is entering the prime of his career, and with the Phillies looking to make another World Series push in 2023, Dominguez looks to be in a prime position for a career year.

Call to the Pen

6. Ryan Helsley – St. Louis Cardinals

Whenever Ryan Helsley steps foot on the mound, hitters are terrified, and Helsley puts on a show. In 2022, Helsley posted a 1.25 ERA with 94 strikeouts and 20 walks in 64.2 innings, along with 19 saves, by far the best year of Helsley’s young career. Helsley also has maybe the scariest fastball in all of baseball, producing an average velocity of 99.6 MPH and topping out at a ridiculous 104.2 MPH. Unhittable. If Helsley can have the same production in 2023 that he had in 2022, he could very easily be higher on this list, but until then, this is where he finds himself. While we expect another dominant season from Helsley in 2023, 5 bullpen arms will be better.

Call to the Pen

5. Devin Williams – Milwaukee Brewers

Devin Williams has been one of baseball’s best relievers since he was a rookie, and he looks to only be getting better. In 2022, Williams posted a 1.93 ERA with 96 strikeouts and 30 walks in 60.2 innings and 15 saves. On August 1st, the Brewers dealt longtime closer Josh Hader to the San Diego Padres, moving Williams into the closer role, and unlocking his full potential. Every baseball fan knows the legend of Williams’ “Airbender” changeup, which has an average velocity of 83.4 MPH, with 19 inches of arm-side run (14 inches league avg), and 43 inches of vertical movement (31 inches league avg), producing a whopping 43.9% whiff rate. Almost half of every swing at the Airbender is a whiff. 2023 will be Williams’ first year as a full-time closer, and we expect him to be nothing short of amazing.

Star Tribune

4. Jhoan Duran – Minnesota Twins

After an unbelievable rookie season in 2022, in which he posted a 1.86 ERA with 89 strikeouts and 16 walks in 67.2 innings, Duran is in a prime position to have an even better 2023. 25-year-old Duran has some of the scariest pitches to face in all of baseball, including his “Splinker,” a split-fingered fastball with the movement and velocity of a sinker. In 2022, Duran’s Splinker had an average speed of 96.4 MPH and topped out at 100.8 MPH, with 13 inches of arm-side run and 26 inches of vertical movement. Duran also has a fastball/slider combo that can fool any hitter. Although Duran will most likely be in a set-up role in 2023, he will have a huge leap from his already amazing rookie year and be the most dominant set-up pitcher in baseball.

Call to the Pen

3. Josh Hader – San Diego Padres

Josh Hader had a horrific 2022 season to his standards, in which he posted a 5.22 ERA with 81 strikeouts and 22 walks in 50 innings, along with 36 saves, but Hader figured everything out by the time the 2022 postseason came around. During the Padres unbelievable postseason run, Hader didn’t allow a single run and had ten strikeouts, one walk in 5.1 innings, and one save. In Game 5 of the NLCS, many fans wonder why Josh Hader wasn’t brought in to face former NL MVP Bryce Harper with the game on the line. Instead, San Diego left in Robert Suarez, resulting in “The Swing of Bryce Harper’s life.” Many speculate that if Hader were in the game, the Padres would hold on and win, keeping them alive in the NLCS. Hader’s 2022 season ended with him waiting in the bullpen for his opportunity, and he looks to avenge that in 2023 with a dominating bounceback season.

Cleveland Daily

2. Emmanuel Clase – Cleveland Guardians

Emmanuel Clase is one of the most talented closers the league has seen in recent memory. In 2022, Clase posted a 1.36 ERA with 77 strikeouts, only ten walks in 72.2 innings, and a league-leading 42 saves. Clase also had a 0.729 WHIP, among the league’s best. Clase is known for his dominant cutter, which averaged 99.5 MPH, and topped out at 102.5 MPH in 2022. Clase, a first-time all-star in 2022, looks to continue his dominance on the mound in 2023 and save even more games for a Guardians team looking to contend. If it weren’t for the production and pure electricity from our #1 guy (see below), Emmanuel Clase would be widely considered the best closer in all of baseball. With another expected leap from the 24-year-old in 2023, Clase could easily be #1 by the time October rolls around.

FanBuzz

1. Edwin Diaz – New York Mets

Everybody saw this one coming, right? After a mediocre 2021, at best, Diaz broke out in a big way in 2022, posting a 1.31 ERA with 118 strikeouts and 18 walks in 62 innings, along with 32 saves. No hitter was touching Diaz in 2022, and when you heard those trumpets, you knew the Mets had the game all but won. Diaz only has two pitches, his fastball and his slider, but the combination of the 2 adds up to the most dominant closer season we’ve seen in years. There isn’t a reliever in the game that can tunnel their pitches as well as Diaz does. The Mets look to contend again in 2023 and compete for the NL East, along with powerhouses like the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies. If Diaz can replicate his 2022 season in 2023, they’re looking like the favorites to win the division and potentially win the NL on the back of their electric closer.

Nate Hartnett

Philadelphia Phillies Writer for Inside The Diamonds

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