With relief pitchers being notoriously fickle from one season to the next, it’s not easy projecting the best relievers for 2023.
Of course, we can pinpoint the top relief pitchers in MLB last season, but that doesn’t necessarily translate directly when putting together MLB position rankings in 2023. That’s why things were a little tricky when it came to predicting the bets relievers for 2023.
Best relievers 2023
The inconsistent nature of relievers aside, this is an interesting time for relief pitchers in the majors. Most of the top closers are young, leaving them with a lot left to accomplish to be considered among the greatest closers in MLB history.
But that doesn’t mean they can’t put together a brilliant 2023 campaign. With that said, here is our ranking of the 10 best relievers in 2023.
10. Liam Hendriks
Unfortunately, nobody is sure if and when Liam Hendriks will pitch in 2023 after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in January. But even if his battle with cancer keeps him off the field, Hendriks is too good not to be mentioned among the best relievers in baseball.
He was the American League Reliever of the Year in 2020 and 2021 and has been an all-star in every season since 2019. Even at age 34, the Australian native is still pitching at a high level. His 2.81 ERA in 2022 is actually his highest ERA in the last four seasons.
The same is true for his 1.04 WHIP last year.
That’s how good he’s been over the last few seasons, which is why we wanted to mention him among the best relievers in baseball whether he pitches in 2023 or not.
9. Andres Munoz
Since he plays for the Mariners, not everyone knows about Andres Munoz just yet. But when he got his chance to be a full-time member of Seattle’s bullpen last year, Munoz responded by pitching to a 2.49 ERA.
Even though he’s not Seattle’s full-time closer, contributing just four saves last year, he’s still the lynchpin for the Seattle bullpen. At age 24, Munoz has a chance to keep getting better and continue to distinguish himself as one of the top relief pitchers in MLB.
8. Bryan Abreu
Bryan Abreu is a big reason why the Astros have turned things around in the bullpen over the last couple of seasons. He might not be the team’s closer but he’s still among the top relievers in baseball right now.
Abreu produced a 1.95 ERA last season and then allowed no runs on four hits over 11.1 innings in the postseason. In other words, Abreu was at his best on the biggest stage, which is why we’re expecting him to be among the best relievers in the majors this season.
7. Evan Phillips
Evan Phillips is certainly an interesting case study because he wasn’t a high draft pick and has been bounced around to four different teams in the big leagues. But he seems to have figured some things out and became something special in 2022.
Phillips pitched to a 1.14 ERA and a 0.76 WHIP last season for the Dodgers despite not being the team’s closer. Opposing batters hit just .155 against him, which is almost hard to fathom. Phillips will be an even bigger part of the Los Angeles bullpen this year, so expectations are high for him to keep it going.
6. Jhoan Duran
A year ago, Jhoan Duran was just happy to make Minnesota’s opening day roster. But things are different after pitching to a 1.86 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP last season.
Duran has filthy stuff, striking out 89 batters in 67.2 innings last season. He seemed to just get better during the course of the season. Duran still isn’t expected to be Minnesota’s closer this season. But that doesn’t mean he won’t be the team’s best reliever, as he continues to establish himself as one of the best relievers in baseball.
5. Ryan Pressly
As the closer for the world-champion Astros, it’s not hard to include Ryan Pressly among the top relievers in baseball. At age 34, he’s no spring chicken, although opposing hitters batted just .181 against him, which is the best opponents’ average of Pressly’s career.
He did that while notching 33 saves during the regular season and six more during the playoffs. In fact, Pressley allowed just one run on four hits in 11 innings of work during the postseason. There’s no reason to think we’ll see a drop-off in his performance this season, so he’s still among the elite closers in baseball.
4. Devin Williams
Somehow, the Brewers always seem to have dynamic relief pitchers coming out of their farm system, and Devin Williams is one of the latest. He took home Rookie of the Year and Reliever of the Year honors in 2020, posting a 0.33 ERA across 22 appearances in the shortened season.
He’s continued to prove that success wasn’t a fluke over the last two seasons. Williams now has a career ERA of 2.03 and locked down 15 saves in 17 opportunities last season on top of his 26 holds. He’s finally solidified his spot as Milwaukee’s closer and now has a chance to be one of the best closers in baseball this year.
3. Ryan Helsley
It was a true breakout season in 2022 for Ryan Helsley. He was rather average early in his MLB career, but almost out of nowhere, he became one of the most dominant bullpen arms in the majors last season.
Helsley finished the season with a 9-1 record, a 1.25 ERA, and a WHIP of just 0.74. Ultimately, the Cardinals had no choice but to use him at the end of games, so he was able to rack up 19 saves.
Not only was he an all-star last year but Helsley was also an All-MLB Second Team selection. Obviously, the immaculate inning he threw in September helped earn him plenty of praise and attention. As a result, expectations are high for what the 28-year-old can do as an encore in 2023.
2. Emmanuel Clase
Cleveland has long excelled at developing pitchers, and in the case of Emmanuel Clase, that includes relief pitchers. He took over as Cleveland’s closer in 2021 and took things to another level in 2022, leading the majors in saves with 42 while pitching to a 1.36 ERA and a 0.73 WHIP.
Oddly enough, he doesn’t rely on striking batters out too much. Instead, Clase is a groundball machine, which can almost be more frustrating for opposing hitters. He now has 165 innings under his belt in the majors while posting a 1.47 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP.
He’s been dominant since the day he got to the big leagues, meaning Clase will be one of MLB’s best relievers in 2023 and for a long time to come.
1. Edwin Diaz
It’s hard to come up with the words to describe just how good Edwin Diaz was last year. The Mets thought he was good enough to justify giving him a five-year, $102 million contract, the largest contract ever given to a reliever.
The fact that the Mets made him their top priority last offseason also speaks volumes. Diaz was utterly filthy in 2022, pitching to a 1.31 ERA with opposing hitters batting just .160 against him.
He also averaged 1.9 strikeouts per inning, which is almost unbelievable, even for an elite closer. The kicker is that Diaz isn’t even 30 yet, so there’s no reason to think that he won’t be just as good in 2023, making him the best relief pitcher in the game heading into the new season.