Is Felipe Rivero One of the Top Ten Relievers in the Game?

Buster Olney began his rankings of the top players by position on Tuesday. The Pittsburgh Pirates didn’t have any starting pitchers in his top ten. I don’t think anyone is surprised to hear that. What might be surprising to some is his ranking of the top relievers in the game. Felipe Rivero was ranked among a group of seven pitchers who missed the top ten, but considered to be the best of the rest.

Most people read these lists and say that they are just one man’s opinion, but Olney receives input from others at ESPN, along with the opinions of baseball evaluators (scouts, front office members, etc). So it’s not just a list he hastily throws together on his own.

This list, including the “best of the rest”, was heavy with New York Yankees, as nearly their entire bullpen got mentioned. Only one other NL Central reliever was mentioned. Corey Knebel of the Milwaukee Brewers, was rated as the fifth best reliever.

Rivero had a 1.67 ERA and a 2.47 FIP last year in 75.1 innings over 73 appearances. He struck out 88 batters, posted an 0.89 WHIP and converted 21 of 23 saves. He held batters to a .473 OPS in 300 plate appearances.

Olney will have a new position each day over the next eight days, followed by best teams on Friday (Jan 12th) and best units on the 13th. I’m not quite sure what that last category is, but in the past he has done the best rotations, best infields, best outfields, best bullpens and best defensive teams, so it might be those lists.

  • I know there are some really good RP’s in MLB, but to suggest there are 10-16 better than Rivero stinks plainly of anti-Pirates bias. There’s no way any lefty, including Chapman, is better than Rivero. If I’m not mistaken he didn’t give up an xbh to a left handed batter all season.

    Sorry Buster, but your list is a joke.

    • Rivero only had 21 Saves which placed him 21st on the list. But then in Average Against he was 1st with a low of .171, and 3rd in ERA with a 1.67. He was also a Top 10 in Appearances with 73. Not a K artist like Kimbrel, but a 4/1 K/W Ratio – 88K/20W in 75 IP. He’s a Top 10 at least off of his 2017 season.

      Sometimes reporters do not like to overpraise a young Closer who was just traded from an influential team. Suffice it to say it was one of NH’s finest moments of the past few years, thanks to Mark Melancon never taking his foot off the gas. Taylor Hearn could heap more on this story at AA this year.

    • Oh FFS…

  • At least by one measure (albeit a newly made-up one) he was one of the top 5 in 2017: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/were-still-looking-for-the-new-goose-gossage/

  • The short answer is an unequivocal “Yes!”. He is simply “lights out” and is one of the brightest spots on the team.

  • This is what irks me about espn. Buster Olney is considered an “insider” for their site so you have to create an account to read his articles (not sure whether or not it costs money, didn’t bother to get that far) but this is a top ten positional ranking list. There’s no insider information, it’s all opinion regardless whether its his list or a composite of sources. Just let everybody read it.

  • The track record is too short to put him there definitively, but if he has another season like 2017, he’ll be in the conversation for top 5.

    • Does Corey Knebel have that much longer of a track record to be at 5?

      • No, and I didn’t include it in my comment, but I don’t think he should have been at 5 for that reason. (And also because I think he has a pretty glaring flaw as a pitcher in his poor control, which he masked this year, but might not be able to as teams adjust to him moving forward.)

      • Corey Knebel has the benefit of facing Pirates hitters while Rivero does not, not yet anyway.

    • Track record is exactly what makes a list of Top relievers so tough!

      On the one hand, a list that’s more informative than just a single-season statistical ranking *has* to include track record of more than that year. But with reliever performance being so variable, how many years really makes sense?

      I’m with you; two years of consistent performance seems like the right barrier to entry.

      Ken Giles is clearly the biggest snub on this list.

    • This isn’t, or at least shouldn’t be, a list based on past glory. It should be based on 2017 accomplishments and expectations for upcoming season.

  • I think this is a lot like prospect rankings on this site – the top few are universal, and then the next tier is interchangeable with one another. Rivero at #15 or whatever vs guy at #9 are in the same tier IMO

  • Olney is nuts

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