NL Reliever of the Year Odds: Ryan Helsley, Robert Suarez Are Pulling Ahead

Aidan McGrath
Aidan McGrath@ffaidanmcgrath

In a year with a ton of pitchers playing at dominant levels, there are oddly very few relievers playing at an elite level in the National League. That means that while there are some early frontrunners to take home the National League Reliever of the Year Award, it's really still anyone's game.

Baseball seasons are notoriously long, and relief pitchers characteristically work only an inning or two at a time. That means each new game played can completely skew our opinions of these pitchers, making the Reliever of the Year race a potentially volatile and exciting one to follow.

So which relievers are putting themselves in the best spots to claim this year's award? Let's check out the NL Reliever of the Year odds market on FanDuel Sportsbook and find out.

NL Reliever of the Year Odds

Ryan HelsleySt. Louis Cardinals+195
Robert SuarezSan Diego Padres+240
Raisel IglasiasAtlanta Braves+700
Kyle FinneganWashington Nationals+700
Camilo DovalSan Francisco Giants+700
Evan PhillipsLos Angeles Dodgers+2300
Mark Leiter Jr.Chicago Cubs+3200
View Full Table

Ryan Helsley, Cardinals (+195)

St. Louis Cardinals closer Ryan Helsley is the current frontrunner for this year's award, with his +195 odds giving him a bit of a lead over our second-place reliever as we approach the end of May. But should he really be our frontrunner?

Helsley hasn't exactly put up flashy numbers this year. His 18 saves do lead the NL as of this writing, though most of his chief competition isn't too far behind him in that regard. He has thrown to a nice 2.52 ERA on the year with a solid 1.16 WHIP but is striking out just 24.5% of the batters he's faced. That mark could be reason for concern over the summer, as it's dropped for Helsley in each of the last two seasons. For comparison, he posted an elite 39.3% rate in 2022 and slid to 35.6% last year.

So far, the lack of an elite strikeout rate hasn't held Helsley back. Instead, his 52.1% ground ball rate (86th percentile) and tight 5.2% walk rate are keeping batters off the base paths while keeping his arm fresh. He's wrapping up innings in just 13.7 pitches on average, down from his 16.8 pitch rate from a year ago.

That approach could help him stay healthy throughout the long season. And if he keeps up his solid play, he could find himself with a very strong Reliever of the Year case at the end of September.

Robert Suarez, Padres (+240)

The Seoul Series was not kind to many pitchers this year, but Robert Suarez came out of the season-opening series looking ready to roll. He gave up one earned run in his first game back on US soil, and then subsequently went 20 consecutive innings for the San Diego Padres without surrendering another.

Suarez is playing top-notch ball right now. His 0.73 ERA is indicative of how lights out he's been while his 0.69 WHIP showcases how much difficulty teams are having even getting a runner on base against him.

His fastball is averaging 98.5 miles per hour (98th percentile), and he's walking just 5.7% of batters and generating strikeouts 27.3% of the time. It's helped him put up 16 saves already this year -- just behind Helsley's league-best 18 -- and has kept him clean in his save attempts.

As good as Suarez has looked this year, there is one concern about his approach -- batters facing him are hitting fly balls on 37.3% of their balls in play against him. That could eventually come back to bite him as more fly balls translate into more home runs in the hotter months of the summer. The two earned runs he's allowed each came on solo homers, and we could unfortunately see more of those down the stretch.

That said, Suarez is a talented pitcher and is doing enough things right elsewhere that a few home runs here or there might not matter too much. He should remain in play for Reliever of the Year as long as he keeps playing at his current level.

Raisel Iglesias, Braves (+700)

In a year where few relievers are currently standing head and shoulders above their peers, steady hands like Raisel Iglesias could take home the honors by putting up consistently strong numbers. Not everyone has to finish with a 0.33 ERA to win the award as Devin Williams did in his first Reliever of the Year-winning campaign.

Iglesias is pacing similarly to Helsley and Suarez with 13 saves on the year. The 34-year-old has a strong 2.21 ERA on the season and a suffocatingly low 1.2% home run rate allowed. We've seen him hone a pitching style that forces ground balls since joining up with the Atlanta Braves a season-and-a-half ago, and his current 46.7% ground ball rate would mark a career-best if he keeps it up.

With a strong Braves lineup backing him up, there should be plenty of chances for him to gain ground on Helsley and Suarez in the saves department, too.

Kyle Finnegan, Nationals (+700)

The Washington Nationals have fielded a surprisingly feisty team this season and are sitting in third place in the NL East with a 25-29 record. They're still a long shot to make the playoffs with +2800 odds, but they've certainly performed better than many expected entering the year.

The same can be said for closer Kyle Finnegan, whose +700 odds for NL Reliever of the Year are tied for the third-shortest. The 32-year-old's 1.71 ERA and 0.95 WHIP are easily career-best marks and have led to him blowing only 2 saves so far on the year -- a notable feat after tied for fourth-most in baseball last year with 8.

Unfortunately, it's hard to envision Finnegan keeping this up the rest of the way. His current numbers are an outlier among his career sample, and his underlying 4.47 expected ERA, according to MLB's Statcast data, implies that he's due for some painful regression over the rest of the year. He's done a fantastic job so far this year for the Nats, but it feels a bit too early to believe what we're seeing on the stat sheet so far.

Camilo Doval, Giants (+700)

San Francisco Giants closer Camilo Doval is in a similar spot to Finnegan. Like Finnegan, he also recorded eight blown saves in 2023. Like Finnegan, he has also kept blown saves to a minimum this year, letting just a single save chance slip away from him. And like Finnegan, it's hard to see him keeping up in the Reliever of the Year race over a whole season.

Doval's current 2.78 ERA is technically the worst among the relievers we've covered today, and his 3.33 expected ERA implies that he's been a little bit on the lucky side, as well. He's also walking batters at an unsustainable 14.9% clip.

He's good at his job -- he led the National League with 39 saves a season ago -- but isn't putting up the kinds of impressive numbers needed to build a strong case for himself as Reliever of the Year.

Evan Phillips, Dodgers (+2300)

Given the lack of confidence we have in the previous grouping of relievers, it's not hard to picture a summer where Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Evan Phillips gains ground on the current frontrunners.

The 29-year-old is due back from the injured list this week, according to manager Dave Roberts, meaning he'll have a good chunk of the season to do just that. This could be a good time to place a bet on him with his longer +2300 odds.

Phillips was having a fantastic season before hitting the IL with a hamstring injury, as evidenced by his elite 0.66 ERA. He has struck out 30.9% of the batters he's seen and is giving up weak contact -- batters are averaging a soft 85.3 miles per hour exit velocity.

We'll need to see the veteran hit the ground running in his return from the injured list, but if he does, he could be a fast riser in the NL Reliever of the Year Award race. He has already logged eight saves in limited action and should be queued up for plenty more with the best team in baseball building leads for him.

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The above author is a FanDuel employee and is not eligible to compete in public daily fantasy contests or place sports betting wagers on FanDuel. The advice provided by the author does not necessarily represent the views of FanDuel. Taking the author's advice will not guarantee a successful outcome. You should use your own judgment when participating in daily fantasy contests or placing sports wagers.