Get to know these 10 breakout relievers

May 16th, 2023

It happens every year. Dominant relief pitchers emerge throughout the Major Leagues, some out of seemingly nowhere, to provide critical production for their teams.

By both standard metrics and advanced statistics, the names on this list represent some of the best relievers in the Majors this year. The list includes longtime Major League hurlers off to career-best starts, young relievers showing off their stuff and even one pitcher who had been out of MLB for the past five seasons.

In no particular order, here are 10 breakout relievers to keep an eye on in 2023. All statistics are through Sunday's games.

, Orioles
Cano has yet to allow a run in 2023 -- or to issue a walk, for that matter. The Orioles right-hander is the only qualified pitcher in MLB who still holds a perfect 0.00 ERA, and Cano’s expected statistics back it up. His 1.16 expected ERA, based on exit velocity and launch angle, leads the Majors.

, Mariners
The Mariners lefty owns a 1.84 ERA in 14 2/3 innings pitched this year. Speier posted a 2.00 ERA in just 27 innings for the Royals between 2021 and 2022, but Kansas City placed him on waivers, and Seattle claimed him. The Mariners have made him a huge piece of their bullpen, and it’s paying off: Speier has walked just two batters, and his chase rate of 45.8% leads the Major Leagues.

, Rockies
Lawrence throws just two pitches, but his sweeper is a true weapon. The Rockies right-hander uses it 53.8% of the time, and opponents are batting just .100 with a .150 slugging percentage against the pitch. After posting a combined 6.52 ERA over the past two seasons, Lawrence owns a 1.99 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings in 2023.

, Yankees
Coming into 2023, Hamilton had pitched just 14 2/3 career innings in the Majors -- 12 innings with the White Sox in 2018 and 2020 and 2 2/3 with the Twins last year. He’s far surpassed his 4.91 ERA from those seasons, owning a 1.29 mark in 21 frames with the Yankees in 2023. Hamilton has struck out 35 percent of the batters he’s faced and ranks in the 93rd percentile in MLB in whiff rate.

, Marlins
Brazoban ranks in the 94th percentile or higher in each of the following categories: hard-hit rate, average exit velocity, chase rate, expected slugging percentage and expected wOBA. Originally signed by the Rockies way back in 2011, Brazoban didn’t make his Major League debut until last season, at age 32. Yet he has already thrown 23 1/3 innings out of the bullpen in 19 games in 2023, striking out 28 and pitching to a 1.93 ERA.

, Mariners
Topa spent his first three Major League seasons with the Brewers, posting an 8.35 ERA in 18 1/3 innings. He’s completely flipped the script this year after being traded to Seattle in January. The righty has been hard to square up, ranking in the 96th percentile in barrel rate. Topa has a 1.06 ERA this year, and it appears to be for real; his expected ERA is 2.43, 26th among all qualified relievers.

, Blue Jays
Mayza’s sixth season with the Blue Jays looks, so far, to be his best. He posted a 3.98 ERA in his first five years in Toronto and has just a 1.42 mark in 2023. Elite control has been a key -- Mayza has issued just one walk this season. Despite throwing just two pitches, including a sinker he uses 81.6% of the time, Mayza ranks in the top 15 in the Majors with a 1.96 expected ERA.

, Angels
As is the case with many pitchers, leaving Coors Field behind has seemed to help Estévez reinvent himself. He posted a 4.59 ERA in seven seasons with the Rockies but has just a 1.42 ERA in 19 innings with the Angels. Opponents are hitting just .125 with no extra-base hits against Estévez’s fastball, one of the best in the game; he has struck out 30.8% of the batters he’s faced in 2023.

, Braves
A five-year absence from the Majors has apparently been no problem for Tonkin, who has had a strong year for the Braves after last pitching in MLB in 2017 for the Twins. In between, he spent time in Japan and Mexico, in the independent Atlantic League and in the Minors with the Rangers, Brewers and D-backs. This year with Atlanta, Tonkin has used an effective sinker -- opponents are hitting just .030 against the pitch, second best of any pitch in MLB -- en route to a 2.01 ERA in 22 2/3 innings.

, Mariners
The Mariners’ 2.81 ERA by relievers is the best in the Majors by a wide margin, so it’s little surprise a third Seattle pitcher cracks this list. Gott has a 1.80 ERA in 20 innings with the Mariners after pitching to a 4.80 ERA over seven years with the Angels, Nationals, Giants and Brewers. Like Topa, he has been elite at avoiding barrels, allowing just one among 59 batted balls this season.