When preparing for your fantasy baseball drafts, it is a must to have a strategy before going into your draft. To assist you in your strategy, we have provided you with our Consensus Top 40 Closer rankings for 2016, tiered rankings, and NL-only and AL-only rankings as well.
Now that we have provided you all these tools you need to prepare for your drafts, your fantasy draft preparation would be incomplete without some relievers/closers to target and avoid, which we provide you today.
We asked each of the fantasy baseball writers to provide you with the closer/reliever they would avoid in fantasy drafts this season, and you can find them along with their reasoning below.
Closers/Relievers to Avoid in 2016
Kenley Jansen, Dodgers (Michael Schwarz)
There is nothing wrong with Kenley Jansen the pitcher, but he will not be on my team. For one, the price is too high. Based on talent and past results (80 strikeouts and 8 walks in 52.1 innings? Really?), Jansen certainly belongs in the overall RP1 discussion with Wade Davis and Craig Kimbrel. I simply don't expect Jansen to receive as many save opportunities as the other elite closers. On paper, at least, the National League West has improved, with San Francisco and Arizona poised to make big moves in the standings. On paper and in every other respect, the Dodgers' rotation looks significantly weaker than it did a year ago. Clayton Kershaw remains, of course, but Zack Greinke is gone, and the rest of the rotation is riddled with question marks. I intend to steer clear, not because of Jansen but because of the situation. This doesn't look like a playoff team to me.
Craig Kimbrel, Red Sox (Daniel Kelley)
Sure, Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman. Sure. But in general, closers burn fast and bright. Think Eric Gagne. Mark Wohlers. Heath Bell. Billy Koch. Whatever. Kimbrel's time as an elite closer has gone on five years now. But last year, he posted his worst FIP and xFIP as a closer and his lowest WAR. He had his worst ERA, his worst WHIP and his second-lowest save percentage. All this despite moving from Atlanta to San Diego before last season. Now Kimbrel is in Boston, which isn't exactly known as a pitcher haven. Maybe he's Rivera or Hoffman, but better bet is he's that gallon of milk that expired yesterday. Maybe you can get a few more bowls of cereal out of him, but that sour taste is on its way. Kimbrel's still a top-10 closer for me, but the risk of moving ever closer to his inevitable decline scares me off of having him at the top of the list anymore.
Wade Davis, Royals (Ray Guilfoyle)
Yeah, I know how dominant the Royals bullpen was last season. Yes, I know Davis has been a big reason why the pen has been so dominant, but if you look at his peripheral skills, there are some concerns. Davis has just 20 career saves, and we have yet to see him close for a full season. He has always been the guy to get to THE GUY at the back of their bullpen. Now he is THE GUY. Last season his strikeout rate dropped from from 13 K/9 to 10 K/9, and his ground ball rate followed suit. Looking at his BABIP allowed and his strand rate, one can see he was pretty lucky last season, so don't expect an ERA below 1.00 again. He is currently being drafted as the #1 closer per the NFBC ADP rankings at the moment, but despite his successes, I prefer a more dominating closer if I am drafting one as early as he is being drafted. I prefer Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman, and Craig Kimbrel ahead of Davis. Heck, I might wait a few rounds and grab Ken Giles instead.
Brad Boxberger, Rays (Domenic Lanza)
Most everything trended in the wrong direction for Boxberger last season, his first as a full-time closer. His K/9 dropped from 14.47 to 10.57, his BB/9 jumped from 2.78 to 4.57, his HR/9 ticked up from 1.25 to 1.29, and his ERA and FIP both incresed by well over a run (2.37/2.84 to 2.71/4.26). The saves were there, but Boxberger lost command of the strikezone and fooled fewer hitters, which led to more hard contact and more runs. Moreover, his BABIP, HR/FB, and LOB% were all right around league-average last season, which likely means that he wasn't desperately unlucky. Rather, this may just be who he is - a solid but unspectacular closing option. And given the Rays propensity for quick hooks, early season struggles may see him pushed back into a middle relief role.
Jake McGee, Rockies (Tim Finnegan)
McGee is now pitching most of his games in Coors Field for a Rockies team that is probably going to finish in last place in the NL West. It'll be tough to see him get a whole lot of save chances, and I don't know what the park effects are going to do for his production.
Mark Melancon, Pirates (Rob Parker)
I know fantasy value is often all about opportunity and counting stats, and Melancon has both in spades. His team is excellent and he should rack up a ton of saves once again this year. However, if you were on his wild ride last year, his velocity didn't show up until a couple months into the year and his "stuff" never really got back to his 2014 material. His strikeout rate is poor for an elite level fantasy closer (7.28 K/9 last year). He can make up for some of that with a great ground ball rate and very few walks, but in leagues where strikeouts or K/9 matter, it is important. His swinging strike percentage was at a 3 year low last season and he did have that 1 mph fastball velocity drop for the season (it was actually more like 2-3 early on, but he recovered some). Look, I'm not saying you shouldn't draft him, he's still going to get a lot of saves if he stays healthy and should put up a good ERA and WHIP. I just think there are other options that can give 80-85% of the saves with 50% more strikeouts. For example, Cody Allen had 99 strikeouts last season to Melancon's 62. That's a 60% increase in strikeouts with a loss of 17 saves (a 33% drop). That is an example of how Melancon's value is hurt by his lack of strikeouts compared to his elite closer peers.
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