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Staff Post: Relief Pitchers to target in 2021 fantasy baseball

The Fake Teams writers tell you who to target at closer in 2021.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at New York Mets Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

It’s tough to believe that positional weeks are drawing to a close, but here we are. The apex of fantasy baseball draft season is upon us, and that’s nothing but exciting! We finish up positional weeks with our relief pitcher targets and avoids today, as well as with a Freddy Peralta hype piece. So be sure to circle back around all day long!

Raisel Iglesias, Los Angeles Angels (Heath Capps)

NFBC ADP: 76.32

Iglesias is my main man in 2021, given that he’s the cheapest of the upper tier of five elite closers. He offers solid ratios, plenty of strikeouts, and the ability to log more than one inning pitched at a time. Manager Joe Maddon is already on the record as saying he won’t hesitate to use Iglesias for more than an inning. I think Iglesias is fantasy gold given the volatility of the closer landscape and his affordable ADP of around 75 or so. He’s got the skill set and the role...what more do you want?

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres
Kirby Yates was dominant in San Diego. Can he recapture his form for Toronto?
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Yates, Toronto Blue Jays (Mark Abell)

NFBC ADP: 122.26

To put this in proper context, Kirby was taken as high as 30th in some drafts last year, and now his ADP is above 120. Fresh off three straight years of a sub-4.00 ERA (two of those he was below 3.00), he had what amounts to potentially the worst collapse I’ve seen among closers. Well, it turns out he had a bone chip in his elbow, and after some surgical correction last year, he’s ready to go for 2021. There is surely some risk that post surgery he can’t regain his composure, but as a veteran with years of delivering strong results, I feel like he can return to a 30-save, sub-3.00 ERA form. And even if his ERA slips a tiny bit, the ADP has more than accounted for such. You could reach a round or two early and still potentially land a top five closer—but rounds after he would have normally gone without last year’s injury.

Jordan Hicks, St. Louis Cardinals (Garrett Atkins)

NFBC ADP: 182.47

Hicks is back after undergoing Tommy John in the summer of the 2019 season. He had an eventful debut in Spring Training with a 22-pitch walk against the Mets’ Luis Guillorme. He hit 99 consistently on his sinker and ramped it up to 100+ on 6 deliveries, topping out at 101. Seems like the Jordan Hicks of 2018. He isn’t the prototypical strikeout artist you’d expect of a 100 MPH hurler, but he excels at limiting hard contact and barrels. In 2018, he led the league in barrel rate allowed among relievers at just 0.9%. That’s right, less than a 1% barrel rate. He’s technically in a battle with Giovanny Gallegos for saves, but Gallegos failed to capitalize on Hicks’s absence last season. The Cardinals seem to want Hicks in the ninth inning role.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Colorado Rockies Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Daniel Bard, Colorado Rockies (Andrés Chávez)

NFBC ADP: 264.42

I find myself taking Bard in lots of drafts this year, mainly because he is one of the cheapest surefire closers in fantasy baseball. At least he has the role to start the year, and while he is not among the very best relievers in MLB, I am confident he is good enough to keep the job for the whole season (or at least until he is traded around the deadline). Bard had a 3.65 ERA with a 3.64 FIP in 2020, and while his walk rate was a tad high at 9.4%, he struck out 25.5% of the batters he faced in 24.2 frames with the Colorado Rockies. When they are healthy, Mychal Givens and Scott Oberg are good relievers, but I don’t think they are better than Bard—and the Rockies will surely want to showcase the latter to potential takers near the trade deadline anyway. Draft Bard with confidence knowing that he will likely keep his role at least for half the season.