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Staff Post: Relief Pitchers to avoid in 2021 fantasy baseball

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

MLB: World Series-Tampa Bay Rays at Los Angeles Dodgers Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier today we gave you our favorite targets. Now it’s time for the darker side of things. One guy made both lists. That happens sometimes, but at least you get both sides of the coin. You can make up your own mind. We aren’t here to control you.

Nick Anderson, Tampa Bay Rays (Garrett Atkins)

NFBC ADP: 142.21

This has nothing to do with Anderson’s performance. It’s more the entire Rays bullpen I’m avoiding. Anderson just happens to be going the highest in drafts. Including him, the Rays saw 12 different relievers record a save in 2020. That was in a 60-game season. Even ESPN’s closer depth chart has him behind Diego Castillo. And Roster Resource on Fangraphs has him in a committee with Castillo and Peter Fairbanks. I’m not paying for a guy to get 10-15 saves. I’d much rather have Kirby Yates, Rafael Montero, or even Craig Kimbrel who all have similar ADPs to Anderson.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Chicago Cubs Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Craig Kimbrel, Chicago Cubs (Heath Capps)

NFBC ADP: 157.95

Due to his 2019 holdout and some injuries, Kimbrel has managed only 36 innings pitched over the last two seasons. The resulting 6.00 ERA and 1.53 WHIP over that time frame are uninspiring. And it’s a small sample, but over that stretch hitters are making the kind of contact we don’t like to see—career-high sweet spot rates of 48.1% and 55.6% are horrible, and barrel rates of 19.2% and 18.5% are also his worst marks ever, and totally egregious. His hard contact rates over these two years are 47.1% and 51.9%, and he’s allowing much exit velocity on average. Again, I know it’s a small sample, but Kimbrel hasn’t been “right” for a while now. It’s not encouraging when I can see ugly things under the hood that match the ugly real life results. Add in the still expectant 150 ADP, and I’m just not comfortable buying in here. I’ll already have Raisel Iglesias or Edwin Diaz as my anchor, and I’ll likely be mining for upside plays at starting pitcher in this range. If I am in need of an RP2 type, I’d be more comfortable drafting Alex Colome, despite the fact that he’ll split time with the lefty Taylor Rogers. This is due to not trusting Kimbrel to make it through an entire season, either due to injury or ineptitude.

Jordan Hicks, St. Louis Cardinals (Andres Chavez)

NFBC ADP: 182.47

When healthy, Jordan Hicks is nasty, and his presence in the “avoids” section has nothing to do with skill. He is seemingly locked and loaded for the season (already hitting 102 MPH on the radar gun), and it’s fair to point out that he has a good 3.47 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in his major league career. But the presence of Giovanny Gallegos looms, and he, too, can be dominant. In 2019, he had a 2.31 ERA and a 0.81 WHIP with almost 100 strikeouts. Last season, he had a 3.60 ERA, sure, but with a fantastic 0.87 WHIP. The Cardinals apparently prefer Hicks to close, but they haven’t named a stopper yet, and if I pay for saves (I don’t like to do that, by the way), I’d prefer to do it with safer options.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Atlanta Braves Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Barnes, Boston Red Sox (Mark Abell)

NFBC ADP: 214.00

I was so optimistic that Brandon Workman was going to be a mainstay solution for the Boston Red Sox for years to come. Instead it came in the form of Matt Barnes, who had nine saves (a career high) and a 4.30 ERA to go with one win and three losses. Barnes’ BABIP was in his favor and even then he had a slightly high ERA, a lot of losses, a decreased K/9 compared to previous years, and a high BB/9. His BB/9 has always been high, and the kiss of death for him is the HR/FB of 23.5%. He generally keeps contact grounded, but when the batters lifts it, the ball is gone a lot of the time. His fastball is not converting as well as he’d hope, so he’s having to resort to other pitches to get him by. I think Barnes is a solid setup man, but I’m not sold on him as the closer for Boston over an entire season.

Who are YOU avoiding at closer in 2021?