Relief Pitcher is the most volatile position in all of baseball. Every year a number of teams closers to start the season do not finish the season that way. This is why I do not pay up for closers in drafts. I know some of you do want to go after closers. That is why I have determined the top 2017 Fantasy Baseball Relief Pitcher Busts.
This constant roulette wheel of closers is due to a few factors:
- Declining performance/Ineffectiveness
- Injury and replacement performs better
- Player gets traded
Declining performance is sometimes expected, but often times not. Take Sean Tolleson of the Rangers last year. After two almost dominating seasons, where his numbers improved from 2015 to 2016, he fell apart for what appeared to be no reason.
Injuries are tough, if not impossible to predict. So it is unfortunate when a player losses his job due to it, but it has happened.
Trades are the real kicker here. We often try to identify teams that are going to be bad and therefore sellers at the trade deadline. Typically, if that team has a great closer they will try to sell him to a team who is in need of bullpen help. This does not usually bode well for the player traded, because that bullpen help is not typically at the closer role. The once closer on the bad team is then relegated to a setup men. Recognizing these at draft time can make a huge difference.
Below are four relievers that I consider to fall into one of the categories above and therefore are my main busts candidates for the 2017 Fantasy Baseball season.
2017 Fantasy Baseball Relief Pitcher Busts
Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox
Kimbrel is the highest ranked reliever on this list as he still saved a decent amount of games in 2016 (31). He also has a history of being great. Regardless of all this there are a lot of red flags with him.
He safely falls into the declining performance category as we saw his ERA jump almost a solid point and his walk rate increased 1.5-percent.
I guess if you want to take something good away from last year is his K/9 rate was its highest since the 2012 season.
Still he allowed more fly-balls, more line drives and more hard hit contact. Don’t forget the Red Sox now have Tyler Thornburg behind him. So Kimbrel will have a shorter leash this year.
David Robertson, Chicago White Sox
He has averaged 36 saves over the last three seasons, which has made him a very valuable and reliable closer.
The problem is he has seen his strikeouts decline, walks increase and ERA increase over this same span of time.
There are other concerns here too. One is the fact that the White Sox have the very capable, if not better, pitcher, Nate Jones behind Robertson. Second is the White Sox are not expected to be very good this season. So when you add all this together it leaves the door open even wider for them to trade Robertson.
Jeurys Familia, New York Mets
Familia has saved 94 games in the last two seasons, giving him the second most in that time span.
However, things turned for the worst this offseason as he was brought up on domestic violence charges.
Rumors are that even though the charges were dropped, there will be at least a 30-game suspension from MLB.
This opens the door for the talented Addison Reed to step in early this season. If Reed is crushing it early on, it is very possible they don’t switch back to Familia, who has had his share of struggles in the postseason.
Tony Watson, Pittsburgh Pirates
This one is hard for me to admit as I own him in a dynasty league. Yet, I must own up to the facts that he is far from an elite closer.
First off, he lacks the strikeouts you prefer from a closer. Second, we saw this finally catch up to him last season as his ERA ballooned to over three, from under two the prior two seasons.
Perhaps this was the fact that he was put under a lot more pressure, taking over as the teams closer after they dealt Mark Melancon. It could also be that the league has caught up to him. His walks and hard hit ball rates have increased.
Another worry is the Pirates signed Daniel Hudson this offseason, giving them not only a more power arm to close, but a righty as well.
Watson is definitely on the lower end of my bust list, but it is something you must consider when drafting him, even at his fairly low ADP.
Low Risk Busts
These players will cost you next to nothing at draft time due to their non-dominant stuff and short leash on the job. This is why they are considered low risk.
However, saves are saves so you can pick these guys up, get a few saves from them early on, then pick up the better options off the waivers. Who knows, maybe one of them sticks in their role.
- Fernando Rodney, Arizona Diamondbacks
- Jim Johnson, Atlanta Braves
- Jeanmar Gomez, Philadelphia Phillies
There are a few undecided/committee situations that I’m just plain staying away from if I can help it. These are all obvious bust candidates, but I feel like I at least must let you know about them.
- Brandon Kintzler/Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins
- Raisel Iglesias/Drew Storen/Michael Lorenzen, Cincinnati Reds
- Adam Ottavino/Greg Holland/Jake McGee, Colorado Rockies
- Huston Street/Cam Bedrosian/Andrew Bailey, Los Angeles Angels
- Shawn Kelley/Blake Treinen/Koda Glove, Washington Nationals
Like I said before, any closer can be a bust. This is why you won’t see me paying up for the top options.
I realize you have to draft a closer or two though. That said, make sure you keep this list of 2017 Fantasy Baseball Relief Pitcher Busts handy.
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