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A bad hitter who bombs stings, but will likely stay in the lineup and give your fantasy team something. A bad closer will lose almost all of his value once he starts getting saves. Here are some relievers who run the risk of being that kind of pitcher in fantasy baseball.

Brad Boxberger, Rays
Boxberger is currently the 16th reliever coming off of the board in NFBC drafts, and the Rays reliever strikes me as the leading candidate among the top 20 to lose his closing job for performance-related reasons in 2016. Boxberger’s earnings in 2015 were masked by his shiny 41-save output, which was good for fourth overall. After putting together a sparkling 2014 season in which he struck out 42.1 percent of opposing hitters and held them to a .152 batting average against, Boxberger struggled with his command virtually all of the 2015 season, seeing his strikeout rate dip nearly 15 points to just over 27 percent and allowing baserunners by the truckload, as evidenced by his 1.37 WHIP. Boxberger’s high-wire act led to a 3.73 ERA, which could have actually been worse, as his 4.23 FIP and 4.63 DRA would suggest. Boxberger’s velocity dropped slightly in 2015, but along with the increase in his walk rate (just over eight percent in 2014 to almost 12 percent in 2015), he also saw his line-drive rate jump to a career-worst 21.3 percent (up from 16.7 percent in 2014) and watched his groundball rate tumble to 36.3 percent—also a career low.

His job security certainly increased with the banishment of Jake McGee to Coors Field, but with Alex Colome and Danny Farquhar as other right-handed options for manager Kevin Cash to deploy, Boxberger might not have a long leash should his struggles from 2015 continue in the early going, which could land him back in his familiar middle-relief role. —J.J. Jansons

David Hernandez, Phillies
I mean, nah. Hernandez hasn't been truly good since 2012. This will be his first full season post-Tommy John surgery. He's going to pitch for arguably the worst team in the league. He's going to pitch in a terrible home ballpark. He would've killed you in ERA and WHIP last year. He has little job security, and even if he is good, he's likely to be traded to a team that may not want to use him as a closer. I get it—Hernandez is the front-runner to earn saves for the Phillies as of right now—but that dubious honor is not enough to justify his Fantasy Pros ADP of 319, which is better than Jonathan Villar, Brandon Moss, Bartolo Colon and Kris Medlen. Just say no. —Ben Carsley

Mark Melancon, Pirates
Sure, Melancon has been one of the most consistent closers since he moved to Pittsburgh in 2013. Sure, he saved 51 games a year ago and will handle the ninth inning for one of the better clubs in the National League. And, sure, he hasn’t posted a FIP above 3.00 in the past three years. All of those points are fair arguments. He’s going as a top-10 closer, though, and in 2015 he lost over a mph on his pitches across the board. His strikeout rate also dropped from 25.6 percent to just 21.2 percent. Granted, he’s still getting swinging strikes and is preventing runs, but a significant velocity drop combined with a heavy reliance on a cutter makes me uncomfortable, especially since he’s about to turn 31 years old. It’s not that I’m concerned about ineffectiveness. Instead, I’m more worried that velocity decline is an injury red flag—and I’m not interested in paying top-tier prices for a reliever who has shown that kind of velocity dip on every type of pitch that he throws. –—J.P. Breen

Glen Perkins, Twins
Average exit velocity isn’t the be-all, end-all, but Perkins’ was the 15th-highest of any of the 423 pitchers in baseball (starters included) to register at least 60 tracked at-bats last year, and his mark checked in almost two miles-and-hour harder than anyone else drafted as a closer. For a second straight season his velocity (and performance) flagged in the second half, and this time it was a more linear decline of about a mph-and-a-half from July to year’s end. His ability to generate swings and misses with the heater has diminished alarmingly, from an elite mark two years ago (27.7 percent) to a below-average 15.7 percent mark last year. He responded by progressively shying away from the pitch as the season wore on, instead turning more to his slider—a move which in turn helped decrease that pitch’s effectiveness at inducing whiffs. His contact rates, particularly on in-zone pitches, have risen for four consecutive years, and for a fl-ball reliever who gives up a league-average rate of homers that’s not a positive evolution.

Perkins is entering the third year of a four-year deal at a wholly reasonable free market price that’s perhaps not as reasonable to the cost-conscious Twins, especially given the likes of much cheaper options in Jepsen and in particular May on the bullpen depth chart behind him. And while it’s unwise to speculate on theoretical future trade scenarios, it’s worth noting for the back of the brain that a relatively cheap, proven reliever with a year and a half of club control remaining isn’t the worst trade asset come July for a mediocre team (which the Twins project to be).

The price tag isn’t necessarily excessive—he’s currently going off the board 21st among relievers in the middle of the 12th round in NFBC drafts—but between the performance flags an tenuous team context I’d just as soon look elsewhere for my RP2 this year. —Wilson Karaman

Brad Ziegler, Diamondbacks
Since 2007, 12 relievers have saved 20 or more games while striking out fewer than six batters per nine innings.

Year

Pitcher

K/9

Saves

Future K/9

Future Saves

2015

Brad Ziegler

4.76

30

???

???

2014

Casey Janssen

5.52

25

6.08

0

2014

Latroy Hawkins

5.30

23

7.91

3

2012

Jim Johnson

5.37

51

7.00

62

2011

Francisco Cordero

5.43

37

7.09

2

2011

Chris Perez

5.88

36

8.66

65

2010

Ryan Franklin

5.82

27

5.53

1

2009

Mike MacDougal

5.63

20

6.53

1

2008

Bobby Jenks

5.55

30

9.39

56

2008

Salomon Torres

5.74

28

2007

Todd Jones

4.84

38

3.02

18

2007

David Weathers

5.56

33

5.69

1

Ziegler was the first pitcher since Jones to save 30 or more games with a strikeout rate under five per nine innings. As a fan, I love watching weird stuff like a closer with an impossibly-low whiff rate managing to have a great deal of success in a strikeout-heavy era. However, recent history tells us that Ziegler's success isn't repeatable unless there is a spike in strikeouts. Johnson, Perez, and Jenks all continued on as closers for at least one more season, but all three saw a healthy jump in their strikeout rates. Yes, Ziegler does have an incredibly high groundball rate going for him, but even so his .218 BABIP in 2015 was extremely low, even by his standards. Ziegler isn’t expensive by any means, but of all of the current major-league closers who posted a cFIP of 100 or higher, Ziegler is going to highest by far in NFBC drafts. Every closer comes with some built in risk, but if you’re going to invest anything significant in the category, try to pay for a pitcher who can also contribute in strikeouts, so that you aren’t left with a bunch of empty numbers if your closer loses the job. —Mike Gianella

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dennissterner
3/11
Why isn't Fernando Rodney on this list?
lipitorkid
3/11
I'm going to guess that this list isn't just about who the worst closers are, but rather who seems like an okay draft pick, but they actually have lots of red flags.
MikeGianella
3/11
When we were divvying up the assignments for this piece, half of us made the obligatory "all of them" joke.
kgodd74
3/11
"isn't unlikely to be repeatable without" .... thats a tough one
MikeGianella
3/11
Thanks for catching that.
jimcal
3/11
so am I doing it right by keeping Clippard and draft Tony in dynasty leagues that count holds?
MikeGianella
3/12
I think that's OK to do.
brucegilsen
3/13
Ziegler has a 2.48 ERA in 528 2/3 career major league innings so he's been successful for 8 years with what he does. I have him for $1 in a 4x4 NL only so I'm biased, but still.