Five Relief Pitcher Busts To Avoid In 2020 Fantasy Baseball Drafts

What relief pitchers should you fade this year?

Today in our reliever draft prep we go over five relievers that are just going a little too early in drafts right now for my taste. I wouldn’t say I’m totally out on any of these guys, at the right price I’d love Brad Hand, but there is plenty of hitter and starting pitcher upside available at their current ADP’s making them a hard pass for me. There’s also reliever value later on, near pick 200 and further, that I’d rather take a chance on instead of reaching for a “meh” reliever early. With that, let’s get to my five relievers to fade in fantasy drafts this year.

NOTE: All ADP’s mentioned are based on NFBC data from February 10th on


Brad Hand (118)

I’m not completely out on Brad Hand this season, I think he can be a low-end RP1, I just think this price is a few rounds to0 high. Being the most used reliever from 2016-2018 was sure to take a toll on Hand eventually, and it did last season as he allowed 18 ER over his last 26.2 IP. He battled “elbow” injuries by the end of the year which is never something you want to hear from any pitcher and was certainly related to his extreme workload.  The Indians are notorious for overworking their relievers (how are Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen, and Andrew Miller faring right now?) and Hand is already experiencing the effects of this. Not to mention that when he is healthy, there isn’t exactly anything that Hand does at an elite level and I just don’t see there being much upside left. Hopefully the time off helps get him back to near 100% and he can be fully productive over a full season, but there’s just too much risk for me to consider taking him this early in drafts.


Craig Kimbrel (145)

I wrote this in the closer preview, but it’s worth mentioning again that going back to July of 2018, postseason including, Craig Kimbrel has an ERA of 5.80 and WHIP of 1.47  (38 BB) over 51.2 innings. There’s been a lot of talk about how Kimbrel looks good this spring and that we shouldn’t worry about him being vulnerable to HR’s, but his velocity is still hovering around 95-96 MPH, which just doesn’t work for him. I wouldn’t totally write Kimbrel off, who like Hand, has his own workload concerns that may be sapping his production, as he really just needs to tweak how he uses his pitches (see: Aroldis Chapman). Until he shows that he can do that, he’s never relied on using his curveball as a strike getting pitch (career 33% Zone rate), I am staying away from Kimbrel.


Alex Colome (160)

I get the fact that Alex Colome is the entrenched closer in Chicago but he’s also arguably the most likely to implode closer heading into the season. There’s no K upside at all here (22% K rate) for someone going this high in drafts and while his ERA and WHIP looked good last year, his lucky .215 BABIP was to blame. There’s really no metric of his that instills any confidence or that would lead one not to believe in his 2019 xFIP and SIERA (4.61, 4.38 respectively). Colome to me is a time bomb, tick tick ticking, and I have no intention of being around for the boom. 


Will Smith (172)

Look, I like Will Smith a lot too, but as the first non-closer reliever off the board, I think this will be a hard pass from me. Smith is still going around the same price as Nick Anderson which doesn’t make any sense to me as Anderson was much more dominant than Smith last year and also actually has a chance at closing out games at the start of the season. As I mentioned with Mark Melancon yesterday, Smith was actually outpitched by Melancon over the second half of last season and is locked into the role to begin the year. Smith isn’t a Josh Hader type set up man that will provide an elite K rate so taking him anywhere inside the top 200-250 picks right now should be out of the question.


Archie Bradley (178)

Among potential closer candidates for this season, only perhaps Brandon Kintzler is worse in the swing and miss department than Archie Bradley. Not only does Bradley fail to miss bats, but he’s also coming off a season where his walk rate shot up to 11.3%. A pitcher with a 9% SwStr rate, 11% BB rate, 88% Z-Contact and 38% Hard Contact rate seems like a recipe for disaster. It’s not a premium price but there are a lot of hitters and starters around this area I’d much rather take a shot on while waiting to grab my next closer.

Rick Graham

Rick resides in the Boston area and has experience as a player and coach at the collegiate level. He has been covering relievers for Pitcher List since 2017.

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