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Saves and Steals

Britton Returns

by Brad Johnson
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Zach Britton is back! The Orioles relief ace was activated on Tuesday. He tossed one scoreless inning in a non-save situation. Britton wasn't quite on his game. He allowed a hit and a walk with no strikeouts and – shockingly – no ground balls. Brad Brach owners should wait a few days before cutting him.

 

Cody Allen and Bud Norris were the only closers to save three games in the last calendar week. A whole slew of relievers had two saves. The saves lead still belongs to Greg Holland with 11. He's trailed by Craig Kimbrel's nine saves, and eight closers with seven saves.

 

Ender Inciarte, A.J. Pollock, and Billy Hamilton all stole five bases in the last week. Paul Goldschmidt attempted five too, but he was caught once. Hamilton now has 15 steals on the season, trailed by 11 for Pollock. Four others have eight swipes.

 

 

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Tier 1: The Elite (4)

 

Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox

Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles

 

Chapman allowed his first run of the season last Wednesday while picking up an unusually harrowing save. Even the best are mortal. He also earned a win on Friday. Overall, he tossed three innings with six strikeouts.

 

Jansen had the better week, working 2.1 innings across three appearances. He struck out seven of eight batters faced while recording a win and two saves. Kimbrel also nabbed a couple saves and four strikeouts in three innings.

 

Tier 2: Nearly Elite (4)

 

Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians

Wade Davis, Chicago Cubs

Kelvin Herrera, Kansas City Royals

Mark Melancon, San Francisco Giants

 

You'll notice I've made a housekeeping change to the second, third, and fourth tiers. Basically, I've shifted where I'm drawing the line for each category.

 

Allen tallied three more scoreless saves. His appearance on Thursday was certainly eventful. He somehow allowed three hits without coughing up a run. He struck out five in 3.1 innings.

 

Davis remains unscored upon after two more clean innings. He added a save and four strikeouts. Herrera allowed a run in his only appearance, a non-save situation on Sunday. The strikeouts have been few and far between through his first nine innings.

 

Melancon blew the save on Sunday in an eventual loss to the Padres. He hadn't allowed a run since Opening Day. Although he only earned one save, Melancon was called upon four times in five days.

 

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Tier 3: The Mid Tier (6)

 

Jeurys Familia, New York Mets

Alex Colome, Tampa Bay Rays

Edwin Diaz, Seattle Mariners

Roberto Osuna, Toronto Blue Jays

David Robertson, Chicago White Sox

Ken Giles, Houston Astros

 

The Mid Tier now consists of six relievers with borderline ace ability and questions about their consistency. Some of these will move back into Tier 2 as they prove health, regain velocity, or otherwise assuage my personal doubts.

 

While not officially reinstated as the Mets closer, Familia has earned the club's last two saves. Like Melancon, he worked four of five days beginning last Thursday. He nearly blew the game on Friday before recovering in his most recent appearances. Familia's grasp on the role isn't strong. However, Addison Reed has allowed four home runs in just 14 innings.

 

Colome was saddled with a couple losses and a pair of saves in four outings. I'm not inclined to budge on his ranking. He's been unusually open handed with walks lately – always a risk when someone relies on breaking ball as much as Colome. Technically, he refers to the pitch as a “cutter,” but it's really a slutter or baby slider.

 

On Tuesday, the Mariners called Edwin Diaz in the eighth inning with a runner on first and two outs to preserve a one-run lead. He promptly coughed up a two-run home run. Diaz remains worthy of your trust as a fantasy closer, but he's not going to replicate the gaudy numbers he posted in 2016.

 

Osuna blew the save last Thursday. He has since rebounded with two clean outings. He's missing two mph on his fastball, and there's no question it's affecting his results.

 

After recording a save last Wednesday, Robertson stole the win on Saturday. First he blew the save in the ninth inning. The White Sox reclaimed a two-run lead in the top of the tenth. Robertson stuck around and redeemed himself.

 

Giles had a clean week in which he produced an empty scoresheet aside from a couple saves. He allowed no hits, walks, or strikeouts in two innings (three appearances).

 

Tier 4: Questions (9)

 

Greg Holland, Colorado Rockies

A.J. Ramos, Miami Marlins

Matt Bush, Texas Rangers

Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds

Seung Hwan Oh, St. Louis Cardinals

Tony Watson, Pittsburgh Pirates

Jim Johnson, Atlanta Braves

Francisco Rodriguez, Detroit Tigers

Bud Norris, Los Angeles

 

Holland pitched twice at Chase Field and earned a couple more easy saves. Coors Field continues to lurk in the background. He's eventually going to have a few painful outings – the kind that completely ruin season numbers.

 

Bush allowed an unearned run in a non-save situation on Friday. It was his only appearance of the week. There's some reason to doubt his ability to hold onto the roll long term. The shoulder inflammation he dealt with earlier in the season is not a new issue. His number belong in Tier 2 or Tier 3.

 

On Sunday, Iglesias earned his first save since April 11. If that's how it's going to be in Cincinnati, it seriously hampers his value. At least Iglesias produced good ratios in the interim.

 

Oh was tagged with the loss on Monday. While attempting a two inning save, he was touched up for three unearned runs via homer. He's looked fine since mid-April, and it's hard to fault him too much for unearned runs. Former Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal has looked better than fine. He did show stumble on Saturday, allowing a couple walks and hits en route to a loss. He's averaging over two strikeouts per inning, and those walks were the first he's allowed all season.

 

Johnson allowed a couple runs in a non-save situation on Thursday. He responded with two perfect save. He struck out three of four batters faced in those two saves.

 

A double followed by a single led to another K-Rod loss. He was trying to preserve a tie game. Rodriguez has a 5.06 ERA with three home runs in 10.2 innings. The rest of his numbers look typical. I think he'll be fine going forward. Joe Jimenez was demoted again after struggling. There's nobody to take Rodriguez's job.

 

Norris actually looks like a credible closer. Whudathunkit. He did blow the save last night, his second of the season. Prior to the shaky appearance, he recorded three saves and seven strikeouts in 3.1 hitless innings. He's still available in 40 percent of Yahoo leagues. Go get him.

 

Tier 5: Roller Coasters (7)

 

Brandon Maurer, San Diego Padres

Hector Neris, Philadelphia Phillies

Shawn Kelley, Washington Nationals

Neftali Feliz, Milwaukee Brewers

Brandon Kintzler, Minnesota Twins

Santiago Casilla, Sean Doolittle, Oakland Athletics

Fernando Rodney, Arizona Diamondbacks

 

The Padres produce very few save opportunities, but Maurer has risen to the occasion. With above average ground ball and strikeout rates, he could be a decent fantasy option. I'm concerned by Ryan Buchter, Brad Hand, and Carter Capps – all of whom could steal the job if he has one of his typical slumps. Capps and Hand have Tier 1 upside.

 

A bad week from Hector Neris has him on the hot seat. The poor Phillies can't get anybody to close. On Saturday, he blew the save in spectacular fashion, allowing back-to-back-to-back homers to Yasiel Puig, Cody Bellinger, and Justin Turner. As I warned, he'll sometimes lose the feel of his splitter. Joaquin Benoit is probably next in line.

 

Here come the home runs. I predicted Feliz would be plagued by long balls. He allowed two more this week in four appearances. Overall, he was credited with two saves and a loss.

 

Tally two saves for Kintzler, baseball's most boring closer. Casilla also nailed a save in his only appearance.

 

Rodney secured his U.S. Citizenship and his seventh save yesterday. I bet the Diamondbacks wish they had a bullpen. He allowed eight runs across his previous two outings. Both were blown save losses.

 

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Injured

 

Cam Bedrosian, Los Angeles Angels (groin)

 

Koda Glover is on the disabled list now, but he wasn't technically a closer.

 

The Deposed

 

Jeanmar Gomez, Philadelphia Phillies

Blake Treinen, Washington Nationals

Ryan Madson, Oakland Athletics

Joaquin Benoit, Philadelphia Phillies

Sam Dyson, Texas Rangers

Brad Brach, Baltimore Orioles (filled in for injured Britton)

 

Brach pitched superbly while Britton was on the shelf. In fact, he pitched well enough to make me wonder if he ought not remain as the closer with Britton in a more flexible role. It's not in the cards.

 

Dyson is a middle reliever again. He's thrown 4.1 innings in three appearances since returning from the disabled list. His only blemish is a solo home run. He's also failed to record a strikeout.

 

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The Steals Department

 

The Pirates, Brewers, and Padres are the most stolen upon teams. The top stolen base threats on the waiver wire are Delino DeShields, Rajai Davis, and Jarrod Dyson. All are punchless rabbits. DeShields has a whiff of breakout potential.

 

The Pirates have upcoming series against the Brewers and Dodgers. Milwaukee is an aggressive base running team. Look for Hernan Perez and Keon Broxton on your waiver wire. They could take multiple bags. The Dodgers feature a station-to-station offense, but even they may swipe a base or two. Andrew Toles has the most speed, although he's yet to run.

 

The Brewers will see the Pirates and Red Sox. Aside from Josh Harrison, there are few opportunities for waiver wire steals. Instead, look to the Padres matchup against the Rangers next week. That's the perfect time to dust off DeShields.

 

Eduardo Nunez is an icy cold buy low candidate. His owner may be willing to part with him for anything at all. While I can't promise he'll rebound, he did steal 40 bases last season with enough power and average to be roto-relevant.  

Brad Johnson

You can read more from Brad Johnson on NBC Sports Edge, FanGraphs, and RotoFanatic. Find him on Patreon and Twitter @BaseballATeam.