Many thanks to Dave Shovein for covering last week’s column. Dave did a bang-up job while I was out on vacation. Since last Wednesday, the trade deadline wandered by and changed everything. Well, maybe not everything. However, nearly half the league’s closer jobs have turned over within the last few weeks. Busy times…
On the seasonal leaderboard, Greg Holland continues his long reign as saves leader. He’s closed out 33 games. Alex Colome trails by just two saves. Over the last week, Brad Hand finished the most games with four saves. Kenley Jansen and Edwin Diaz nabbed three saves.
Billy Hamilton has settled in atop the stolen base leaderboard. He’s nabbed 44 bases in 448 plate appearances. Dee Gordon isn’t far behind at 38 steals. Next up is injured Trea Turner. He had 35 steals when he hit the disabled list back on June 29. Nobody else has more than 25 steals. Over the last week, five players tied for the lead with three swipes apiece – Cesar Hernandez, Freddy Galvis, Francisco Lindor, Brett Gardner, and Steven Souza.
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Tier 1: The Gods (3)
Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers
Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red SoxAroldis Chapman, New York Yankees
Jansen rebounded in a big way last week. In four innings, he tallied a win, three saves, and nine strikeouts. He remains the king. Kimbrel wandered in the wrong direction, allowing two runs on Tuesday night. He blew the save, but managed to vulture a win.
Chapman is beginning to pick up steam. He hasn’t walked a batter in five appearances. Over the last seven days, he appeared three times, throwing 3.2 innings with two wins, one save, and six strikeouts.
Tier 2: The Elite (5)
Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians
Greg Holland, Colorado Rockies
Wade Davis, Chicago Cubs
Felipe Rivero, Pittsburgh Pirates
Roberto Osuna, Toronto Blue Jays
Allen was on the wrong side of the aforementioned Kimbrel vulture win. He served up a three-run homer to Christian Vazquez. Earlier in the week, he picked up two perfect saves. It looks like Andrew Miller is out of ninth inning consideration now.
Holland snagged a couple clean saves over the weekend. Davis matched him with his own pair of saves. Rivero only pitched once, and it was in a non-save situation.
Osuna struggled mightily. After earning a win on Thursday, he was tagged for the loss on Saturday and Monday. He allowed five runs in the process. His velocity has been down in the 92 to 94 mph range. Earlier in the year, he was sitting 94 to 97 mph. It’s possible he’s injured. Let’s not panic just yet.
Tier 3: The Core Performers (7)
Brad Hand, San Diego Padres
Ken Giles, Houston Astros
Corey Knebel, Milwaukee Brewers
Edwin Diaz, Seattle Mariners
Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds
Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles
Alex Colome, Tampa Bay Rays
Hand continues to do his best Andrew Miller impression. After picking up three saves this week, he now has a 1.96 ERA, 11.78 K/9 and 2.29 BB/9 in 55 innings. Since the Padres may still opt to use Hand as a multi-inning reliever, we may see Kirby Yates grab a few saves. Keep an eye on Carter Capps. Since his latest stint on the minor league disabled list, he’s posted a 1.86 ERA with 13 strikeouts and zero walks in 9.2 innings. He’s ready. A healthy Capps can challenge Jansen for top reliever status.
The Brewers adopted some support for Knebel – namely Anthony Swarzak. Jeremy Jeffress is more of a reclamation projection. Knebel will continue to man the ninth where he’s been superb. The only blemish is his 5.29 BB/9. He recorded a couple saves in three appearances.
Although Diaz did allow a run on Saturday, he saved all three games of his appearances. He added five strikeouts too.
Iglesias allowed a three-run home run in a non-save situation. It’s a shame too – his ERA jumped from 1.45 to 1.95.
Britton was on the trade block, but the pricey closer stayed put in Baltimore. He allowed a couple runs last Wednesday while pitching with a two run deficit. He rebounded for a couple saves and a win. Brad Brach owners should hang on a little longer. Britton isn’t quite his old self.
Tier 4: Steady... Steady... (5)
Kelvin Herrera, Kansas City RoyalsTrevor Rosenthal, St. Louis Cardinals
A.J. Ramos, New York Mets
Fernando Rodney, Arizona DiamondbacksShane Greene, Detroit Tigers
Herrera suffered from homeritis earlier in the season. Since June 10, a span of 17.2 innings, he’s allowed just one home run. That’s more like it. Strangely, his strikeout and walk rates have worsened over that same period. Herrera’s season looks an awful lot like Colome’s except with more inconsistency and fewer save opportunities. He picked up a couple this week.
Rosenthal cruised to two saves and seven strikeouts in three innings. He struggled from June 2 through July 1. Since then, he’s allowed one run in 11.2 innings.
Ramos has pitched only once since joining the Mets. He allowed a couple runs in a blowout. Ramos has struggled with command recently. He’s walked a batter in seven of his last nine outings. For a guy with a below average fastball, that’s a big problem.
Greene earned his first save Tuesday night, recording five outs in the process. The righty isn’t the safest pick up, and his inclusion in this tier is mostly a reflection of his job security. The Tigers don’t have many options to supplant him, just Alex Wilson and Bruce Rondon – both of whom are pitching poorly. Greene has a solid 2.64 ERA in 47.2 innings. However, his 9.63 K/9 and 5.10 BB/9 hint at darker times ahead.
Tier 5: Questions/Fluid (5)
Jim Johnson, Arodys Vizcaino, Atlanta Braves
Bud Norris, Los Angeles AngelsBlake Treinen, Oakland Athletics Sam Dyson, San Francisco Giants
Quite a few of these pitchers are better than the Greenes and Rodneys and Ramoses of the world. However, their job security is up for debate. Doolittle has pitched well since joining the Nationals, saving four games in six appearances. He did have one ugly outing last Wednesday but has since added a couple saves. The Nationals acquired Kintzler at the deadline, supposedly to act the closer. Since the trade, not a peep has been said about who will pitch the ninth. If Doolittle retains the job, expect him to be on a short leash.
A series of shaky outings has Johnson on the verge of losing his job. Arodys Vizcaino was on call to close on Sunday, but the situation never materialized. It’s being described as a job share, meaning Johnson still has time to recapture his role. Both pitchers produce around 10.00 K/9 and 3.00 BB/9. Johnson is the better of the two at preventing home runs.
Norris has two epic meltdowns in his last three appearances. He’s allowed eight runs in just 1.1 innings. After the Angels failed to find a deadline match, I imagine Norris still has a little leash left. Cam Bedrosian and Blake Parker are both better candidates to close.
Early in the season, Treinen struggled to command his bowling ball fastball. The pitch moves almost too much. Since early May, he’s done much better, pitching to a 2.97 ERA with 7.83 K/9 and 1.62 BB/9. Between a high ground ball rate and decent swing-and-miss stuff, he should be a solid closer.
Dyson blew a save on Sunday. Overall, he’s pitched quite well since joining the Giants. He’ll probably retain the closer job for five to 10 days after Melancon returns from the disabled list. That may come in one to two weeks. So, if all goes well for Melancon, Dyson will remain closer for about two to three weeks.
Tier 6: These Guys... (5)
Alex Claudio, Jose Leclerc, Texas Rangers Tyler Clippard, Chicago White Sox
Hector Neris, Philadelphia PhilliesTaylor Rogers, Matt Belisle, Minnesota Twins Brad Ziegler, Miami Marlins
The Rangers are using a committee. Claudio is the most reliable reliever in the unit, but he’s perhaps more useful in a multi-inning role. Similar to Kintzler, Claudio has a 70 percent ground ball rate offset by a modest 5.40 K/9 and 2.06 BB/9. Leclerc has an electric 13.08 K/9 but also suffers from 6.12 BB/9.
Clippard is always a wild ride. The righty is a fly ball pitcher who depends on offspeed stuff. Guaranteed Rate Park is a poor home park for a pitcher with his home run issues (1.55 HR/9). Earlier in his career, he was actually good at preventing home runs. Perhaps there’s a chance he’ll recover that ability. With the possible exception of Jake Petricka (6.75 ERA), there isn’t anybody else to work the ninth.
Neris actually had some work for once, appearing four times. In five innings, he earned two wins, a save, and five strikeouts.
Rogers is expected to get the first shot at the Twins closing gig. He’s allowed a total of nine runs in his last three innings so don’t expect a miracle. Prior to the slump, he was pitching quite well. Belisle has pitched worse overall but with more recent success.
Ziegler is easily the worst closer in baseball now that the Marlins have traded Ramos and David Phelps. He has a 6.30 ERA with 5.10 K/9 and 3.90 BB/9 in 30 innings. Kyle Barraclough is on the disabled list with shoulder impingement. That can take a while to correct. Drew Steckenrider and Dustin McGowan are candidates to oust Ziegler.
Jeurys Familia, New York Mets (blood clot)
Koda Glover, Washington Nationals (lower back stiffness)
Mark Melancon, San Francisco Giants (right elbow)
Familia has progressed to mound work. Melancon is out on rehab. Glover is working towards long toss, but his job appears to be lost for the remainder of 2017.
Jeanmar Gomez, Philadelphia Phillies
Ryan Madson, Washington Nationals
Joaquin Benoit, Pittsburgh Pirates
Francisco Rodriguez, Free Agent
Neftali Feliz, Free Agent
Derek Law, San Francisco Giants
Tony Watson, Los Angeles Dodgers
Dellin Betances, New York Yankees
Cam Bedrosian, Los Angeles Angels
Matt Bush, Texas Rangers
Seung-Hwan Oh, St. Louis Cardinals
David Robertson, New York Yankees
Addison Reed, Boston Red Sox
Brandon Maurer, Kansas City Royals
Justin Wilson, Chicago Cubs
The Sox acquired Reed as a setup man. He had a fine season as the Mets closer. The same is true of Maurer and Wilson.
The Steals Department
This week, we’re looking to exploit the White Sox, Blue Jays, Braves, and Astros. Presently, they’re the worst teams at holding base runners. In Chicago, Kevan Smith has caught just two of 41 attempts. Omar Narvaez is only slightly better with nine caught stealing in 40 attempts. Mike Pelfrey has allowed a ridiculous 20 steals. The Red Sox and Astros are set to benefit. Look for Eduardo Nunez (especially for Pelfrey’s start on Sunday), Christian Vazquez, Derek Fisher, Alex Bregman, and Josh Reddick. Obviously, some of those guys are more available than others. I’m sure you need no advice to start Jose Altuve and Mookie Betts.
In Toronto, but Russell Martin and Miguel Montero are exploitable. Look for Fisher, Bregman, and Reddick in addition to any speedy Yankees you can find – that’s pretty much only Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury.
The Braves will face the Marlins and Phillies over the next week. Miami lacks waiver wire steals – it’s all Dee Gordon, Christian Yelich, and J.T. Realmuto. Plenty of speedy Phillies are available including Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr, Freddy Galvis, Cesar Hernandez, and Nick Williams.
As we’ve already noted, the Astros play Toronto and Chicago. If you’re looking to pick on Brian McCann and Evan Gattis, start with Kevin Pillar before switching to Leury Garcia, Tim Anderson, and Adam Engel.