Last week, Doolittle returned. This week, he departs. More shoulder discomfort has sent him back to the disabled list. For now, I don't expect anything from him this season. It's a lousy situation for Doolittle and the Athletics, but these things happen.
Beyond a few notable laggards, closers are enjoying plenty of job security. These brief respites tend to dissolve in a hail of injuries and blown saves. Only three closers are on a short leash at the moment, but history says that number will multiply.
League wide stolen base success held steady at 69.4 percent. Only 91 bases were stolen in the last week. Overall, there have been 855 steals in 1,231 attempts. My 12-team, deep roster home league has scored 551 steals or a little under two-thirds of all available swipes. The remaining one-third consists of some fairly mediocre assets like Jose Ramirez, Kevin Pillar, Jace Peterson, and Freddie Galvis. It's popular to say you can just grab steals on the waiver wire, but it's pretty apparent that those options will kill you in other categories.
Billy Hamilton snatched five bases in the last week. He's the league leader with 22 steals. Dee Gordon has 20 swipes. Gordon still leads the league with seven caught stealings. However, among players with at least 10 attempts, Leonys Martin has the worst success rate at 7-for-12.
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Tier 1: Elite (6)
Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds
Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers
David Robertson, Chicago White Sox
Andrew Miller, New York Yankees
Craig Kimbrel, San Diego Padres
Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals
The Reds blew the save last night in a late-inning meltdown against the lowly Phillies, but Chapman had nothing to do with it. Jumbo Diaz and Tony Cingrani were the culprits. The Reds bullpen is far from imposing which is part of the reason Chapman only has nine saves. With Cincinnati falling out of the playoff race, expect to start hearing some trade rumors. Despite their performance last night, Cingrani and Diaz are the top candidates for saves if/when Chapman is traded. We still have at least a month to wait.
Kenley Jansen allowed his first hit of the season in his only appearance. He also struck out two batters and recorded his fifth save in six outings. He's looked very sharp. Robertson was less sharp. He blew the save last Wednesday on a solo home run, but he took home a vulture win.
The situation in New York remains fraught with false pressure. Miller coughed up his third earned run of the season last night, but he still recorded the save. Meanwhile, Dellin Betances has also allowed three runs except all of his are unearned. Betances has been particularly dominant of late – 14 of his last 16 outs have come via strikeout. Both relievers are among the top five in the sport.
Kimbrel was in vintage form for a win and a save last week. I'm still concerned about Holland's velocity. He only pitched once.
Tier 2: The Upside Crowd (4)
Brad Boxberger, Tampa Bay Rays
Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles
Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis Cardinals
Jeurys Familia, New York Mets
Boxberger lost two games in a row via a home run, but he's since rebounded with a couple easy saves. Home runs are the lone issue with his profile, but that could be enough to eventually open the door for Jake McGee. The formers Rays stopper has pitched well in five of six outings.
Rosenthal is pitching the way I thought he would last season. With 9.24 K/9, 3.55 BB/9, and a 0.71 ERA, fantasy owners are well pleased to have bought low this spring. His 16 saves are tied for the fourth most in the league. The Cardinals are offering plenty of save opportunities. In addition to Rosenthal's 16, Seth Maness has three saves. Jordan Walden and Kevin Siegrist have also picked up a save.
The Mets seem to view Familia as a multi-inning reliever. He recorded 11 outs over his last two appearances. He continues to post strong strikeout and walk rates with plenty of ground balls. Don't worry about Bobby Parnell. He's been pummeled for 14 runs in 10 minor league innings.
Tier 3: The Mid-Tier (11)
Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia Phillies
Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins
Drew Storen, Washington Nationals
Jason Grilli, Atlanta Braves
Koji Uehara, Boston Red Sox
Hector Rondon, Chicago Cubs
Joakim Soria Detroit Tigers
Huston Street, Los Angeles AngelsA.J. Ramos, Miami Marlins
Francisco Rodriguez, Milwaukee BrewersCody Allen, Cleveland Indians
As should be the case, there are many serviceable closers. We can expect good things from all 11 of these guys, even if they won't join the Elite Tier without a major breakout. Papelbon continues to pitch well. He earned the win yesterday thanks to the Reds' implosion. Even though he's on a pricey contract, somebody should be willing to take a shot on him at the trade deadline.
Perkins is the saves leader with 19. Interestingly, he had only two saves through April 21. He took the loss last Friday when he coughed up a walk, three hits, a home run, and two runs in 0.1 innings. No need to worry.
Storen is keeping pace with Papelbon and Perkins. He has 17 saves with 11.28 K/9, 1.21 BB/9, and a 0.81 ERA. He's yet to allow a home run despite fly ball tendencies. At some point, a ball will go over the wall.
Grilli allowed a solo home run last Friday en route to two saves. Just keep an eye on his health. Jim Johnson is next in line. Uehara earned a save last night, but he took the loss on Sunday via a walk, error, and a double.
It was a three save week for Street. He was touched up for a solo home run, but it didn't affect the outcome of the game. He's a reliable pitcher. Rodriguez converted his first save opportunity since May 18. The Brewers are likely to shop the righty prior to the trade deadline. Rodriguez is the type of closer who could be acquired for setup duty. Consider selling to somebody desperate for saves.
Ramos nailed down three saves over the last week. They weren't stress free. He allowed a run on two hits on Friday. Last night, he loaded the bases in a 5-2 game before shutting the door. The Marlins have demoted Steve Cishek to the minors to recover his form. They're hoping it's a mechanical issue, but the reduced velocity hints at a physical problem. Ramos is safe for now, but Carter Capps offers a higher ceiling.
Prior to the season, I was enamored with the Indians roster. The offense was well-suited to Progressive Field, the pitching staff was talented, and Allen was one of the top closers. As we know, that latter point definitely hasn't turn out well. He has a 5.01 ERA (2.55 FIP). He's starting to round into form. He hasn't allowed a walk in five appearances. Assuming he's recovered his command and control, he could quickly return to the second tier.
Tier 4: Questions (5)
Luke Gregerson, Houston Astros
Shawn Tolleson, Texas Rangers
Santiago Casilla, San Francisco Giants
Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates
Tyler Clippard, Oakland Athletics
Gregerson was productive this week with seven strikeouts and two base runners allowed in three innings. Chad Qualls, Pat Neshek, and Josh Fields will pressure him to remain on point all season long. The bullpen has proven to be a surprising strength for the Astros. They have the pieces and budget to go a step further by adding a guy like Chapman. I expect they'll be more focused on rotation depth.
Tolleson only appeared once – a perfect one-two-three inning. He could easily move up the to second or third tier, I just want to see a few more outings. Keone Kela is the eighth inning man.
The good news for Casilla, he notched two saves. He also blew a noisy one. Altogether, he allowed five runs (four earned), four hits, three walks, and two home runs in his 2.2 innings. This is the kind of week that leads to closer speculation. Sergio Romo is the nominal setup man, but don't sleep on Hunter Strickland. His 97 mph fastball, big whiff rates and solid control make him a viable closer candidate. He did get hammered in the postseason. The Giants might be reluctant to use him in the ninth.
Melancon continues to throw softly. The result is a tiny 4.68 K/9. He has nine straight scoreless outings, but it's only a matter of time before he tosses a stinker. His 2.52 ERA is belied by a 3.85 xFIP. Closers rarely survive with so few strikeouts. Tony Watson and Arquimedes Caminero are waiting for him to falter.
The Athletics lost Doolittle again last week. They'll have to suffer through more Clippard as a result. The usually reliable reliever has a 2.31 ERA, 7.71 K/9, and 5.01 BB/9. The bad walk and strikeout rates add up to a 5.65 xFIP. As it turns out, xFIP is more predictive of future performance than ERA. Clippard could easily recover his part glory. For now, he has Evan Scribner breathing down his neck. In 26 innings, Scribner has excellent peripherals (10.27 K/9 and 0.59 BB/9) and a 2.05 ERA.
Tier 5: Roller Coasters (4)
John Axford, Colorado RockiesFernando Rodney, Seattle Mariners
Brett Cecil, Toronto Blue Jays
Axford won't continue to post a 0.60 ERA, but he won't have to worry about Rafael Betancourt for a couple weeks. Betancourt was dismembered by the Dodgers last night. They plated four runs in two-thirds of an inning.
Rodney has now blown two saves in the last eight days. His last four appearances include five runs, seven hits, and four walks. In reference to Rodney's 6.85 ERA, manager Lloyd McClendon has said he's only worried about the outcome of the game. Well, now that the blown saves are mounting, it's time to snag Carson Smith. He has a 1.17 ERA with 10.96 K/9 and 1.96 BB/9.
Ziegler doesn't have a traditional closer profile. The sidewinder relies on deception against right-handed hitters. Generally, it's better to have a more reliable skill set in the ninth inning. As such, Reed could soon regain his job. His velocity has ticked up one mph since his demotion – a potential sign that he's back on track. Reed was never a dominant option, but he can be serviceable.
Jenrry Mejia, New York Mets
Bobby Parnell, New York Mets
Joe Nathan, Detroit Tigers
Adam Ottavino, Colorado Rockies
Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers
Enrique Burgos, Arizona Diamondbacks
Sean Doolittle, Oakland Athletics
Welcome back to the disabled list Doolittle. A new shoulder strain – supposedly affecting a different region of the shoulder than the last injury – will sideline him for at least a month. Probably more. Possibly the rest of the season. Shoulder problems tend to linger and cascade.
The Steals Department
As I noted in the introduction, one of my standard leagues has scored about two-thirds of all steals. Ostensibly, more of those swipes were wasted on the bench. The waiver wire is thin at the moment. We'll cover some trade targets today.
Gregory Polanco has saved his fantasy value with 13 stolen bases. The speed outburst is somewhat unexpected. He's on a 40 steal pace whereas most analysts expected maybe 15 to 20 stolen bases over the full season. Polanco has struggled to tap into his decent power at the major league level. His home park doesn't help. An owner with a surplus of stolen bases might be willing to “sell high” on Polanco. Given his tepid .251/.315/.369 line, a modest asset like Ryan Zimmerman should be sufficient to seal a deal. There is enough growth potential in Polanco's profile to get lucky.
Prized asset Mookie Betts has stalled at five home runs and eight steals. He has a .246/.303/.386 line on the season. Most owners overpaid to acquire Betts. Usually, that means they'll ask you to overpay in return. The impatient types have probably already cut bait. Scouts have identified that Betts is weak against pitches on the outer half of the plate. It's an easy hole to exploit, but it's also one that can be solved midseason. If and when Betts heats up, expect his numbers to skyrocket. It's ok to overpay on his current production, it's up to you to decide by how much you'll overpay.
Cameron Maybin may still be found on the waiver wire. He's been picked up in 10 percent of Yahoo leagues. The Braves center fielder has rebounded to a .256/.344/.406 line. He's showing better power and plate discipline than recent seasons without sacrificing his decent contact skills. By virtue of reaching base more frequently, Maybin has also accrued seven steals. He was once a big base running threat. He might start stealing more as his confidence grows.