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Saves and Steals

On the Eve of Deadline Day

by Brad Johnson
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:09 pm ET

I'm going to try a slight reordering of the column for today. I think it will flow better this way. So let's dive right into the recent closer news, talk about good non-closers, and then touch on the steals.


Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $40,000 Fantasy Baseball League for Wednesday night's MLB games. It's $25 to join and first prize is $6,000. Starts at 7:10pm ET on Wednesday. Here's the FanDuel Link


Tier 1: Elite (5)


Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves

Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds

Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

Koji Uehara, Boston Red Sox


Kimbrel took the loss after allowing one run last Thursday. He's since pitched two perfect innings. Over the three inning sample, he struck out eight batters.


Chapman is right on Kimbrel's heels in these rankings. He's struck out over 10 percent more batters than Kimbrel and has a slightly lower walk rate. Just on 2014 performance, there's a very strong case to call Chapman the best. Kimbrel has been more reliable throughout his career, so we'll keep these two as options 1a and 1b.


Last Thursday wasn't kind to our elites. Holland blew the save, but there's no cause for concern. He was pitching for the third day in a row. He nailed down two dominant saves around the blown game.


The Dodgers are hunting for a top reliever to supplement their bullpen. Jansen's job is entirely secure, but it would be nice to have a Dodgers setup man to track. Also in potential trade news, Uehara has a very outside chance of being dealt in the next day and a half. The Sox say he's going nowhere, but who knows what will happen if someone makes the right offer.


Tier 2: Nearly Elite (4)


David Robertson, New York Yankees

Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins

Sean Doolittle, Oakland Athletics

Huston Street, Los Angeles Angels


Robertson had a busy week. He started with a couple easy saves before blowing Sunday's outing. He pitched last night and picked up an ugly save. He faced eight batters over his inning of work, walked three, and allowed two runs. One bad outing is just a bad outing. The same can be said of two consecutive bad outings, but it makes you wonder if he's healthy. Now might be a good time to grab Dellin Betances. He allowed a solo home run last night but has otherwise pitched well.


As befitting this tier, Perkins, Doolittle, and Street all have very secure jobs. Perkins allowed a run yesterday and Doolittle walked his fourth batter of the season on Saturday. That's about all there is to report.


Tier 3: Rock Steady (6)

Steve Cishek, Miami Marlins

Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians

Fernando Rodney, Seattle Mariners

Joaquin Benoit, San Diego Padres

Francisco Rodriguez, Milwaukee Brewers

Rafael Soriano, Washington Nationals


Last week we discussed the Marlins desire to deal Cishek before his price spiraled out of control. Trade talks involving Cishek have either been very quiet or nonexistent. He picked up four saves in the last week and allowed one run on a solo shot. We'll see if anything happens in the next day. He seems like the kind of pitcher the Dodgers would like in front of Jansen. With their other priorities, I don't know if they have the time to talk Miami into dealing Cishek. I said A.J. Ramos was the guy to watch, but it's probably actually Bryan Morris. He has home run problems, so don't bother stashing him. Chris Hatcher has the best peripherals of the middle relief corps. 


Following the All Star Break, Rodney had his worst week in months. He responded by knocking down two saves in four clean appearances. He allow one hit, one walk, and struck four over four innings. Rodney owners can breathe a sigh of relief after it looked like he might be redeveloping his walk problem.


Benoit has walked a total of six batters in his last five appearances. That's something to watch. Otherwise, he's pitched pretty well since taking over as the closer. Like a few others we've discussed, there's a chance he'll be dealt by the end of tomorrow. If so, Kevin Quackenbush appears to be next in line. He's probably a Tier 4 guy.


Rodriguez continues to allow a distressing quantity of home runs. The Mets popped one last week to saddle him with a blown save loss. Jim Henderson hasn't allowed a run on his rehab assignment, so we could have a closer battle in the offing soon. I'm resisting the urge to push him down a tier for now.


Meltdowns really hurt the ol' ERA. Soriano allowed four runs in 0.1 innings on Monday, and his excellent ERA ballooned all the way to 1.96. It's his second blown save since the All Star Break. The Nationals expected to need a different closer this season, so they're probably already quietly thinking about Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen. Soriano still has plenty of leash.


Tier 4: The Mid-Tier (5)


Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates

Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles

Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis Cardinals

Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia Phillies

Casey Janssen, Toronto Blue Jays


Melancon and Britton have continued to deal. I'm considering moving them up to Tier 3 once the trade deadline passes. Both teams are candidates to add a closer.


Rosenthal is now up to six outings without a walk. Cheap baserunners have killed him this season. Even with the recent run of success, he's walked 12.3 percent of hitters. Last season's breakout came with a 6.4 percent walk rate. If he recaptures that command and control, he'll be comparable to Robertson.


After allowing his first home run of the season last Tuesday, Papelbon followed with a three run loss. He's since had three clean appearances. The Phillies did want to trade Papelbon, but a lot of scouts were on hand to watch those bad outings. Given his cost and declining peripherals, he's likely to remain in Philadelphia. Further complicating matters, he has a no trade clause that he'll only waive if he's acquired to close. He'll probably remain on the trade block through August since his contract should clear waivers.


Janssen has been rocky over the last two weeks. He's allowed three home runs since the break, and his fly ball profile might auger more to come. The Jays don't have a good replacement to Janssen should they need one. Aaron Loup and Brett Cecil would likely share the duties, but neither pitcher is a stable setup man, let alone a closer. We might see Toronto acquire a reliever or two in the next day.


Tier 5: Questions (4)


Jake McGee, Tampa Bay Rays

Addison Reed, Arizona Diamondbacks

Chad Qualls, Houston Astros

Hector Rondon, Chicago Cubs

Jenrry Mejia, New York Mets

Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers


The Rays closer carousel has come to a stop. McGee picked up four saves in the last week, so it's safe to assume he's going to be the guy most nights. I originally placed him in Tier 3 before I remembered that his job security is nonexistent. Brad Boxberger and Grant Balfour are still in the picture. Joel Peralta and Kirby Yates could possibly sneak a save.


What an ugly week for Qualls. He allowed two runs on a home run Saturday before imploding for five runs and a blown save loss yesterday. He didn't finish his inning in both appearances. Tony Sipp and Josh Fields are pitching very well if Qualls has suddenly lost his mojo.


With Neil Ramirez hitting the disabled list with a sore triceps, Rondon's job security just massively improved. He allowed an unearned run and one hit over four appearances last week. Pedro Strop is next in line, but he's a clear step down due to unimpressive control. Kyuji Fujikawa's imminent return means Rondon could be back on the hot seat soon.


Another strong week for Mejia, who now has a 1.97 ERA as a reliever this season. He's down in Tier 5 due to inconsistency and a high walk rate, but he could warrant a promotion before long.


Welcome back Feliz to the Rangers closer job. He's converted his first two save opportunities, but don't be fooled. He's not the man he used to be – his fastball averages 92 mph instead of 96 mph. He's a fly ball pitcher in a hitter's park, which doesn't add up so well. In 12.1 innings this season, he has just four strikeouts. The good news is his swinging strike rate, which is pretty healthy at 10 percent. Pitchers with a comparable rate usually strikeout an above average number of hitters.


Tier 6: Roller Coasters (4)


LaTroy Hawkins, Colorado Rockies

Santiago Casilla, San Francisco Giants

Joe Nathan, Detroit Tigers

Jacob Petricka, Chicago White Sox


Keep an eye on Hawkins, some teams are looking at him as a setup reliever. The Rockies have a cheap 2015 option on the 41-year-old, so they seem inclined to bring him back as a veteran mentor.


Nathan had a couple good appearances over the last week. While his job security is further threatened by the presence of Soria, five strikeouts in six batters is a good way to earn a little leeway. Soria also struggled in his most recent outing, so Nathan has managed to build up a bit of leash. The ride has been wild, but maybe he's finally settling down into something usable. He has 23 strikeouts over his last 14 outings. Obviously, that's just a cherry picked stat, but it might reveal something useful (or it might be misleading us).


Zach Putnam has found his way to the disabled list, so Petricka is now the undisputed closer. Even without competition, he ranks dead last among all closers. There are at least 30 non-closers I would rather own than Petricka.




30 Relievers I'd Roster Over Petricka


I'm not going to analyze these relievers. We talk about several of them on a weekly basis, and the others generally share similar qualities – a high strikeout rate, low walk rate, and some expectation of reliability. They're ranked by K-BB% (a superior alternative to K/BB). Obviously some are more desirable than others due to their proximity to saves. To be honest, there are a lot more relievers I'd pick up before Petricka. Saves are only so valuable when they come with awful peripherals. 


First Ten


Brad Boxberger, Tampa Bay Rays

Andrew Miller, Boston Red Sox

Dellin Betances, New York Yankees

Ken Giles, Philadelphia Phillies

Zach Duke, Milwaukee Brewers

Josh Fields, Houston Astros

Wade Davis, Kansas City Royals

Tony Sipp, Houston Astros

Nick Vincent, San Diego Padres (recent home run trouble)

Neil Ramirez, Chicago Cubs (disabled list)


Second Ten


Pat Neshek, St. Louis Cardinals

Jake Diekman, Philadelphia Phillies

Yusmeiro Petit, San Francisco Giants (when relieving)

Tyler Clippard, Washington Nationals

Chris Hatcher, Miami Marlins

Kevin Siegrist, St. Louis Cardinals

Kevin Jepsen, Los Angeles Angels

Charlie Furbush, Seattle Mariners

Joe Smith, Los Angeles Angels

Shawn Kelley, New York Yankees


Third Ten


Tony Watson, Pittsburgh Pirates

Jordan Walden, Atlanta Braves

David Carpenter, Atlanta Braves

Darren O'Day, Baltimore Orioles

Junichi Tazawa, Boston Red Sox

Will Smith, Milwaukee Brewers

Al Alburquerque, Detroit Tigers

Danny Farquhar, Seattle Mariners

Kevin Quackenbush, San Diego Padres

Adam Ottavino, Colorado Rockies






Matt Lindstrom (ankle), Chicago White Sox

Jesse Crain (calf, biceps), Houston Astros

Bobby Parnell (elbow), New York Mets

Joel Peralta (ill), Tampa Bay Rays

Jim Henderson (shoulder), Milwaukee Brewers

Kyuji Fujikawa (TJS), Chicago Cubs

Zach Putnam (shoulder), Chicago White Sox


Lindstrom recently threw in a simulated game, so he's making progress. He'll probably step in as the closer once he's back, but it will be late in the season.


The Astros “hope” Crain can pitch this season. That doesn't sound good. The Rays have better news, Joel Peralta was reinstated from the disabled list earlier today. Guess he's feeling better.


According to reporters, the Brewers are facing a “decision” on Henderson. They do need to decide whether to activate or designate him for assignment. The bullpen is a strength for the team, but that shouldn't affect a guy who could potentially be the best reliever on the team. Expect him to be rostered soon.


Fujikawa is near the end of his rehab stint and could be reactivated any day now.


Putnam's prognosis hasn't been discussed much. The club is still waiting to see if his shoulder inflammation will respond to rest.


The Deposed


Jim Henderson, Milwaukee Brewers

Jose Veras, Chicago Cubs

Josh Fields, Houston Astros

John Axford, Cleveland Indians

Jim Johnson, Oakland Athletics

Jason Grilli, Anaheim Angels

Ernesto Frieri, Pittsburgh Pirates

Sergio Romo, San Francisco Giants

Grant Balfour, Tampa Bay Rays

Ronald Belisario, Chicago White Sox

Joe Smith, Los Angeles Angels

Joakim Soria, Detroit Tigers


Soria wasn't exactly deposed, but his fantasy owners aren't going to care to mince words. He had a real meltdown outing yesterday, so don't expect him to take over for Nathan any time soon. Belisario might be closer to save opportunities again with Putnam on the disabled list. No need to run out to the waiver wire for him.


Fields is worth an add in leagues where setup relievers are owned.




The Steals Department


The Athletics called up speedster Billy Burns to fill in for the injured Craig Gentry. Burns has Billy Hamilton type speed, but with Jarrod Dyson's bat. Or maybe it's easier to say that Burns profiles similarly to Dyson with better upside. Burns has walked a lot in the minors, but major league pitchers usually force slappy hitters to put the ball in play. Unlike Gentry, Burns is a switch hitter, so he could see spot starts without warning. Coco Crisp was diagnosed with “chronic, degenerative changes” in his neck, so he'll probably need the occasional day off. Including Crisp and Burns, the Athletics are carrying just four outfielders, although a few infielders could take a game or two in an outfield corner.


Speaking of Dyson, the Royals outfield was a little banged up last week so he got four starts. Look for similar opportunities with the speedster. Now could be a good time to buy low on Rajai Davis in deep leagues. He's buried on the depth chart behind Torii Hunter, Austin Jackson, and J.D. Martinez. Designated hitter is also tied up. Davis just needs one of five players to get hurt in order to play most every day.  

Brad Johnson

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