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.
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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 MetsNeftali 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.
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)
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
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.
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.