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Saves and Steals

Guess Who's Back?

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

The big news is the return of Wade Davis to Kansas City. With the Royals on the periphery of playoff contention, every asset counts. Their success over the last two years wouldn't have been possible without their elite bullpen. Getting Davis back makes the entire unit that much stronger. In other news, the Braves are now without Arodys Vizcaino, and the Red Sox have probably lost Koji Uehara for an unspecified amount of time.

 

Jeurys Familia has retained his lead in the saves category. He's closed out 33 games. A.J. Ramos (31 saves) and Zach Britton (29 saves) round out the top three. Ramos led the way over the last seven days with four saves. Ryan Madson notched three.

 

On the stolen base front, Billy Hamilton is charging toward the league lead. Last week, he swiped five bags in six attempts. Marcus Semien was the only other guy to steal more than two bases since we last convened. He took four bags. Jonathan Villar still has the league lead with 33 steals. Starling Marte has 32 thefts. Hamilton (27) surpassed Jose Altuve (25).

 

Tier 1: Elite (4)

 

Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles

Wade Davis, Kansas City Royals

 

As Chapman trade rumors heat up, he recorded his fastest fastball of the season at over 105 mph. He pitched three innings this week with two saves, two walks, two strikeouts, and no hits allowed.

 

Jansen blew a save on Saturday which eventually led to a Dodgers loss. Jansen's job is utterly safe unless the Dodgers happen to acquire Chapman. They're not rumored to be among the top suitors, although they are looking for bullpen help.

 

Britton hasn't allowed a run since the end of April. He pitched twice this week, recording four strikeouts en route to a pair of saves.

 

Look who's back! Davis has faced a total of four hitters since returning from the disabled list. He's retired them all. He nabbed a one-out save last night. Look for the Royals to ease him back into regular duty with Kelvin Herrera getting occasional save opportunities.

 

Tier 2: Nearly Elite (4)

 

Roberto Osuna, Toronto Blue Jays

Jeurys Familia, New York Mets

Hector Rondon, Chicago Cubs

Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates

 

Osuna was called upon three times although he only recorded one save. His only base runner over three innings came via walk.

 

Familia continued to rack up saves with his 32nd and 33rd of the season. He squeaked through his outing last night against the Cubs. They managed a hit and a pair of walks with no outs but failed to score. A force out at home plate followed by a Kris Bryant double play resulted in a 2-1 Mets win.

 

Rondon was on the losing end of last night's Mets-Cubs game. Tasked with protecting a 1-1 tie, Rondon allowed a run on three hits. The Cubs are among the rumored suitors for Chapman and Andrew Miller. As such, Rondon is at risk of losing his job. Performances like last night won't help things despite excellent numbers overall.

 

Melancon blew a 1-0 lead back on Sunday against the Nationals. An entire nine innings later, the Pirates finally scored a second run for the win. Melancon also blew a one-run lead last night. Luckily, he received the vulture win via Josh Harrison's little league home run (triple with an error).

 

Tier 3: Good Veterans (6)

 

Alex Colome, Tampa Bay Rays

A.J. Ramos, Miami Marlins

David Robertson, Chicago White Sox

Sam Dyson, Texas Rangers

Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians

Francisco Rodriguez, Detroit Tigers

 

Colome pitched once. He struck out the side while earning his 20th save of the season. Dyson's week was nearly identical – he also struck out the side in his lone appearance for save number 19. The only difference? Colome allowed a hit, Dyson did not.

 

The Marlins keep feeding Ramos saves. There's always risk involved because his fastball is so unimpressive. Instead, he gets by on excellent offspeed stuff. He tallied four saves in four scoreless innings. He also racked up seven strikeouts.

 

Talk about ugly outings. Robertson was tasked with protecting a three run lead on Monday. Instead, he was tagged for a walk-off grand slam by Adam Lind. Robertson's had a few clunkers this year with 13 of his 17 runs allowed spread across just three appearances. I opted to demote him only because his walk rate has spiked so high (5.11 BB/9).

 

Allen and K-Rod were called upon three times apiece. Allen saved one in three scoreless frames with five strikeouts. Rodriguez netted two saves, a win, and three strikeouts.

 

Tier 4: The Mid Tier (4)

 

Jonathan Papelbon, Washington Nationals

Seung-Hwan Oh, St. Louis Cardinals

Santiago Casilla, San Francisco Giants

Will Harris, Houston Astros

 

It was an ignominious week for our Mid Tier. All four guys pitched one time. Only Papelbon escaped damage.

 

Harris failed to protect a one-run lead last night. The Athletics won it in the 10th inning. Houston can't afford to give games away. For those counting, that's five runs in Harris' last 2.1 innings. He'll need a few more bad outings before he's on thin ice.

 

Oh pitched on Friday in a tie game. The Marlins got to him with a couple well sequenced hits. Oh pitched fine. Sometimes, “fine” isn't good enough.

 

Santiago was tasked with holding onto a 6-5 lead in the 10th inning on Saturday. Instead, he was saddled with the loss after allowing two runs to the Padres. He didn't record an out.

 

Tier 5: Questions (6)

 

Steve Cishek, Seattle Mariners

Brandon Maurer, San Diego Padres

Jeremy Jeffress, Milwaukee Brewers

Jeanmar Gomez, Philadelphia Phillies

Tyler Clippard, Daniel Hudson, Arizona Diamondbacks

Brad Ziegler, Boston Red Sox

 

Cishek was a nightmare going into the All Star Break. In his only appearance since then, he notched a couple strikeouts and a save.

 

I have reservations about Maurer as a closer. He's a tough reliever to evaluate because he's basically been six or more similar but slightly different pitchers throughout his career. If I try to reach for a sizable sample, I'm looking at different guys. For the moment, he's hot. Since mid-June, he's allowed one run over 12.2 innings (0.71 ERA) with 9.24 K/9 and no walks. He pitched three days in a row last week, earning two saves in the process.

 

Gomez pitched thrice. He saved the day on Saturday then blew it on Monday. Gomez is considered by some to be the Phillies top trade asset because he comes with club control. Anybody who acquires him will likely use Gomez as a middle reliever or setup guy.

 

The Diamondbacks didn't produce a save opportunity this week. Clippard and Hudson both pitched on Saturday and Sunday with Clippard working the ninth both times. They were torched on Sunday. Clippard had thrown two innings the previous night. Meanwhile, Hudson has allowed 17 runs (15 earned) in his last six innings.

 

When the Red Sox acquired Ziegler, Craig Kimbrel and Koji Uehara were both still healthy. Now Kimbrel's on the disabled list and Uehara may be on the way with a sore shoulder. Even if Uehara avoids the disabled list, he'll likely sit out most of the next calendar week. After that, he may not be available on back-to-back days. Regular readers of Saves and Steals know I don't think much of Ziegler's low-strikeout, platoony profile. Still, he's been getting the job done.

 

Tier 6: Roller Coasters (6)

 

Ryan Madson, Oakland Athletics

Huston Street, Los Angeles Angels

Carlos Estevez, Colorado Rockies

Brandon Kintzler, Minnesota Twins

Tony Cingrani, Cincinnati Reds

Jim Johnson, Mauricio Cabrera, Atlanta Braves

 

Madson recorded three saves in three innings. He failed to strike out a hitter and allowed a solo home run. Street saved his only appearance – also without a strikeout.

 

The Rockies like Estevez's 97 mph fastball, but the overall product is still unpolished. Coors Field looms large. Jake McGee and Adam Ottavino are waiting in the wings too. Estevez had a good week with two strikeouts, two saves, and no hits allowed in two innings.

 

Cingrani remains a painful option for infrequent saves. On Friday, he was asked to defend a two run lead. He was pulled with the bases loaded, one run allowed, and two outs. Ross Ohlendorf notched the save. Cingrani pitched a clean frame for a win on Sunday before taking a loss last night.

 

Last night, in his first save opportunity since Arodys Vizcaino hit the disabled list, Johnson coughed up two runs to blow the save. Luckily, Cingrani was there to give it back to the Braves later. Johnson hasn't been a major league quality reliever since 2013, let alone a closer.

 

Cabrera is an interesting name to watch. Like Estevez, he's unpolished. Let's upgrade that to “wildly unpolished.” He averages over 100 mph with his fastball. Command is a huge problem for Cabrera so don't expect him to turn into a right-handed Chapman.

 

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Injured

 

Brad Boxberger, Tampa Bay Rays (side/oblique)

Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins (shoulder – out for season)

Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox (left knee injury)

Arodys Vizcaino, Atlanta Braves (right oblique)

Koji Uehara, Boston Red Sox (sore shoulder)

 

We don't know if Uehara's injury is serious. Even if he recovers quickly, he probably won't be available to work back-to-back games for a while. Vizcaino is on the shelf for a while with an oblique strain. Boxberger serves as a lesson as to how long those can take to heal. Papelbon is an example of a quick recovery.

 

The Deposed

 

Ken Giles, Houston Astros

Drew Storen, Toronto Blue Jays

Jason Grilli, Toronto Blue Jays

Sean Doolittle, Oakland Athletics

J.J. Hoover, Cincinnati Reds

Andrew Miller, New York Yankees

Shawn Tolleson, Texas Rangers

Kevin Jepsen, Free Agent (Twins)

Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis Cardinals

Jake McGee, Colorado Rockies

Fernando Rodney, Miami Marlins

 

I've temporarily removed Ziegler from this list. He'll be back later. Rosenthal went from top closer to Triple-A reliever in record time.

 

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The Steals Department

 

Cheaply acquired stolen base threats are few and far between at the moment. Braves lynchpin Ender Inciarte is probably the best name out there. As an added bonus, he has an upcoming series at Coors Field. Inciarte has 10 steals in 275 plate appearances to go with a tepid .236/.301/.317 line. He dealt with injuries earlier in the season and should recover from his career worst .263 BABIP. His contact and walk rates remain strong.

 

Despite playing well in a recent big league audition, Nick Franklin was optioned to Triple-A on Monday. With the roster healthy, there simply isn't a spot for Franklin to play regularly. Franklin features decent power and speed with four steals in 53 plate appearances. His sky-high strikeout rate limits his ceiling. If injuries befall the Rays, Franklin could be a sneaky source of non-empty speed. A trade – either of Franklin or someone in his way – is not out of the question.

 

Peraza's a true burner. He could contend for the stolen base crown if he played every day. With teams looking into acquiring Jay Bruce and Zack Cozart, Peraza may soon have his opportunity. To date, Peraza is hitting an empty .237/.275/.237 in 80 plate appearances. He also has 10 steals in that time. Peraza makes more contact than Billy Hamilton which should help his speed to play up over a larger sample. Still, you won't get much fantasy production aside from the one category.

Brad Johnson

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