We had a relatively quiet week on the reliever front. The most notable news regards emerging late-innings candidates who have yet to grab a share of the ninth inning. We’ll touch upon several while recapping the tiers. Over the last week, only Archie Bradley recorded three saves. Nine others polished off two saves. Kirby Yates still leads the league with 38 saves. Aroldis Chapman (36), Brad Hand (31), Roberto Osuna (31), and Will Smith (30) round out the top five.
Now, shall we go to the tiers?
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Tier 1: The Upper Elite (4)
Kirby Yates, San Diego Padres
Felipe Vazquez, Pittsburgh Pirates
Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees
Will Smith, San Francisco Giants
Yates was saddled with the loss against the Red Sox on Saturday. It really could have turned out much worse. He started the inning by coughing up a solo home run to Brock Holt. He later escaped a self-created bases load jam. Yates has since bounced back with two strong appearances. The rest of this tier pitched well. Vazquez allowed one solo home run on Sunday, but he still notched the save.
Tier 2: The Lower Elite (3)
Liam Hendriks, Oakland Athletics
Roberto Osuna, Houston Astros
Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers
As a reminder, Jansen will have his innings carefully managed over the remainder of the regular season. We probably won’t see him on back-to-back days very often. He blew a 1-0 lead via solo home run last Wednesday, but the Dodgers came back to win it in the 10th.
Tier 3: Core Performers (4)
Brad Hand, Cleveland Indians
Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers
Craig Kimbrel, Chicago Cubs
Hand is hanging on by his fingernails. Since July 23, he’s induced a meager 7.9 percent swinging strike rate. Unsurprisingly, his rates over that span include a 6.35 ERA, 7.94 K/9, and 4.76 BB/9. We’re probably looking at a small sample fluke – after all, it’s only 11.1 innings. However, there’s enough cause for concern to demote him a tier. His nominal ranking remains unchanged from last week.
On Sunday, Hader threw his first and only scoreless inning of the month. That sounds a little worse than it is – he’s only appeared six times in August. The Brewers recent collapse in the NL Central race is readily apparent in the way they’ve used their relief ace.
Kimbrel and Giles pitched well. Law had an interesting week, recording a three-run loss, a save, and a hold in that order. He’ll continue to snag a few opportunities when Giles is unavailable.
Tier 4: The Red Flag Club (10)
Hector Neris, Philadelphia Phillies
Ian Kennedy, Kansas City Royals
Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds
Hansel Robles, Los Angeles Angels
Mark Melancon, Atlanta Braves
Carlos Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals
Emilio Pagan, Tampa Bay Rays
Taylor Rogers, Minnesota Twins
Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks
This has turned into a bit of a catchall tier. There isn’t much separation between Neris and Bradley. Kennedy and Iglesias fell down the list due to fresh struggles. In Kennedy’s case, it was a lone four-run disasterpiece. The Royals offense was kind enough to turn around and supply a vulture win. Kennedy’s command might have taken a step backwards in recent weeks.
Iglesias has struggled intermittently all season. At times, he’s looked like a second-tier relief ace. And then he’ll put together an ugly stretch of games. He’s allowed a total of three runs over his last three appearances (2.2 innings).
Not wanting to be left off the struggle bus, Neris blew a save via solo home run then followed it up with an error-fueled loss the next day. Despite a tolerable 3.07 BB/9, Neris definitely has below average command. When at his worst, he can’t predictably find the strike zone without tossing middle-middle fastballs and hanging splitters. He’s already had one slump this year. It’s premature to worry about a second one just yet.
Diaz is currently day-to-day with trapezius discomfort – basically a sore neck. This could be indicative of a shoulder issue or simply a minor pang. In either event, Lugo probably gains some additional separation as the Mets closer.
With Jose Alvarado sidelined, the Rays seem satisfied with using Pagan as their primary closer. Notably, Nick Anderson, Colin Poche, and Diego Castillo are all superior to Pagan although their respective ERAs don’t reflect it.
Rogers rebounded in a big way over the last week and now seems to have a definitive hold over the Twins closer role. Bradley has pitched each of the last three days. Arizona is off today so there’s no need to roster setup man Kevin Ginkel.
Tier 5: Bland (4)
Alex Colome, Chicago White Sox
Brandon Workman, Boston Red Sox
Jose Leclerc, Texas Rangers
Joe Jimenez, Detroit Tigers
Contrary to the tier label, this isn’t a boring collection of pitchers. It’s merely their fantasy output which leaves one fending off a yawn. Leclerc may need to start looking over his shoulder at Emmanuel Clase whose 99-mph fastball and 91 mph slider have “closer” write all over them. Clase also has an over-60 percent ground ball rate.
Tier 6: The Forgotten (5)
Matt Magill, Seattle Mariners
Ryne Stanek, Miami Marlins
The Marlins are talking about bringing back Jose Urena as their closer. Given Miami’s emerging ability to pump out starting pitcher prospects, it makes some sense to see if Urena can turn into a premium reliever before it comes time to ship him elsewhere. Mainly, this is motivated by there not being enough time to ramp Urena up as a starter.
Magill seems to have a firm grip on the job in Seattle, but we’ve been here before. His strikeout ability is sufficient to justify a ranking somewhere between Emilio Pagan and Brandon Workman. He’s still available in 70 percent of Yahoo leagues.
It’s still a committee in Baltimore. Givens has found his way back to the top of the pack. However, it’s Harvey who has recently emerged as the name to know. His 99-mph fastball, hammer curve, and power changeup give him three relief ace quality weapons.
Brandon Morrow, Chicago Cubs (elbow)
Corey Knebel, Milwaukee Brewers (partial UCL tear – out for season)
Arodys Vizcaino, Seattle Mariners (shoulder inflammation – out for season)
David Robertson, Philadelphia Phillies (flexor strain, out for season)
Jordan Hicks, St. Louis Cardinals (torn UCL, out for season)
Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals (knee tendinitis)
Scott Oberg, Colorado Rockies (blood clot, out for season)
Jose Alvarado, Tampa Bay Rays (elbow)
Doolittle is expected to return any day now. Alvarado’s status is unknown. There’s a chance he’ll be out for the season, although early results indicate he won’t need surgery. A quick rebound is possible too.
Cody Allen, Los Angeles Angels
A.J. Minter, Atlanta Braves
Anthony Swarzak, Atlanta Braves (deposed with Mariners)
Ryan Brasier, Boston Red Sox
Chris Martin, Texas Rangers
Matt Barnes, Boston Red Sox
Pedro Strop, Chicago Cubs
Greg Holland, Washington Nationals (deposed with DBacks)
Luke Jackson, Atlanta Braves
Sergio Romo, Minnesota Twins (traded)
Roenis Elias, Washington Nationals (traded)
Chris Martin, Atlanta Braves (traded)
Wade Davis, Colorado Rockies
Shane Greene, Atlanta Braves
Edwin Diaz, New York Mets
Jose Alvarado, Tampa Bay Rays
Hunter Strickland, Washington Nationals (traded)