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Saves and Steals

Opening Day Aftermath

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

Who thought we'd see an Opening Day blockbuster that affected two of the top 10 closers in baseball? Under A.J. Preller, the Padres are clearly declaring that prospects are overrated. They're down to just two of any repute – Hunter Renfroe and Austin Hedges. With the addition of Craig Kimbrel, they now possess the undisputed top bullpen, a strong rotation, and a decent lineup.

 

Atlanta continues their rebuild, which could pave the way for future closer turmoil. The guy in the role now, Jason Grilli, should be a useful reliever for fantasy owners. If he happens to still be available, pause here and go make a waiver claim. He's better than roughly half the closers in the league.

 

We only have one or two games on the books, so there isn't much to report regarding performance. Nevertheless, a few fluid situations have gained clarity since last week.

 

Editor's Note: For more than 1,000 player profiles, prospect reports, positional tiers, mock drafts, ADP date, customizable projections and more, get Rotoworld's MLB Draft Guide.

 

Tier 1: Elite (3)

 

Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds

Craig Kimbrel, San Diego Padres

Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals

 

Chapman and Kimbrel have each appeared once. Both faced just three hitters in one inning of work. Chapman fanned two for a save while Kimbrel struck out the side in a non-save situation. Holland has yet to appear.

 

Kimbrel's arrival in San Diego ousts my seventh ranked closer – Joaquin Benoit – from the board. Kimbrel should be slightly more valuable with a San Diego team that figures to win over 81 games. The miserable Braves may not have 40 save opportunities this season.

 

The situation in front of Chapman remains of some concern. The Reds turned to borderline terrible reliever Kevin Gregg in the eighth inning, and he did his best to blow the game. Going forward, Jumbo Diaz and Tony Cingrani should be the guys to watch for setup duties.

 

Tier 2: Nearly Elite (4)

 

Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, New York Yankees

Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians

David Robertson, Chicago White Sox

Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates

 

The Yankees have opted to punt their decision on closer into the regular season. Combined, these remain two of the best relievers in baseball. Separately, the lack of reliable save production puts them on par with Tier 4 pitchers. Betances is trending down after a rough spring, although he finished on a high note. Neither has an official appearance yet.

 

Allen, Robertson, and Melancon have also not appeared in a game. Keep an eye on Robertson's arm health. Preseason elbow pain is always a concern. Zach Duke and Zach Putnam are next in line. It's not clear which would get first crack at ninth inning duties if Robertson comes up lame. Do note, this is purely speculative. It's my job to look far ahead.

 

Tier 3: The Upside Crowd (7)

 

Hector Rondon, Chicago Cubs

Steve Cishek, Miami Marlins

Fernando Rodney, Seattle Mariners

Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles

Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis Cardinals

Jason Grilli, Atlanta Braves

Brett Cecil, Toronto Blue Jays

 

The entire second tier has yet to appear, but Tier 3 was busy in the first couple days. Cecil is the only one who did not pitch. Aside from him, Rondon was the least interesting. He pitched one inning in a non-save situation and walked one batter.

 

Cishek also appeared in a non-save situation, and it was a mess. He allowed four runs on two hits and two walks in one-third of an inning. For now, it's just a painful start to the season. We'll see if it morphs into a bigger problem.

 

Rodney's outing mirrored Rondon's, except Rodney earned a save. Rosenthal struck out the side on his way to a save. Grilli notched two punch outs and a save.

 

Britton pitched twice for the Orioles. He fanned five in two innings, and faced one batter over the minimum due to an error. He secured one save in the process.

 

Tier 4: The Mid-Tier (7)

 

Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins

Huston Street, Los Angeles Angels

Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia Phillies

Brad Boxberger, Tampa Bay Rays

Drew Storen, Washington Nationals

Tyler Clippard, Oakland Athletics

Luke Gregerson, Houston Astros

 

Perkins, Papelbon, Storen, and Clippard did not pitch in the first couple contests. Nothing has changed their status as reliable, mid-tier pitchers.

 

Street struggled throughout the spring, but he turned it on for his first save opportunity of the season. He faced the minimum and struck out two in one clear frame. The soft-tossing closer has re-hired his agent as he continues to lobby the Angels for a contract extension.

 

Boxberger tossed a clean frame with a one run deficit in the ninth inning. He recorded one strikeout. He moves up in the rankings due to greater certainty about his role. Grant Balfour is being used like a middle reliever. In two outings, Balfour was called on in the sixth and eighth innings. Kevin Jepsen might claim a save opportunity or two, but it looks like the role belongs to Boxberger.

 

Gregerson was amped up for the opener. He reached 90 mph on the gun. He also recorded a strikeout en route to a one-two-three save.

 

Tier 5: Questions (4)

 

Addison Reed, Arizona Diamondbacks

Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers

Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo, San Francisco Giants

Francisco Rodriguez, Milwaukee Brewers

 

All the principle participants of this tier have appeared in games. Reed's rapid restoration to health surprised me despite his repeated optimism about an Opening Day return. He struck out two and walked one in an otherwise painless save. The fly ball pitcher still remains an iffy option in Phoenix.

 

PITCHf/x data from Feliz's save is not yet available. He averaged 94 mph during the spring, but we're all hoping to see him average 96 mph now that the games count. He's an extreme fly ball pitcher who earns extra value by inducing infield flies.

 

Bruce Bochy stirred things up when he said he might turn to Romo for some saves. He promptly handed Casilla the first save opportunity of the season, and Casilla just as promptly slammed the door. Casilla is the main guy until he struggles. Romo didn't look sharp while securing a hold. In one-third of an inning, he walked one, struck out one, and allowed a single. Scouts have said he didn't look like himself during the spring.

 

K-Rod K'd one in a non-save situation. The changeup artist skated on thin ice towards the end of last year, but he's the top guy in Milwaukee. The Brewers have a brittle roster, so they might not be inclined to add a better ninth inning guy like Benoit.

 

Tier 6: Roller Coasters (5)

 

Jeurys Familia, New York Mets

Edward Mujica, Boston Red Sox

Chris Hatcher, Joel Peralta, Los Angeles Dodgers

LaTroy Hawkins, Colorado Rockies

Joe Nathan, Joakim Soria Detroit Tigers

 

Familia is a ground ball pitcher with a 96 mph fastball. He's a solid reliever, but he'll probably just keep the seat warm until Jenrry Mejia or Bobby Parnell return from injury. He's kind of a poor man's Zach Britton.

 

Hatcher received the first two save opportunities for the Dodgers. The first outing culminated in a three batter save. Yesterday, he failed to record an out while allowing four runs (two earned) on three hits. He took the loss. Joel Peralta may pitch the next ninth inning as a result.

 

Hawkins and Nathan grabbed their first saves of the year. For Hawkins, it was a one inning affair. Nathan did it the easy way after David Price pitched the first 8.2 innings.

 

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Injured

 

Jenrry Mejia, New York Mets

Koji Uehara, Boston Red Sox

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

Sean Doolittle, Oakland Athletics

Jake McGee, Tampa Bay Rays

Bobby Parnell, New York Mets

 

Reed is off the list since he did indeed make it back for Opening Day. Jumping into the mix is Mejia with elbow inflammation. He might not need much more time than the minimum.

 

The Deposed

 

Chad Qualls

Joaquin Benoit

 

Benoit is the unmitigated loser of the Kimbrel trade. His owners should hold out for a bit unless they really need the roster spot. A swap to Detroit or Toronto would make a lot of sense.

 

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The Steals Department

 

I enjoy using tiny samples to highlight outrageous accomplishments. Presently, one man stands alone among the stolen base leaders – Wil Myers. His two swipes put him on pace for 162 on the season. Who needs Billy Hamilton? There have been 22 stolen bases thus far.

 

Looking for cheap steals on the waiver wire? Eric Young is somehow a starting outfielder and a leadoff man. Some (me) might call that unconscionable. However, he'll have four or five shots to reach base most games, and he's a frequent runner. Most stolen base threats offer some batting average upside, but that's not the case with Young. He's best used as a stream pick.

 

Along a similar vein, Rajai Davis was used as the Opening Day leadoff hitter against a right-handed pitcher. I assumed he would be in a straight handedness platoon with Anthony Gose, but perhaps we can anticipate some more playing time for Davis in a prominent spot. Most likely, the obvious platoon scenario will emerge over time.

 

Craig Gentry is a nice source of stolen bases, runs, and average when he faces a lefty. The A's are against southpaw Ross Detwiler today if you're in a same day moves league.  

Brad Johnson

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