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Saves and Steals

Replacing Osuna

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

Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna may miss most of the 2018 season after police arrested him on Tuesday. He’s currently on paid administrative leave for a seven day period. Given sufficient evidence for an arrest, a 50-game suspension feels like a minimum. Hector Olivera’s 82-game suspension may serve as the relevant benchmark.


His fantasy owners are left scrambling for a solution. The Jays bullpen contains as many as five possible candidates for saves. Ryan Tepera is probably the likeliest to ascend. In deeper dynasty formats, now is a good time to buy the 23-year-old Osuna at a reduced rate. Although he stands accused of a heinous crime, he remains one of the best young relievers in the game.


Returning to more typical reliever news, Wade Davis led the week with three saves. Ten others recorded two saves apiece. Davis is also top dog on the seasonal leaderboard (14) with Edwin Diaz (13) and Brad Boxberger (11) nipping at his heels.


Now, shall we go to the tiers?


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Tier 1: The Elite (2)


Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees

Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox


Two players dropped from the elite tier. One of them only had a one week stay. As for Chapman and Kimbrel, they remain golden. While I’ve warned you repeatedly about Kimbrel’s velocity, it’s crept upwards in recent outings.


Tier 2: Nearly Elite (7)


Edwin Diaz, Seattle Mariners

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

Felipe Vazquez, Pittsburgh Pirates

Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians

Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals

Brad Hand, San Diego Padres

Wade Davis, Colorado Rockies


Diaz is still my pick for third best closer. Two of his last three appearances were shaky, leading to a blown save and a loss. Additionally, his performance has benefited from a .143 BABIP. Regression in that figure and his gaudy 15.22 K/9 could lead to around a 3.00 ERA.


Jansen is edging towards a return to the elite tier. His velocity is slowly climbing as the weather warms. Since mid-April, he’s only about half a mph below his usual speed. Any moment now, he’s liable to clamp down on free passes and start piling up strikeouts. It’s a great time to buy low.


Allen has been plagued by walks in recent outings. He’s tossed up stinkers in each of his last five appearances. On the plus side, his velocity appears to have returned to his usual 94 mph. He also has a habit of going through these rough patches. Wait for him to emerge on the other side.


Doolittle has one hit and no walks allowed over his last 7.2 innings. He’s in top form. Hand faced seven batters over the weekend and twice struck out the side. Davis has pitched only five of 15.1 innings at Coors Field. I remain cautious, especially because he’s had a couple low velocity days. He could easily be ranked between Jansen and Vazquez.


Tier 3: The Core Performers (6)


Josh Hader, Corey Knebel, Milwaukee Brewers

Jeurys Familia, New York Mets

Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds

Brandon Morrow, Chicago Cubs

Kelvin Herrera, Kansas City Royals

Brad Boxberger, Arizona Diamondbacks


Knebel is expected to return to the Brewers bullpen today. It’s unclear if he’ll jump immediately into the ninth inning. Hader owners shouldn’t be too sad if his turn as the closer is over. He’ll still provide delicious ratios. I’m leaving the pair ranked at the top of this tier - Hader because he’s going to lose his job and Knebel because he’s technically still disabled as of this writing.


The rest of this tier mostly had a ho-hum week. Morrow did blow a save which eventually led to a Cubs loss. Boxberger blew his first save of the season last night via a solo home run. The Diamondbacks fought back for the victory over Los Angeles.


Tier 4: Maybe Good? (6)


Ken Giles, Chris Devenski, Houston Astros

Blake Treinen, Oakland Athletics

Arodys Vizcaino, Atlanta Braves

Hunter Strickland, San Francisco Giants

Hector Neris, Philadelphia Phillies

Joakim Soria, Nate Jones, Chicago White Sox


Giles recorded a save last night. It was his first appearance since a disastrous outing against the Yankees last week. Devenski played the role of setup man. With luck, Giles will go on one of his hot streaks. For all the questions about his role, he’s only allowed runs in three of 13 outings.


Treinen returned to action after missing a week to a shin contusion. The Athletics continue to use him as a multi-inning reliever which cuts into his fantasy value. Lou Trivino and Santiago Casilla could poach occasional saves when Treinen is unavailable.


Vizcaino has a firm grasp upon his job. Keep an eye on Daniel Winkler. He appears to be in the process of leapfrogging A.J. Minter on the Braves bullpen depth chart. If they needed to replace Vizcaino for some reason today, I’d bet on Winkler getting the job.


Strickland has allowed runs in two straight appearances. Mark Melancon may return in the not-so-distant future. I still like Tony Watson more than Strickland. Now is the time to sell high.


Neris had a shaky week. He wound up with a pair of saves and a loss. Command has been an issue for the splitter specialist. The Phillies recently promoted relief prospect Seranthony Dominguez. He has a closer ceiling and minimal upper-minors experience. I’m mostly just familiarizing you with the name for future reference. He’s nowhere near saves at this point. The White Sox have struggled to supply save opportunities for Soria and Jones.


Tier 5: Unsettled (9)


Fernando Rodney, Minnesota Twins

Keone Kela, Texas Rangers

Shane Greene, Detroit Tigers

Darren O’Day, Brad Brach, Baltimore Orioles

Bud Norris, Greg Holland, Luke Gregerson, St. Louis Cardinals

Alex Colome, Tampa Bay Rays

Jim Johnson, Justin Anderson, Los Angeles Angels

Brad Ziegler, Miami Marlins

Ryan Tepera et al, Toronto Blue Jays


Kela was dinged for the loss on Saturday before rebounding with a clean outing on Monday. His grasp on the job is stronger than his 6.00 ERA would imply.


On Friday, Brach allowed a run while pitching the sixth inning. O’Day was called upon to maintain a one-run deficit through the seventh and eighth innings. He also coughed up a run. The Orioles are adrift at sea and rapidly taking on water.


Just when Norris had a chance to establish himself as the Cardinals closer, he suffers a minor triceps injury. He claims he’ll avoid the disabled list, but that’s ultimately a team decision. Even a minimum stay gives Holland or Gregerson a new opportunity to claim the role.


Colome took the loss on Sunday. The Rays have every reason to leave him in the closer role. They want to sell him for something at the trade deadline. A well-timed hot streak could facilitate a deal.


When the Angels signed Johnson, I immediately knew he’d factor in the ninth inning discussion. He and Anderson appear to be in a neck and neck battle for the next save opportunity. The thing is, neither reliever is pitching particularly well. Johnson lost the game on Saturday after Anderson failed to record an out.


My best guess is that Tepera will be the first Toronto reliever to work a save situation. He has the stuff of a late inning reliever despite otherwise tepid results. Expect about a 4.00 ERA. Seung Hwan Oh, Tyler Clippard, John Axford, and Danny Barnes are all potentially relevant.






Mark Melancon, San Francisco Giants (arm)

Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles (Achilles, forearm)

Corey Knebel, Milwaukee Brewers (hamstring)

Keynan Middleton, Los Angeles Angels (elbow)

***Roberto Osuna, Toronto Blue Jays (administrative leave)


As mentioned above, Knebel should return today. Melancon threw a bullpen session. Britton is expected to throw batting practice soon. Middleton is on rehab assignment at Triple-A. He could be activated Thursday.


The Deposed


Blake Parker, Los Angeles Angels

Dominic Leone, St. Louis Cardinals

Greg Holland, St. Louis Cardinals

Brad Brach, Baltimore Orioles

Cam Bedrosian, Los Angeles Angels


I have a not-so-secret suspicion that the Angels will account for half of all deposed closers by season’s end. Most of the rest will be Cardinals…




The Steals Department


Dee Gordon and Whit Merrifield tied for the weekly lead with three steals each. Gordon now tops the seasonal leaderboard with 15 swipes. Ender Inciarte (13), Trea Turner (12), Tim Anderson (10), and Michael Taylor (10) round out the top five.


The catchers you want to pick upon include Robinson Chirinos, Kurt Suzuki, Tyler Flowers, Russell Martin, and Brian McCann. Teams are also targeting Jonathan Lucroy frequently even though he’s caught eight of 26 attempts (31 percent).


The Rangers will play the Astros and Mariners next. Both teams have some heavily owned speedsters. Be sure to start Jose Altuve and Dee Gordon. Were you ever at risk of not starting them?


Both Braves catchers are stolen base prone which is great for the Marlins. They’ll also face the Cubs this week, although Chicago lacks base thieves. You might consider shares of Cameron Maybin, Lewis Brinson, and Miguel Rojas.


Martin has struggled with baserunners for a few years. It’s no surprise to see teams running against him. The Red Sox and Mets are next on the agenda. Jackie Bradley and Eduardo Nunez may be available on your waiver wire. Other Bostonian speedsters like Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Andrew Benintendi most certainly are not available. The Mets, like the Cubs, are not blessed with team speed. You could try Todd Frazier.


The Rangers and Angels will benefit from running against McCann. Delino DeShields and Shin-Soo Choo are my top Texas targets. If you’re exceptionally lucky, you might find an overlooked Andrelton Simmons or Ian Kinsler.


The Yankees and Red Sox will assuredly test Lucroy. The friskiest Yankees are Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner. Gleyber Torres runs too. We already discussed the Red Sox – namely Bradley and Nunez.

Brad Johnson

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