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Saves and Steals

Rondon Rising

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

The big news in closerland is that there's no big news. Cody Allen has seriously hurt his stock for a second consecutive season, and we have a closer battle in Oakland. I prematurely called it in favor of Ryan Madson last week. The Reds bullpen is in a state of flux, but we already knew it was a festering heap of dung.

 

Last week's Good Veterans tier has been temporarily dissolved. All three occupants merited inclusion in the Nearly Elite tier. There's a big gap between the pitchers of the second and third tiers. Pretend there's an empty tier between them.

 

On the steals front, Xander Bogaerts, Ian Desmond, Mookie Betts, Jose Altuve, and Chris Owings all tied for the best week on the bases with three steals. Jason Heyward also stole three bags, but he was caught once. Jarrod Dyson attempted three steals in his return from the disabled list. He was also caught once. Altuve remains the season leader with nine steals in 10 attempts.

 

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Tier 1: Elite (5)

 

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

Andrew Miller, New York Yankees

Wade Davis, Kansas City Royals

Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles

Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox

 

Opponents have yet to score against Jansen and Miller. Jansen recorded four saves in four innings. He allowed one hit and one walk with five strikeouts. Miller notched two saves and win in three innings of work. Davis and Britton received less work. They also held the opposition scoreless.

 

Let's talk about Mr. Kimbrel. For the second season in a row, he's scuffled through April. He allowed another two runs on Sunday, bumping him up to a 4.50 ERA in 10 innings. He's appeared 11 times and the damage has been constrained to just two outings. I'm inclined to wave off the damage.

 

In fact, I'm aggressively attempting to buy wherever possible. Kimbrel still has an impressive 18 strikeouts in his 10 innings. He may not be one of the top performing closers to date, but he'll be there at the end of the season.

 

Tier 2: Nearly Elite (7)

 

Jeurys Familia, New York Mets

Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis Cardinals

Roberto Osuna, Toronto Blue Jays

Hector Rondon, Chicago Cubs

Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates

David Robertson, Chicago White Sox

A.J. Ramos, Miami Marlins

 

Familia picked up four saves in four innings this week. He did allow a run to the Braves on three hits. Luckily, he was protecting a two-run lead. Rosenthal nabbed two saves in two innings with four strikeouts.

 

Last Friday, Osuna allowed two runs (one earned) as part of a no-decision. He rebounded on Monday with an effortless save. Drew Storen has continued to pitch terribly – he has a 9.39 ERA in 7.2 innings.

 

After another flawless week, Rondon is up to six innings, four saves, 11 strikeouts, and just two hits allowed. He's yet to walk a batter or allow a run. The numbers are elite, but his stuff doesn't quite play with the Tier 1 crowd.

 

Melancon allowed a rare home run on Sunday. Although he blew the save, the Pirates went on to win in extra innings. He also had a shaky save on Friday. Melancon's season numbers are still strong – 8.31 K/9, no walks, and a 3.12 ERA. His owners may wish to keep close tabs on Tony Watson – just in case.

 

Like with Rondon, there's no questioning Robertson's performance. He allowed his first run of the season this week in a blown save against the Rangers. Overall, he saved three games in four appearances (4.1 innings) with five strikeouts, five hits, and two walks.

 

Ramos is also dealing. He earned saves on each of the last three days so he'll likely be unavailable tonight. Opponents have yet to score upon Ramos. It's good to see him maintain a high 11.25 K/9, but he'll need to improve upon his 6.75 BB/9. Ramos walked four batters in his first two outings of the season. I'd write that off entirely if he hadn't issued a free pass in both of his most recent appearances.

 

Tier 3: The Mid-Tier (7)

 

Alex Colome, Tampa Bay Rays

Huston Street, Los Angeles Angels

Luke Gregerson, Houston Astros

Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians

Jonathan Papelbon, Washington Nationals

Francisco Rodriguez, Detroit Tigers

Arodys Vizcaino, Atlanta Braves

 

I'm a fan of Colome. I thought he was the best reliever in the Rays bullpen even before Brad Boxberger hit the disabled list. He picked up three saves in the last week. Interestingly, Colome only faced five batters to record those saves. The partial inning usage is odd since he's been used as a multi-inning guy in the past – including earlier this season. Boxberger's impending return muddies the waters here.

 

Street gave up his first run of the season via solo home run last Thursday. He still locked down the save along with another one on Saturday. Street has limited the damage against him, but the peripherals are ugly. A 1.17 ERA hides a 4.53 FIP and 5.23 xFIP. His strikeouts are way down. It's a small sample. No need to panic.

 

Gregerson allowed a run and didn't receive a save opportunity. The bigger news in Houston is Ken Giles. He coughed up three more runs and took the loss on Thursday. Gregerson is looking safer and safer. I still believe Giles will recover, but he's a long way from pitching the ninth inning.

 

Allen saved and lost a pair over four appearances. He's now allowed 7 runs in 8.2 innings with six strikeouts and five walks. His velocity is down over 1.5 mph from last season, and his whiff rate has also declined. It's officially time to begin panicking.

 

 

Papelbon had an uneventful week en route to two saves in three appearances. K-Rod saved his only opportunity by the skin of his teeth. He began the frame with a three run lead. He allowed two solo home runs and walking two batters. He's been on emergency family medical leave the last few days. Mark Lowe is second fiddle in the Tigers bullpen.

 

I've watched a few of Vizcaino's outings this season – usually with rooting interests up against him. He didn't record a save this week, but he did strike out six batters in three innings. Vizcaino has shaky command, and I've seen him hang at least half a dozen pitches. Nice ripe, plump, juicy hangers. Nothing's happened with those – his stuff is that good. He has 14.14 K/9, 6.43 BB/9, and no runs allowed in seven innings. I'd move him up if I didn't think his command was below average.

 

Tier 4: Questions (6)

 

Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle, Oakland Athletics

Jeremy Jeffress, Milwaukee Brewers

Santiago Casilla, San Francisco Giants

Shawn Tolleson, Texas Rangers

Brad Ziegler, Arizona Diamondbacks

Jake McGee, Colorado Rockies

 

While both Madson and Doolittle merit inclusion in Tier 3, they both lose value by sharing the ninth inning. Madson seems like he'll take the ninth about three-quarters of the time. Since Doolittle is a lefty, it gives Oakland the opportunity to play matchups in the eighth and ninth inning. Madson earned saves in his only two appearances this week. Doolittle picked a save and a hold in three outings.

 

Jeffress was stung for a three-run yakker against the Phillies in a non-save situation. They were the first and only runs he's allowed this year. The next day, he rebounded for the save.

 

Casilla, Tolleson, and Ziegler all pitched twice without incident. Tolleson closed two while Casilla and Ziegler earned one save apiece. Casilla struck out five.

 

McGee had one of those season ruining innings last Sunday. He allowed five runs in two-thirds of an inning. He needs to throw 20 consecutive scoreless frames to get his ERA back down to his career norm.

 

There's a bigger issue at play for McGee. As a fastball-only reliever, he can't afford to lose 1.5 mph on his fastball. That's just comparing it to the 2015 version of his heater which was 2 mph slower than 2014 fastball. McGee's a one pitch guy. Coors is not the place to be when that pitch suddenly vanishes.

 

Tier 5: Roller Coasters (5)

 

Steve Cishek, Seattle Mariners

Fernando Rodney, San Diego Padres

Kevin Jepsen, Trevor May, Minnesota Twins

Jeanmar Gomez, Hector Neris, Philadelphia Phillies

Tony Cingrani, Caleb Cotham, J.J. Hoover, Cincinnati Reds

 

Both Cishek and Rodney are making cases to leave the ugly duckling tier. Cishek saved four games this week with two hits, one walk, and four strikeouts. He has a 0.90 ERA on the season. Primary setup man Joaquin Benoit hit the disabled list. Rodney only pitched once in a low-effort save.

 

Jepsen showed why I believe Trevor May should be closing games in Minnesota. He pitched each of the last three days. He blew two saves and won two games. His current 4.66 ERA doesn't smell wonky to me – he's a 3.50 to 4.75 ERA pitcher due to erratic control and merely decent stuff. It's possible Casey Fien will get the nod before May today.

 

Gomez, a certified middle reliever, remains the Phillies closer. Good news though, Philadelphia has found their closer-in-waiting. Hector Neris has a 93 mph fastball and an elite splitter. He has 20 strikeouts in 12 innings to go with a 0.75 ERA.

 

Speaking of ugly ducklings, nobody knows what to make of the Reds bullpen. Their closer-by-committee appears to involve using their “best” relievers in the seventh inning. Cingrani has the strikeouts to close. If only he had any command. Cotham is the Gomez of this bullpen. He could close games simply by virtue of being a non-terrible middle reliever.

 

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Injured

 

Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees (domestic violence)

Will Smith, Milwaukee Brewers (knee)

Brad Boxberger, Tampa Bay Rays (oblique)

Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins (shoulder)

 

Boxberger has been cleared to resume full baseball activities. He's on pace for an early-May return. It will be interesting to see if Colome retains the job. Perkins is supposedly improving, but he isn't nearing a return yet.

 

The Deposed

 

Ken Giles, Houston Astros

Drew Storen, Toronto Blue Jays

Jason Grilli, Atlanta Braves

Sean Doolittle, Oakland Athletics

J.J. Hoover

 

I'm going to leave Doolittle here for now even though he's in a job share. It's still a demotion of sorts.

 

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The Steals Department

 

I overlooked Jarrod Dyson's return to action last week. Luckily, he remains widely available to fantasy owners. Dyson already has two stolen bases while hitting .333/.379/.407 in his first week. He's best used against right-handed pitching. He bats at the bottom of the Royals lineup. Without power or walks, he has limited (and obvious) fantasy application.

 

The Phillies second best hitter, Odubel Herrera, really deserves more love. Herrera is making a conscious effort to work the count. The early results speak for themselves. He has 19 walks and 17 strikeouts in 86 plate appearances as part of a .288/.442/.424 performance. Herrera has decent power, a good spot for run production, and he's already stolen four bases. He's like a poor man's Michael Brantley with more speed than power.

 

Eugenio Suarez is one of the breakout stories of the year. The multi-talented shortstop is hitting .286/.345/.494 with five home runs and four stolen bases through 84 plate appearances. Suarez hasn't flashed 20 steal potential since 2012 in the low minors. The Reds are an extremely aggressive team on the bases. They'll likely encourage Suarez to continue running. Whereas Dyson and Herrera might be either free or cheaply acquired, Suarez will require some sort of buy-high bounty.

Brad Johnson

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