Saves and Steals

Neris Nixed?

Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Ever since he ascended to closer last season, I’ve been calling Hector Neris an “acceptable steward.” The idea was simple – the Phillies weren’t contending so they could settle for a merely adequate closer. Neris’ occasional command hiccups made him that guy. Now Philadelphia is contending. Neris is no longer the right fit.


The Phillies bullpen will probably eventually supply us with a good closer. They may have to work through a couple more stopgaps before discovering the right guy. Ramos was the first to earn a save in the post-Neris era. Although I was an early adopter of Ramos this spring, I no longer believe he’s one of the Phillies top relievers. As a veteran, Tommy Hunter might be preferable. Luis Garcia has an interesting blend of ground balls and swinging strikes. His stuff could play up if his pitch usage were adjusted. Fantasy owners should root for Seranthony Dominguez. His blend of premium velocity, big breaking ball, and recent move from the rotation to the bullpen reminds me of Edwin Diaz’s debut. Even Victor Arano (returning from the disabled list today) could factor in the late innings. Despite a lack of name brand talent, it’s a crowded and deep bullpen.


EDIT: Shortly after publishing, the Phillies defeated the Orioles 4-1. In the process, they used the most confusing combination of relievers possible. Hunter and Garcia shared the eighth inning. Ramos started the ninth inning with a pair of strikeouts. He was then replaced with Neris who recorded the final out. Is Gabe Kapler the new Mike Scioscia?


Elsewhere, five pitchers tied for the weekly lead in saves with three apiece. The most impressive of the batch was probably Raisel Iglesias. He tossed a total of five scoreless innings. He also picked up seven strikeouts and a win for his owners. Sean Doolittle, Blake Treinen, Brad Hand, and Fernando Rodney round out the list of busy closers. The seasonal lead belongs to Wade Davis and his 15 saves. Edwin Diaz (14) is in hot pursuit followed by Brad Boxberger (12) and Hand (12).


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


Kimbrel blew a save last Wednesday against the Yankees. Later in the same game, Chapman appeared to record the save while striking out the side. Kimbrel has since rebounded with a couple 1-2-3 frames.


Tier 2: Nearly Elite (7)


Edwin Diaz, Seattle Mariners

Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

Felipe Vazquez, Pittsburgh Pirates

Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians

Brad Hand, San Diego Padres

Wade Davis, Colorado Rockies


Diaz blew a one-run lead yesterday. Admittedly, I was not watching this game live. The play-by-play report is a tad confusing. Diaz allowed a single to Jurickson Profar who later advanced to second on a wild pitch. Then he scored on a ground ball to first base? There’s a story here… Ah, here’s the video. The best part is when the ball disappeared from Diaz’s hand. Is Joey Gallo a magician?


Doolittle is in the midst of a majestic season. He’s allowed just seven hits and three walks in 18.2 innings. He’s paired the baserunner suppression with 28 strikeouts. The Nationals always seem to need a mercenary closer at the trade deadline. Perhaps this season will be the exception?


Jansen’s velocity remains infuriatingly inconsistent. In many ways, he’s the same pitcher as always. In other ways, such as those measured by ERA estimators like FIP and SIERA, he’s kind of a dud now. I’ll continue to split the difference until he starts racking up strikeouts or coughing up runs in bunches.


The Padres are aggressive with Hand’s workload. Over the last seven days, he’s pitched 5.1 innings. Aside from issues with free passes, Hand has looked the part of a top closer. The Padres have copious reinforcements on the way from the minors. They could climb out of this rebuilding phase by next season. A lot of people assume a trade is inevitable, but don’t be surprised if they hang onto Hand at the deadline.


I’m never going to get the kind of sample size I need to judge Davis’ performance at Coors Field. To this point, he’s pitched to a 5.14 ERA at home including a clunky blown save last week. Additionally, Adam Ottavino is clearly the best reliever in the Rockies bullpen (not that Davis is bad). There are some issues keeping me from moving Davis up the rankings even though he leads the league in saves.


Tier 3: The Core Performers (6)


Corey Knebel, Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers

Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds

Brandon Morrow, Chicago Cubs

Jeurys Familia, New York Mets

Kelvin Herrera, Kansas City Royals

Brad Boxberger, Arizona Diamondbacks


Knebel has yet to earn a save in three appearances since returning from the disabled list. Hader even snagged the save on Friday – likely because Knebel had appeared the previous two days. On Monday, Hader worked the seventh and eighth innings. I think Knebel is back on top.


Iglesias was used heavily over the last week. On Wednesday, he threw a pair of innings. He recorded four outs in Thursday and two more on Friday before returning on Sunday for a three out save. All told, he was perfect through five innings.


Herrera was dinged for the loss yesterday. It was only the second run he’s allowed all season. Familia coughed up a solo home run while protecting a one-run deficit.


Tier 4: Maybe Good? (5)


Ken Giles, Houston Astros

Blake Treinen, Oakland Athletics

Keone Kela, Texas Rangers

Arodys Vizcaino, Atlanta Braves

Bud Norris, St. Louis Cardinals

Hunter Strickland, San Francisco Giants


Giles has been used so infrequently that I’m wary about bumping him up the tiers. He looks to be back in top form which would merit a ranking immediately above Iglesias. For now, I’ll remain cautious.


Kela does not have much margin for error. I like his combination of 29.2 percent strikeout rate and over 20 percent infield fly rate. Those easy popups are automatic outs. Kela’s velocity has recovered from an early season slump.


After a couple clunky outings, fantasy owners are loading up on Vizcaino’s backups – namely A.J. Minter and Daniel Winkler. Personally, I’m team Winkler. He has a deceptive fastball-cutter-slider combo. Hitters clearly have no idea what’s coming. For now, I’m not actually concerned about Vizcaino’s job security. Minter did earn a save on Tuesday when Vizcaino wasn’t available.


Norris is back in control of the Cardinals’ closer job. The presence of Greg Holland ensures that Norris will always be looking over his shoulder. Holland has allowed more walks than strikeouts so he remains unfit to close. Norris has a tidy 2.33 ERA with 12.57 K/9 and 1.40 BB/9. Expect more walks in the future.


Tier 5: Unsettled (9)


Alex Colome, Tampa Bay Rays

Fernando Rodney, Minnesota Twins

Brad Brach, Baltimore Orioles

Shane Greene, Detroit Tigers

Edubray Ramos et al, Philadelphia Phillies

Jim Johnson, Justin Anderson, Blake Parker, Los Angeles Angels

Brad Ziegler, Miami Marlins

Tyler Clippard et al, Toronto Blue Jays

Bruce Rondon, Chicago White Sox


Oh my. There are two distinct asset types in this sloppy collection of misfits: not-so-good closers and bullpens by committee. Good luck playing in this sandbox.


Of all the guys listed here, Colome could probably slide up a tier. For the time being, he has a stable job with acceptable ratios. His biggest issue looms in July when he’ll certainly be traded to a contender – probably to serve as a setup man. He also has to deal with the Yankees and Red Sox far more often than is strictly healthy.


Rodney may finally be coming to the end of the line. His swinging strike rate is way down due to an uptick of fastball usage. He can’t survive this long term – he’ll either need to start throwing his changeup twice as often or he’ll get rocked.


Greene has pitched four days in a row. He’s earned a day of rest. Joe Jimenez and Buck Farmer are the most likely to fill in for Greene.


Brach has always been a low BABIP pitcher. This year, he’s sporting a .391 BABIP. I don’t know what to make of it. Either his stuff has become more hittable (his velocity is down two mph) or he’s having serious bad luck with batted ball outcomes. Notably, his swinging strike and strikeout rates are at career highs. It’s been a weird season. He’ll continue to hold the fort until Darren O’Day and Zach Britton return. Not that there’s much of a fort to hold in Baltimore.


I discussed the Phillies bullpen in the intro. Here’s how explained it to one fan. Imagine you’re playing a lottery. Stashing a guy like Ramos or Hunter is like playing a community 50/50 raffle. You have a decent chance to win, but it won’t change your life. Dominguez is a Powerball ticket. There’s no way you’ll win. But what if you do?


In the game of “what have you done for me lately” played in Los Angeles, Parker is probably the best fit for the next save opportunity. Johnson closed one out last Thursday. Anderson handled the ninth on Monday. Who’s next?


Roberto Osuna’s administrative leave was extended. Clippard received the only save opportunity since we last discussed the sorry state of the Blue Jays late inning. A number of alternatives lurk, most notably Ryan Tepera and Seung Hwan Oh.


The White Sox are fed up with Joakim Soria and Nate Jones blowing leads. So they’ve turned to Rondon who will most certainly blow some leads in the not-so-distant future. Consider this situation extremely fluid.






Mark Melancon, San Francisco Giants (forearm)

Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles (Achilles, forearm)

Keynan Middleton, Los Angeles Angels (elbow)

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

Darren O’Day, Baltimore Orioles (elbow)


Middleton returned and almost immediately reinjured his elbow. It sounds like he’s due for an extended absence this time. O’Day hyperextended his elbow. Having seen him pitch for a decade or so, I didn’t realize that was possible.


The Deposed


Blake Parker, Los Angeles Angels

Dominic Leone, St. Louis Cardinals

Greg Holland, St. Louis Cardinals

Cam Bedrosian, Los Angeles Angels

Hector Neris, Philadelphia Phillies

Joakim Soria, Chicago White Sox


Welcome Neris and Soria to our dispiriting collection of misfits and former closers.




The Steals Department


Three base thieves went bonkers over the last week. Jean Segura nabbed six bases while Mookie Betts and Ender Inciarte both swiped five bags. I did point out that the Mariners and Red Sox had very favorable matchups for base runners. It’s too bad Segura and Betts weren’t exactly “available.” Inciarte now tops the season leaderboard with 18 steals. Dee Gordon (15) and Trea Turner (13) round out the top three.


The catchers you want to pick upon include Robinson Chirinos, Kurt Suzuki, Tyler Flowers, and Russell Martin. Teams are also targeting Jonathan Lucroy frequently even though he’s caught nine of 31 attempts (29 percent).


Next up against the Rangers are the White Sox and Yankees. Chicago has two standout options in the form of Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada. If you’re digging deep, Yolmer Sanchez, Leury Garcia, and Adam Engel are not without speed. Yankee options include Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner, and Gleyber Torres.


The Marlins and Phillies are next up against the Braves. Cameron Maybin, Lewis Brinson, and Miguel Rojas are the most likely Fish to get frisky on the base paths. You’re unlikely to find Philadelphia thieves like Cesar Hernandez or Odubel Herrera on the waiver wire.


The Blue Jays play host to the A’s and Angels. Marcus Semien is basically the only guy who runs on the Athletics. You can try a share of Dustin Fowler. Sadly, you cannot add Mike Trout for his favorable baserunning matchup. Andrelton Simmons is also unavailable in most leagues. Ian Kinsler may be an option.


Good luck finding steals on the Blue Jays for their pairing against Lucroy. Kevin Pillar is the lone representative. Similarly, Dee Gordon and Segura are great targets for the next week. It’s too bad they’re unavailable.

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