Tier 4: Question marks (6) (AKA: The "Roberto Alomar and The Spit" Tier.)
Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals
Brandon League, Los Angeles Dodgers
Bobby Parnell, New York Mets
Steve Cishek, Miami Marlins
Huston Street, San Diego Padres
Ernesto Frieri, Los Angeles Angels
Robert Alomar was really mad, and sort of crazy, but the whole thing was really just more sad and disgusting once spittle was involved. A garden variety Scream At The Ump gone wrong.
Greg Holland is the king of the iffy crowd, as he survived a bad stretch, is throwing with more gas than anyone on here, and strikeout out a whopping 17 batters per nine. He hasn't walked a guy in six appearances, and has two Kimbrels over that stretch. He's another good week away from moving up.
Bobby Parnell might move back up soon. His blown save Monday was a bit of a tough luck blown save, with an assist from some iffy defense from his team. And though Brandon Lyon took the ball in a save situation Tuesday, it might have been because Parnell had pitched two nights in a row. So when Lyon blew that save, it probably made Parnell a little safer. There's a little worry that Parnell has blown two saves against two successful saves, and that he's only struck out three batters in his last six appearances, but he's still the closer there.
The rest of these guys are still closers, but they've all hit some bumps. Well, Brandon League has only blown one save, but he also only has four strikeouts in eleven innings. That'll cost your team no matter the format. And it's a lot of balls in play. Sometimes those balls will find grass. Steve Cishek gave up two home runs over the last week, but only lost one game. Huston Street had a clean slate week and might just be able to make the reduced velocity work, with excellent control and good stuff. Ernesto Frieri throws the ball five miles per hour harder, but has control problems. He's walked a guy in all but three of his ten appearances, and three in a two, and he blew the save in Monday's epic game. Ryan Madson inches closer.
Tier 5: Rollercoaster rides (5) (AKA: The "Milton Bradley and The Knee" Tier.)
Edward Mujica (first chair), Trevor Rosenthal (second chair), St. Louis Cardinals
Jim Henderson (first chair), John Axford (second chair), Milwaukee Brewers
Jose Veras (first chair), Rhiner Cruz (second chair), Hector Ambriz (third chair), Houston Astros
Andrew Bailey (first chair), Joel Hanrahan (second chair) Junichi Tazawa (third chair), Boston Red Sox
Jose Valverde (first chair), Joaquin Benoit (second chair), Bruce Rondon (third chair), Detroit Tigers
Kevin Gregg (first chair), Carlos Marmol (second chair), Chicago Cubs
Now that Milton Bradley thing -- where he went all nuts on the umpire and tore a knee ligament in the process -- was all kinds of crazy, and angry, and definitely a meltdown. But the result just makes you feel dirty about your fandom, in a way. Were we complicit in that episode somehow? Could we have done something so that it didn't happen? Probably not, but it can make you feel icky.
Like rostering some of these closers.
Well, Edward Mujica will move up with another good week. It's just that Trevor Rosenthal has the gas and strikeouts to make his owners nervous, so I'm going to wait one more week. And Jason Motte is actually throwing, too. Jim Henderson is doing nothing wrong, but John Axford is getting better, and getting mentioned by his manager. Jose Veras is just a mediocre pitcher in a pen so bad that he's the best pitcher. And that team won't give him a ton of save opportunities.
The Hammer is back, but without a save opportunity, we can't be sure he's going to get back in the role. He gave up a run in his first outing, too. But they traded for him to be the closer, and hamstring notwithstanding, he's usually healthier than Andrew Bailey. Not that we're saying a ton there. Once he gets going, all it will take is a few walk-less outings to get his role back, but of course that's no given either. For now, it looks like it's Bailey.
I'll continue to say I don't believe in Jose Valverde. It's a three-inning sample, but his swinging strike rate is no better than it was last year, and his velocity is even worse. He's not even throwing the split finger for some reason, and we know we can't believe a zero walk rate from the Big Potato. Joaquin Benoit even got a save since Valverde has been up. I bet the Tigers will be looking to upgrade that spot this year.
In some ways, it's nice to see the goggled Kevin Gregg back in this piece. He was a favorite whipping boy, as we correctly predicted he wouldn't finish his first season as an Oriole in the closer role, and have always pointed out how bad his control is and how middling his strikeout rates are. But this year he's bettered both of those and looks resurgent in Chicago. It's five innings. It's nice to see him throw a ton of splitters, but it's still five innings, and the best long-term bet is still on Kyuji Fujikawa.
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Ryan Madson (elbow), Los Angeles Angels
Jason Motte (elbow), St. Louis Cardinals
Kyuji Fujikawa (forearm), Chicago Cubs
Sergio Santos (elbow), Blue Jays
Kyuji Fujikawa is throwing, and could begin rehab on Sunday. Ryan Madson should face live hitters soon, maybe. Sergio Santos is throwing, and targeting mid-May. Jason Motte actually felt no pain the last time he threw!
Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs
John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers
Mitchell Boggs, St. Louis Cardinals
John Axford is itching to get up off this list. Would be unfair to put Andrew Bailey here because 1) that would be premature and 2) he was just a fill-in closer.
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The Steals Department
With steals still down around baseball, it's tough out there. Most of my waiver wires boast three-steal candidates as the best available. So, even though Andrelton Simmons only has one steal, maybe he's worth picking up. He's improved his walk rate this year and is starting to stake his claim to a spot at the top of the lineup. With better batted ball luck, he should be able to hit .275+ the rest of the way, and if he's atop the lineup, he could still steal twenty with double-digit home runs. Or, if Juan Pierre is out there, you just stomach the lack of playing time against lefties, the total lack of power, and roster the dude while you wait for his batting average on balls in play to stabilize -- and hope he isn't traded to a contender to fill a backup role.
It looks like the big winner while Jason Heyward is out will be Jordan Schafer. And if he can keep his strikeout rate around the 20.6% he's showing now, he actually has a chance of hitting around .250, with an on-base percentage over .310. Add in real speed, and you've got a guy you can use in deeper leagues. If you don't ever let him bat against lefties, you might even be able to push that OBP up to .325+.