Tier 4: Question marks (8) (AKA: The "Kelvin Herrera" Tier.)
Rafael Soriano, Washington Nationals
Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia Phillies
Chris Perez, Cleveland Indians
Danny Farquhar, Seattle Mariners
Huston Street, San Diego Padres
Rex Brothers, Colorado Rockies
Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay Rays
Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates
Just because we like to be salacious with our tiers, the top tiers are more likely to get hurt, and these tiers boast guys that are looking healthier. Herrera always had gas, and he's put more on recently. But the most important thing for him was to command the ball, and now his zone percentage is up almost five ticks. His recent performances fall in line with the idea that he's healthier, too. Greg Holland is great, but Herrera could help you on ratios and strikeouts alone. Among starting pitchers, it was nice to see David Price show up here as showing healthier peripherals. Looks like he's ready to go.
We're actually going to move Rafael Soriano up a bit here because it looks like his health concerns are abating. I primarily docked Soriano for his declining velocity and whiffs, but at least he's trending in the right direction now. His velocity is up recently and now his zone percentage is up a full five percentage points. And lo and behold, his slider usage and whiff percentage is up over the last six weeks too. Maybe he's overcome whatever he was struggling with.
The Rockies always wanted to go with Rex Brothers as their closer, and now they get to. I mean, Matt Belisle is a very good pitcher, but he doesn't have the velocity or strikeouts of a closer, and it's almost irrelevant. We've danced this dance before, and Brothers gets the lead. If he can show good control, he'll even move up the list fairly quickly.
Fernando Rodney blew a save but he's liable to, from time to time. He survived a worse stretch twice this season, so it's hard to advocate for Jake McGee and Jesse Crain isn't here yet. Mark Melancon is on borrowed time as Jason Grilli approaches. H2Hers in the playoffs with M&M on the roster are just hoping against hope (and grilled cheeses) now.
Tier 5: Rollercoaster rides (5) (AKA: The "Aroldis Chapman" Tier.)
Ernesto Frieri (first chair), Dane De La Rosa (second chair), Anaheim Angels
LaTroy Hawkins (first chair), Gonzalez Germen (second chair), New York Mets
Brad Ziegler (first chair), J.J. Putz (second chair), Arizona Diamondbacks
Kevin Gregg (first chair), Pedro Strop (second chair), Blake Parker (third chair), Chicago Cubs
Chia-Jen Lo (first chair), Josh Fields (second chair), Kevin Chapman (third chair), Houston Astros
You know, Aroldis Chapman has had some injury concerns before. But this year, he's on fire. He's even added velocity and command in the recent months, and that can only be bad news for the league.
Blake Parker has also put on gas and command and that is relevant -- right here. He still has a chance to take over when Kevin Gregg goes splat, which might be right now. Or it might not. All of Kevin Gregg's peripherals slowly returned to career levels, and now he looks like a pumpkin with goggles on. But he's been terrible for a month now and hasn't been removed from the role. He even got the shot again after blowing his last save opportunity. So maybe Blake Parker and Pedro Strop don't matter.
Ernesto Frieri got a save and I thought back to all the beats in the press box talking about how he'd get his job back. So I moved him ahead of Dane De La Rosa based on usage. Then Tuesday night, Frieri pitched the eighth in a close game, and De La Rosa got the save. Here's what makes it even harder to figure out: Frieri got the middle of the order (Evan Longoria, Wil Myers and David DeJesus), and De La Rosa got the bottom of the order (Yunel Escobar, James Loney, and Matt Joyce). Is this a true committee, where the manager is using the pitchers to their strengths no matter what inning it is? That's a great real-life idea, but it's really tough on fantasy owners. Since the two have split the last two saves, and Frieri got the tougher hitters Tuesday night, I'll leave him ahead of De La Rosa by a nose. Both should be owned in most saves leagues.
Chia-Jen Lo looks like the closer in Houston, but his peripherals are some kind of terrible. He's walking more than he's striking out, and even if that's a small sample thing, his swinging strike rate is really really bad. He gets some ground balls and he still throws 94, and his arm hasn't fallen off, so I guess so far Lo good. But it's hard to count on him, especially with the Astros shuffling the deck chairs every few weeks.
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Jason Motte (elbow), St. Louis Cardinals
Joel Hanrahan (forearm), Boston Red Sox
Kyuji Fujikawa (elbow), Chicago Cubs
Rafael Betancourt (elbow), Colorado Rockies
Jason Grilli (forearm), Pittsburgh Pirates
Bobby Parnell (neck), New York Mets
Rafael Betancourt says he doesn't want to get surgery on his elbow, which pretty much means his career is over. Let's just take a minute here to recognize that he probably should have been a lifetime closer, what with a career 3.19 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 9.5 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9. Weird that the Indians didn't try him there much, and good on the Rockies to give him a shot. Jason Grilli looks like he'll be back for at least a week or two this season. Bobby Parnell is going to wait two weeks to decide about surgery. You have to think he'd be at least a week away if he decided against surgery, so he's probably not worth holding on to if you need the DL slot.
Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs
John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers
Mitchell Boggs, St. Louis Cardinals
Brandon League, Los Angeles Dodgers
Andrew Bailey, Boston Red Sox
Jose Veras, Detroit Tigers
Tom Wilhelmsen, Seattle Mariners
Heath Bell, Arizona Diamondbacks
We could put Betancourt here, but it's better to be honest about why he lost his job. Hard to tell who's on his way here. Could be Brad Ziegler, probably will be Kevin Gregg.
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The Steals Department
Last week's mention Emilio Bonifacio is kicking ass in Kansas City. Chris Getz has been playing better than he normally does, but that means he's hitting about .230 over the last two weeks. It's tempting to give Getz the job when everyone's healthy on that infield, but Bonifacio is actually under the Royals' control next year. If he continues to play well, he might actually take the starting job next year. The Good Face strikes out too much, doesn't walk enough, isn't a great defender, and probably won't put up better than a .260 batting average most years. But he steals bases and he might be better than the disasterpiece theater that has been playing nightly at second base in Kansas City this year. Will Venable in San Diego also deserves a shout out. He always had problems against lefties, but he's been hitting them this year. And as a lefty, his home park used to suppress his homer output by 50%, but they moved the walls in. He's useable, against righties at least, in all leagues now.
Marlon Byrd won't steal any bases in Pittsburgh, but he might create opportunity behind him in New York. That team in Queens needs to see what they have in the outfield next year, and the only outfielder that could be called 'ready' is Matt Den Dekker. The 26-year-old has done all he can in the minor leagues, and at the very least, he'll be a decent defensive replacement. He struck out too often and walked too little for most of his career, but at least this year he has both sitting around average. He has good power and some speed, so he could eke out a passable batting average. And it looks like he'll start against most right-handers, as the team tries out a low-cost platoon of Andrew Brown and Den Dekker. 2/3 of the playing time, not a great batting average, but with power and speed upside -- yeah that's still a decent deep leaguer.