Tier 4: Question Marks (7) (AKA: The "Pirates and Athletics" Tier.)
Jason Grilli, Pittsburgh Pirates
Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia Phillies
Huston Street, San Diego Padres
Chris Perez, Cleveland Indians
Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay Rays
These are two teams at opposite ends of the postseason spectrum. The Athletics are division winners, so they absolutely have a better chance of making it further by the numbers, but their team just doesn't seem built for the postseason. As remarkable as his story has been, does Bartolo Colon taking the ball in game one inspire confidence? And in fact, their rotation can't be counted as a strength when it fails to meet the level set by a National League Wild Card team. Yes, I'd take A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole over the top three in Oakland. And while the Oakland offense has been on fire, their mix-and-match lineup can be taken advantage of in games where the entire bullpen is available every night. The Pirates? They just have the odds to overcome, given how difficult it is now for a wild card team to make it happen.
I was asked to set the odds on Jason Grilli taking over in a chat last week, and because Grilli hadn't found his old velocity or stuff just yet, I put it under 25%. Oh well, at least I gave him a chance. Now the manager is talking about keeping Grilli in the ninth even in non-closing situations, just to make sure his two best relievers are comfortable in their innings. As if there was something magically different about the two innings. You know, the heart of the lineup often hits in the eighth. No matter. Grilli would be higher if his peripherals had looked better since he returned. Obviously, he's the grilled cheese of the bullpen cafeteria.
Jonathan Papelbon just saved a game last night, so whatever malady he's hiding, he may just hide it all year. Heck, he might hide it the rest of his career if the name of the malady is 'age.' But he's clearly not the reliever that the Phillies doled out the cash to import. Jake Diekman has the best peripherals and the most holds over the last two weeks, and he even has a changeup that could bust platoon splits. Maybe he gets the next shot if Paps needs a blow. Among the righties, I always thought it would be Justin DeFratus, who's been pitching better of late. Luke Gregerson has a save recently, but not that recently, and here's a fun fact -- Huston Street is under contract longer than Gregerson. The team has an option on him in 2015. Then again, Street hasn't aged that well, and neither seems like a great long-term bet. Nick Vincent is the only other pitcher with a hold or save over the last month (other than Tim Stauffer), but he throws 90, barely. I still have some hope for Brad Boxberger, but his control is no good and he hasn't been getting high-leverage chances.
Tier 5: Rollercoaster Rides (6) (AKA: The "Braves and Indians" Tier.)
Trevor Rosenthal (first chair), Edward Mujica (second chair), St. Louis Cardinals
Brad Ziegler (first chair), J.J. Putz (second chair), Arizona Diamondbacks
Vic Black (first chair), Gonzalez Germen (second chair), New York Mets
Pedro Strop (first chair), Kevin Gregg (second chair), Blake Parker (third chair), Chicago Cubs
Josh Fields (first chair), Josh Zeid (second chair), Houston Astros
I don't hate these teams. I even picked the Braves to win their division before the season began. I'm just not sure about them. The Indians lack pitching at the top of the rotation, and Justin Masterson isn't even a lock to return to the team in the first round. The Braves lost a steady veteran in the rotation, and have struck out a ton all year on offense. If the Upton Brothers are better, and Jason Heyward is recovered from his jaw surgery, and Dan Uggla is recovered from his eye surgery, and the bullpen behind Craig Kimbrel is fine, and Julio Teheran is a beast and Kris Medlen or Mike Minor plays Robin to his Batman… that's a lot of ifs.
We spent all year wondering when the guy with more gas, more strikeouts, and a more traditional closer's arsenal would take the job in St. Louis. Well, whoever had "Last Week of the Season" in the pool, come collect your earnings. Edward Mujica has the same approach as Koji Uehara, but not the same pin-point command (yes, his control is good, but Uehara can command both of his pitches in the zone, which is remarkable for a split-finger pitcher, while Uehara has good fastball command and 'hopes' a little more with the splitter). With a 97 mph fastball, curve, and change, and good control of his own, the bet here is that the change has been made, and Jason Motte is in trouble next year.
As it stands now, the Diamondbacks are in line to spend over $12 million on J.J. Putz and Brad Ziegler combined next season. And maybe they can't figure anything out over the last few days of the season anyway. But that seems like a decent hunk of change for a team that hovers around $80 million in total salary outlays. J.J. Putz seems worth owning for the desperate.
Vic Black is more interesting, though, since he's one of those guys that has been hung with the Closer of the Future title in the past. And he got his first save this week, flashing 95 mph gas a good curveball. The problem with Black -- that he can't command those pitches well -- hasn't quite surfaced yet. It's doubtful he takes the 2014 job away from Bobby Parnell in the final week, but he should earn a save, maybe even two. No reason to give free agent to be Latroy Hawkins the ball anyway.
The Cubs management said that Pedro Strop would get a chance. Kevin Gregg spouted off in the media. Theo freaking Epstein had to come forward and say he was disappointed that the reliever -- whom they gave a chance to even after he looked finished, and even after his first stint in Chicago wasn't great -- would question the team publicly. He said he would consider releasing Gregg over the next few days. Predictably, Gregg recanted and apologized. Predictably, Strop got the next chance. And, predictably, Strop will get the next one.
Josh Fields? Uh. Sure.
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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
Bobby Parnell (neck), New York Mets
Still done for the year!
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
Kevin Gregg, Chicago Cubs
"Kevin Gregg is going to survive the season. Congratulations to Kevin Gregg." That's what I wrote last week. Prescient.
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The Steals Department
Your final streaming update!
Hank Conger has been playing a lot recently, and maybe that's why the Angels haven't been as terrible vs the run recently. Still, Chris Iannetta is the single worst catcher out there against the running game right now. The Angels get Texas over the final weekend, making Leonys Martin one of the best mixed-league pickups. He's available in more than half of the leagues on at least one platform. Craig Gentry against lefties makes a decent deeper league pickup, he even has twice as many steals as Martin over the past two weeks. The deepest leagues might have to take a shot on Jim Adduci, a left-hander that's getting at-bats here or there and has real speed.
The Rays have the worst tandem against the run, so that makes them easier to stream against. The fact that they are up against the Blue Jays is also fun. Well, fun if Rajai Davis is available in your league. If not… well… Moises Sierra has stolen as many as 16 bases in a season! Munenori Kawasaki is getting playing time!
If anybody but Derek Norris is behind the plate for the Athletics, you can run on them. That makes Michael Saunders, Franklin Gutierrez and Abraham Almonte interesting (in descending order of interest). Brad Miller would be a good pickup if the injury that caused him to miss time hadn't been to his legs. Boston is also decently bad at stopping the run, so turn your eyes to Baltimore, as decimated as they are by injury right now. Nate McLouth and Brian Roberts haven't stolen bases recently, but they still have it in them.
Good luck over the final weekend! I don't do football, so hit me up on Twitter in the final days if you have a pressing question!