Tier 4: Question Marks (4)
Jenrry Mejia, New York Mets
Casey Janssen, Toronto Blue Jays
Ernesto Frieri, Los Angeles Angels
LaTroy Hawkins, Colorado Rockies
A fourth tier is for decent players with multiple issues. Mejia seems locked in as the Mets closer unless they feel the need to use him in the rotation again. He's walked too many batters this year, so he'll need to get that under control. His competition is Jeurys Familia. He's pitched similarly but with fewer strikeouts.
Despite a 0.00 ERA in nine innings, there's cause for concern with Janssen. His velocity and strikeout rates are way down, which makes him look like a middle reliever. He doesn't have much competition. It's a results oriented job, so he's safe for now. I would NOT want to own him.
Frieri's been bit all over by the home run bug. He has a history of walk problems, but those aren't present this season. It's possible he's throwing too many cookies, but a quick scan of the data doesn't provide an obvious answer.
Prior to the season, I thought Hawkins would do fine as the Rockies closer because he can strike a few batters out without walking anybody. Well, he's not walking anybody, but neither is he recording K's. He's surviving for now, in part because Rex Brothers is struggling. Adam Ottovino is quickly climbing the depth chart.
Tier 5: Rollercoaster Rides (8) (AKA: The “Jenga!” Tier)
Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles
Bryan Shaw (first chair), Cody Allen (second chair), Cleveland Indians
Grant Balfour, Tampa Bay Rays
Hector Rondon, Chicago Cubs
Ronald Belisario (first chair), Daniel Webb (second chair), Chicago White Sox
Chad Qualls (first chair), Kyle Farnsworth(second chair), Houston Astros
With the injury to Tommy Hunter, Britton takes over as the primary closer - for now. Britton's success in the pen is built around an unprecedented 80 percent ground ball rate. Expect regression. When it comes, his low strikeout rate might burn him.
If you go by the peripherals at FanGraphs.com, Allen is the better pitcher. However, Shaw seems to have a narrow lead in the Cleveland closer race. It's possible the club likes to have flexibility with when they use Allen, which is smart. Both pitchers are viable closers. If the committee ever ends, the winner will be quite useful for fantasy owners. For now, get whatever shares you can.
There's no word of an impending closer change in Tampa, yet Balfour has issued ball four more often than strike three. He's walked almost one batter per inning, which isn't viable for any major league reliever, let alone a closer.
Rondon has increased job security with Pedro Strop landing on the disabled list. The situations in Chicago and Houston are ugly. My first and only advice is to stay away.
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Tommy Hunter, Baltimore Orioles
Pedro Strop, Chicago Cubs
Matt Lindstrom (ankle), Chicago White Sox
Sergio Santos (forearm), Toronto Blue Jays
Jesse Crain (calf, biceps), Houston Astros
Bobby Parnell (elbow), New York Mets
Hunter has a groin strain so he won't be out for very long, nor is it a scary arm injury. This will give the club to evaluate alternatives or perhaps provide the impetus for a trade. Strop is also out with a groin strain. Lindstrom is out three months after having ankle surgery. Santos is working his way back and Crain preparing for a rehab assignment.
Jim Henderson, Milwaukee Brewers
Jose Veras, Chicago Cubs
Josh Fields, Houston Astros
John Axford, Cleveland Indians
If he wants his job back, it looks like Axford will have to gather his ax-men and lead a rebellion from outside the city walls.
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The Steals Department
Where do you find steals two months into the season? Steals can be easy to find on the waiver wire if you're a hawk. It's the wheels guys who usually step in to everyday roles when a primary player gets injured. Currently, the report I put together has a couple wrong-handed platoon outfielders and one B.J. Upton. I've advised everyone who will listen to stay away from Upton, but he still bats second relatively frequently, can swipe a base, and won't really hurt you in runs, home runs, or RBI. The scary part is his batting average. How badly do you need the steals?
Those platoon outfielders are Craig Gentry and Chris Denorfia. They're both really good players against left-handed pitchers. Gentry tends to bat ninth but occasionally starts as the leadoff. He lacks any kind of power, but he can swipe bases with reliability. Denorfia has a little bit of pop and is gathering more and more playing time as Will Venable and Cameron Maybin continue to struggle. He too swipes bases at a predictable rate.
For deep leaguers, I'll repeat Eno's recommendation of James Jones from last week. He bats leadoff for the Mariners and has a track record of 30 steal seasons in the minors.