Brad Johnson

Saves and Steals

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Treasure Hunting for Saves

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Last week, we discussed the lack of obvious candidates for closer turnover. With less than a third of the season remaining, most closer turmoil will result from injuries to incumbents. As such, I'll take some time today to identify each team's eighth inning man with additional comments where merited.


Owners in holds leagues probably won't have the option to acquire these players, but a couple a might be available. Owners in saves-only leagues might want to speculate on the better setup men. You make your own luck when it comes to late season closer acquisitions.


Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $25,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Thursday night's MLB games. It's $25 to join and first prize is $5,000. Starts at 7:10pm ET on Thursday. Here's the FanDuel link.


Tier 1: Elite (5)


Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves

Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds

Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

Koji Uehara, Boston Red Sox


The scare of the week came in Colorado, where Chapman left a save opportunity with an “achy” shoulder. He faced four batters and walked all four. All four batters scored, ruining his elite ERA in the process. It doesn't seem as though the Reds consider the issue to be serious. He could appear again any day now, but you may want to hedge with Jonathan Broxton just in case. Broxton has a lovely 1.43 ERA, but it isn't supported by his mediocre peripherals. An ERA estimator called xFIP pegs him at 4.08.


Thankfully, the rest of the elite tier was decidedly less exciting. Uehara had a rough week. He appeared three times and allowed a run in his two most recent outings. Last night's run led to a loss for the elite reliever. Junichi Tazawa is next in line.


It was a ho-hum week for Kimbrel with three saves. One of those involved two hits and a walk, so it was a bit of a nail bitter. In case you lost track, it looks like Jordan Walden has the eighth inning these days.


Greg Holland snagged four saves – three of them in partial innings. He did allow two runs, one earned, during one of the appearances. Wade Davis is the setup man in Kansas City.


Jansen picked up two saves while allowing six base runners and one run in 2.1 innings. I'm shocked the Dodgers didn't make a move for a reliever at the trade deadline. Brian Wilson's 5.26 ERA and 4.13 FIP are next in line. Ground ball specialist Brandon League (70 percent ground ball rate, 2.47 ERA) is also in the mix. Nobody in the Dodgers pen is particularly desirable.


Tier 2: Nearly Elite (4)


David Robertson, New York Yankees

Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins

Sean Doolittle, Oakland Athletics

Huston Street, Los Angeles Angels


Robertson took the loss last night after allowing a three run home run to Chris Carter in a tied game. He picked up two no-nonsense saves over the weekend. Dellin Betances is his setup man. This should be an interesting story to watch over the offseason, especially for keeper league owners. Betances has elite closer stuff and Robertson's contract is up. Will the Yankees re-sign Robertson to give them a devastating late game combo or will they lean on the cheaper Betances? Keep in mind, the Yankees will have to pay a 40-50 percent luxury tax on whatever they pay to Robertson. I have to imagine the 29 year old could get upwards of $40 million on the free market. He's that good.


Perkins had an easy three outing, two save week. He's backed up by Jared Burton and Casey Fien. Both are fine relievers but nothing special for fantasy owners. Doolittle's week was even more uneventful. He had two easy, non-save appearances. Steady Luke Gregerson handles the eighth. His 2.21 ERA is his best attribute.


Street came back last night to knock down his fourth save of the calendar week. It was his fifth appearance and first after a two run, blown save loss on Sunday. The Angels have an enviable stock of alternatives should Street hit the disabled list. Joe Smith performed well earlier this year, and Jason Grilli also has the pedigree of a reliable option. Kevin Jepsen picked up a save on Monday, but he's definitely behind the other setup men.


Tier 3: Rock Steady (6)


Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians

Steve Cishek, Miami Marlins

Fernando Rodney, Seattle Mariners

Joaquin Benoit, San Diego Padres

Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles

Francisco Rodriguez, Milwaukee Brewers


Allen exists in the fuzzy territory between Tier 2 and Tier 3. He picked up a win and a save in three outings, so it was another steady week. Bryan Shaw is solid, but he fits better as a middle reliever than a closer. I'd look at Carlos Carrasco (currently filling the rotation) as a better alternate closer.


Cishek got through the week without any blow ups. He'd been going through some tough times. It was only two appearances, so we're not out of the woods yet. I'll be forced to move him down the rankings if he experiences any more trouble. Bryan Morris is another eighth inning guy who really doesn't work as a closer candidate his 6.94 K/9 and 3.32 BB/9 is merely mediocre. I'm sure the club loves his 1.81 ERA, but a 3.94 FIP is troubling.


Rodney appeared three times and picked up two saves since our last powwow. He was called on to record just one out in his two most recent appearances. If he's called on tonight, it will be his third game in a row. Many fantasy owners targeted Danny Farquhar as somebody who could be promoted to a job. Short of injury, it's not happening this year. Farquhar still looks good for future seasons.


Benoit is currently day-to-day with shoulder soreness. It's not thought to be serious at this time. Kevin Quackenbush is expected to fill in. He has just enough stuff to perform the job, but he'd be ranked in Tier 5 or 6. Dale Thayer has filled in as closer in the past and could also figure into the mix.


Britton has really won me over this season by continually improving as he adjusts to life in the bullpen. He's managed to buff his whiff and strikeout rates throughout the season, which has me confident in his outlook for 2015. Nominally, he's setup by Tommy Hunter. I have trouble believing the club wouldn't use Andrew Miller in the ninth if Britton hit the shelf. Miller could be signed as a closer this offseason.


Rodriguez saved two more games this week, but he also allowed his tenth home run of the season. I've been talking up Jim Henderson, who was on the rehab trail, but now his season is done. He had surgery to clean up his shoulder. Southpaw Will Smith, with his high strikeout and walk rates, is an interesting alternative to Rodriguez.


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Brad Johnson is a baseball writer for Rotoworld, FanGraphs, The Hardball Times, MLBTradeRumors and The Fake Baseball. He can be found on Twitter @BaseballATeam.
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