Brad Johnson

Saves and Steals

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Week Two Turmoil

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Injuries, role changes, and PEDs. It was a busy week in the closer community. The top 10 remain in situ, but there was turmoil among the bottom 20. Expect to see new names vying for saves today.


A couple of the top base stealing threats ran wild last week, but the rest of baseball has been conservative with the steal attempts. Players have stolen a total of 112 bases in 150 attempts for a 74.7 percent success rate. For now, few obvious targets lurk on the waiver wire.


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Tier 1: Elite (3)


Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds

Craig Kimbrel, San Diego Padres

Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals


The Elite Tier did nothing to shake our confidence this week. Chapman pitched five innings with seven strikeouts, three hits, and two walks. He picked up a win and two saves. I wouldn't mind if the Reds took it a little easier on their relief ace.


Kimbrel picked up two saves in three appearances and Holland grabbed three saves. Regarding Holland, his velocity remains down. He's still averaging 94.5 mph, so there's no need for alarm. He throws a ton of sliders, so he may not even need the velocity to remain a top closer.


Tier 2: Nearly Elite (4)


Andrew Miller, New York Yankees

Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians

David Robertson, Chicago White Sox

Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates


On the surface, Miller and Dellin Betances are still in a job-share. Don't be surprised if you see Betances pick up a save or two in the next couple weeks. Miller has the Yankees only two saves. He's struck out six and allowed two walks in 3.2 innings.


Meanwhile, Betances has been downright shaky. He's somehow yet to cough up a run despite allowing nine base runners in 3.1 innings. His control is an issue with six walks and three strikeouts. His velocity is down to 94.5 mph. I worry that he might be hurt. Loss of velocity and control are leading indicators of many arm injuries. However, he's also had bouts of wildness in the past.


Allen made his 2015 debut last Wednesday with a two strikeout save. His encore performance on Saturday was a disaster. He walked three and allowed three hits while recording just two outs. He's another guy whose velocity is down in the early going. Unlike some of the others we discussed, I'm not sure how well he'll pitch with an average heater of 94 mph. Let's give him some time before reacting.


Robertson may be the top reliever 10 days into the season. He threw four innings last week with eight strikeouts, a hit, and a walk. He struck out the side twice en route to two saves. My previous concerns about his arm health can be dismissed.


Pull out your red flags and affix them to Melancon. He's working around 89 mph this year after averaging 93 mph in recent seasons. He imploded on Monday against the Tigers with four hits, three runs, and a rare home run.


I'll hold him in the second tier for now. His excellent command and control should produce solid results even with diminished velocity. Tony Watson is next in line for the Buccos. If Melancon holds the job long enough, Arquimedes Caminero is a dark horse candidate for saves. He's throwing harder than Chapman so far.


Tier 3: The Upside Crowd (6)


Hector Rondon, Chicago Cubs

Steve Cishek, Miami Marlins

Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles

Brad Boxberger, Tampa Bay Rays

Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis Cardinals

Jason Grilli, Atlanta Braves


Rondon appeared four times without allowing a run, but he was not dominant. He allowed four hits and struck out three while picking up two saves and a win.


It's time to keep an eye on the Marlins ninth inning. Cishek has pitched just twice. His lone appearance since our last update was a one inning blown save. I suppose A.J. Ramos is next in line for saves. Perhaps Bryan Morris. Long term, I'm watching Carter Capps. His plus fastball, invisible slider, and leaping delivery offer big upside.


Even though he's still viewed as a temporary closer, I nudged Boxberger up to Tier 3. So long as he holds the job, he's a good source of strikeouts. He appeared four times in the last week with three saves and a one-run loss. Kevin Jepsen picked up the save last night while Boxberger rested.


Anybody who was concerned about Jim Johnson sniping Grilli's saves can breathe easy. Grilli picked up three saves in three outings with five strikeouts, two walks, two hits, and a run.


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You can read more from Brad Johnson on Rotoworld, FanGraphs, and RotoBaller. Find him on Patreon and Twitter @BaseballATeam.
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