Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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Notes: Scavenging for Saves

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


Since the May rankings were posted two weeks ago, four of my top 10 closers have landed on the disabled list: Aroldis Chapman, Zach Britton, Mark Melancon and Jeurys Familia. All except Melancon, who should return this weekend, are facing an extended absence. Familia could miss the rest of the season.

 

Familia’s absence, due to surgery to remove a blood clot from his shoulder, was another harsh blow to a Mets team that’s dealt with a barrage of them. Addison Reed, who started off as the team’s closer while Familia was serving his domestic violence suspension, is back in the role now and seems like a safe bet to function as a top-20 RP for the next couple of months. Things might change in July. Reed is a free agent at season’s end, and he’s going to be really difficult for the Mets to re-sign if he pitches well. With contention seemingly fairly unlikely at this point, he could be traded before the deadline, opening up the possibility that Hansel Robles or Fernando Salas will be needed as a closer for a spell. Familia could be back in late August or September if all goes well in his rehab, but if the team isn’t in contention, the Mets might prefer he simply get ready for 2018 instead.

 

Chapman’s shoulder seems to nag at him for a spell once a year, but this is the first time it’s been bad enough to put him on the DL since 2011, when he also went down in May with inflammation and returned after five weeks. The Yankees seem to believe a similar timetable will do the job here. Dellin Betances will get save chances until then and should do excellent work. The Yankees have gotten surprisingly strong results from Tyler Clippard and Jonathan Holder, too, and as long as that keeps up, they’ll barely miss their $86 million closer.

 

Britton is the one I should have been cautious about leaving so high in the rankings after his forearm strain in April. He made just two appearances on May 2 and 4 before returning to the disabled list with the same injury. The Orioles will be more cautious this time, and plan to keep him out until at least mid-June, even though it seems Britton would prefer to attempt an earlier return. Brad Brach still looks like the best bet there.

 

Between those four and Cam Bedrosian (or Huston Street, if you’d prefer), five preseason closers are on the disabled list. Another six (Edwin Diaz, Francisco Rodriguez, Sam Dyson, Blake Treinen, Neftali Feliz and Jeanmar Gomez) have at least temporarily lost their gigs. That means more than one-third of the league is going to unexpected sources for saves not quite one quarter of the way through the season.

 

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American League notes

 

- Diaz was a late addition to the exile list after walking four of the five batters he faced Monday against the A’s. I think it’s an overreaction; he’s been shaky throughout, but that was just his second hideous outing and he was five weeks removed from the previous one. Before walking four on Monday, he had a 13/1 K/BB ratio in his previous eight appearances. It’s actually been the solo homer -- he’s given up four of them -- that’s been his problem, not the base on balls. Even with the way he’s been going, he’d still seem to be the bullpen’s best bet to throw a scoreless inning on any given day. Diaz has some of the game’s most electric stuff, and he hasn’t given up much hard contact aside from the homers (he’s actually getting twice as much soft contact as last year, according to FanGraphs’ numbers). There’s no reason he shouldn’t figure things out in a blink and go back to dominating AL hitters. Tony Zych is the favorite for saves in Seattle for now. Steve Cishek, in his second day back from hip surgery, got the save chance Tuesday and blew it, but he probably wouldn’t have been picked if Zych hadn’t worked three days in a row. Cishek definitely deserved some time to ease back into things before being thrown to the wolves like that.

 

- It was hard to see a path for Bradley Zimmer to the majors at the beginning of the month, which is why I placed him below some other outfield prospects in the May rankings. Then Tyler Naquin (in Triple-A), Brandon Guyer, and Abraham Almonte all landed on the disabled list, and, suddenly, Zimmer found himself in the majors Tuesday. Had Naquin, who hit .396/.441/.528 in his first 14 games back in Columbus, not been sidelined with a back strain, I imagine that he would have gotten the call. Zimmer has hit a fine .294/.371/.532 with five homers in 126 at-bats in Triple-A, but that comes with a whopping 43 strikeouts. The strikeout rate figures to make it really difficult for him to succeed in the majors. Still, he has solid power and is a prolific basestealer (9-for-12 this year, 38-for-52 last year). His skills could make him a mixed-league outfielder if he can keep his average high enough to justify regular playing time. I’m not particularly optimistic it will happen this year, though. It might be a short stay anyway. He’s not a bad stash in mixed leagues, but I wouldn’t suggest dropping a top-60 outfielder in order to pick him up.

 

- The Rangers lost Carlos Gomez for 4-6 weeks due to a strained hamstring, making Delino DeShields Jr. a better play in mixed leagues through at least mid-June. Of course, DeShields was already playing pretty regularly anyway. The Rangers could have called up Jurickson Profar for an extended look in left field with DeShields moving to center, but they’re still not thrilled with him, even though he’s hit a solid .306/.346/.490 in 13 games since being sent down. Instead, 28-year-old Jared Hoying was given the callup. Hoying was hitting .242/.336/.477 with seven homers in his fourth year at Triple-A Round Rock. He batted .217/.265/.261 in 49 at-bats for Texas last year in his major league debut. Hoying isn’t without skills, but he doesn’t do anything well enough to justify much of a role in the majors. Presumably, the Rangers will have the lefty-swinging Hoying and righty Ryan Rua split time for now, with Hoying playing center when he’s in the lineup. Neither should have any mixed-league value at all. If Adrian Beltre (calf) can return in 2-3 weeks as hoped, Joey Gallo could move to left field.

 

- Jose Berrios didn’t check all of the boxes in his season debut Saturday, but lasting 7 2/3 innings and issues just one walk were two big ones. One thing that did bother me was that he threw 17 curves and didn’t get a missed swing on any of them. His swinging-strike rate was subpar in Triple-A, too, though that didn’t stop him from posting a 1.13 ERA in six starts. Berrios is a flyball pitcher, so he’s going to need plenty of strikeouts in order to fulfill his potential. Fortunately, he does have an elite outfield defense behind him. If can stay away from walks, it won’t take a huge strikeout rate to make him a useful pitcher for the Twins. Still, I’m not rushing to pick him up in mixed leagues at this point.

 

- Rather than try Brian Johnson or Henry Owens again, the Red Sox will look at Mexican League signee Hector Velazquez in the fifth spot in their rotation Thursday. It could be a short stay, what with David Price (elbow) potentially returning next week, but if Velazquez impresses, he’ll be in line for additional opportunities. The 28-year-old righty had a 1.55 ERA and a 20/5 K/BB ratio in 29 innings for Triple-A Pawtucket. His stuff is underwhelming, but his splitter might allow him to miss just enough at-bats to serve at the back of the rotation.

 

- The Angels’ Cameron Maybin wasn’t hitting much prior to Tuesday, but inserted into the leadoff spot against the White Sox, he went 5-for-6 to raise his average from .180 to .214. More importantly, he’s 9-for-9 in steal attempts in spite of his slow start at the plate. Mixed leaguers in need of steals should give him a try while typical leadoff man Yunel Escobar is sidelined.

 

- Devon Travis, still available in about 70 percent of Yahoo leagues, has 12 doubles this month. It hasn’t translated into a ton of fantasy value yet, but he’s likely to be a very useful MI going forward, if he can stay healthy.

 

- This also might be the last good chance to buy low on Edwin Encarnacion. He hasn’t gone on a tear yet, but the strikeouts have come down; he has a 7/8 K/BB ratio in his last 10 games.

 

List No. 1: Favorite save candidates owned in less than 40% of Yahoo Leagues

 

1. Nate Jones (White Sox): 37 percent

2. Koda Glover (Nationals): 22 percent

3. Ryan Madson (Athletics): 40 percent

4. Sam Dyson (Rangers): 24 percent

5. Tony Zych (Mariners): 2 percent (and climbing)

6. Derek Law (Giants): 36 percent

7. Trevor Rosenthal (Cardinals): 39 percent

8. Joaquin Benoit (Phillies): 14 percent

9. Carter Capps (Padres): 7 percent

10. Drew Storen (Reds): 4 percent

 

I’m not including Mike Montgomery, whose expected value comes from the likelihood that he’ll be placed in the rotation at some point. Archie Bradley was a tougher call; he’s getting treated more like a short reliever of late and might now be a legitimate fallback to Fernando Rodney. Because of the uncertainty, I didn’t include either he or J.J. Hoover, even though Rodney is vulnerable.

 

Jones is on the shelf with elbow neuritis, but I still think he’s the best bet of this group for saves the rest of the way; the White Sox aren’t only very likely to deal David Robertson, but they could do so long before July 31. Dyson is iffier, but I believe the Rangers will give him another shot if his performance warrants it. It’s not likely to happen within these next couple of weeks, though; while Dyson has allowed only two runs in 8 1/3 innings since coming off the disabled list, he’s struck out just two batters in the span.

 

Madson currently has a 1.98 ERA to Santiago Casilla’s 5.02 mark. I think they’re similar talents at this point of their careers, so I don’t think a switch is absolutely necessary in Oakland. Still, if manager Bob Melvin wants to ride the hot hand, Madson seems a whole lot hotter.

 


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Matthew Pouliot is the Executive Editor of RotoWorld.com and has been doing the site's baseball projections for the last 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @matthewpouliot.
Email :Matthew Pouliot



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