Brad Johnson

Saves and Steals

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Bearclaw Devoured

Wednesday, August 8, 2018


Over the last two weeks, Kyle Barraclough has gone from viable fantasy closer to disaster. His last six outings feature a combined line of 4.2 innings, 12 runs, three home runs, five walks, and three strikeouts. Not only is he still wild, he’s not fooling anybody. The Marlins have ousted him as the closer. Time to grab shares of Drew Steckenrider.

 

Four pitchers tied for the weekly saves lead with three apiece – Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Fernando Rodney, and A.J. Minter. The season still belongs to Edwin Diaz whose 42 saves top Craig Kimbrel’s 33 saves by a healthy margin.

 

Now, shall we go to the tiers?

 

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Tier 1: The Elite (3)

 

Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees

Edwin Diaz, Seattle Mariners

Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox

 

After allowing runs in four of his last five outings, Kimbrel is in danger of falling into the second tier. When Kimbrel struggled last season, it was due to sloppy command. That same problem appears to be rearing its ugly head once again. Kimbrel owners need not panic. “Bad Kimbrel” is still a top five reliever – he’s just not an ERA and WHIP monster. Chapman’s only appearance of the week was a clunker too. He’s walked eight batters over his last five innings.

 

You know who’s not experiencing any sort of hiccups? Diaz. It’s safe to say he’s the single most responsible player for the Mariners playoff contention. Put a league average closer in his shoes, and the M’s would have five fewer wins. As it stands, Diaz already has 42 saves and stands on the cusp of reaching 100 strikeouts. There’s almost no question he will be the most valuable closer of the season. However, as I often remind readers, these tiers are designed to project who will be best over the rest of the year.

 

Tier 2: The Also Elite (2)

 

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

Blake Treinen, Oakland Athletics

 

With a couple more scoreless outings in the bag, Treinen now has a sub-1.00 ERA. After Diaz, Treinen is a near-lock for second best closer value. Remember, he had an ADP in the 170 to 220 range. Jansen has been slightly worse despite an ADP in the 35 to 40 range. In both cases, owners should be pleased. While Jansen is by no means a bargain, the fantasy closer landscape is quite messy this year. Getting what you paid for is a win.

 

Tier 3: Nearly Elite (4)

 

Felipe Vazquez, Pittsburgh Pirates

Kirby Yates, San Diego Padres

Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds

Hector Rondon, Houston Astros

 

Few things prove that last point better than the third tier. The sixth to ninth best closers feature a veteran closer with a 4.17 FIP (Iglesias), another vet who’s experienced the yips on a couple occasions, and two guys who were never supposed to sniff save opportunities.

 

Vazquez, despite an elbow scare and the aforementioned control issues, is currently in top form. Keone Kela lurks if he starts missing spots again. Nobody is threatening Iglesias in Cincinnati. It’s possible he’s wearing down. Home runs have been a problem (1.47 HR/9). Yates allowed a solo home run in a non-save situation this week – his only outing. Rondon looks sharp and has pitched on two consecutive days. Somebody else – perhaps Roberto Osuna – may be on tap tonight. Osuna probably won’t ascend to the ninth inning until Rondon opens the door.

 

Tier 4: Not Bad (7)

 

Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano, Philadelphia Phillies

Corey Knebel, Milwaukee Brewers

Cody Allen, Brad Hand, Cleveland Indians

Will Smith, San Francisco Giants

Jose Leclerc, Texas Rangers

A.J. Minter, Atlanta Braves

Bud Norris, St. Louis Cardinals

 

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that Dominguez is bad when pitching on consecutive days (over a 9.00 ERA). He’s Diaz-good when rested. Between this trend and his occasional use in a middle-inning relief ace role, we’re likely to see Arano lock down a handful of saves. In both cases, we’re getting plus ratios with a reduced total of saves.

 

Knebel remains on the hot seat after taking the loss on Sunday. Nolan Arenado hit a solo home run in Knebel’s second inning of work. On the plus side, he recorded four strikeouts. The Brewers bullpen is a four-headed monster with Jeremy Jeffress and Joakim Soria the most likely to snipe saves from Knebel. Ironically, their best pitcher – Josh Hader – probably won’t see save chances.

 

Allen recorded a hold on Sunday with Hand finishing the game. That makes two straight saves for Hand. Notably, the matchups – particularly the placement of Shohei Ohtani and red hot Kole Calhoun in the lineup – set up a string of Andrew Miller to Allen to Hand from the seventh through ninth innings. I expect we’ll continue to see them deployed by matchup.

 

Smith was hammered for a blown save loss on Monday. With Hunter Strickland on the rehab trail, it’s a bad time for Smith to allow three runs. The outing included his first home run allowed this season. The ratios and strikeout rate are comparable to Yates and Rondon. The Giants have supplied very few save opportunities.

 

Leclerc notched the only save since Kela left the Rangers. His sole weakness is command (4.10 BB/9) and even that is improved over past seasons. The strikeout rate is sufficient to provide fantasy value. Over in Atlanta, Minter’s continued improvement has me skeptical that Arodys Vizcaino will return to the ninth inning if he ever recovers from his shoulder injury. Vizcaino has yet to be cleared to resume throwing.

 


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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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