A finger is not a particularly robust appendage. If you place it upon a hard surface (like a bat) and allow it to be struck by a hard, rapidly moving object (like a baseball), it will probably break. And this is exactly what happened last night to Trea Turner. The speedster was trying to bunt for a hit a day after a two-home run game. Perhaps the Baseball Gods frowned upon this disdain of his sneaky power. Or perhaps bad things happen to good base thieves. Turner was off to a seriously hot start to the season. He’s expected to miss at least several weeks.
In closer news, the opening week yielded four saves for Josh Hader. Blake Treinen, Kirby Yates, and Shane Greene checked in with three saves apiece. Here’s some trivia: of relievers with two or more saves – a sample of 12 pitchers - only Hunter Strickland has allowed an earned run. All but Greene and Leclerc have recorded at least a strikeout per inning.
And now, shall we go to the tiers?
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Tier 1: The Elite (3)
Edwin Diaz, New York Mets
Blake Treinen, Oakland Athletics
Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers
Treinen was one of the most-used relievers of the last week. As I warned, he’ll have a heavy workload. Fantasy owners will be happy with this arrangement until he breaks down. That won’t necessarily happen this season. Both he and Diaz appear to be picking up exactly where they left off.
Jansen isn’t making things easy for rankings purposes. His velocity is down to start the year – an issue he had last season as well. We have good historic data on Jansen’s performance as related to velocity. He improves linearly with each added mph. If he continues to work in the 91-mph range, we should expect another 3.00 ERA – not what we paid for on draft day.
Tier 2: Nearly Elite (6)
Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees
Roberto Osuna, Houston Astros
Felipe Vazquez, Pittsburgh Pirates
Brad Hand, Cleveland Indians
Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals
Chapman’s velocity is way down, sitting around 97 mph instead of his usual 99 mph. The Tigers got to him last night, roughing him up for his first blown save loss of the season. After temporarily losing his job in each of the last two seasons, I’m sensitive to any red flags. This will probably blow over in another week or two.
Osuna pitched well in two outings. Doolittle was sharp in a five-out win – his lone appearance. Hand struggled with command and was missing a couple ticks on the radar gun. He didn’t allow a run. Vazquez blew a save via some sloppy fielding behind him. He’s looked good.
Hader is absolutely crushing it, inducing an otherworldly 40.3 percent swinging strike rate with 10 strikeouts in five innings. He’s racked up four saves. I’ve prematurely listed Jeremy Jeffress because he’s scheduled to return in the near future. It’s clear the Brewers prefer Hader in a stopper role. If you’ve rostered him for saves, he’ll still lock down a few. To put a number on it, if Jeffress remains healthy and effective, I would still expect Hader to earn 15 saves (11 more). He would be ranked as the top closer if he was used traditionally.
Tier 3: Core Performers (6)
Jose Leclerc, Texas Rangers
Wade Davis, Colorado Rockies
Kirby Yates, San Diego Padres
Will Smith, San Francisco Giants
Alex Colome, Chicago White Sox
Arodys Vizcaino, Atlanta Braves
While many closers, including four others in this tier, are missing velocity in the early going, Leclerc has amped his heater up to 96.5 mph. He isn’t missing bats, but I’d bet on that being a small sample fluke. All signs point to Leclerc being a top 10 closer. The Core Performers held opponents scoreless in Week 1. Smith was brilliant in two appearances.
Tier 4: Red Flag Club (5)
Ken Giles, Toronto Blue Jays
Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds
If you bet on Giles this spring, you must be tickled by his first three appearances. Not only did he blow away five hitters in three innings of work, he’s inducing swinging strikes by the bushel.
Iglesias is one of many pitchers who is missing zip on his fastball. Whereas others still retired most of the hitters they faced, Iglesias has been stung for a run in both of his appearances. He isn’t missing bats, but he is missing his spots (11.57 BB/9). The righty hit a couple rough patches too. This bears watching. His owners should remain patient.
The Phillies are clearly going to win a lot of games. Despite a perfect 4-0 record, they’ve yet to produce a save opportunity. Robertson has pitched poorly in two appearances while Dominguez has one inning to his name. Others could enter the late-innings picture as manager Gabe Kapler puts his signature touch on the bullpen. For now, I’ll bet on Robertson’s history as an excellent reliever over two bad innings.
As expected, the Rays are playing matchup games. Alvarado has two saves. Castillo nabbed one. Both pitchers produce excellent ratios and should be owned in all formats. Their job share is the only thing keeping them in this tier. Were either to abscond with the role, they would rank adjacent to Leclerc.
The Cardinals bullpen isn’t winning them any favors. Hicks is wielding his usual 100 mph heat. He’s been tagged with a loss and a win. Miller isn’t hitting spots, and his lethal slider isn’t inducing swings. This could turn into a long season in St. Louis. On the plus side, Hicks is nearer to earning the closer’s mantle.