It didn’t take long for oft-injured Arodys Vizcaino to find his way to the injured list. Despite debuting in 2011, he’s only once exceeded 40 innings in a major league season. “Shoulder inflammation” is a rather vague catchall which could range from a minimum stay to a missed season. No meaningful updates are available at this time.
UPDATE: Shortly after publishing, it was announced Vizcaino had undergone season-ending shoulder surgery.
In his absence, the Braves are forced to piece together the late innings with their shambles of a bullpen. A.J. Minter is a shadow of his former self. He failed to defend a tied game last night. Keep an eye on Jacob Webb as a stash target. The 25-year-old right-hander throws a 96-mph fastball and has a recent history of success in the upper minors. Might Craig Kimbrel finally have a serious and motivated suitor?
And now, shall we go to the tiers?
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Tier 1: The Elite (2)
Edwin Diaz, New York Mets
Blake Treinen, Oakland Athletics
The Mets have announced Diaz will only be used like a traditional closer. That’s honestly great news for fantasy owners. The rest of the Mets bullpen leaves much to be desired. Treinen rebounded from a rough outing.
Tier 2: Nearly Elite (8)
Roberto Osuna, Houston Astros
Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees
Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers
Felipe Vazquez, Pittsburgh Pirates
Brad Hand, Cleveland Indians
Kirby Yates, San Diego Padres
Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals
Osuna may not post elite strikeout rates, but nobody is complaining about two hits and zero walks in 8.1 innings. Those of us on Chapman velocity watch can breathe a sigh of relief. He sat at 99.7 mph in his most recent outing.
Jansen is playing velocity games with us again. He’s still an easy top five closer even though he’s had a couple shaky outings over the last week.
The Pirates are starting to use Vazquez for more than three outs. He recorded a total of 14 outs in three appearances over the last week. He’s yet to allow an earned run.
Jeffress returned the Milwaukee bullpen yesterday. The righty had a rough rehab experience and will be eased back into high leverage innings. Hader owners could get another week of saves, assuming he doesn’t make more extended appearances.
Tier 3: Core Performers (5)
Wade Davis, Colorado Rockies
Will Smith, San Francisco Giants
Alex Colome, Chicago White Sox
Jordan Hicks, St. Louis Cardinals
Ken Giles, Toronto Blue Jays
Davis has walked precisely one batter in every appearance. He’s also allowed just one hit in 4.1 innings. To date, he’s one of the least used closers. The Rockies offense is doing him no favors.
Giles tossed a couple clunkers over the last week including a three walk, two hit, two run loss last Thursday. He’s may be unavailable tonight following a 20-pitch appearance last night. Try Javy Guerra for a cheap save – assuming the game isn’t rained out.
Hicks is settling into the ninth inning role. As a freshly minted closer, he susceptible to losing his job if there’s any sort of blip in performance. Of course, his superlative stuff will always push him back into the late-innings.
Tier 4: Red Flag Club (5)
Jose Leclerc, Texas Rangers
Pedro Strop, Chicago Cubs
Greg Holland, Arizona Diamondbacks
Hector Neris, Philadelphia Phillies
Castillo closed the door yesterday with Alvarado working the eighth inning. As of this analysis, I expect Alvarado to earn roughly three-quarters of the saves. Neither pitcher has allowed an earned run. In fact, they’ve combined to allow just seven hits and seven walks over 18.1 innings.
Early concerns for Strop seem to have been unfounded. He’s the same ol’ Strop. With Brandon Morrow making progress in his rehab, he might not hold the job for long.
Perhaps Holland doesn’t need velocity after all. He’s riding his excellent slider to 15.00 K/9. While the future likely holds closer to a strikeout per inning, that’s playable if he can avoid all the free passes he issued in recent seasons. Count me as skeptical.
With the exception of some Opening Day jitters, Neris is having a superb season. An injury to David Robertson has given Neris a chance to emerge as the most-days closer. Remember, this is a Gabe Kapler-managed bullpen. It won’t be a smooth ride.
Tier 5: Mess Hall Part 1 (5)
Cody Allen, Los Angeles Angels
Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds
Anthony Swarzak, Seattle Mariners
Shane Greene, Detroit Tigers
It may be a little unfair to include Allen in this tier. After all, he has a 1.42 ERA and 9.95 K/9. Sharply reduced velocity over the last two seasons has me worried about impending regress. He can’t maintain a .067 BABIP. When the hits fall, the runs will flow freely. Ty Buttrey is the guy to own in Anaheim.
Despite a 6.48 ERA through 8.1 innings, the Red Sox seem desperate to salvage something from their ill-fated Thornburg trade. He’s consistently pitching in the eighth or ninth inning. So too are Brasier and Barnes. There’s no telling which of the trio will get the next save opportunity. Barnes is pitching the best of the bunch.
Iglesias picked up his third loss of the season on Monday. A Joc Pederson home run sealed his fate. Issues with home runs dating back to last season combined with a modest loss of velocity have me concerned.
Greene landed his first loss last night. He still has a .136 BABIP. Pain awaits for Tigers fans and his fantasy owners. Joe Jimenez is inducing copious whiffs (16.3 percent swinging strike rate) coupled with poor command (6.75 BB/9). He might not be ready to step up when Greene falls.
Tier 6: Mess Hall Part 2 (5)
Brandon Morrow, Chicago Cubs (elbow)
Corey Knebel, Milwaukee Brewers (partial UCL tear - out for season)
Hunter Strickland, Seattle Mariners (lat)
Arodys Vizcaino, Atlanta Braves (shoulder inflammation - out for season)
David Robertson, Philadelphia Phillies (flexor strain)
Robertson has a Grade 1 flexor strain. These sometimes pop up prior to serious elbow injuries, although players and training staffs have improved immensely at treating these lesser issues with rest and rehab.
The Steals Department
Three thieves tied for the weekly lead with four steals apiece – Delino DeShields, Adalberto Mondesi, and Trevor Story. Honorable mention goes to Terrance Gore who nabbed three bases in just eight plate appearances. The season lead still belongs to Dee Gordon (7) with Tim Anderson (6), Mallex Smith (6), and DeShields (6) tied for second place.
Tier 1: The World Beaters (4)
Dee Gordon, Seattle Mariners
Adalberto Mondesi, Kansas City Royals
Mallex Smith, Seattle Mariners
Billy Hamilton, Kansas City Royals
If there was any hope the Royals could unlock some hidden key to Hamilton actually reaching bases, it’s time to stop dreaming. He’s a one-category fantasy asset best left on the bench. You honestly might be better off playing Gore who currently has more steals without all those painful plate appearances dragging on your batting average.
Tier 2: Consistent Thieves (6)
DeShields has upped his already excellent plate discipline, reaching base at a .370 OBP rate despite a tepid .209 batting average. Hits should eventually fall too – the speedy center fielder isn’t going to have a .242 BABIP forever. Various forms of regression should leave him on base about one-third of the time – more than enough for him to exceed 30 stolen bases.
While I figured stardom and altitude might slow Story, he very quietly posted one of the top average sprint speeds in the league while swiping four bases in six attempts. The success rate may remain unimpressive, but we should be in for another 25 steal season.
Tier 3: Assorted Rabbits (5)
Anderson’s aggression on the bases from last season appears to have carried over to 2019. Those who are hopeful about his current hot streak at the plate should prepare for disappointment. If anything, his plate discipline has gotten worse. And not in a way that should prove helpful over the long term.
Tier 4 Names to Watch (6)
Trea Turner (injured)
Tatis is eventually going to use his speed and youthful exuberance to post a huge week. As yet, he’s attempted just two steals. Only one was successful.
Elvis Andrus, once a steady source of stolen bases, is back in action. After nabbing just five bags last season, he’s already taken four in 69 plate appearances. Batting .403/.420/.627 certainly doesn’t hurt with creating opportunities. There are some small reasons to worry about eroding plate discipline, but we’re probably seeing a small sample quirk.
Keep an eye out for any speedsters on the Angels, Padres, Rangers, or Twins. They have upcoming matchups against Omar Narvaez (Seattle Mariners) and Robinson Chirinos (Houston Astros). Over the last few seasons, they’re the most stolen base prone catchers in the league. Any or all of Andrelton Simmons, Manuel Margot, Tatis, Wil Myers, Andrus, DeShields, Shin-Soo Choo, Danny Santana, and Buxton are worth consideration.