Saves and Steals

Anderson Returns

by Brad Johnson
Updated On: September 9, 2020, 4:42 pm ET

After the mayhem of last week, this was a calming period. Most of the closers performed well, and those few that truly struggled were expected to do so. No sitting closers landed on the injured list. The Cardinals, Diamondbacks, and Cubs added clarity to their somewhat uncertain late-inning plans. Brandon Workman and Trevor Rosenthal settled into their new homes. Elite reliever Nick Anderson returned to the Rays and recorded a save on Friday. All in all, this was a good week.

Daniels Bard and Hudson led the week with three saves apiece. The season lead belongs to Brad Hand (12) with Liam Hendriks (11) and Kenley Jansen (10) rounding out the top three.


Closer Tiers


Tier 1: The Elite (4)

Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers
Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees
Liam Hendriks, Oakland Athletics
Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

Hader finally allowed a couple hits in a loss to the Indians on Saturday. Chapman was dinged for a solo home and a blown save last Thursday. The Yankees lost in the 10th. Jansen is probably unavailable today after allowing three runs (two earned) in 1.1 innings last night. His fantasy managers were handed a win as a consolation prize for the rough ratios.

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Tier 2: Possible Top Performers (5)

Edwin Diaz, New York Mets
Brad Hand, Cleveland Indians
Nick Anderson, Diego Castillo, Tampa Bay Rays
Ryan Pressly, Houston Astros
Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds

The Indians are leaning heavily on Hand to get through the late-innings. The soon-to-be free agent appeared in four games last week, recording a win and two saves without allowing a run. Iglesias was less effective in three outings. He earned a win, a save, and a loss. Pressly is skating around some hard contact.

As we’re all well aware, the Rays will frustrate fantasy managers by using Anderson in the highest leverage spot. However, due to the injury load on the team as well as a desire to more carefully manager his innings, a larger proportion of his appearances should come in the ninth inning going forward.


Tier 3: Upwardly Mobile (4)

Trevor Rosenthal, Drew Pomeranz, San Diego Padres
Taylor Rogers, Minnesota Twins
Giovanny Gallegos, St. Louis Cardinals
Brandon Workman, Philadelphia Phillies

Since Rosenthal joined the Padres, the club has produced only one save opportunity. Pomeranz set up for Rosenthal on Sunday. One event is not a pattern, but this will probably serve as the usual order of operations in San Diego.

Rogers and Workman had scoreless weeks, further cementing their late-inning roles.

Gallegos made four appearances, allowing one run on two occasions. The final hurdle to his confirmation as the Cardinals primary closer has been clinched – Carlos Martinez returned from the COVID list and rejoined the rotation. St. Louis has to squeeze in upwards of 25 games in 20 days so they’ll need plenty of pitching depth. That means the odd save for folk like Andrew Miller and Ryan Helsley.

Tier 4: Secure (5)

Alex Colome, Chicago White Sox
Daniel Hudson, Washington Nationals
Mark Melancon, Atlanta Braves
Richard Rodriguez, Pittsburgh Pirates
Rafael Montero, Texas Rangers

Colome and Hudson had hiccups in one outing apiece, but they still finished off saves. Hudson can be forgiven for allowing a two-run home run while protecting a three-run lead on Friday. He had thrown 28 pitches the previous day.

Rodriguez had a sterling week, earning a pair of wins and a save in four scoreless appearances. For the year, he’s allowed a 3.38 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, and 12.05 K/9. He remains ranked here not because of how he’s performed but in deference to his relative lack of stuff. If he stumbles, Kyle Crick is back and hasn’t allowed an earned run in four appearances since the injury.

Montero’s low swinging strike rate and high fly ball rate are a double-albatross around his neck. He’s eventually going to run afoul of home runs and/or a lower strikeout rate. For now, he’s performed like a mid-Tier 3 closer.


Tier 5: Messy Upside (4)

Gregory Soto, Detroit Tigers
Matt Barnes, Boston Red Sox
Kevin Ginkel, Arizona Diamondbacks

Hunter Harvey, Tanner Scott, Baltimore Orioles

Barnes was handed a walkoff loss in Philadelphia on Tuesday. His job is safe even if his fantasy managers must fret about their ratios.

As I speculated last week, any number of relievers could emerge as the Diamondbacks closer, but there was only one who fantasy managers could possibly use. Ginkel is the go-to guy, although he’s probably not available on Wednesday after throwing 31 pitches the previous day.


Tier 6: The Leftovers (8)

Greg Holland, Scott Barlow, Josh Staumont, Kansas City Royals
Jeremy Jeffress, Chicago Cubs
Brandon Kintzler, Miami Marlins
Daniel Bard, Colorado Rockies
Anthony Bass, Rafael Dolis, Toronto Blue Jays
Tyler Rogers, Tony Watson, Sam Coonrod, San Francisco Giants
Ty Buttrey, Felix Pena, Los Angeles Angels
Yoshihisa Hirano, Seattle Mariners

The Royals revealed they’re running a closer committee by using Holland in the seventh inning on Tuesday. Barlow earned the save.

The Cubs supposedly have a committee as well. Jeffress is handling almost all of the ninth inning requests. Despite a 1.06 ERA, there’s reason to be wary. He’s recorded just 6.35 K/9 against 4.24 BB/9. He’s also yet to allow a home run, and he’s living on a fluky .143 BABIP (career .302 BABIP).

While I still advise avoiding Coors Field closers whenever possible, Bard has done enough to merit a higher ranking than several others. The 35-year-old would be an attractive target if not for his pesky home venue. He’s pumping 97.1 mph heat with 11.50 K/9 and 2.50 BB/9. A 3.50 ERA and 1.22 WHIP seem in line with expectations – if he were working at sea level.

Bass has stumbled recently, opening the door for Dolis to lock down a couple saves. Ken Giles is nearing a return. Expect him to be used very carefully.

The Giants had a fiery week. Rogers, Watson, and Coonrod all recorded at least one save. Coonrod was the least effective of the bunch.

The Angels can’t figure out how to finish a game. Buttrey allowed three runs in two consecutive appearances. Pena, when given his chance, coughed up a total of five runs across Saturday and Sunday.


Injured or Ill

Ken Giles, Toronto Blue Jays
Roberto Osuna, Houston Astros (out for season)
Wade Davis, Colorado Rockies
Scott Oberg, Colorado Rockies (out for season)
Jose Leclerc, Texas Rangers (out for season)
Oliver Drake, Tampa Bay Rays
Kirby Yates, San Diego Padres (out for season)
Jalen Beeks, Tampa Bay Rays (out for season)
Keone Kela, Pittsburgh Pirates (out for season)

As mentioned, Giles is nearing a return. So is Drake which could further complicate the late-innings picture in Tampa. Davis is tossing bullpen sessions too.



Craig Kimbrel, Chicago Cubs
Hansel Robles, Los Angeles Angels
Jairo Diaz, Colorado Rockies
Trevor Gott, San Francisco Giants
Zack Britton, New York Yankees (Chapman returned)
Hector Neris, Philadelphia Phillies
Taylor Williams, San Diego Padres (traded by Mariners)
Archie Bradley, Cincinnati Reds (traded by DBacks)
Joe Jimenez, Detroit Tigers
Cole Sulser, Baltimore Orioles


The Steals Department


Trevor Story led the league with five steals over the last week. He shared the honors with Manuel Margot. The Rays backup outfielder accomplished the feat despite only 16 plate appearances and a .154/.313/.231 batting line. Adalberto Mondesi was the only other thief with at least four swipes. Four others - including recently returned Dylan Moore – stole three bags. Story now leads the league with 13 steals. Mondesi is hot on his heels with 12 thefts. Four runners are tied for third-best with nine steals apiece. Among those four are Margot and Moore.

The Mets have made a notable change at shortstop. They’re starting Andres Gimenez over Amed Rosario. The latter was expected to chip in with stolen bases, but he’s struggled to get going offensively. Gimenez is hitting for average and little else. He’s done well enough (.294/.344/.400) to reach base, snagging seven bases in seven attempts despite only 93 plate appearances.

The Giants recently welcomed back Austin Slater from the injured list. Prior to hitting the shelf, the well-rounded outfielder had six steals in 59 plate appearances. He’s since swiped one base – during a pinch running opportunity. Slater has sat the last two games so it’s unclear if he’ll play consistently. I consider him the second-best hitter on a Giants roster clogged with everyday starters. He’s a potential five-category contributor. Mechanical changes have improved his swing consistency, leading to a decrease in swinging strike and strikeout rate without any corresponding decline in power.

The Mariners and their league-leading 41 stolen bases have a couple series coming up against the Diamondbacks and Athletics. Both clubs have struggled to contain the running game. While Dylan Moore is too widely rostered to find on many waiver wires, his teammates J.P. Crawford and Phillip Ervin are still freely available. Ervin is a decent, speedy hitter who has languished on the Reds bench. Back when he was a minor leaguer, he was known for stealing around 30 bases a year. If he can get some momentum at the plate, we know the Mariners will encourage him to run. Presently, he’s hitting a miserable .087/.222/.109 in 54 plate appearances – mostly with the Reds.

The Royals have turned to trade deadline acquisition Edward Olivares as a regular outfielder. Although he’s yet to steal a bag through five games (he was caught once), speed is his carrying trait. He’s off to a solid start in Kansas City, batting .364/.364/.545 through 22 plate appearances. It’s a small sample of success, but starting hot goes a long way towards earning additional opportunities. Olivares has power too – he’s not a one-steal pony.