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Saves and Steals

Jansen Walks Tightrope to Saves Lead

by Brad Johnson
Updated On: September 22, 2022, 3:48 pm ET

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Though it hasn't been pretty at times, Kenley Jansen has pulled into a tie with Emmanuel Clase for the 2022 saves lead. They've both notched 36 saves. Jansen locked down three in the last week. Daniel Bard and Domingo Acevedo were the other two relievers to record three saves. For the season, Clase and Jansen are followed by Jordan Romano (34), Liam Hendriks (33), and Josh Hader (33).

Closer Tiers

Tier 1: Crème de la Crème (3)

Edwin Diaz, New York Mets
Emmanuel Clase, Cleveland Guardians
Liam Hendriks, Chicago White Sox

Diaz had a four- and five-out save on the week. Such usage gives Adam Ottavino and Seth Lugo slightly better odds to pick up a save. Clase, as mentioned had only one save in three appearances. He also “earned” a win by allowing two runs (one earned) in extra innings. Hendriks too was stung by the Manfred Man last Friday. He was credited with the loss despite not allowing a baserunner of his own. He's 5.2 innings into a reliever no-hitter.

Tier 2: The Elite (9)

Jordan Romano, Toronto Blue Jays
Ryan Pressly, Houston Astros
Ryan Helsley, St. Louis Cardinals
Camilo Doval, San Francisco Giants
Devin Williams, Milwaukee Brewers
Felix Bautista, Baltimore Orioles
Paul Sewald, Seattle Mariners
Daniel Bard, Colorado Rockies
Clay Holmes, New York Yankees

Someone asked me why Romano ranks below Hendriks. The answer is a matter of projection. Hendriks is expected to outperform Romano in every relevant category. The margins are tiny, but it's enough to discern a difference. Besides, it's no knock on Romano to rank fourth-best as an “elite” reliever. The Orioles stung him for three runs on Sunday in an unusually bad outing. He allowed a pair of walks and four hits in seven batters. It's actually a small miracle he got through the inning, though he was saddled with the loss for his troubles.

Pressly pitched thrice and tallied two saves in 2.2 innings. I like to keep an eye on his velocity as it can indicate when he's not at his best. He's working around 95.5-mph which is where he sits when healthy. Helsley had a nice rebound week, notching his own pair of saves to go with six strikeouts in three frames. Doval also fanned six in three innings while earning a save and a win.

Bautista was dinged for a solo homer, but it didn't affect his save. Ominously, there's been some small signs of command issues recently – a persistent problem from his pre-2022 career. Holmes was called upon four times in the last week. He allowed one run in three of those appearances. Overall, he had an 8.10 ERA, 10.80 K/9, and 8.10 BB/9 in 3.1 innings. He also allowed five hits. Incidentally, his only scoreless appearance was the one he trusted his ridiculous sinking fastball.

All season, I bet on Coors Field eventually burning Bard. It never came to pass. I still believe this is an example of “good process, bad result.” In particular, his 0.49 HR/9 and .215 BABIP don't seem replicable.

Tier 3: Core Performers (4)

Josh Hader, Nick Martinez, San Diego Padres
Scott Barlow, Kansas City Royals
Craig Kimbrel, Evan Phillips, Los Angeles Dodgers
Kenley Jansen, Atlanta Braves

Hader had one appearance. Though scoreless, it was below his usual standard of excellence (he allowed a hit) so I'll continue to proceed cautiously. Probably, you can resume treating him as a Tier 1 pitcher.

Kimbrel was unable to complete his reliever no-hitter. He took the loss last Wednesday while allowing three runs (two earned). He returned on Sunday to capture a win then allowed a run on Monday. He remains deeply frustrating.

Jansen has worked three of the last four days. Expect to see Raisel Iglesias on for a save if needed today. That won't mean Jansen has lost his grip on the ninth inning. If anything, the Braves seem bizarrely committed to him. Especially since Jansen is destined to become a free agent while Iglesias is signed for three more seasons.

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Tier 4: Uncertainty with Upside (8)

Jhoan Duran, Jorge Lopez, Minnesota Twins
David Robertson, Seranthony Domínguez, Philadelphia Phillies
José Leclerc, Texas Rangers
Alexis Diaz, Cincinnati Reds
Kyle Finnegan, Washington Nationals
Gregory Soto, Detroit Tigers
John Schreiber, Matt Barnes, Matt Strahm, Boston Red Sox
Dylan Floro, Miami Marlins

Duran is probably a Tier 1 pitcher. On any given day, it's unclear if he or Lopez will be called upon for the save. Duran has the last two in part because Lopez was dinged for four runs in his most recent outing. It's really gone poorly for him since leaving Baltimore.

Leclerc was handed a loss last Wednesday. He rebounded for a save two days later. It seems the job is his. Buck Farmer has the Reds most recent save. Don't read too much into it. Finnegan pitched four innings, good for two saves and six strikeouts. He did allow a solo home run on Tuesday. Soto was dealt a loss on Saturday and recorded a save on Tuesday.

Floro doesn't quite fit the descriptor for this tier. He's generally reliable in a boring way. There's very little upside, at least not in the context of 2022.

Tier 5: Pray to the Baseball Gods (3)

Brandon Hughes, Manuel Rodriguez, Rowan Wick, Chicago Cubs
Jimmy Herget, Jose Quijada, Ryan Tepera, Los Angeles Angels
Pete Fairbanks, Jason Adam, Brooks Raley, Colin Poche, Tampa Bay Rays

There are decent pitchers in this tier, but these clubs have shown little interest in having a named closer. Fairbanks has the Rays most recent save. Hughes and Rodriguez each notched one for Chicago this week. Meanwhile, the Angels found Herget, Tepera, and Aaron Loup for a save apiece. If you're desperate and all the usual suspects are rostered in your league, these are bullpens you can try to scavenge.

Tier 6: Better Left to Others (3)

Domingo Acevedo, A.J. Puk, Oakland Athletics
Wil Crowe, Pittsburgh Pirates
Ian Kennedy, Mark Melancon, Arizona Diamondbacks

Acevedo handled the Athletics last three saves with Puk working a setup role. That doesn't mean their roles won't reverse next time out.

David Bednar is expected to be activated today or tomorrow. He would rank adjacent to Holmes. Crowe botched another save in truly brutal fashion on Tuesday.

Reyes Moronta has the Diamondbacks most recent save. Arizona had a doubleheader on Tuesday which they split with the Dodgers.

Injured

Andrew Kittredge, Tampa Bay Rays (TJS – out for season)
Lucas Sims, Cincinnati Reds (bulging disc – out for season)
Tanner Rainey, Washington Nationals (UCL sprain – out for season)
David Bednar, Pittsburgh Pirates (back)
Tanner Houck, Boston Red Sox (back – out for season)
Zach Jackson, Oakland Athletics (shoulder – out for season)
Dany Jiménez, Oakland Athletics (shoulder – out for season)

Garrett Whitlock, Boston Red Sox (hip – out for season)

Steals Department

Elvis Andrus is in the midst of a career revival in Chicago. This week, he hit another homer, batted .357, and swiped six bags. He's this season's surprise September Roto-Hero. Amed Rosario and Nate Eaton both nabbed four bases. Rosario had 41 plate appearances. Eaton… just 14 plate appearances. The season lead still belongs to Jon Berti (36). He's the only runner with a decent shot at reaching 40 steals. Tommy Edman (31), Cedric Mullins (31), Randy Arozarena (30), and Jorge Mateo (30) round out the Top 5.

Speed Spotlight

Let's talk more about Eaton. The right-handed hitting utility man has started four straight games including three at third base. Those starts are coming at the expense of Nicky Lopez and Hunter Dozier, both of whom are known quantities to the KC brass. Eaton's role with the club very much remains uncertain. This is an opportunity to play him for a couple weeks and get a better sense of how he fits.

Clearly, his standout trait is speed. He has nine steals in as many attempts across just 86 plate appearances. At two minor league levels, he stole 23 bags in 388 plate appearances. Statcast credits him with 97th-percentile sprint speed, and he gets good jumps. The Royals tend to encourage their players to run at will.

Eaton isn't entirely hopeless with the bat. His .253/.326/.373 batting line is already passable, and we should see a sharp improvement upon his 32.6 percent strikeout rate. To be sure, he walks a razor's edge since his exit velocities are below average. He probably can't maintain a .375 BABIP, though he does have traits that suggest a .330 BABIP might be sustainable. Kauffman Stadium is a poor venue for his fringy power.

For now, if you need 3B/OF eligible stolen bases, Eaton is an acceptable waiver target.