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Saves and Steals

Yankees Remix Bullpen

by Brad Johnson
Updated On: May 26, 2022, 12:59 am ET

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Mark Melancon and Raisel Iglesias were the only two relievers to finish off three saves in the last week. Iglesias was also dinged for a loss last Wednesday. Overall, he recorded eight outs, seven by strikeout. The season lead belongs to Taylor Rogers (16). Josh Hader (15), Jordan Romano (14), Liam Hendriks (13), and Iglesias (11) round out the top five.

The bigger news comes out of New York. Chad Green will go under the knife for Tommy John surgery, possibly marking the end of his tenure in pinstripes. He’ll miss the rest of 2022 and possibly all of 2023 as well. He was already due to hit free agency after this season. Meanwhile, Aroldis Chapman is on the shelf with Achilles tendinitis. He took the loss on Sunday after allowing two runs in one-third of an inning. That marked a five-appearance streak of allowing at least one run. Clay Holmes – who you first heard about as a closer sleeper in our preseason rundown – will step up to fill the void. Holmes has a 0.40 ERA with 9.13 K/9 and 0.79 BB/9. He’s an extreme worm-burner including an 83.6 percent ground ball rate this season.

Closer Tiers

Tier 1: Crème de la Crème (3)

Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers
Liam Hendriks, Chicago White Sox
Taylor Rogers, San Diego Padres

Hader is currently on the bereavement list. He could return as soon as Thursday. In his absence, look to Devin Williams for saves. However, since Williams pitched Monday and Tuesday, Brad Boxberger and Brent Suter are the best bets for a save today.
Rogers remains nearly flawless. He’s allowed one run on nine hits and four walks in 19.1 innings. The only critique is a mild 10.71 K/9. Even so, his 13.2 percent swinging strike rate is the best of his career. More punch outs could await in the future. He managed 13.17 K/9 last season. While I’ve nudged him into the top tier, he’s a distant third behind Hader and Hendriks.

Tier 2: The Elite (8)

Raisel Iglesias, Los Angeles Angels
Kenley Jansen, Atlanta Braves
Edwin Diaz, New York Mets
Jordan Romano, Toronto Blue Jays
Emmanuel Clase, Cleveland Guardians
Craig Kimbrel, Los Angeles Dodgers
Giovanny Gallegos, St. Louis Cardinals
David Bednar, Pittsburgh Pirates

Last week, I praised Jansen for overcoming the walk issues that plagued him in 2021. Then, he proceeded to allow four runs on four hits and three walks. The splurge of free passes has me freshly concerned so he’s back in Tier 2. Fortunately for the Braves, they lost only one of the three games he fumbled.

Diaz also had a rough week culminating in a loss against the Giants on Tuesday. They scuffed him up for four hits and a walk. Romano has rebounded nicely from a poor outing a couple weeks ago in which he looked injured. His normal velocity has returned.

You’ll notice, I re-jiggered the old third and fourth tiers and moved Kimbrel, Gallegos, and Bednar up. Kimbrel has finally done enough for me to have a modicum of confidence we’re see his good side. Gallegos did allow a game-losing extra-inning home run, but he followed it up the next day by striking out all five batters faced. He’ll need to continue looking over his shoulder at Ryan Helsley who remains nearly perfect (two hits, three walks) in 15.2 innings. As for Bednar, the Pirates closer was stung for the loss in extras on Tuesday via the Manfred Man. Otherwise, he pitched well including a win and a save in four appearances.

Tier 3: Reliable (7)

Ryan Pressly, Houston Astros
Camilo Doval, San Francisco Giants
Joe Barlow, Texas Rangers
Clay Holmes, New York Yankees
David Robertson, Chicago Cubs
Corey Knebel, Philadelphia Phillies
Gregory Soto, Detroit Tigers

Pressly doesn’t seem to have his best stuff just yet, though he’s grinding through his outings anyway. Doval’s command remains worrisome. Since Jake McGee is on the injured list and Tyler Rogers just coughed up seven runs in one-third of an inning, I’m confident Doval has plenty of saves in his near future. Holmes has a similar statistical profile to Clase. The difference in ranking reflects the continued presence of Chapman in New York. Holmes is not a lock to retain the job.

Robertson is back from the COVID-list. He blew the save on Saturday but otherwise pitched well in two other appearances. He’s had some issues with free passes (4.70 BB/9). The Phillies desperately needed Knebel on Tuesday, but he was unavailable. They ended up handing a save opportunity to Nick Nelson who predictably failed. Philadelphia remains a candidate to add a closer at the trade deadline – assuming they remain competitive until then.

Tier 4: Uncertainty with Upside (6)

Scott Barlow, Josh Staumont, Kansas City Royals
Paul Sewald, Andres Munoz, Diego Castillo, Seattle Mariners
Jorge Lopez, Baltimore Orioles
Emilio Pagan, Jhoan Duran, Tyler Duffey, Minnesota Twins
Daniel Bard, Colorado Rockies
Dany Jiménez, Oakland Athletics

Barlow and Staumont again traded opportunities for late-inning work. Staumont pitched ahead of Barlow last Wednesday. They flipped the order on Sunday, but both pitchers sputtered. The Royals eventually lost the game.

Munoz, who I’ve hyped quite extensively this season, was asked for a 10th-inning save on Sunday. Instead, he allowed five runs including a walkoff grand slam. Sewald shut the door the next day.

The Orioles lax creation of save opportunities remains the biggest barrier for Lopez. He pitched four times and recorded one save in the last week. Lately, he’s been issuing too many free passes. Although he throws 98-mph with a 56 percent ground ball rate, he lacks a reliable put-away pitch to record strikeouts.

The Twins had a good week. Duran notched two saves while Pagan snagged his own save and a win. Duffey chipped in two a win too. Bard put a bad week behind him by tallying a win and a save in two appearances. Jimenez has a sparkling 0.52 ERA, but the stuff just doesn’t speak to that kind of success. I expect around a 3.90 ERA going forward.

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Tier 5: Assorted Leftovers (6)

Mark Melancon, Arizona Diamondbacks
Art Warren, Tony Santillan, Alexis Diaz, Cincinnati Reds
Tanner Rainey, Washington Nationals
J.P. Feyereisen, Ryan Thompson, Brooks Raley, Tampa Bay Rays
Anthony Bass, Cole Sulser, Anthony Bender, Miami Marlins
Matt Barnes, Hansel Robles, Jake Diekman, Boston Red Sox

The Reds don’t have any discernible order besides appearing to prefer Warren and Santillan over Diaz at the moment. Rainey has allowed six runs (four earned) in his last 3.2 innings.

The Rays list doesn’t stop with those above. Of their eight relievers, all but Ralph Garza and Dusten Knight are saves candidates. In fact, I remain confident Jalen Beeks is their best reliever despite not seeing him in high leverage work. The group managed to blow three saves last Friday. Andrew Kittredge is sidelined with a lower-back strain.

Barnes picked up his second save of the season and seems to be moving in the right direction. He has three consecutive scoreless appearances, though he did issue two walks in his most recent outing.

Injured

Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees (Achilles tendinitis)
Andrew Kittredge, Tampa Bay Rays (lower-back strain)
Lucas Sims, Cincinnati Reds (bulging disc)

Steals Department

Once again, the Steals Department is left derelict. Only Brett Phillips and Cody Bellinger put in the effort to steal a measly three bases. The seasonal lead is shared by Julio Rodriguez and Jorge Mateo at 12 swipes apiece. Rodriguez is ascendant while Mateo is barely clinging to playing time like a rum ham off the coast of the Jersey shore.

Speed Spotlight

Last week’s spotlight shined on a recently demoted prospect, Jo Adell. He was (and is) putting on a show in Triple-A. Adell is ready for a starring role in the Majors if only the Angels had a role for him. Fellow prospect Brandon Marsh is hitting just .247/.289/.338 since late April.

Let’s turn our attention to another recently-demoted top prospect – Royce Lewis. He was sent to Triple-A when Carlos Correa returned from the injured list. Lewis had a successful Major League debut, hitting .308/.325/.564 with two home runs in 40 plate appearances. He did not attempt a steal. However, his time in the Majors did allow us to confirm he has 85th-percentile sprint speed – more than fast enough to nab 20 or more bases if he’s so inclined.

And the inclination is apparent in Triple-A. Across 130 plate appearances, he has 10 steals in 12 attempts. That includes two swipes in three attempts since his demotion one week ago. Overall, he’s batting .306/.415/.546 in the minors this season.

While Correa remains an impediment to promotion at his natural position of shortstop, the Twins have other opportunities available to him. Gio Urshela has struggled to gain traction, performing at replacement level for the season (albeit with some positive indicators). Fellow prospect Jose Miranda has hit for a miserly .143/.182/.254 in 66 plate appearances. Luis Arraez is a poor defender who is mostly relegated to the right-side of the infield. In other words, third base is open. Incidentally, Lewis recently made a start at third for the St. Paul Saints. For an athletic shortstop like Lewis, learning the basics of the position might take the better part of a week at most. If Urshela and Miranda don’t show a pulse in the next week to 10 days, we’ll see Lewis return soon.