Dazzling Diaz

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·8 min read
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It's been two weeks since our last normal update. Taylor Rogers is the only pitcher to notch four saves. Edwin Diaz, Kenley Jansen, and Lou Trivino contributed a trio of saves. Rogers now saves the season lead with Josh Hader. They both have 28 saves and have botched several recent opportunities. Next up are Jansen (23) and Diaz (22).

Closer Tiers

Tier 1: Crème de la Crème (4)

Edwin Diaz, New York Mets
Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers
Liam Hendriks, Chicago White Sox
Emmanuel Clase, Cleveland Guardians

Heading into the All-Star Break, Hader ruined his stats over the course of two nightmare outings, allowing nine runs on four homers while recording just one out. Those two appearances account for about three-fifths of the runs he's coughed up this season. Since the break, he's allowed one run in three innings while recording a win and a save.

Hader remains nearly atop the closer tiers because this column is designed to look beyond tiny hiccups of this nature. We know Hader is incredible, and there isn't obvious evidence of a change in talent. For the merit of this rankings approach, look no farther than Hendriks. He struggled earlier this season yet still went into the break with a 2.35 ERA. Unfortunately, in three outings this week, he struggled. He now has a 3.48 ERA on the season.

Given the recent struggles of Hader and Hendriks, Diaz has nudged his way to the closer throne. With 17.93 K/9, a 1.55 ERA, and 0.93 WHIP, he's carrying his fantasy managers. Clase is a monster. He's allowed just one run in his last 26 innings, a span of over two months.

Tier 2: The Elite (6)

Ryan Pressly, Houston Astros
Ryan Helsley, St. Louis Cardinals
Jordan Romano, Toronto Blue Jays
Clay Holmes, New York Yankees
Kenley Jansen, Atlanta Braves
Jhoan Duran, Minnesota Twins

Pressly has a 10-inning streak of perfect appearances. Helsley's fantasy value still suffers slightly from his usage – the multi-inning bursts he works have held him to just nine saves. Still, when he's on the bump, there are few better. Only Diaz this season.

Romano hasn't quite matched that success, but he's still been quite reliable. Since returning from the injured list, Jansen has allowed two runs in 4.2 innings. The rest did him well - his velocity is up a bit.

For months, I've been saying Holmes is very similar to Clase from a production perspective. As he continues to cement his status as the Yankees closer, he moves closer and closer to the Guardians closer. I was wondering how many times I could plausibly write “closer” in the span of 10 words. Four, apparently.

Duran is similar to Helsley in that he's very talented but his usage negatively impacts his fantasy value. He only has six saves on the season.

Tier 3: Core Performers (8)

David Bednar, Pittsburgh Pirates
Paul Sewald, Seattle Mariners
Scott Barlow, Kansas City Royals
Raisel Iglesias, Los Angeles Angels
David Robertson, Chicago Cubs
Jorge Lopez, Baltimore Orioles
Gregory Soto, Detroit Tigers
Camilo Doval, San Francisco Giants

Bednar was bumped down a tier due to his recent performance. Over his last 14 innings spanning a little more than a month, he has a 6.43 ERA. That even hides a trio of unearned runs. Run predictors think he was unlucky and should have had a 3.50-4.00 ERA. Even those rates aren't great, hence the bump down a few spots in the rankings.

The Mariners bullpen remains “fluid” even if Sewald gets the majority of save opportunities. He blew one on Tuesday after picking up a hold on Monday. Erik Swanson closed out that one. Andrés Muñoz appears to be back in the second chair.

Robertson will certainly be traded in the next few days. I believe he'll likely close wherever he winds up – even if it's a team with a better option like the Yankees or Twins. The one exception is the Mets who aren't setting Diaz aside for anybody.

I no longer believe Lopez will be traded. He has similarities to Clase and Holmes but isn't quite as murderous to worms - as in his ground ball rate is only 60 percent.

Soto had a trying evening on Tuesday, allowing three unearned runs without a hit or a normal walk. He pitched a clean ninth, and the Tigers tied it in the bottom of the inning. Soto then hit the leadoff hitter. An error (and the Manfred Man) loaded the bases. He exited and Jason Foley promptly allowed all three runners to score.

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Tier 4: Uncertainty with Upside (5)

Tanner Houck, Garrett Whitlock, Boston Red Sox
Taylor Rogers, San Diego Padres
Craig Kimbrel, Los Angeles Dodgers
Daniel Bard, Colorado Rockies
Seranthony Domínguez, Brad Hand, Philadelphia Phillies

Houck appears to be falling out of favor despite decent outcomes. That's mostly because Whitlock has rejoined the bullpen. Over his brief career, Whitlock has a superb 1.72 ERA in 89 relief innings compared with a modest 4.15 ERA in 39 frames as a starter. For now, this looks like a job share. Once that's sorted, the victor will rejoin the second or third tier.

Rogers might have had the most saves over the last two weeks, but he's also continued to struggle. He's the one who blew the save to the Tigers on Tuesday. If the Padres had a better internal option, they'd probably be closing. Relief reinforcements should be a priority in the coming days.

Kimbrel has six consecutive scoreless outings, but even they haven't been without drama. The Dodgers are another club that should consider tracking down an upgrade.

As we learned last week, Bard has – improbably – been one of the most reward fantasy relievers this season. He's mixed up in trade rumors, but the scuttlebutt is the Rockies intend to keep and extend him.

Dominguez's status in the tiers will be decided in the coming days too. A second-tier caliber closer, he's in a partial job share with Hand and liable to be replaced by an incoming closer. The Phillies prefer Dominguez in a fireman role.

Tier 5: Usable Scamps (7)

Tanner Scott, Miami Marlins
Brett Martin, Texas Rangers
Alexis Diaz, Cincinnati Reds
Kyle Finnegan, Washington Nationals
Colin Poche, Jason Adam, Brooks Raley, Tampa Bay Rays
Mark Melancon, Arizona Diamondbacks
Lou Trivino, Oakland Athletics

Scott and Martin have run into trouble lately. Scott's is related to his longstanding walk issues. Martin has scuffled with misfortune on balls in play. These are shortcomings fantasy managers will just have to accept if they roster either player. Scott could be traded at the deadline.

By talent, Diaz is the best reliever in this tier. Reds relievers have been cursed in recent years, and Diaz has run afoul of walks a few times. As a fly ball pitcher at Great American Ballpark, he'll always walk the knife's edge.

I'd rather not muck about with the remaining four bullpens. Finnegan has actually improved this season, but that just makes him a more acceptable middle reliever. He's still not closer-caliber. Melancon should join a contender as a middle reliever. Joe Mantiply is the guy to stash. Trivino should also find a new team and a middle relief role. Dany Jiménez, A.J. Puk, and Zach Jackson will probably share the 12 or so saves the Athletics will produce over the remainder of the season.

The Rays guys are plenty decent, they just won't predictably earn saves. If you need a free guy who might add two to five saves over the remainder of the season, most of their relief corps is in play. Poche, Raley, and Ryan Yarbrough all blew saves in the last four days.

Injured

Dany Jiménez, Oakland Athletics (strained shoulder)
Andrew Kittredge, Tampa Bay Rays (TJS – out for season)
Lucas Sims, Cincinnati Reds (bulging disc – out for season)
Anthony Bender, Miami Marlins (back)

Jimenez recently threw a 25-pitch bullpen – usually one of the last steps before a rehab stint. Bender is on rehab assignment and should rejoin the team in the next week. He could step immediately into the closer role if the Marlins deal a number of their middling reliever types.

Steals Department

Over the last 14 days, Michael Harris, Bobby Witt, Josh Rojas, and Ronald Acuña shared the lead with four steals apiece. Five others nabbed three bags. Like with the closers, it wasn't a particularly impressive period. The season lead still belongs to Jon Berti who only needed 222 plate appearances to snag 28 bags. He's been out a few weeks with a groin strain. Jorge Mateo (24), Julio Rodriguez (21), Cedric Mullins (21), and Acuna (21) round out the top five.

Speed Spotlight

Although we talked about Leody Taveras not long ago, it's worth reemphasizing his favorable traits. He's rostered in just 65 percent of Yahoo leagues so managers in need of his specific skill set might be able to freely add him.

In 116 plate appearances, Taveras is batting .346/.388/.533 with three home runs, six steals, and a .442 BABIP. He mostly bats sixth in the order. While BABIP regression is inevitable, his batted ball profile consists of plenty of hard contact at an ideal launch angle. He should be able to maintain somewhere in the neighborhood of a .340-.350 BABIP. That implies a projection of roughly .270/.320/.460. While he can hit for some pop, we're talking about him today for his speed. He's a 95th-percentile sprinter with a long history of using that speed on the bases. While he's not always an efficient thief, the Rangers generally like to err on the side of aggression.