Jansen Nears Return

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·9 min read
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Closers were relatively busy last week. Jorge Lopez led the league with four saves. A.J. Minter, Brett Martin, Daniel Bard, and David Bednar all polished off three saves. The seasonal lead belongs with Josh Hader. His 27 saves offer a week of buffer from second place Taylor Rogers (24) who has struggled of late. The pack lurks another handful of saves back. Kenley Jansen (20) is set to return today. Five others have 19 saves.

Closer Tiers

Tier 1: Crème de la Crème (3)

Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers
Liam Hendriks, Chicago White Sox
Edwin Diaz, New York Mets

If we’re trying our hardest to be uncharitable, we could note Hader has a 4.50 ERA over his last eight innings. That also represents two-thirds of the runs he’s allowed this season so there’s no cause for concern.

Last week, I noted a small thing to track for Hendriks – his velocity. In two appearances since then, his fastball matched his season average. He appears to be fully healthy.

Diaz pitched four innings, faced the minimum of 12 batters, and struck out 10. The only possible complaint is he recorded only one save.

Tier 2: The Elite (8)

Emmanuel Clase, Cleveland Guardians
Jordan Romano, Toronto Blue Jays
Ryan Pressly, Houston Astros
Kenley Jansen, Atlanta Braves
Ryan Helsley, St. Louis Cardinals
David Bednar, Pittsburgh Pirates
Clay Holmes, New York Yankees
Jhoan Duran, Minnesota Twins

Clase allowed a rare home run in a non-save situation. Romano notched a pair of saves in a three-appearance week. Pressly has six consecutive perfect innings including two in the last week. Bednar pitched four times. He gave up a couple runs on Sunday.

Giovanny Gallegos recorded his first save since June 14. Helsley came on to pitch the eighth inning in what was deemed to be a bigger spot. While this will happen from time to time, Helsley will probably receive most save opportunities. Gallegos didn’t exactly pitch well, allowing three runs in four innings.

Holmes had a rare bad week, but it doesn’t affect his place in the tiers. First, he blew a save on Saturday by allowing an inherited runner to score. The Red Sox eventually won the game. Then he really screwed the pooch on Tuesday. He faced five batters against the lowly Reds and failed to record an out. Although he only allowed a pair of singles, he also walked one and hit two batters. Sinkerballers can suffer from bouts of poor command. We’ll want to keep an eye on this. Aroldis Chapman was handed a loss in his most recent outing, though it was encouraging to see him touching triple-digit velocities.

Duran took the loss on Saturday then worked in a setup role the following day. He faced the heart of the Rangers lineup in the eighth inning. Clearly, he’s still being used as a fireman. Tyler Duffey picked up the save. Although Duran allowed three runs across his three innings, there’s no cause for concern. This situation is similar to Helsley’s in St. Louis.

Tier 3: Core Performers (8)

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

Sewald seems to be the guy in Seattle. While Diego Castillo did lock down a save last week, it was on a day when Sewald was unavailable. The funky northpaw appeared the next day in a save situation. Castillo is worth hanging onto in case this devolves back into a committee.

Barlow tossed four scoreless outings, tallying two saves, a win, and four strikeouts. He pitched both ends of a doubleheader on Monday.

It's as if Iglesias is trying to convince the Angels to trade him. In the first season of an expensive contract, he would instantly become the top reliever on the market if he’s made available. In three appearances over the last week, he allowed five runs in 2.2 innings. Out of character, home runs did not account for any of the runs.

Presently, Robertson is the most attractive closer on the trade market. The Cubs also have Chris Martin and Mychal Givens available for reliever-needy clubs. If all three are dealt, then Rowan Wick or Scott Effross could ascend to saves.

I’ve long assumed Lopez would be traded to a contender at midseason – probably in a non-closing role. Not only have the Orioles played their way to .500 and into the Wild Card hunt, their outlook for 2023 has suddenly brightened. Lopez is controlled through 2024. The Orioles no longer have an incentive to convert him into modest prospects.

Soto wasn’t at his sharpest. He allowed a run on Thursday while protecting a two-run lead then failed to bail out Michael Fulmer on Sunday. While Fulmer was charged with two runs and the loss, it was Soto who allowed the fatal blows.

Doval ran afoul of the walk monster in his only appearance. He recorded just two outs while issuing three free passes and a hit. Luckily, only one run scored. Since June 20, he’s allowed six runs (five earned) in 6.1 innings. The Giants recently designated Jake McGee for assignment.

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Tier 4: Uncertainty with Upside (4)

Taylor Rogers, San Diego Padres
Craig Kimbrel, Los Angeles Dodgers
Daniel Bard, Colorado Rockies
Seranthony Domínguez, Brad Hand, Philadelphia Phillies

Rogers is in an extended slump. He’s allowed at least a run in each of his last five appearances. Dating back to May 28, he has a 5.02 ERA (2.45 FIP) in 28.2 innings. This disparity between ERA and FIP has long plagued Rogers. My theory is he’s too unwilling to throw out of the zone.

Speaking of slumps, Kimbrel wasn’t trusted to defend a three-run lead last Thursday. Manager Dave Roberts replaced him with Alex Vesia after Kimbrel allowed a run. Overall, it was a good week for Kimbrel in terms of fantasy stats. He had a win, a save, and a hold with four strikeouts in 2.2 innings.

Bard pocketed three more saves. More notably, the Rockies announced their intention to extend him. He’s reportedly unavailable in trade talks. Setup man Alex Colome is being discussed with other clubs. Bard has greatly outperformed this ranking, but the specter of Coors Field (and past slumps) has led me to be conservative with my future expectations.

Dominguez and Hand both pitched last Thursday and Friday, picking up a hold and a save apiece. Until another reliever is acquired – an eventuality which feels inevitable – they’ll continue to share saves based on opponent handedness. Corey Knebel has regained some trust. He closed on Sunday.

Tier 5: Usable Scamps (7)

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

As expected, Joe Barlow’s removal from closing duties came to pass. For now, Martin has stepped into the role. He relies on softly hit ground balls. He’s similar to the 2021 version of Dylan Floro, albeit with even fewer strikeouts.

Scott picked up two more saves, though he was also saddled with a blown save loss. The final blow was the result of an error. While the runs weren’t earned, Scott was the one to make the error.

Raley grabbed the Rays most recent save. This remains a pure committee. Although the Rays would benefit from adding some certainty to their late-innings, they’ll probably look to add more committee-caliber reinforcements instead.

Diaz recently returned from injury and closed things out on Tuesday. Hunter Strickland has pitched poorly – too poorly to be considered tradeable. Diaz should see most of the opportunities going forward. While walk-prone and ill-suited to Great American Ballpark, Diaz has some interesting traits for fantasy managers. In particular, he induces a healthy strikeout rate and has held batters to just 15 hits in 33 innings.

Trivino blew a save on Tuesday in what was a truly ugly ballgame. Oakland entered the ninth with a 5-3 lead. After the dust cleared, they won 14-7 in 12 innings.

Injured

Kenley Jansen, Atlanta Braves (irregular heartbeat)
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)

Jansen technically hasn’t been activated yet so we’ll leave him here. Jimenez and Bender are progressing. Sims has season-ending surgery earlier this month.

Steals Department

Bobby Witt Jr. stole the show with four swipes over the last week. Brandon Marsh and Willi Castro were the only others to nab at least three bases. While Witt had a slow start to the season, he’s come on strong lately. Since June 8, he’s bopped five home runs with eight steals in nine attempts while slashing .303/.351/.500. Jon Berti remains atop the seasonal leaderboard with 27 steals. He has a comfortable lead over Jorge Mateo (22), Julio Rodriguez (21), and Tommy Edman (19).

Speed Spotlight

Esteury Ruiz made his Major League debut last night and is a priority add in any fantasy format that counts stolen bases. After a half decade of mixed results, the outfielder thrived in the minors this season. At Double-A, he hit .344/.474/.611 with nine home runs and 37 steals in 232 plate appearances. Upon promotion to Triple-A, he continued to hit and run, wielding a .315/.457/.477 batting line with four home runs and 23 steals in 142 plate appearances. For those counting at home, that’s 60 swipes in 69 attempts over just 374 plate appearances.

There’s cause to temper expectations. Scouting sources I spoke with aren’t especially excited about Ruiz in a real-world sense. In particular, there’s concern about his hit tool dragging down an otherwise flashy combination of adequate power and double-plus speed. Encouragingly, his plate discipline improved dramatically this year in the minors which could signal a lasting change in approach. Perhaps better discipline bodes well for his contact skills.

For now, I consider the career of Michael Taylor to serve as a decent comp for Ruiz’s offensive floor. I also think it’s likely he outperforms the mercurial Taylor – at least as a batter. Defensively, his work in center field is nascent. He was a second baseman until recently, so he still gets bad reads in the outfield. While he’s fast enough to make up for mistakes, nobody will confuse him for a gold glover like Taylor.