Kenley Endangered

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·11 min read
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Four pitchers have now reached double digit saves – Mark Melancon (11), Ian Kennedy (10), Alex Reyes (10), and Jake McGee (10). Not exactly how we drew it up during draft season, huh? Kennedy and Reyes weren’t even on the radar until the end of Spring Training while the Padres and Giants did their best to pretend Melancon and McGee weren’t the number one choice of their respective clubs. McGee was the only reliever to snap off three saves this week. Seven others checked in with a pair of saves.

Now, shall we go to the tiers?

Closer Tiers

Tier 1: The Elite (3)

Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees
Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers
Liam Hendriks, Chicago White Sox

Hader came out throwing bullets earlier this spring. He’s calmed down lately, settling in with his normal 95-mph cheddar. Chapman has been marginally nastier so I’ve swapped them in the rankings. His velo has ticked up to 99-mph for the first time since 2018. There’s a strong case for either pitcher as the top reliever. Hendriks is the clear third wheel in this tier. His 3.55 ERA has been a disappointment. I do expect a sub-2.00 ERA going forward.

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Tier 2: Strikeout Kings (7)

Edwin Diaz, New York Mets
Craig Kimbrel, Chicago Cubs
Matt Barnes, Boston Red Sox
Ryan Pressly, Houston Astros
Emmanuel Clase, Cleveland Indians
Brad Hand, Washington Nationals
Raisel Iglesias, Los Angeles Angels

A heavy workload for Diaz gave Trevor May a rare save opportunity. The Mets offseason signing is outperforming Diaz through just under one-quarter of the season. The good news for Diaz managers is he’s starting to induce normal levels of swinging strikes and strikeouts. He’s also running his fastball at a career-high 99-mph.

Hand had a challenging pair of games against the Yankees. He blew a save on Saturday. It’s hard to fault him for allowing three hits when none of them exceeded an 83-mph exit velocity. That’s just bad luck. He appeared the next day in a tie game and proceeded to take the loss via two walks and a laser single off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton. His next outing could prove influential to where he ranks here. His current 5.56 BB/9 is intolerable.

Clase allowed his first earned runs of the season on Friday. As with Hand’s first clunker, I’m not inclined to panic about an outing which included three hits and no batted balls above 82-mph. This would happen to vintage Zach Britton from time to time. Clase has some right-handed Britton characteristics but with more strikeouts and fewer walks.

Tier 3: Core Performers (6)

Mark Melancon, San Diego Padres
Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers
Will Smith, Atlanta Braves
Richard Rodriguez, Pittsburgh Pirates
Taylor Rogers, Minnesota Twins
Hector Neris, Philadelphia Phillies

This is red alert for Jansen whose walk issues continue to persist. He’s up to 8.22 BB/9 compared to a mere 9.98 K/9. His saving grace to date is a .100 BABIP, a number which simply cannot persist. Blake Treinen picked up his first save of the season this week. He hasn’t yet stolen the job. To date, he’s performing like it’s 2018. His 12.91 K/9, 2.93 BB/9, 63.4 percent ground ball rate, and 2.35 ERA would rank him between Barnes and Pressly were he to capture a regular closer role.

Neris blew a save on Saturday that eventually turned into a Phillies loss. He’s showing symptoms of his annual bout with the semi-yips including four walks in his last 3.2 innings. The two-run home run he allowed to Pablo Sandoval was on a middle-middle fastball in a two-strike count. He had a long outing yesterday so snag Sam Coonrod or Jose Alvarado for a cheap save tonight. Then hang onto them… just in case.

Rodriguez finally allowed his first run of the season on Sunday. He now has a 0.64 ERA and 4.47 xFIP. I’d feel better about him if he were missing more bats. Rogers pitched once. He faced four batters and struck them all out.

Tier 4: Upside (7)

Jake McGee, San Francisco Giants
Ian Kennedy, Texas Rangers
Alex Reyes, Giovanny Gallegos, St. Louis Cardinals
Kendall Graveman, Rafael Montero, Seattle Mariners
Yimi Garcia, Miami Marlins
Lou Trivino, Jake Diekman, Oakland Athletics
Cesar Valdez, Baltimore Orioles

McGee decisively put his mini-slump behind him. Another quality week, and we’ll bump him back into the third tier. He’s pitched two days in a row. Look for a Trevor Rogers save tonight.

Reyes, like Rodriguez, finally coughed up his first run of the season. He’s continued to battle free passes (7.58 BB/9). His 0.47 ERA is quite fortunate next to a 4.66 xFIP. If the fly ball pitcher doesn’t get a handle on those walks soon, he will immolate. I still advise selling.

Graveman is pitching like a relief ace while Montero continues to wither on the vine. Seattle has turned Montero into a ground ball pitcher, and it’s really not working. Seattle hasn’t come out and said Graveman is the closer. The writing is on the wall.

Until he falters, Garcia doesn’t have any competition for saves in Miami. He’s just a typical middle reliever, one with a longstanding home run problem. Dylan Floro remains my preferred pick to lead the team in saves by season’s end. He’s without question a superior pitcher to Garcia. As yet, there’s also no sign they plan to bump Floro back from seventh and eighth inning work.

Trivino had a horror show outing last Wednesday. He faced six batters, retiring one and allowing five to reach base. All five scored, some with the assistance of Adam Kolarek. It was an all-in-one regression game for Trivino. To that point, he was outperforming his ERA estimators. Now his 3.86 ERA is right on par with expectations. Diekman has the most recent save, but he also set up for Trivino on Saturday. This remains a 50/50 split.

Valdez was handed a blown save loss last night. He’s worked two days in a row. Paul Fry and Cole Sulser are the best available in the Baltimore pen today.

Tier 5: Assorted Messes (7)

Jordan Romano, Tyler Chatwood, Toronto Blue Jays
Andrew Kittredge, Pete Fairbanks, Jeffrey Springs, Tampa Bay Rays
Josh Staumont, Greg Holland, Scott Barlow, Kansas City Royals
Sean Doolittle, Tejay Antone, Lucas Sims, Amir Garrett, Cincinnati Reds
Stefan Crichton, Joakim Soria, Arizona Diamondbacks
Gregory Soto, Detroit Tigers
Daniel Bard, Mychal Givens, Robert Stephenson, Colorado Rockies

Romano hasn’t been the dominant pitcher we saw last season. Instead, he’s merely flashing those abilities. He’s issuing too many walks with too few whiffs. The one positive is a 51.9 percent ground ball rate. Chatwood has a more impressive portfolio in 11 appearances, posting 12.41 K/9, 2.19 BB/9, a 52 percent ground ball rate, and a 0.73 ERA.

Kittredge is a workaday reliever who mostly relies on a high ground ball rate. He is of some interest this week in fantasy circles, but Diego Castillo is expected to return from his groin injury soon. Fairbanks has (hopefully temporary) command issues to fix. Springs might grab the occasional save versus very left-handed opposing lineups. That condition will persist when Castillo returns.

The Royals and Reds relief corps are clanking more than the ghost of Christmas future. On Sunday, Holland, Barlow, and Staumont pitched the seventh through ninth innings respectively. Ervin Santana was needed to finish out Staumont’s inning. It was a lopsided loss – the club was just getting their better relievers some work. The Reds can’t get anything to shake loose. At this point, it’s coming back around to Garrett who has a 1.69 ERA with 10.13 K/9 and 3.38 BB/9 since April 23. Those cherrypicked numbers come with a fortunate .091 BABIP. He’s also suspended through Saturday.

Injured

Trevor Rosenthal, Oakland Athletics (thoracic outlet syndrome)
Julian Merryweather, Toronto Blue Jays (oblique)
Diego Castillo, Tampa Bay Rays (groin)
Rafael Dolis, Toronto Blue Jays (calf)

Chris Martin returned from injury this week. Castillo and Dolis aren’t expected to miss much more than the minimum 10 days.

Deposed

Anthony Bass, Miami Marlins
Alex Colome, Minnesota Twins
Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals
Rafael Montero, Seattle Mariners

Editor’s Note: Don’t forget to download the NBC Sports EDGE app to receive real-time player news and updates. Plus, it allows you to easily track your favorite players. Get it here!

Steals Department

Weekly Leaderboard

Bo Bichette, 3 SB (6 SB total)
Ronald Acuna, 3 SB (6 SB)
10 others, 2 SB

Bichette and Acuna running with abandon hardly leaves any room for analysis. They’re both fast players who were taken early in fantasy drafts. There’s no buy-low or sell-high discussion to be had. Acuna has blossomed into a true Trout-caliber superstar this season. For all the hype and fanfare in previous years, he wasn’t quite performing like a generational talent prior to now. He’s batting .311/.407/.656 with a 14.5 percent strikeout rate. A 40/40 season is possible. He’ll have to pick up the stolen base pace. Meanwhile, Bichette remains good-but-flawed. His aggression along with a slight uptick in strikeout rate put a damper on his ceiling. He’s still among the best players in the league despite these limitations.

Trout himself was among the two-steal crowd. So too were Fernando Tatis Jr., Chris Taylor, Niko Goodrum, Manuel Margot, and Joey Wendle – players we expect to swipe a pair now and then. More surprising to see were Nick Gordon, Paul DeJong, and Jared Walsh. DeJong and Walsh feature merely average speed. Gordon barely plays. He came to the plate just three times this week. As for the last guy to nab two bags… well let’s talk about him now.

Speed Spotlight

The Cardinals used to have a reputation for producing high caliber Major Leaguers without the need for fancy prospect pedigrees. Their organization has lost luster in recent years – mostly because others like the Dodgers have surpassed them. The fruit of their efforts remain apparent in the forms of Tommy Edman, Lane Thomas, and Justin Williams. Matt Carpenter is still kicking around the roster, and Luke Voit eventually developed into a star first baseman for the Yankees. Today’s Spotlight is on another former Cardinal who escaped the nest, Adolis Garcia.

The profile on Garcia has always been simple – extreme aggression, above average power that plays up due to approach, and a painful strikeout rate. The whiffs were always expected to torpedo any opportunity for more than a fourth or fifth outfielder role. The trouble with this profile is it’s prone to streaks. The Cardinals brought him up in 2018 for a short spell. He went 2-for-17 with seven strikeouts. After spending all of 2019 in the St. Louis farm system, he landed in Texas for the 2020 season. There he went 0-for-7 with four strikeouts and a walk. He failed to make the 2021 Rangers out of Spring Training.

Injuries and dreadful performances by the Rangers outfielders quickly opened the door for Garcia’s third attempt. The 28-year-old has thrived with a .292/.333/.585 triple slash, nine home runs, six walks and 35 strikeouts in 114 plate appearances. The profile hasn’t changed – aggression, power, and whiffs galore. This time, though, he caught a hot spell and built upon it. Going forward, Garcia feels a lot like Adam Duvall. He’s not quite as extreme in his fly ball rate, nor does he have a (possibly erroneous) reputation for lefty-mashing. Still, there’s a place for Duvall in Major League baseball, and the same should remain true for Garcia.

Power will always be Garcia’s carrying trait. However, Statcast has taught us he’s a high caliber defensive outfielder with good instincts and above average speed. After swiping two bags last week, he may be more willing to use his 84th percentile sprint speed. We’re not talking blazing wheels – he’s as fast as Andrew McCutchen, Tim Anderson, Duvall, and Bichette. Hmm. Actually, those are some pretty speedy players! And Duvall!

During his final Triple-A stint in 2019, Garcia attempted 24 steals. That’s the good news. The bad is his success rate – just 14-for-24. This year, he’s 3-for-6 on the bases. The Rangers don’t have any reason to sit him at this point. In fact, he bats cleanup or fifth most days. If he continues to run with a green light, he’ll attempt another 20 or more steals. And as long as you aren’t in a net steals league, you should come out ahead in three categories (home runs, RBI, and steals).