The Final Sprint

Brad Johnson
Rotoworld

With just four or five games left in the season, you’re just about out of time to make a move in the save column. Even so, there are a few opportunities to exploit. The best is Arodys Vizcaino’s return as the Braves closer. His teammate A.J. Minter is limping to the finish line, having allowed a 5.73 ERA over his last 11 innings. There are no warning signs that Minter is broken – it just looks like a normal string of bad results. In any case, Vizcaino will be used in the ninth inning. His previous owner may have discarded him – I know I was forced to dump a couple shares when he came off the disabled list.

Aroldis Chapman played setup man to Zach Britton on Monday. Chapman worked the seventh inning with Dellin Betances handling the eighth frame. Britton appears to be in top form. I consider this a committee situation with the Yankees taking an opportunity to accustom Chapman to appearing whenever he’s most needed.

With Jace Fry picking up a spot start as an opener, Nate Jones’ job security is all but assured. Even so, he’s owned in just 15 percent of leagues. Elsewhere, Trevor Hildenberger has lost the job in Minnesota. Trevor May and Taylor Rogers look to share the role. Neither reliever promises much in terms of fantasy value. The Angels bullpen has once again become an exercise in frustration. Ty Buttrey picked a bad time to slump. He could have entered 2019 as the presumptive closer. Now he’s back in committee mode with Blake Parker, Justin Anderson, and Hansel Robles.

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Wily Peralta is the improbable king of saves over the last calendar week. He was the only closer to finish three games. Six others picked up a pair of saves. That means Edwin Diaz’s quest for history is done. He’s stranded at 56 saves with only four games left to play. Craig Kimbrel (42) and Wade Davis (41) are the only others to cross the 40 save plateau. It’s likely to remain that way.

Now, shall we go to the tiers?

Tier 1: The Elite (3)

Edwin Diaz, Seattle Mariners

Blake Treinen, Oakland Athletics

Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox

We’ve lost Chapman from this tier. His owners should probably stick with him except in dire situations. The Athletics are all but locked into the second Wild Card slot. It would require a perfect finish and some help from the Yankees to pull off the first Wild Card upset. As such, we can expect Blake Treinen to get a breather tonight after working four of the last five days. Since an early-August panic, Kimbrel has a 0.69 ERA with 14.54 K/9 and 4.85 BB/9. The command remains a cause for modest concern. He’s still the third best closer so it’s not that concerning.

Tier 2: Nearly Elite (5)

Roberto Osuna, Houston Astros

Jose Leclerc, Texas Rangers

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals

Felipe Vazquez, Pittsburgh Pirates

Jansen was the only pitcher in this tier to allow a run – via solo homer. Osuna was roundly booed in his return to Toronto, but he recorded a pair of saves anyway. Leclerc missed a save opportunity on Sunday because he worked the previous two games in non-save situations. Don’t worry, he’s still the closer.

Tier 3: Core Performers (5)

Kirby Yates, San Diego Padres

Wade Davis, Colorado Rockies

Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds

Jeremy Jeffress, Milwaukee Brewers

Will Smith, San Francisco Giants

The Rockies are in a fight for their lives with the Dodgers. They trail the division lead by just half a game. And they hold a half game lead over the Cardinals for the second Wild Card slot. Unlike many teams, they’ll be using all of their bullets over the final weekend. Davis owners should benefit.

Over the last 30 days, Iglesias has limped to a 3.65 ERA (7.45 FIP) with 9.49 K/9, 6.57 BB/9, and 2.92 HR/9. Basically, he’s allowed way too many walks and homers while miraculously dodging a multi-run appearance. Consider pulling him in a head-to-head final if saves aren’t up for grabs and you need to protect your ratios.

Jeffress has missed a few games with a stiff neck. He claims to be available, but I’m sure the Brewers would rather wait until their fully confident in his health. Josh Hader and Corey Knebel are available in his absence. Indeed, one of them could steal the ninth inning job heading into the postseason.

Tier 4: Second Choice Closers (6)

Zach Britton, Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, New York Yankees

Carlos Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals

Brad Hand, Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, Cleveland Indians

Ken Giles, Toronto Blue Jays

Arodys Vizcaino, Atlanta Braves

Sergio Romo, Tampa Bay Rays

The Yankees and Indians have an embarrassment of riches in their bullpens. Despite this, an unwillingness to settle on regular roles is starving their fantasy owners. In St. Louis, Martinez has once again demonstrated shaky command when pitching on consecutive days. Romo rebounded from an ugly loss last Thursday to record a save on Sunday.

Tier 5: Mess Hall (11)

Hector Neris, Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter, Victor Arano, Philadelphia Phillies

Yoshihisa Hirano, Brad Ziegler, Arizona Diamondbacks

Nate Jones, Chicago White Sox

Jesse Chavez, Steve Cishek, Justin Wilson, Chicago Cubs

Ty Buttrey, Blake Parker, Los Angeles Angels

Mychal Givens, Baltimore Orioles

Trevor May, Taylor Rogers, Minnesota Twins

Shane Greene, Detroit Tigers

Adam Conley, Drew Steckenrider, Miami Marlins

Robert Gsellman, New York Mets

Wily Peralta, Kansas City Royals

The old fifth tier collapsed into the Mess Hall. We’re left with a still unresolved committee in Philadelphia – they’ve stopped winning games altogether. Speaking of teams that don’t win games – the White Sox, Orioles, Tigers, Marlins, Twins, Mets, and Royals aren’t likely to supply multiple save opportunities over the final days of the season. The Angels, Cubs, and Diamondbacks could offer multiple opportunities, but the unsteady composition of their bullpens makes it difficult to select the likeliest beneficiaries.

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Injured

Keynan Middleton, Los Angeles Angels (elbow – out for season)

Brandon Morrow, Chicago Cubs (bicep – out for season)

Kelvin Herrera, Washington Nationals (Lisfranc tear – out for season)

Pedro Strop, Chicago Cubs (hamstring)

Strop still hopes to return before the end of the season.

The Deposed

Dominic Leone, St. Louis Cardinals (injured)

Greg Holland, Washington Nationals (signed)

Cam Bedrosian, Los Angeles Angels

Alex Colome, Seattle Mariners (traded)

Brad Ziegler, Arizona Diamondbacks (traded)

Hector Neris, Philadelphia Phillies

Sam Dyson, San Francisco Giants

Jeurys Familia, Oakland Athletics (traded)

Tyler Clippard, Toronto Blue Jays

Joakim Soria, Milwaukee Brewers (traded, injured)

Brad Brach, Atlanta Braves (traded)

Keone Kela, Pittsburgh Pirates (traded)

Kyle Barraclough, Miami Marlins (injured)

Ryan Tepera, Toronto Blue Jays

Fernando Rodney, Oakland Athletics (traded)

Corey Knebel, Milwaukee Brewers

Hector Rondon, Houston Astros

Seranthony Dominguez, Philadelphia Phillies

Bud Norris, St. Louis Cardinals

Brad Boxberger, Arizona Diamondbacks

Blake Parker, Los Angeles Angels

Dellin Betances, New York Yankees

Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees

Trevor Hildenberger, Minnesota Twins

A.J. Minter, Atlanta Braves

Chapman has seemingly lost his job, but nobody should be too perturbed by it. He’ll be back atop the depth chart next season. Minter might have a future as a closer too.

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The Steals Department

Surprise! Greg Allen received only 12 plate appearances in the last week, but that didn’t stop him from stealing four bases. He’s being groomed as a frequent pinch runner and defensive replacement. Five others – all notable base thieves – swiped three bags. Trea Turner (43) is currently the only member of the 40 steal club. Whit Merrifield (39) could join him. Mallex Smith (36) would need a big finish to get there.

Tier 1: The World Beaters (5)

Trea Turner

Whit Merrifield

Mallex Smith

Billy Hamilton

Starling Marte

Marte has a balky calf and therefore might take it easy over the final weekend. Hamilton still struggles to reach base often enough to make his presence fully felt.

Tier 2: Consistent Thieves (7)

Adalberto Mondesi

Jose Ramirez

Jonathan Villar

Lorenzo Cain

Dee Gordon

Mookie Betts

Mike Trout

Gordon hasn’t stolen a base in September. He’s twice been caught stealing. In his age 30 campaign, we might be seeing the beginning of the end for the former perennial sleeper.

Tier 3: Still Speedy (5)

Roman Quinn

Ender Inciarte

Tim Anderson

Jose Peraza

Christian Yelich

Quinn may be the single best target for stolen bases. The Phillies are giving him a full tryout while planning for next season. He’s already made a name for himself at the plate, on the bases, and in the field. Inciarte benefits from facing three righties in Philadelphia over the weekend.

Tier 4: Some Flaws (5)

Javier Baez

Andrew Benintendi

Jean Segura

Terrance Gore

Francisco Lindor

Gore’s biggest flaw is that he’s only a pinch runner. This has mixed uses. If all of your counting stats are secured except for steals, you can use him to chase the category. Since he can’t hit, it’s good for your rates that he doesn’t bat. And the Cubs are likely to set him loose on the bases a couple more times. In fact, I started him over J.D. Martinez for the final week of my 20 team dynasty. I needed to make up three steals and had no risk or upside in home runs, runs, or RBI.

Tier 5: Not Slow (6)

Amed Rosario

Jose Altuve

Cesar Hernandez

Trevor Story

Ronald Acuna

Ozzie Albies

Altuve will probably sit tonight as part of the Astros hangover game. Rosario is doing his best to prove he deserves another season as a starter in New York. Sometimes it takes top prospects a couple years to make much needed adjustments.

Honorable Mentions

Harrison Bader

Tony Kemp

Charlie Blackmon

Michael Taylor

Travis Jankowski

Elvis Andrus

Jackie Bradley Jr.

Greg Allen

Rajai Davis

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