We're seven or eight games into the season which means there really isn't much to talk about yet. In terms of meaningful statistical analysis, we can talk about pitcher velocity... and that's about it.
Well, there was one notable bit of news, Jeanmar Gomez is finally gone. His transition out of the ninth inning began late last season, and it was finally clinched with a few shaky outings this year. The Phillies bullpen is a great place to speculate. Now that the Phillies have moved on, it's time to turn our speculation to Texas where Sam Dyson is blowing everything.
Greg Holland leads all of baseball with five saves. Fantasy owners who took a risk on him at Coors Field have to be happy. Seven closers are currently tied for second with three saves apiece.
Eduardo Nunez and Brett Gardner share the top of the stolen base leaderboard with five each. Chris Owings and Billy Hamilton are tied for third with four steals. Ten players are tied with three steals including injured Trea Turner. George Springer and Avisail Garcia have both been cause twice in two attempt. I don't know why Garcia was trying to steal a base, let alone two. And I don't want to know.
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Tier 1: The Elite (3)
Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees
Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers
Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles
The Yankees have produced precisely zero save opportunities for Chapman. This is not what owners were hoping for when they invested top dollar. Don't worry, the saves will come.
Jansen only recorded one save in three appearances. He even allowed a couple runs on Sunday. We'll excuse him for the shaky outing. The Dodgers were visiting Coors Field, and he was protecting a 10-4 lead.
After narrowly skating through a couple shaky outings to start the season, Britton's command appears to have returned. He saved three games in the last week.
Tier 2: Nearly Elite (9)
Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox
Roberto Osuna, Toronto Blue Jays
Edwin Diaz, Seattle Mariners
Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians
Kelvin Herrera, Kansas City Royals
Mark Melancon, San Francisco Giants
Addison Reed, New York Mets
Alex Colome, Tampa Bay Rays
Seung Hwan Oh, St. Louis Cardinals
Kimbrel remains on the edge between the first and second tier. His most recent outing on Sunday revealed why he's located here. Two walks and a hit led to a run. Luckily, the Red Sox had a three-run lead. He also struck out the side. Without better command – even a small improvement – Kimbrel will be prone to occasional clunkers.
Osuna returned to action yesterday with a clean frame. A healthy Osuna doesn't offer the elite strikeout rates of other top relievers, although close to 10 K/9 is certainly “good enough.” He has established a track record of allowing very few base runners.
After a good start to the week, Diaz ruined his numbers with an ugly Sunday outing. He walked two and allowed three hits en route to the loss. Diaz's failure was simply the cherry on top of an epic collapse.
Allen has struck out the side in three of his four appearances. Perhaps he'll actually shake the early season run bug. He's made a few mistakes over the plate which is why he's allowed a comical 71.4 percent hard contact rate. Remember the sample is nine balls in play.
The Royals finally supplied Herrera with a save opportunity on Sunday. He blew it via solo home run. Meanwhile, Melancon bounced back from his Opening Day disgrace to record two saves. No strikeouts though.
Reed recorded a couple saves in four innings of work. He struck out six and allowed just two hits. One of those was a solo home run.
Colome has transformed himself over the last two seasons. In 2016, he discarded his curve ball and changeup in favor of throwing nearly 50 percent sliders. Through his first 4.1 innings, he's thrown 69.6 percent sliders. You might think the barrage of breaking balls would lead to free passes. He's issued none thus far while recording three saves.
Oh has allowed at least one run in all three of his appearances. While it's too early to react harshly, it's certainly not an encouraging start to the season. His velocity is down nearly two mph. While I'm hopeful enough to leave Oh in this tier, it may make sense to speculate on Trevor Rosenthal. He struck out the side in his return from the disabled list.
Tier 3: The Mid Tier (6)
Ken Giles, Houston Astros
Wade Davis, Chicago Cubs
A.J. Ramos, Miami Marlins
David Robertson, Chicago White Sox
Cam Bedrosian, Los Angeles Angels
Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds
Well, it looks like Giles' Jekyll and Hyde act is back. His two most recent appearances include three hits, three walks, four runs, and three strikeouts. The stuff remains impressive, but his early season command leaves much to be desired.
Davis has pitched well through four appearances (two saves). He's yet to allow a run. However, the scouting report remains discouraging. The cutter isn't quite what it was in the past, and his velocity is down for a second straight season. I need to see another week or two of success before I feel comfortable promoting him to the second tier.
Ramos is doing his thing. I can't fully endorse a closer without a useful fastball, especially with Kyle Barraclough waiting in the wings. Ramos' offspeed stuff remains superb, and he'll usually get the job done.
Robertson pitched well in two non-save situations – one hit and four strikeouts in two innings. Of greater note is Nate Jones' performance. He has one strikeout, four hits, four walks, and two runs allowed in 3.1 innings.
Bedrosian has opened the season on a high note. He locked down the win yesterday and recorded a five out save on Saturday. Thus far, he's allowed just two hits with five strikeouts in 3.2 innings. Andrew Bailey has yet to allow a run in three innings.
The Red's multi-inning relief ace already has three saves to his name despite a fluid role. He won't be available tonight after recording five outs yesterday. Grab a share of Michael Lorenzen. He went three innings on Monday, but the rest of the bullpen pitched yesterday.
Tier 4: Questions (5)
Greg Holland, Colorado Rockies
Francisco Rodriguez, Detroit Tigers
Blake Treinen, Washington Nationals
Tony Watson, Pittsburgh Pirates
Jim Johnson, Atlanta Braves
Holland has slip-slidered his way to eight strikeouts in five innings. He's yet to allow a hit, although he has walked a couple. It's an encouraging start to his Rockies tenure. I want to see a little more success before I promote him.
K-Rod is off to a clunky start. Rodriguez vultured the win on Friday after he and Bruce Rondon combined to blow a save. Last night, he allowed a run while defending a two-run lead. He's worked two days in a row. Rondon has looked terrible which could open the door for top relief prospect Joe Jimenez. He was recently promoted.
As long as Dusty Baker can look past a 6.23 ERA, he should be very pleased with what he's seen of Treinen. Walks were always going to be a problem. Sure enough, his 4.15 BB/9 is right in line with career norms. He won't continue to suffer from a .400 BABIP.
After Watson could hardly record an out all spring, everybody wanted the next Pirates closer. Watson, it turns out, is not ready to give up his job. He picked up two saves in three scoreless appearances.
Johnson blew the save on Sunday – it was an ugly day for closers. The Pirates eventually won in the 10th inning. Johnson's lack of consistency over a long career is worrisome. He looked like a quality closer late last season. If he recaptures that form, he'll hold off Arodys Vizcaino.
Tier 5: Roller Coasters (7)
Joaquin Benoit, Philadelphia Phillies
Brandon Maurer, San Diego Padres
Brandon Kintzler, Minnesota Twins
Sam Dyson, Texas Rangers
Ryan Madson, Santiago Casilla, Sean Doolittle, Ryan Dull, Oakland Athletics
Neftali Feliz, Milwaukee Brewers
Fernando Rodney, Arizona Diamondbacks
It was almost a certainty that Jeanmar Gomez would lose the closer role. The speed with which he accomplished the feat was impressive. Now Benoit can bring his splitter to the ninth inning. While many fantasy owners are clamoring to see Neris as the closer, his ability to go multiple innings makes him a better setup man. He'll also occasionally lose feel for his splitter. Edubray Ramos is my long term pick for the closer role. We're talking June or later.
Maurer visited Coors Field last night and promptly allowed a two-run home run. I'll forgive his struggles at elevation. Carter Capps appeared in a minor league game yesterday. Aside from the home run, Maurer's looked fine through three innings.
Speaking of fine, Kintzler has sinkered his way to three saves in four appearances. His command isn't quite as sharp as past seasons, but we can attribute that to early season jitters. Hopefully it's not the result of a upwards creeping strike zone.
Whew boy. I thought Dyson might lose his job, but I thought it would because he provides too much value in a flexible role. Instead, he's been terrible through three innings. His velocity is down near two mph. I promise you, he's hurt – whether he knows it or not. Matt Bush is next on the depth chart. He hasn't exactly dominated through his first three appearances.
The Athletics bullpen remains in flux. Madson has been working high leverage scenarios prior to the ninth inning. I still consider him the “closer” even though he has neither of the club's saves. Those have gone to Casilla and Doolittle. Dull was also given a shot at one, but he blew it. As I've been saying, Doolittle is the best reliever in this bullpen. There's a chance he'll steal the closer job while Madson is fussing around with important outs.
Feliz took the loss last Thursday. He allowed a solo home run in a tie game. He responded last night with a clean save. The problem with Feliz is home runs. As long as he can avoid them, he'll be a viable closer. My ranking should reveal my expectations.
Last night while defending a three-run lead, Rodney allowed two runs to score. He also allowed an unearned run as part of his save on Sunday. Rodney figures to play the role of Kevin Gregg this season. There's nobody to take his job.
Roberto Osuna returned to action. There are no injured closers at present. Unless you want to count Huston Street.
Gomez was the most likely closer to fall to a palace coup. Sure enough, it took about one week. Dyson may be the next to teeter off the podium.
The Steals Department
Brett Gardner remains widely available in Yahoo leagues. He's benefited from early-season matchups against Derek Norris and the Rays. Since the Yankees are no longer a slugtastic team – especially with Gary Sanchez sidelined – Gardner will be encouraged to run to his heart's content. While he won't maintain this pace, a 30 steal season with upwards of 10 home runs seems possible. Remember, Yankee Stadium will help him on the power front.
After Gardner, we have three hungry players looking to prove their value. Veteran Brandon Phillips needs to show why he should start over younger players like Jace Peterson. Since Phillips' power evaporated sometime around 2013, he's subsisted purely on grit and hustle. He'll post a high batting average, and he'll probably try to steal 20 bases. Overall, he's not a bad play off the waiver if you need a steady second baseman.
Mallex Smith will offer a much higher stolen base total. He's batting eighth whenever a righty takes the bump against the Rays. His elite left field defense will help to take pressure off his bat, although I've already seen a couple instances when Smith and Kevin Kiermaier have both tried to make the same tough play on a gapper. Smith may struggle with his batting average as he adapt to major league pitching. He's patient enough to post a .300 OBP. He's not dissimilar to Billy Hamilton when he first entered the league.
Another young speedster, Raul Mondesi, probably won't make enough contact to be a regular fantasy asset. However, if you need a steal as part of a thin slate, Mondesi is about as likely to run as anybody. The Royals like to apply pressure on the bases, and Mondesi is rarely caught. It's too bad he whiffs so frequently.