It’s a sad day in the Steals (and Homer) Department. Christian Yelich is out for the season with a fractured knee cap, an injury which is expected to heal cleanly in time for a relatively normal winter progression. Losing Yelich takes one of baseball’s best power and speed duos out of the pennant race – a tough blow for the Brewers and his fantasy owners. There’s no replacing his multi-faceted production.
No closer managed more than two saves in the last week. Kirby Yates (40) maintained his lead. Only Aroldis Chapman (36) is within range to catch him over these final two-plus weeks. Brad Hand (34), Roberto Osuna (32), and Will Smith (32) round out the top five.
Smith is currently day-to-day with a back injury. It’s possible he’ll miss the remainder of the season for precautionary reasons. Neither he nor the Giants have sounded any alarm bells yet so don’t go dropping him unless you are fighting for your playoff life.
Now, shall we go to the tiers? Fair warning, the tiers have shifted considerably since last week.
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Tier 1: The Elite (3)
Kirby Yates, San Diego Padres
Felipe Vazquez, Pittsburgh Pirates
Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees
Vazquez pitched well on the week, but that wasn’t enough to prevent a behind-the-scenes fight with teammate Kyle Crick. Both players received disciplinary fines by the team. There’s no word that Vazquez will miss any time for his role in the altercation. Crick broke a finger and will miss the remainder of the season.
Tier 2: The Good (7)
Liam Hendriks, Oakland Athletics
Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers
Roberto Osuna, Houston Astros
Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers
Hand still has worrying performances in his recent past. His fastball is below his normal velocity, and he’s not inducing as many whiffs as normal. The Indians certainly need him in top form to survive the Wild Card battle and the postseason. The others all pitched well. Hendriks and Hader were flat out dominant. Doolittle’s velocity is still a couple ticks below normal, but it doesn’t seem to be affecting his results.
Tier 3: Core Performers (10)
Ian Kennedy, Kansas City Royals
Taylor Rogers, Minnesota Twins
Ken Giles, Toronto Blue Jays
Carlos Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals
Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds
Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks
Hansel Robles, Los Angeles Angels
Giles won’t be available tonight. Look to Jordan Romano or Derek Law if the Blue Jays manage to carry a close lead into the ninth inning. It’s certainly possible. The Red Sox are barely making an attempt to use major league caliber pitchers today.
Edwin Diaz is formally out of the picture in New York. Rather than use him last night, the Mets opted to force Justin Wilson through a couple lefty mashers. Classic square peg, round hole. It worked though. Lugo was unavailable because he tallied a two-inning save on Monday. While he’s firmly atop the Mets’ depth chart, it’s also clear he’ll still be used on a multi-inning basis.
While he doesn’t get a pretty green up arrow next to his name, Rogers leapfrogged quite a few of his fellow relievers. He’s consistently worked the ninth inning since mid-August while posting excellent rate stats. He appears to be on par with Kennedy and Lugo. The latter would rank higher if his usage was friendlier for save accrual.
Tier 4: Some Guys (6)
Alex Colome, Chicago White Sox
Shaun Anderson, Will Smith, San Francisco Giants
Mychal Givens, Baltimore Orioles
Brandon Workman, Boston Red Sox
Jose Leclerc, Texas Rangers
Joe Jimenez, Detroit Tigers
Anderson has seen his stuff play up significantly since joining the bullpen. His fastball is zipping upwards of three mph harder, and his swinging strike rate has spiked accordingly. With any luck, Smith will be back in action soon.
Jimenez had a rebound week, posting a couple saves and a win in three innings of work. He remains a volatile source of strikeouts and saves at the risk of melting your ERA and WHIP.
Tier 5: The Forgotten (4)
Jose Urena, Miami Marlins
Jairo Diaz, Colorado Rockies
If Tuesday night is any indication, the Marlins intend to hide Urena from left-handed batters. They have a trio of left-handed relievers led by Adam Conley who could jump in on a cheap save or two. Unless one save will literally save your fantasy season, I’d steer clear.
After a long hiatus from save situations, the Mariners finally produced a narrow lead. The club opted to use Bass against some left-handed hitters – ostensibly because Magill has massive platoon splits.
The Cubs bullpen is an outright disaster in Kimbrel’s absence. Cishek blew a save on Tuesday via a walkoff walk. Those are always… anticlimactic. Cishek’s failure could help Wick step to the top of the pecking order. Temporarily.
Diaz is apparently the Rockies first choice as third-string closer. The other candidate, Carlos Estevez, is sidelined with back spasms.
Brandon Morrow, Chicago Cubs (elbow – out for season)
Corey Knebel, Milwaukee Brewers (partial UCL tear – out for season)
Arodys Vizcaino, Seattle Mariners (shoulder inflammation – out for season)
David Robertson, Philadelphia Phillies (flexor strain, out for season)
Jordan Hicks, St. Louis Cardinals (torn UCL, out for season)
Scott Oberg, Colorado Rockies (blood clot, out for season)
Jose Alvarado, Tampa Bay Rays (elbow)
Craig Kimbrel, Chicago Cubs (elbow)
Will Smith, San Francisco Giants (back)
Kimbrel is aiming to return over the weekend. I’m reading between the lines and assuming Smith will be out at least one week. I could be completely wrong. This being September, teams generally won’t bother with niceties like using the injured list or informing fantasy owners what to expect.
Cody Allen, Los Angeles Angels
Anthony Swarzak, Atlanta Braves (deposed with Mariners)
Ryan Brasier, Boston Red Sox
Chris Martin, Texas Rangers
Matt Barnes, Boston Red Sox
Pedro Strop, Chicago Cubs
Greg Holland, Washington Nationals (deposed with DBacks)
Luke Jackson, Atlanta Braves
Sergio Romo, Minnesota Twins (traded)
Roenis Elias, Washington Nationals (traded)
Chris Martin, Atlanta Braves (traded)
Wade Davis, Colorado Rockies
Shane Greene, Atlanta Braves
Edwin Diaz, New York Mets
Jose Alvarado, Tampa Bay Rays
Hunter Strickland, Washington Nationals (traded)
Ryne Stanek, Miami Marlins
The Steals Department
Heartbreakingly, Christian Yelich was all alone atop the stolen base leaderboard with four swipes in the past week. Nobody else managed to nab more than two bags. He’ll finish the season with an even 30 steals. Mallex Smith (40) is battling Adalberto Mondesi (37) for the stolen base crown. Ronald Acuna (34), Jonathan Villar (33), and Trea Turner (31) round out the top five.
Tier 1: The World Beaters (4)
Adalberto Mondesi, Kansas City Royals
Mallex Smith, Seattle Mariners
Trea Turner, Washington Nationals
Ronald Acuna, Atlanta Braves
There’s no change among the top-most quartet of base thieves. Acuna can’t match the others on an opportunity-to-opportunity basis. Luckily for him, he’s on track to lead the league in plate appearances by a wide margin.
Tier 2: Consistent Thieves (6)
Jonathan Villar, Baltimore Orioles
Jarrod Dyson, Arizona Diamondbacks
Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates
Dee Gordon, Seattle Mariners
Victor Robles, Washington Nationals
Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers
The second tier lost Yelich. Andrus is mired in a long slump which is affecting his opportunities. Gordon is quite the dud in most fantasy categories, but he’s still furnishing a healthy batch of stolen bases. He’s six-for-eight over the last 30 days.
Tier 3: Assorted Rabbits (6)
Delino DeShields, Texas Rangers
Tim Anderson, Chicago White Sox
Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians
Tommy Pham, Cleveland Indians
Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies
Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals
Pham is one of the busiest runners over the last month. And as I warned a week ago, players with good instincts on contending teams are more likely to run in September. They’re looking for high leverage runs while many of their opponents are simply playing out the clock.
Merrifield has an ignominious distinction as the only player who has been caught stealing 10 times this season. Although a few more players will likely join him before all is said and done, we usually have at least 10 players reach the double-digit caught stealing plateau. It’s not because runners are better – they’re just attempting fewer swipes.
Tier 4: Names to Watch (8)
Kevin Kiermaier, Tampa Bay Rays
Manuel Margot, San Diego Padres
Tim Locastro, Arizona Diamondbacks
Amed Rosario, New York Mets
Jon Berti, Miami Marlins
Oscar Mercado, Cleveland Indians
Kevin Newman, Pittsburgh Pirates
Yasiel Puig, Cleveland Indians
Mike Trout and Keston Hiura were kicked from this tier due to injuries. Trout should return in short order but probably won’t push his toe injury. Javier Baez is out with a thumb injury. I also removed Betts because I suspect the Red Sox won’t want him to risk injury on the base paths now that the club won’t make the postseason. The new addition is Locastro who has 25 steal speed and will play on a semi-regular basis now that David Peralta is out for the year.
Tier 5: Pure Speed (4)
Billy Hamilton, Atlanta Braves
Johnny Davis, Tampa Bay Rays
Terrance Gore, New York Yankees
Roman Quinn, Philadelphia Phillies
These are players who could help you in one category – possibly without recording a single plate appearance. Hamilton gets into most games for the Braves as a defensive replacement and/or pinch runner. Although he hasn’t posted a speedy week recently, there’s a pretty good chance he’ll nab some bags down the stretch. The Rays are in a closer battle for their playoff lives and thus Davis will be more important. Tampa Bay discovered the speedster in Indy ball.
Gore isn’t currently on the Yankees 40-man roster. If they wanted him, he’d probably be there by now. Quinn is rehabbing his latest injury. He could be back late in the year.