It’s been a busy week. Josh Hader has now allowed at least one run in five straight outings and six of his last seven. Going back to the start of July, he has a 6.19 ERA in 16 innings. That he’s also recorded 16.31 K/9 and 2.81 BB/9 over the span is an indication he remains highly effective. Now is a good time to sniff around with a buy-low trade offer. There’s a decent chance he’ll regain his mojo and a steady closer job. You might also consider stashing Matt Albers and Drew Pomeranz as handcuffs. They’re both quite unreliable.
Sean Doolittle was complaining of fatigue when we last met. Now he’s on the injured list with right knee tendinitis. He’s not expected to be out for long. On the plus side, it’s good news this isn’t an arm injury. He has a long history of shoulder issues. Unfortunately, a lower body injury can quickly lead to arm trouble – undoubtedly why the Nationals sent him to the injured list rather than rehabbing him while on the active roster. Recent struggled play a role too. In his absence, Daniel Hudson , Hunter Strickland , and Fernando Rodney are expected to form an unpleasant (for fantasy owners) committee. As with Hader, this could be just the time to buy low on Doolittle.
That’s not all. We’ve mostly steered clear of Wade Davis and Scott Oberg – at least that’s been my steady advice. Oberg is out for the season, and Davis is showing no signs of supplying passable relief. The door is open for one of Carlos Estevez or Jairo Diaz to step through. Both have appeared in this column in past seasons although neither is a closer-quality reliever. Especially not at Coors Field.
The pecking order for the Mets remains relatively opaque. Seth Lugo coughed up five runs last Wednesday. Edwin Diaz nabbed a one-out save the following day. Two days later, Lugo received the save on a day when Diaz might have been unavailable. Neither has pitched since the weekend.
Now, shall we go to the tiers?
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Tier 1: The Upper Elite (4)
Kirby Yates , San Diego Padres
Felipe Vazquez , Pittsburgh Pirates
Aroldis Chapman , New York Yankees
Will Smith, San Francisco Giants
Smith had a bumpy week, allowing two home runs in a five-out appearance. It was his only outing of the week. The Giants offense bailed him out. He supplied his lucky fantasy owners with a vulture win.
Tier 2: The Lower Elite (4)
Kenley Jansen , Los Angeles Dodgers
Liam Hendriks , Oakland Athletics
Roberto Osuna , Houston Astros
Osuna has tossed clean frames in four of the last five days. If there’s a save opportunity, look for Ryan Pressly to finish off tonight’s game. Hand is in a bit of a slump recently. He’s allowed five runs over his last three innings. The Indians bullpen isn’t the sharpest collection of hurlers so his job is pretty safe. Still, there isn’t much separating him from Hader as a guy with good skills and poor recent results.
Tier 3: Core Performers (5)
Ian Kennedy , Kansas City Royals
Raisel Iglesias , Cincinnati Reds
Here’s a piece of good news. Kimbrel returned from his brief hiatus. He allowed a home run in his first game back from injury. Overall, he’s coughed up 3.14 HR/9 in 14.1 innings. The homers are accompanied by an elevated walk rate. Without his reputation as a much better pitcher, he would rank towards the bottom of the fourth tier.
Tier 4: The Red Flag Club (8)
Hector Neris , Philadelphia Phillies
Hansel Robles , Los Angeles Angels
Carlos Martinez , St. Louis Cardinals
Archie Bradley , Arizona Diamondbacks
Pagan blew a save this afternoon which could be all the space Alvarado needs to regain the top stopper role in the Rays bullpen. Regardless of who sits atop the pile, the Rays will continue to play the matchup game.
Bradley has pitched on three straight days – and allowed a run on two of them. If you’re prospecting for a save, freshly minted setup man Kevin Ginkel might be the guy for you. Ginkel soared through three levels of the Diamondbacks farm system while posting absurd strikeout rates. Thus far, he’s recorded 12 strikeouts in nine major league innings.
Tier 5: Bland (4)
Alex Colome , Chicago White Sox
Jose Leclerc , Texas Rangers
Brandon Workman , Boston Red Sox
Joe Jimenez , Detroit Tigers
Leclerc pitched around three walks on Monday then blew a save via solo home run on Tuesday. Consider claiming Shawn Kelley . Jimenez took the loss on Sunday, his first since taking over as the Tigers closer.
Tier 6: The Forgotten (5)
Ryne Stanek , Miami Marlins
The Mariners keep throwing relievers at the wall. Thus far, none have stuck. Magill blew a save earlier today. It was his third attempt in the last week. The fly ball pitcher looks to be slightly homer prone, although he does have nice strikeout and walk rates built upon a 95 mph heater and two frequently used breaking balls. There’s some potential for mid-tier value.
If somebody emerged from the trio of Nationals relievers with a steady ninth inning job and Doolittle was forced to miss a decent chunk of time, then they would rank adjacent to Melancon. Since these are very short-term assets, there is minimal scope for them to return much value.
Brandon Morrow , Chicago Cubs (elbow)
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)
Sean Doolittle , Washington Nationals (knee tendinitis)
Scott Oberg , Colorado Rockies (blood clot, out for season)
Doolittle should return in short order. Oberg has a scarier road to recovery.
Cody Allen , Los Angeles Angels
A.J. Minter, Atlanta Braves
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 Diamondbacks)
Luke Jackson , Atlanta Braves
Sergio Romo , Minnesota Twins (traded)
Roenis Elias , Washington Nationals (traded)
Chris Martin , Atlanta Braves (traded)
Wade Davis , Colorado Rockies
Mychal Givens , Baltimore Orioles
Shane Greene , Atlanta Braves
Edwin Diaz , New York Mets
Jose Alvarado , Tampa Bay Rays
Hunter Strickland , Washington Nationals (traded)
Romo, Davis, Givens, Diaz, Alvarado, and Strickland all have a tangible chance to escape this ignominious section.
The Steals Department
Delino DeShields is on the move. He’s nabbed four bags in the last week and seven in over the most recent two-week span. Starling Marte is the only other base thief to reach three steals since we last convened. Mallex Smith leads the season with 34 steals followed by injured Adalberto Mondesi (31), Ronald Acuna (29), Jonathan Villar (28), and Jarrod Dyson (27). Sadly, Fernando Tatis Jr. will miss the remainder of the season with an injury.
Tier 1: The World Beaters (3)
Mallex Smith , Seattle Mariners
Trea Turner , Washington Nationals
Ronald Acuna , Atlanta Braves
No change in our top runners. Turner may be three steals behind Acuna, but he’s also taken 182 fewer plate appearances. Those lost opportunities add up. Turner would likely lead the league had he not missed time to injury.
Tier 2: Consistent Thieves (6)
Jarrod Dyson , Arizona Diamondbacks
Jonathan Villar , Baltimore Orioles
Jose Ramirez , Cleveland Indians
Christian Yelich , Milwaukee Brewers
Starling Marte , Pittsburgh Pirates
Elvis Andrus , Texas Rangers
Marte had a weird stolen base drought through the middle months of the season. Lately, he’s turned on the jets, leading to a promotion back into the second tier. The interplay between Dyson and Villar mirrors the commentary from Tier 1. Yes, Villar is ahead of Dyson overall, but he’s also taken nearly 200 more plate appearances. Dyson doesn’t always play so there is more scope for preferring others over him.
Tier 3: Assorted Rabbits (7)
Victor Robles , Washington Nationals
Delino DeShields , Texas Rangers
Tim Anderson , Chicago White Sox
Dee Gordon , Seattle Mariners
Francisco Lindor , Cleveland Indians
Trevor Story , Colorado Rockies
Whit Merrifield , Kansas City Royals
DeShields continues to demonstrate a tantalizing set of skills without showing any signs of maximizing them. He obviously has plus speed, and he can work walks despite a fairly punchless bat. The issue is a 25 percent strikeout rate that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere despite an above average contact rate. In short, DeShields is passive which leads him to fall behind in the count. A little more channeled aggression could potentially help – either to hit for a little more power or at least cut down on the strikeouts. As it stands, he’s just an injury replacement. Since Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara are injured, he’ll play regularly.
Tier 4: Names to Watch (10)
Kevin Kiermaier , Tampa Bay Rays
Manuel Margot , San Diego Padres
Keston Hiura , Milwaukee Brewers
Mookie Betts , Boston Red Sox
Amed Rosario , New York Mets
Oscar Mercado , Cleveland Indians
Mike Trout , Los Angeles Angels
Javier Baez , Chicago Cubs
Scott Kingery , Philadelphia Phillies
Adalberto Mondesi , Kansas City Royals, injured
For a second straight season, Rosario is having a tidy second half. Since mid-June, he’s hitting .359/.394/.515 (.414 BABIP) with four home runs and nine steals (five caught stealing). There’s obviously some muck in that performance – particularly the high BABIP and caught stealing rates. The underlying skill set is unchanged. He’s relatively punchless, impatient, and has enough speed to make a difference.