• After giving up a home run and a couple of runs in his previous appearance, Hector Neris was called on for the save last night and pitched around a base hit for his 4th save, striking out a pair in the process. Hector Neris will likely always struggle more with the long ball than one would want for high leverage situations, but he’s also been quite effective this year. In 12.1 innings this year, Neris has a 2.92/3.13/2.57 ERA/FIP/xFIP along with a 2.16 SIERA and a 19/3 k/bb. Although I’m sure other relievers will see some saves, especially with Robertson still out, I’m going to remove the committee tag here as it feels like he’s taking ownership of the role. Truth be told, this has as much to do with the warts of the other options in the pen as much as it has to do with Neris’ success as Pat Neshek is used more situationally, Adam Morgan is a lefty, and Seranthony Dominguez hasn’t been effective early this season. Another name to still look out for is Victor Arano who is still on the IL, but if captures some of the magic he was showing earlier he could be a useful piece for ratios and strikeouts whether or not saves are in the picture.
• Earlier this week I wrote about how A.J. Minter has a pretty strong hold on the closer’s gig in Atlanta, so then he goes and gives up four runs for his first blown save and 3rd loss. Minter now has a 9.72 ERA with a 5.77 FIP, 5.17 xFIP and 4.53 SIERA with 6 walks against 11 strikeouts in 8.1 innings pitched. The velocity isn’t a concern as Minter has been 96-97 in his last few appearances after being below last year’s mark earlier in the year. While Minter is getting strikeouts his SwStr% of 11.1% would be a career low and the whiff rate on his fastball and slider are below his career norms as well. I have made Minter’s situation yellow with Dan Winkler and Luke Jackson behind him but I still think the Braves will give him some time to figure it out and I don’t completely blame him. With that said, the Braves are trying to win games here and they can’t keep going with someone they can’t trust. But with the velo OK, it’s still only 8.1 innings we’re assessing him on. Of more immediate concern than Dan Winkler or Luke Jackson might be an external option if the Braves were to decide to actually spend some money to fix the issue or a starter-turned-reliever. Bryse Wilson was used in the pen on Friday but then he was optioned to the minors. However, between him, Touki Toussaint, Kyle Wright, Luiz Gohara, Sean Newcomb, and Kolby Allard, it’s possible one takes to water in the pen to help alleviate their concerns but where still a far ways away before they’re potentially in that situation and threatening the 9th.
• As good as it feels to unleash someone from a committee it feels just as bad to put the tag back on. Last night Diego Castillo started the 8th inning but was ineffective, leading to Jose Alvarado to finish the inning. With Alvarado throwing 21 pitches, Emilio Pagan was then called on for the 9th inning, getting his 3rd save. If everything went according to plan Castillo would have finished the 8th with Alvarado getting the save, so I’m not going to make this a committee just yet but figured I would still sulk. Diego Castillo started the season strong but he’s allowed runs in three of his last four appearances and Pagan’s recent success could leapfrog him in the pecking order.
• Jeremy Jeffress saw the start of the 8th inning but two hits and a walk later he was removed with Josh Hader getting the final six outs for his 6th save of the year. Although Hader has an elevated ERA of 3.21, he’s been as good as he’s ever been. In 14 innings Hader has a higher stirkeout rate than last year (55% vs 46.7%) and a better walk rate (7.7% vs 9.8%). Hader is giving up a career high 68.4% FB% which is a little worrisome, but if he exchanges a few more runs/home runs for more strikeouts he will still remain the best of the best. Hader has the 46th most strikeouts in baseball and he’s only thrown 14 innings, his SIERA is 1.10, and it’s going to be fun to watch him whether or not he’s still getting saves to end the year in Milwaukee. To that point, Jeffress was thought to be a potential 9th inning replacement for Hader but so far he’s been very disappointing and the Brewers aren’t going to risk wins to let him figure it out in the 9th. Jeffress’ 8.1% SwStr% is his lowest since 2014, far below his career average and below league average as well. Jeffress’ fastball velocity was 91-92 last night which is very worrisome he’ll have to show improvement in that area to be fantasy relevant. I know this is his version of Spring Training but his velo was actually down from where it was in previous appearances this season. The Brewers pen will likely have additions either from outside of the organization or a starter moving to the pen as their entire pen outside of Hader has largely been disappointing.
• Quick Hits: Roberto Osuna threw two innings in the 9th and 10th and got his 2nd win of the year when the Astros scored in the bottom of the 10th. Ryan Pressly got the previous 5 outs and his ERA remains 0.00 as he remains an elite setup/holds option. Luis Cessa struggled with a 6 run lead, leaving Aroldis Chapman to get the final out for his 5th save. The Cardinals went John Gant -> Andrew Miller -> Jordan Hicks to end the game just like our grid drew it up with Hicks getting his 8th save. No save situation in Minnesota but Taylor Rogers got some work in striking out the side for his 5th hold. He remains the best pitcher in the pen but sits behind Blake Parker for saves.
When he's not focusing on every team's bullpen situation, Ben can be found blogging at Ben's Baseball Bias and on Twitter @BensBias