It’s a tenuous time of year for fantasy owners. Amidst all the buy low and sell high noise, one needs to take stock of trends along with the standings. For instance, representing one of the top two picks at the position, Blake Treinen seems a bit off compared to last year. He recorded his 13th save last night, but needed to work around a hit and two walks. Through four innings this month, Treinen’s walked five batters with only two strikeouts. Overall, his 3.16 ERA accompanies a 4.79 xFIP with a drop in ground ball percentage by over 12 percentage points while his walk rate continues to rise sitting at 12.7 percent, his highest rate over his career. It could be mechanics or a hangover from usage last year, but it needs to be monitored.
Representing the only stabilizing force in the Nationals bullpen, Sean Doolittle suffered his third blown save last night in San Diego. He started his outing striking out Manny Machado but allowed a triple by Eric Hosmer. Doolittle bounced back to strikeout Franmil Reyes but a two out single by Josh Naylor, a stolen base and another two out hit by Austin Hedges led to the blown save and loss. Doolittle’s currently on pace for 72 games and 69.1 innings. He last pitched 69 innings in 2013. Over the prior three seasons, Doolittle’s recorded 45, 51.1 and 39 innings with a myriad of injuries. Accumulating outings in games due to his bridge continues to fray Doolittle’s performance this year. His 2.89 FIP and 4.42 xFIP seem to meet in congress at his present 3.62 ERA but his 1.35 WHIP seems out of character. Not saying there will be an injury, but, owner of Doolittle could benefit from dealing him now before something happens to Doolittle or if the Nationals drift from innings which matter.
Targeting Hector Neris does not illicit feelings of feelings of euphoria, however, he’s one of five relievers this year with at least 13 saves and an ERA below two. Neris held on for his 13th save last night navigating around a walk and hit with two strikeouts. He’s generating more ground balls this year and armed with a 3.11 xFIP, could continue to succeed in the role of primary closer for the Phillies. Of almost equal importance, Vince Velasquez recorded his first hold with a clean eighth inning striking out two. With six relievers presently on the injured list, Velasquez could play a large part of high leverage innings if he can successfully transition to the bullpen for Philadelphia.
One of the other five relievers with an ERA below two and 13 saves, Brad Hand slammed the door on the Yankees by striking out the side en route to his 19th save. Through 26.2 innings, Hand’s recorded a 1.01 ERA with 39 strikeouts against seven walks with a career best 32.3 strikeouts minus walks percentage and cut hard contact against by four percentage points. Nick Wittgren chipped in a clean eighth inning for his sixth hold.
Just when it seemed safe to believe in Jose LeClerc, he coughed up a two-run home run to Marcus Semien leading to a loss on Friday night. LeClerc entered this outing with five straight scoreless appearances and in eight of his previous nine with 23 strikeouts versus two walks in 11.2 innings. This could keep his buy low potential going, but, if Texas remains on the periphery of the Wild Card, will they keep Shawn Kelley as the closer with LeClerc setting him up as the extinguisher? Time will tell, but this game should lengthen Kelley’s leash in the short term.
Knowing Taylor Rogers worked two innings for the save on Thursday, this opened the door for Blake Parker on Friday night. Parker did walk two batters with a strikeout in a scoreless ninth for his ninth save. But he should remain on the wrong side of a shared closer role with Rogers based on recent performance. Minnesota should be pushing hard to acquire a reliever like Will Smith, who converted his 14th straight save with a clean ninth striking out two against the Dodgers. Smith’s been scoreless his last six appearances and owns an impressive 34:4 K:BB in 23.2 innings this year.
It can be frustrating to own Ian Kennedy, but, he did notch his fourth save working around a hit with two strikeouts last night. Kennedy’s recorded a save in two of his last three outings with six strikeouts in three innings giving up only a hit. Like Smith, Kennedy owns a tidy K:BB ratio with 32 against four this season. Jake Diekman gets his eighth hold allowing a walk and striking out two. Depending on how the trade market evolves, both Kennedy and Diekman could be moved to contenders to work in setup roles. Stay tuned.
Quick Hits: Pedro Strop secured his sixth save but coughed up a solo home run to Paul DeJong. His time atop the Cubs bullpen will depend on the timetable for Craig Kimbrel’s return…Emilio Pagan yielded a run on doubles by Andrew Benintendi and Xander Bogaerts in the ninth inning last night…Shaking off some rust, Wade Davis returned for the Rockies giving up two hits but recording a scoreless ninth with a strikeout with a four run lead…Cionel Perez gets his first win firing three clean innings with two strikeouts versus the Orioles…Mychal Givens pitched 1.2 scoreless allowing a walk with two strikeouts. He could be back in the closer role for Baltimore with Shawn Armstrong appearing in the seventh inning last night…Roenis Elias handed out two walks but finished a scoreless ninth protecting a four run lead. Brandon Brennan worked a scoreless eighth ceding a hit…Cody Allen pitched two scoreless innings yielding a hit with two strikeouts as he continues to work outside of high leverage…Adam Warren benefits with the win for the Padres despite allowing a run over two innings of work…Hunter Strickland will throw a live bullpen session on Sunday and his rehab outings could ensue shortly thereafter.
Avid fantasy baseball player and writer. You can find my work here chasing the next save or as the lead fantasy analyst on Fantasy Alarm. Any questions, hit me up on the Twitter machine, @gjewett9