April 12, 2024

Saves and steals: Foley shows up in Detroit

The first week of baseball is in the books and we’ve already seen some commotion in the nearby landscape. The Tigers assigned the ninth-inning role to Jason Foley, who looked excellent early on. And Abner Uribe has emerged as Milwaukee’s top closer. In the steals department, fantasy managers lost a significant source of speed when Esteury Ruiz was sent to the minors. Let’s take a look at some stolen base options on the waiver wire and check out the weekly closer rankings.

Level 1: At the top

Edwin Diaz – New York Mets
Josh Hader – Houston Astros

Díaz made his first two appearances since 2022, pitching scoreless innings against the Tigers and Brewers. His fastball velocity is a lot lower, but it’s not unusual this time of year and should come with more work. His slider still generates all the scents. Díaz’s skills and role keep him as the top closer.

Hader made his debut with his new team and appeared in three of the Astros’ first four games. He took the loss on Sunday, giving up a run in a tie against the Yankees. Hader got his first save opportunity on Tuesday, but blew a one-run lead against the Blue Jays and gave up two runs in a loss. The speed and swinging shots are there, and that’s what we want to see early on. The rescues will come.

Level 2: The Elite

Raisel Iglesias-Atlanta Braves
Emmanuel Clase-Cleveland Guardians
Andrés Muñoz – Seattle Mariners
Evan Phillips – Los Angeles Dodgers
Camilo Doval – San Francisco Giants
Pete Fairbanks – Tampa Bay Rays
Evan Phillips – Los Angeles Dodgers

Iglesias has made one appearance so far, striking out a batter in a scoreless inning in a non-save situation. The Braves have won their games by six, eight and nine points. It comes with the territory of having such a powerful lineup.

Clase went 2-for-2 in safe opportunities to open the season, working scoreless innings against the Athletics and Mariners. In Seattle, Muñoz looked fantastic in his first outing, striking out three batters for a clean four-out save against the Red Sox. He pitched the eighth inning against the Guardians on Monday and allowed one run. His strikeout ability makes him one of the best relievers in baseball. But manager Scott Servais will turn to him for the ninth inning in high-leverage situations as needed, opening up some save opportunities for Ryne Stanek and eventually Matt Brash and Gregory Santos upon their returns.

Phillips recorded his second save with a scoreless performance against the Cardinals after winning one in the series against the Padres in South Korea. After pitching for several consecutive days, he got the day off when Daniel Hudson stepped in for a save against St. Louis. Phillips earned a four-out save with a pair of strikeouts against the Giants on Tuesday, his third of the season. He struck out five batters with no walks and allowed only one hit over his first four appearances.

Neither Doval nor Fairbanks have seen a rescue opportunity yet. Doval gave up a two-run homer in his lone appearance against the Padres. Fairbanks gave up a run to the Rangers on Tuesday in a non-save situation after striking out two batters in a scoreless inning against the Blue Jays.

Level 3: The solid options

Clay Holmes-New York Yankees
David Bednar-Pittsburgh Pirates
Ryan Helsley – St. Louis Cardinals
Alexis Diaz – Cincinnati Reds
Craig Kimbrel – Baltimore Orioles
Adbert Alzolay-Chicago Cubs

Holmes had a busy opening series against the Astros, recording three saves in four days as the Yankees completed the sweep of Houston. He worked the tenth inning in a save opportunity against the Diamondbacks on Tuesday. An error and a single would tie the game, giving Holmes a failed save. But he would ultimately come away with the win after the Yankees took the lead in the eleventh. He will have to limit contact and generate more swing-and-miss to avoid problems.

After a scoreless performance against the Marlins in a no-save situation, he botched his first save opportunity the next day but came away with the win. After pitching for several consecutive days, he was unavailable when Aroldis Chapman stepped in for a save against the Nationals on Monday.

Helsley gave up a pair of runs to the Dodgers in his first appearance, but came back with two scoreless innings and picked up his first save against the Padres on Tuesday. Díaz also bounced back from a poor first outing, recording five outs with a pair of strikeouts to earn the victory against the Phillies on Monday.

Like many closers, Kimbrel’s first outing wasn’t his best. He gave up a run to the Royals, wasting his first save opportunity. Just like Alzolay. He blew the save opportunity against the Rangers on Opening Day, then bounced back with a scoreless inning, while striking out a non-save situation on Sunday before notching his first save against the Rockies on Wednesday.

Level 4: There is a positive side here

Jason Foley – Detroit Tigers
Jose Alvarado-Philadelphia Phillies
Robert Suarez – San Diego Padres
Abner Uribe – Milwaukee Brewers
Kevin Ginkel-Arizona Diamondbacks
Jose Leclerc – Texas Rangers
Mason Miller-Oakland A’s
Tanner Scott – Miami Marlins
Griffin Jax/Brock Stewart – Minnesota Twins

Foley jumps to the top of this tier after taking the lead role in Detroit. It was hard to trust Alex Lange with his high running rate, and Tigers manager AJ Hinch must feel the same way. Foley walked just 5.4 percent of batters last season and threw 98 mph on his fastball. Of the early season signings, he has the best chance of keeping the job all season with a lead of more than 25 saves.

Continuing the theme of the closers’ early struggles, Alvarado was hit for five runs in his first outing against the Braves. He picked up his first save on Sunday with a no-hit against Atlanta.

Suarez looked solid early on. He has capitalized on his first three save opportunities, including a five-out save against the Cardinals on Wednesday.

It’s clear the Brewers are entrusting Uribe with the starring role in Devin Williams’ absence. The 23-year-old right-hander has secured three of the team’s first four save chances. Other than a solo home run given to Pete Alonso, he looked excellent. Given the timeline of Williams’ injury, Uribe has a chance of making more than 20 saves.

Ginkel has not yet seen a rescue opportunity because he wants to fill in for Paul Sewald. He had pitched a pair of scoreless innings before giving up a pair of runs in extra innings against the Yankees on Wednesday.

Leclerc has looked shaky to start the season. He gave up at least one point in each of his first three outings, including a four-point performance against the Rangers on Sunday to take the loss. It doesn’t appear yet that his job is in jeopardy. But it could be something to keep an eye on.

It’s a shame the A’s probably won’t give Miller many save opportunities. He gave up two runs in his first outing against the Guardians, but bounced back with four strikeouts in two scoreless innings against the Red Sox. Miller should see most of the save opportunities that occur in Oakland, but they could be few and far between.

The control issues have really come back to haunt Scott. He took a loss on back-to-back days against the Pirates and Angels, walking six batters over three innings to start the season. He made his final appearance in the eighth inning and could lose the closer role if he doesn’t solve his walking problem.

It’s a true matchup-based committee in Minnesota. We saw Jax, Stewart and Steven Okert throw the ninth inning during the first week of baseball. Jax is the only one with a save so far and has been the reliever used in high-leverage spots against the opposition’s best part. It’s likely all three relievers will see save opportunities with Jhoan Duran sidelined.

Kopech really steps up the pace now that he’s moving into a relief role. He recorded his first save on Tuesday, recording five outs against the Braves. It was the second time in three games that he was used for more than one inning.

Level 5: Just getting by

Kenley Jansen – Boston Red Sox
Kyle Finnegan – Washington Nationals
Carlos Estevez-Los Angeles Angels
Chad green – Toronto blue jays

Jansen looked good in Boston’s opening series, picking up a save with two strikeouts in a scoreless inning against the Mariners. However, due to a back problem, he was unavailable for the next few days. This can be a recurring problem throughout the season. Jansen did return on Wednesday to record a save against the A’s.

Finnegan went 2-for-3 in save opportunities for the season. After a scoreless performance against the Reds for his first save, he blew his second shot at Cincinnati with three runs allowed on a pair of home runs. Finnegan rebounded against the Pirates on Wednesday with a scoreless performance for his second save. And Estevez got the job done on consecutive days, recording his first two saves with a pair of scoreless innings with no strikeouts. In Toronto, it looks like Chad Green will get the most save chances until Jordan Romano returns. However, Romano could be back as soon as next week after a successful bullpen session on Tuesday.

Level 6: if you have to

Will Smith-Kansas City Royals
Tyler Kinley/Justin Lawrence-Colorado Rockies

Injured

Devin Williams back
Jordan Romano – elbow
Jhoan Duran – oblique
Paul Sewald – oblique

Department of Stealing

Through the first week of action, Jarren Duran and Brice Turang led baseball in steals with six. Both are off to a great start on the record. After a four-hit day on Wednesday, Duran is hitting 11-for-28 (.393) with four runs scored. He has yet to leave the Garden, but half of his batted ball events have been badly affected. Turang is platooned at second base for the Brewers and gets most of his starts against right-handed pitchers. He is 7-for-16 to start the season, although his hard-hit numbers are much lower. Victor Scott II checked in on last week’s player for steals and one of the big early season waiver pickups, going 3-for-25 (.120) with a pair of doubles, five runs scored and a stolen base through with Wednesday. Lars Nootbaar began a rehabilitation assignment with the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds on Tuesday and could soon return from his rib injury. It will be interesting to see how long the team is willing to give Scott II. But fantasy managers should remain patient with the 23-year-old. In a somewhat surprising move, the Athletics selected Esteury Ruiz to Triple-A Las Vegas this week, removing one of the game’s top stolen base resources. Fantasy managers who lost Ruiz could look to the waiver wire for help in the steal department. José Caballero is listed in just four percent of Yahoo leagues and has three steals while playing nearly every day as the Rays’ primary shortstop. Teammate Jose Siri, who also has three steals, could be available in more superficial formats (38 percent on list).

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