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Saves and Steals: Helsley off to dominant start

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In this week’s Saves and Steals, Ryan Helsley and Kyle Finnegan lead the way in baseball with 13 steals. Josh Hader starts to get right with a good week on the mound. And Pete Fairbanks returns for the Rays. And in the steals department, Brenton Doyle is flashing some intriguing power/speed upside as a solid home streamer.

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Fantasy Baseball Closer Rankings

Tier 1: At the Top

Emmanuel Clase – Cleveland Guardians
Mason Miller – Oakland A’s
Edwin Díaz – New York Mets

Clase overtakes Díaz for a new number-one closer in the rankings for the first time this season. The 26-year-old right-hander is on a roll, allowing just one walk with no hits over his last six outings. Clase is up to 12 saves with a 0.42 ERA, 0.66 WHIP, and 22 strikeouts across 21 1/3 innings.

Miller also makes a jump into the second spot. No saves for him this week, but he did strike out five batters over two scoreless innings against the Astros. From a skills perspective, there may not be a better reliever in baseball.

Díaz picked up a win with a scoreless inning against the Braves, then allowed two runs to blow his second save chance in two weeks. He’s given up four home runs this season after giving up just three in 2022. It’s likely the result of a two-mph downtick in his four-seam fastball velocity after a missed season. Still, the veteran closer possesses elite strikeout ability and gets the benefit of the doubt.

Tier 2: The Elite

Clay Holmes – New York Yankees
Ryan Helsley – St. Louis Cardinals
Josh Hader – Houston Astros
Robert Suarez – San Diego Padres
Camilo Doval – San Francisco Giants
Jhoan Duran/Griffin Jax – Minnesota Twins

Holmes worked around two walks and a hit, striking out three batters for his 12th save on Sunday against the Rays. He keeps his ERA perfect, with no runs allowed and 21 strikeouts across 18 1/3 innings.

Helsley added a pair of saves to give him 13 on the season. He’s been outstanding, with a 1.35 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, and 23 strikeouts across 20 frames. He’s seen a drastic improvement in his walk rate, with only two free passes issued.

Hader had a great week on the mound, recording two saves and a win. He’s turning things around, with one run allowed over his last seven outings. Some regression was bound to come for Hader, who’s still striking out batters at a 38 percent rate.

No saves this week for Suarez, but he did fall in line for a win on Friday with a clean inning against the Dodgers. He’s still allowed just one run on the year, posting a 0.49 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, and 16 strikeouts across 18 1/3 innings. Doval converted his seventh save on Wednesday, striking out two batters in a scoreless inning against the Dodgers.

A closer committee is certainly not what fantasy managers want to see in Minnesota, but that’s what we’re looking at after Jax converted another save this week. Jax is up to five this season, while Duran has converted three across seven scoreless outings since he was activated from the injured list.

Tier 3: The Solid Options

Kirby Yates – Texas Rangers
Kenley Jansen – Boston Red Sox
Jordan Romano – Toronto Blue Jays
Raisel Iglesias – Atlanta Braves
Kyle Finnegan – Washington Nationals
Paul Sewald – Arizona Diamondbacks
Andrés Muñoz/Ryne Stanek – Seattle Mariners

Yates hadn’t seen a save chance all week going into Tuesday’s game against the Guardians. He appeared in a non-save situation, giving up a run on a hit and a walk. It was the second run he’s allowed this season across 17 1/3 innings while going 7-for-7 in save chances.

Jansen continues his strong season in his age-36 campaign. He converted two saves this week, giving him seven with a 2.45 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 19 strikeouts across 14 2/3 innings.

It was a mixed bag for Romano this week. He earned a save Saturday, striking out two against the Twins, then picked up a win with two scoreless innings against the Orioles on Monday. Romano then got a save chance on Wednesday but surrendered a two-run homer to take the loss.

I want to keep giving Iglesias the benefit of the doubt, but his strikeout rate remains way down due to a lack of whiffs. He still has ten saves and a 2.76 ERA across 16 1/3 innings, closing for one of baseball’s best teams. But the lack of strikeouts remains a concern.

Finnegan continued his scoreless streak with a save against the White Sox on Tuesday. He’s up to 13 saves with a 1.56 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 17 strikeouts across 17 1/3 innings. Finnegan has gone 16 consecutive scoreless outings since giving up three runs on March 31.

Sewald picked up his second save of the season on Wednesday against the Reds. Meanwhile, Kevin Ginkel was charged with two blown saves this week. He’s allowed one run with four strikeouts over four innings of work since coming off the injured list.

Muñoz recorded five outs, striking out three on Wednesday for his second save of the week and sixth of the year. The 25-year-old right-hander has posted a 1.47 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, and 24 strikeouts across 18 1/3 innings.

Tier 4: There’s Upside Here

Jose Alvarado/Jeff Hoffman – Philadelphia Phillies
David Bednar – Pittsburgh Pirates
Alexis Díaz – Cincinnati Reds
James McArthur – Kansas City Royals
Pete Fairbanks – Tampa Bay Rays
Jason Foley – Detroit Tigers
Trevor Megill – Milwaukee Brewers
Tanner Scott – Miami Marlins

Alvarado tossed three perfect frames this week, picking up his eighth save against the Mets on Monday. Strikeouts are still way down for the 28-year-old left-hander, posting a 23.2 percent strikeout rate on a career-low 9.3 percent swinging strike rate.

Bednar converted two saves this week for his eighth of the season. He continues to chip away at his 8.44 ERA. Díaz has also struggled to suppress runs in Cincinnati. He blew a save and took the loss Monday against the Diamondbacks.

McArthur surrendered solo homers in both outings this week, but held on for a pair of saves, giving him ten on the season with a 4.58 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, and 21 strikeouts across 19 2/3 innings. In Tampa Bay, Fairbanks has tossed a pair of scoreless innings since coming off the injured list, but Jason Adam recorded his third save this week. Fairbanks should step back into the closer role but still carries heightened injury risk.

Foley got back into the saves column with his tenth of the season on Monday against the Marlins. He remains the favorite to lead the team in save chances going forward in Detroit. Meanwhile, Megill has taken charge in Milwaukee, recording two more saves this week for five on the season. And Scott has pitched well of late, with ten consecutive scoreless outings. He earned a win and recorded his fifth save. AJ Puk recorded a save in the tenth inning on Tuesday in his first appearance out of the bullpen since he was activated from the injured list on Monday.

Tier 5: Just Getting By

Hector Neris – Chicago Cubs
Michael Kopech – Chicago White Sox
Carlos Estévez – Los Angeles Angels
Daniel Hudson/Alex Vesia – Los Angeles Dodgers
Craig Kimbrel/Yennier Cano – Baltimore Orioles

Neris fell in line for a win on Sunday with a scoreless inning against the Pirates, working around two hits and a walk. He’s made only two clean appearances all season as he continues to work under pressure by allowing baserunners. Adbert Alzolay had picked up a save but was placed on the 15-day injured list with a right flexor strain.

Kopech worked around a pair of walks on Wednesday, striking out two for his fifth save against the Nationals. Jordan Leasure and John Brebbia also recorded saves this week, though Kopech remains the primary closer. He’s posted a 3.32 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and 29 strikeouts across 21 2/3 innings.

Estévez gave up two runs in the ninth inning on Friday against the Royals, blowing a save and taking the loss. He bounced back with a scoreless inning in a non-save situation against the Cardinals. He now holds a 5.68 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 15 strikeouts across 12 2/3 innings. On the bright side, his underlying peripherals look strong, as he’s yet to walk a batter this season.

It’s been a full committee in Los Angeles, with J.P. Feyereisen recording a save for the team this week. Evan Phillips tossed a bullpen session on Wednesday as he progresses through his rehab from a hamstring injury.

Kimbrel made three scoreless appearances this week, two in the seventh inning and one in the eleventh, recording a pair of holds and a win as he looks to work his way back into the closer role. Yennier Cano recorded a save on Friday and blew a save chance on Monday.

Tier 6: If You Must

Jalen Beeks – Colorado Rockies

Beeks recorded three saves this week as he’s taken hold of the closer role in Colorado. Though, his 2.21 ERA can be deceiving. He’s only struck out 14 batters while walking 11 across 20 1/3 innings.

Injured

Devin Williams – Back
Evan Phillips – Hamstring

Steals Department

Elly De La Cruz added to his MLB lead in steals, swiping seven bags this week to give him 26, nine more than José Caballero’s 17 on the leaderboard. Brenton Doyle got going on the bases, collecting four steals. The 26-year-old outfielder is having an excellent season at the plate, hitting .281/.337/.464 with five homers, 28 runs scored, 13 RBI, and eight steals across 169 plate appearances. His batting average has been buoyed by a .376 BABIP, but playing your home games in Colorado will do that. But it does help to have a strong 42.1 percent hard-hit rate. Doyle has also made strides in his strikeout rate, dropping from 35 percent last season to a manageable 27.8 percent. He’s available in over half of all Yahoo leagues and should be rostered and started as a streamer at home. Cardinals’ shortstop Masyn Winn stole a pair of bases this week to give him seven on the year. The 22-year-old hit leadoff for the first time on Tuesday against a left-handed starter. He’s yet to go yard this season but has displayed excellent contact and on-base skills, slashing .281/.346/.364 while striking out under 20 percent of the time across 138 plate appearances. Continuing to lead off against southpaws could present more stolen base opportunities.

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