MLB Closing Bell: Chasing Steals
Greg Jewett rings the Closing Bell for Tuesday, August 7 by examining the strategy of chasing steals on the waiver wire as well as taking a look at Bryce Harper's hot streak and telling you what to watch for on the MLB evening slate.
It’s an age old adage to chase saves on the waiver wire, but steals seem to be tougher to come by in fantasy this year. When Whit Merrifield led the American League with 34 last season, it should come as no huge surprise to see stolen bases down across baseball in the midst of the fly ball revolution. However, Trea Turner stole his major league leading 31st base in the day game of his doubleheader versus Atlanta. Turner’s on pace to swipe 45 which would be the lowest total to lead the National League since Eric Young’s 46 in 2013.
Looking to the wire, not much remains unless Mallex Smith sits on it. Smith has caught fire of late, although he’s streaky. He’s slashing .411/.488/.644 since the start of July in 26 games (22 starts) with eight stolen bases. Smith’s moved to within three of the lead in the American League in the category where Dee Gordon ’s tied with José Ramírez with 26. Keep in mind, both of these players reside on teams hoping to play deep in the postseason, so health will be important. This leaves the door open for Smith to not only help out owners feeling the need for speed, he could finish atop the standings in his league for steals this year. Stay tuned.
Another busy day of transactions, so here’s the updates by teams for clarity.
- Reinstated Chad Pinder from the disabled list. They also activated Mike Fiers , slated to start on Wednesday, and Shawn Kelley .
- Returned Franklin Barreto , Ryan Dull and J.B. Wendelken to the minors to clear space on the active roster.
- Both Joey Votto (knee) and Preston Tucker (foot) will get tonight off in New York due to lingering injuries. Watching Votto run last night was not easy.
- Robert Stephenson will not only make a start on Wednesday, he will join a six-man rotation going forward. Stephenson led the International League in wins with 11, was second in strikeouts (135) and second in batting average against (.184) prior to this promotion. He’s still handing a bit few too many walks, but could be worth a flier for the rest of the year due to strikeout upside.
- Place Max Fried (groin) and Shane Carle (shoulder inflammation) on the disabled list after Game 1 of today’s doubleheader to get arms in the bullpen. Adam McCreery and Wes Parsons from Triple-A to potentially fill-in innings tonight.
- With Fried out for his next start, there’s no clear answer right now with Luiz Gohara nursing a sore shoulder and Kolby Allard getting hit hard this afternoon. Perhaps this could open the door for a Touki Toussaint debut, but it remains to be seen.
- Placed Brandon Drury on the disabled list with a fractured hand. It’s been a lost season for Drury at this point.
New York Yankees
- In announcement which surprised no one, Jacoby Ellsbury underwent hip surgery and will be sidelined for the next six months. Another ghost of fantasy pasts.
New York Mets
- Steven Matz will miss at least one more start due to lingering soreness in the flexor-pronator strain in his left forearm. Corey Oswalt will take his spot in the rotation until Matz can return.
That Just Happened
Since the inception of the second half, Bryce Harper ’s been red hot. He tallied two more hits in Game 1 including his 27th home run with two RBI. Over 54 at-bats since the break, Harper’s hitting a robust .370/.478/.704 with 14 runs, six doubles, four home runs, 16 RBI, 10 walks and three stolen bases. Why? He’s been driving the ball to all fields dating back to June 20th, when his average hit its nadir, .209. Here’s his heat map in the games since:
Teammate Ryan Zimmerman added his seventh home run going 3-for-5 with two doubles and three RBI. If he gets hot, this could spark a slumbering offense which needs to make a move in the standings.
What if Juan Soto qualified among the league leaders? Then he’d be second in baseball in on-base percentage. His owners will need to be satisfied with him reaching base all five times this afternoon with two hits in as many at-bats and three walks. Soto’s walked 49 times this year with six of them being intentional. The most by a teenager in a season? Rusty Staub walked 59 times for the record and he shares the most intentional with Ken Griffey Jr. of eight. Soto could break both by the end of August.
For Atlanta, steady Nick Markakis went 2-for-4 with an RBI. He’s hitting .321/.387/.492 on the year with 13 home runs and 69 RBI. Plus, he’s pacing towards 92 runs, 19 home runs and 103 RBI representing one of the best stories in fantasy so far.
Tough two game series for the Giants. Dereck Rodriguez and Madison Bumgarner will throw a combined 14 shutout innings against Houston and neither will get a win for their efforts. Bumgarner turned in one of his best outings all season limiting the Astros to five hits and three walks in seven innings striking out seven. He generated 13 swinging strikes and 19 called on 99 pitches.
Once again, it’s Héctor Rondón in the ninth inning for the save chance for Houston despite the addition of Roberto Osuna . Rondon’s converted 13 of his last 14 save chances and extended his road scoreless streak to 22.1 innings giving up a walk and striking out two.
What To Watch For
There’s no pitch count for Tyler Glasnow as Tampa Bay tries to extend him as a starter going forward. Best case scenario, he gets four effective innings.
Will the Blue Jays hitters stay hot or will the surging Red Sox rotation hold them down? Aledmys Diaz has surged in the second half hitting .372 in 43 at-bats with six home runs and 11 RBI. Randal Grichuk ’s added 12 extra-base hits (nine doubles, three home runs) over his last 17 games with a .319 average. Boston’s starting pitching owns a cumulative 1.74 ERA in 15 games since the break. Something’s got to give tonight in Toronto.
Can Christian Yelich continue to rake? He’s slashing .479/.500/.915 to start the second half with six home runs and 16 RBI.
Be sure to check back in the morning for Justin Mason’s Round Up to stay ahead of the competition in your league.