PT TOMORROW: NL East—Treinen off to a shaky start as closer

Washington Nationals

New closer Blake Treinen (RHP, WAS) has had a rough go of it thus far (6 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 7 K). The 28-year-old has converted three saves in four attempts, but he has been rather shaky at times. In addition to the blown save, he walked the tightrope to earn two saves, surrendering an earned run in one and two earned runs in another. If he continues to struggle, it’s really anyone’s guess as to who manager Dusty Baker might turn to next.

Koda Glover (RHP, WAS) earned plenty of praise this spring. He has been solid, albeit unspectacular so far (5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K), while notching three holds.

Shawn Kelley (RHP, WAS) entered spring training as the favorite to land the gig. One negative in Kelley’s column was the team’s inclination to be careful with his workload, given his injury history. However, he’s also the most skilled reliever on the roster, boasting four straight seasons of 120+ BPV, including a dazzling 191 BPV in 2016. His biggest bugaboo over the years has been the longball and that has bitten him again so far in 2017, thanks largely to an unfortunate 33% hr/f (5.1 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 3 HR, 2 BB, 8 K).

It would appear that Glover is probably next in line. But as we have discussed before, pushing the 24-year-old into that type of responsibility on a contending team this early in his career and expecting him to thrive would be asking a lot. Prior to 2017, Glover had logged just 24 IP at Triple-A and 19.2 IP in the majors (5.03 ERA, 7.3 Dom and 3.2 Ctl in MLB).

If Treinen has a couple more bad outings, Baker could be forced to make a move. Assuming the team holds firm to its policy of monitoring Kelley’s workload, it’s possible that a combination of Glover and Kelley could be used as a way to be careful with Kelley while also easing Glover into the role. Baker has a penchant for being unpredictable, so stay tuned.

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Atlanta Braves

Dansby Swanson (SS, ATL) has gotten off to a dreadful start. The rookie, if you recall, was limited to 39 AB during spring training due to a side strain. He batted a very promising .302 with 3 HR and 3 SB in 129 AB in 2016, but has slashed a puny .149/.184/.234 with 1 HR through his first 49 plate appearances of 2017. It’s worth noting that 90 of Swanson’s 129 AB in 2016 were from the eighth spot in the lineup where he sported a .333/.380/.456 triple-slash with 2 HR. Might manager Brian Snitker soon considering dropping Swanson from the two-hole in the batting order?

Adonis Garcia (3B, ATL), though he too has scuffled in the early going, could be an option to swap spots in the order with Swanson. Garcia performed pretty well in 207 AB while batting second in 2016, batting .285 with 6 HR and 33 RBI.

Nick Markakis (OF, ATL) could also receive consideration, but it seems unlikely that the Braves would want to go that route, as it would give them three consecutive left-handed batters at the top of the lineup. He has just 43 AB from the two-hole since joining the Braves prior to the 2015 season.

Our guess is that Swanson will have a fairly long leash before a change is made. We can’t see the team overreacting to such a tiny sample size. But if the 23-year-old can’t get things headed in the right direction by the end of April, it’s possible that a short-term lineup change could be made.



Miami Marlins

As discussed previously, manager Don Mattingly has publicly stated his desire to give Justin Bour (1B, MIA) more opportunities against left-handed pitching. Prior to 2017, Bour had compiled a .223 batting average with 0 HR and 36 K in 103 lifetime AB vs. southpaws. How’s the experiment going?

The Marlins have faced just two-left handed starters through the games of April 16. Bour got the start against Gio Gonzalez (LHP, WAS) on April 6, but sat in favor of Tyler Moore (1B/OF, MIA) when the team faced Jaime Garcia (LHP, ATL) on April 12. Bour has two hits, two walks and two strikeouts in 11 plate appearances against left-handers so far this season.

The April 17 decision to designate Moore for assignment could be a sign that the team truly is committed to giving Bour an extended look vs. lefties. As the roster is presently constructed, there is no real viable right-handed hitter to potentially take playing time away from Bour unless Mattingly wants to give J.T. Realmuto (C, MIA) occasional starts at first base. Miguel Rojas (1B/2B/SS/3B, MIA) is capable of playing first base, but he owns a pitiful .609 OPS in 515 lifetime AB (.476 OPS in 125 career AB vs. LHP).

This will be something to watch going forward. If Bour can prove himself to be at least adequate against same-sided pitching, it would obviously be a boon to his value.


New York Mets

Jeurys Familia (RHP, NYM), who opened the 2017 season on a 15-day suspension from MLB, made his first minor league appearance on April 15. He retired all three batters faced in a one inning outing for Single-A St. Lucie. Familia was slated to pitch for Double-A Binghamton on April 17 and then make one additional appearance on either April 18 or 19. If all goes well, he is expected to rejoin the big league squad on April 20.

Manager Terry Collins has said that Familia, once activated, will likely make at least a couple appearances in non-save situations initially. That means fill-in closer Addison Reed (RHP, NYM) could remain in the closer role through the end of the week. Reed has converted all three of his save opportunities, but he was knocked around for three hits and two earned runs in a 0.2 IP non-save situation on April 16. Even with that rough outing included, Reed owns a 3.52 ERA and 9.4 Dom with no walks in 7.2 IP this year.

If Familia isn’t sharp in his first couple stints on the mound, it’s possible the team could opt to wait a little longer to move him back to the closer gig, so we would advise hanging onto Reed until Familia has re-established himself as the closer.


Philadelphia Phillies

Joaquin Benoit’s (RHP, PHI) first outing as the Phillies closer went well as he breezed through a perfect frame on just 12 pitches. The 39-year-old’s second save chance didn’t go as smoothly. He entered the April 16 contest against the Nationals with a 4-3 lead, but promptly coughed it up (0.2 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 0 K). Benoit entered the game having not allowed a run, so the blowup must be kept in perspective. However, it reinforced the concern we expressed here previously regarding Benoit’s ability at this stage of his career.

Hector Neris (RHP, PHI), meanwhile, has been pitching well. Through his first six appearances, the 28-year-old has been nearly untouchable (6.1 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K). He posted an impressive 2.58 ERA, 11.4 Dom, 3.4 Ctl and 135 BPV in 80 IP a year ago.

Edubray Ramos (RHP, PHI), aside from a high walk tally, has pitched pretty well (5.1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 6 K). It’s also worth noting that one of those free passes was intentional. The 24-year-old boasted a 3.75 xERA, 9.0 Dom, 2.5 Ctl and 110 BPV in 40 IP in 2016. He is likely further back in the pecking order at the moment, but he’s worth watching.

One possible reason the Phillies went with Benoit to replace Jeanmar Gomez (RHP, PHI) was to try to give his trade value a boost. It also makes some sense from a financial standpoint to attempt to delay Neris’s ascent to the closer job, but Neris is already 28 years old, so that shouldn’t be a major concern. The team is said to prefer Neris in that Andrew Miller (LHP, CLE) role. However, if the ninth inning continues to be a problem, they’ll probably be forced to scrap that strategy and name Neris the closer. 

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