• After my post deadline last night, the Royals’ Kelvin Herrera racked up his fifth career save by striking out the side (around a lone hit) against Minnesota. Before anyone gets too excited, current Royals closer Greg Holland was getting a day off after a laborious 27-pitch save the night before and Herrera’s appearance did not signal a changing of the guard. While he had a solid 22.4% K% in 2012, Herrera’s stuff has been eye-popping during his few outings this season. His fastball velocity is down a tick, but he’s also thrown the pitch less and gone to his changeup a whopping 42.1% of the time. For comparison, he went straight offspeed only 27.2% of the time last season. His SwStr% on the changeup was 21% last season and is up to 33% so far this year, so getting ahead of hitters and pulling the string could mean a serious jump in strikeout rate.
While Ned Yost reaffirmed that Holland was his closer, his velocity continues to be down 1-2 mph from where he finished last year. Holland did go through a similar rough stretch early last season, although a large part of his struggles could be blamed on his .591 first month BABIP. He needs to get the walks under control (already six in three innings) if he wants to hold onto the ninth inning job going forward. Herrera is a solid buy in all formats, if only to see if the increased CH% and corresponding K% surge is real.
• Sergio Romo shut the door on save number six this afternoon at Wrigley. He now has double the saves of any other closer except for Craig Kimbrel and Rafael Soriano. He appears to have picked up right where he let off last year with a 10/0 strikeout-to-walk ratio in six 2013 innings. His fastball velocity (never too high to begin with) is up about 0.5 mph from last year and he still maintains a healthy double-digit swinging strike rate. There was some concern in fantasy circles that he could lose opportunities if he got off to a sluggish start given the Giants’ proclivity to swap closers, but he’s put those fears to rest over the first couple of weeks.
• Speaking of Soriano, he racked up his third save in a row this evening versus the White Sox. So far in 2013, he’s been pretty much as advertised; posting an OK, but unspectacular ~22% K% with single-digit BB% numbers. Soriano might not be the best reliever in the Nationals pen (by peripherals, at least), but he has a big contract and enough talent that his job is one of the most secure in all of baseball. However, with him having worked for the last three days, a guy like Drew Storen might be a nice one-day streamer if you have an empty slot and like making daily moves. It’s likely Soriano gets a little breather should a save situation arise.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]