Closing Time: Julio Teheran, back in the Circle of Trust

Bagels under the catwalk (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
Bagels under the catwalk (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

The Orioles won a game. You don’t win games with Salas. It’s all happening. All things seem possible.

Let’s wrap … wrap … wrap wrap wrap wrap it up.

• I want Julio Teheran to be a thing. I want him back in my fantasy world. We’ve had some good times in the past. He was excellent in 2013, 2014, 2016. But 2015 was a step back, and last year’s 4.49/1.37 left a mark, took down teams.

Most of Teheran’s 2017 hiccups came in Atlanta’s new ballpark (5.86/1.49). But it was the first year of SunTrust Park. Maybe the yard would play differently this year, or Teheran would make some adjustments. Into an age-27 season, and with a falling ADP, I was still interested.

Teheran’s first two starts this spring were messy, but he’s been especially sharp over his last six turns: 35 IP, 22 H, 6 ER, 12 BB, 37 K. That’s a 1.54 ERA and a WHIP under one. It’s also an unmistakable cherry pick. We can’t use this as an end-point.

What’s Teheran doing right? The schedule has helped. He stopped Tampa Bay on Wednesday (six scoreless, 0 BB, 7 K), and that offense is a virus. Two starts against the Mets were greatly appreciated (even when they bat in order, you can pitch to them). Teheran did go six solid against Washington, a week after the Nats clocked three home runs against him.

What do some of the under-the-hood stats say? Teheran is getting the most swinging strikes of his career, and his chase rate has slightly bumped up. But the ERA estimators don’t trust his current 3.14 tag (no pie for you). FIP suggests a 4.35 number, SIERA says 4.28. (Don’t talk to me about xFIP. I’m not going to make the home-run assumptions it wants me to make.)

At the end of the day, I’m going to keep starting Teheran in all my mixers, save for the horrific matchups (Coors Field, or the Yankees and Red Sox anywhere). There’s back class here, a pedigree. He never got the feel of his slider last year, but it’s been a plus pitch so far this season. Teheran is at the Cubs next week, and as scary as that roster looks, I’m going to roll the dice anyway. He draws Miami later in the week; good work if you can get it.

Welcome back to the Circle of Trust.

• I wasn’t on the CT Shift the previous night and I know my man D3 mentioned Carl Edwards Jr., but I want to make sure this video found its way into your life.

Kerry Wood called, he wants his 1998 highlight back.

Through six weeks, Edwards grades out as the second-most valuable Yahoo reliever without a save. Okay, we want saves, I get it, but his sick pitching line (17 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 8 BB, 30 K) is worth owning in more formats. He’s on a good team, used in high-leverage roles.

Edwards is currently owned in 34 percent of Yahoo leagues; compare that to Hader, who’s at 87 percent. I’m not saying Edwards is better than Hader, but most of the reasons you want Hader would filter down to Edwards, too.

And maybe Edwards will get save chances later, depending on his control and how Brandon Morrow holds up. And Hader’s role could go away from saves for a bit, depending on what happens to Corey Knebel upon his imminent return.

Bottom line, if Hader is on television, I’m jumping on to watch. And I feel the same about Carl Jr. The NL Central has become flamethrower central.

• You want to go cheaper? We can go cheaper.

Kirby Yates is the second in command in San Diego, with one run allowed over 11.1 innings (4 BB, 14 K, 0.79 RRA and WHIP). His ERA was hard to stomach last year — gopher problem — but he also struck out 87 batters in 55.2 innings, with a tidy 1.10 WHIP. If you play in an innings-capped world, you need guys who can bump up your K/9 and smooth over your ratios. Yates is here to help.

• There’s been a lot of talk about Matt Adams, maybe too much talk. He’s been all over this column for a few weeks. But you should be aware that Adam Eaton’s rehab is proceeding at a slow pace, and it sounds like Adams might have a job to himself for a while, no matter what the Nationals think of Ryan Zimmerman these days.

Adams’s hot bat is just part of the story. He got ripped before the 2017 season, and that explains two things — why he’s a better hitter today, and why he’s less of a problem in the field. A lot of pundits will throw out “regression!” and drop the mic on Adams, but that’s not really actionable or useful. Sure, he’s not going to keep that .304/.421/.734 slash line — only the gods are really that good. But I expect Adams to be mixed-league relevant for an extended period, very likely all year. On my clipboard, he’s a hold.

It remains to be seen if Adams will start more against lefties, or if he’s figured them out at all. But that doesn’t have to be a knock against him, especially in any fantasy format that allows daily moves. Let’s gang up on the righties. It’s a right-handed world. You want this slugger on your team.

• It’s starting to look like the Nomar Mazara breakout has arrived in Year 3. He clocked two homers Wednesday, including the game winner, pushing his slash up to .294/.357/.545 with 10 homers. His plate-discipline stats are essentially static, but he’s pulling the ball more often and hitting it hard more often. And the development arc makes sense — his third season, almost to 1400 plate appearances in the majors, still just 23, a rated prospect. This is a sweet spot.

Hitting in Texas is a fun gig, too, especially in those hot summer months. Mazzy Star has taken over the No. 3 slot in the order, with Adrian Beltre tucked behind him. I wish I had Mazara on all of my teams.

Before we leave Texas, we’ll back up the Andy Behrens endorsement on Delino DeShields. Kid DeShields walked four times Wednesday, and is up to .297/.381/.419, with seven steals in just 19 games. Remember when some pundits thought DeShields didn’t fit the leadoff role? Good times. Go look up what DeShields did batting first last year, and then laugh all the way to the bank. He’s just 25; once again, the timing is right for a bustout year.

• If Zack Cozart was cut in your league, it’s time to jump back in.

His sore back seems to be healing nicely — Colorado didn’t hurt — and he’s on a 7-for-18 binge over the last four days, with a couple of homers. He qualifies at three infield positions, and he had one of the more unheralded breakout seasons of 2017 (.297/.385/.548, 24 homers). Don’t take Cozart’s overall start at face value, good things are coming.

• Toronto has a cast of thousands possible for the closing gig, but it was Tyler Clippard who finished up Wednesday’s win over Seattle.

The story here is as much about when others pitched as when Clippard did — Seung Hwan Oh got the sixth inning, John Axford the seventh, Ryan Tepera the eighth. No one knows how long Roberto Osuna will be out as he deals with an assault charge, so we need to think long term here.

Clippard has a strikeout rate over one per inning, a 1.40 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and funky glasses. He’s still free to add in 55 percent of Yahoo leagues.

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