As per our usual arrangement, there's much to be said about probably half the bullpens across the league.
A.J. Puk and Alex Lange appear to have settled into the closer role for the Marlins and Tigers, respectively. Meanwhile, A.J. Minter is on the verge of forfeiting the role with Raisel Iglesias (shoulder) set to begin a rehab assignment for the Braves.
Those scenarios, while still developing, are fairly straightforward. The following 10, though, are worthy of further dissection.
Note: "Pecking order" refers to rosterability in Fantasy and not necessarily who's first in line for saves (though it's usually one and the same).
It sure seems like the Phillies have settled on Jose Alvarado as their closer, giving him three consecutive save chances over a four-day span last week. And his performance so far certainly justifies it -- he's averaging nearly two strikeouts per inning. But on the day following that four-day span (Saturday), Craig Kimbrel got a save. No big deal, right? Alvarado obviously needed a day off. But then why did the Phillies turn to him in the eighth inning of a lopsided victory just one day later (Sunday)? Couldn't he have used another day off? That appearance leaves some reason to wonder if it's still more of a committee situation, but regardless, Alvarado is the reliever to have here.
The Astros' last two save opportunities, which came Saturday and Sunday, both went to Bryan Abreu, who's been nothing short of a bullpen ace since the start of the second half last year. So does that mean he's overtaking Ryan Pressly as the Astros closer? I would be surprised. Certainly, Pressly needed a day off Saturday after working three of the previous four days. As for Sunday, the game was tied entering the ninth, so it may simply be that Abreu was the one warming up when the Astros rallied for three runs. Pressly has seemed a little off so far, so it's possible something is going on health-wise. But provided that's not the case, I suspect manager Dustin Baker turns back to him for the next save chance.
Jose Quijada looked like he might be settling into the closer role for the Angels, reeling off three saves in a row at one point, with Carlos Estevez setting up for him once. But then came a total meltdown Saturday in which he allowed five earned runs to the Royals. Not surprisingly, Estevez handled the next save chance the following day. Quijada was due for a day off, regardless of the meltdown, so maybe nothing has actually changed here. But manager Phil Nevin hasn't been particularly consistent about his late-inning bullpen choices, even dating back to last year, and Quijada just gave him justification to continue with that.
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Though he's been activated from the IL, the Rockies haven't said exactly when Daniel Bard would return to the closer role. His control issues this spring being largely psychological, it stands to reason they wouldn't want to push him too hard too fast. But he's had two appearances now without a walk or hit batter. And notably, Pierce Johnson, who filled in for Bard in his absence, worked the eighth inning with a six-run lead Monday. The Rockies may not have said when Bard will resume closing, but they're hinting it'll be soon. And we can hope the yips won't return when the pressure is at its highest.
At this rate, Will Smith might end up claiming the closer role by default. He did handle the team's latest save chance Sunday, but I figured it was because a three-run lead against the Athletics isn't exactly a high-leverage situation, even if it's technically a save chance. Of course, then when manager Bruce Bochy turned to presumed closer Jose Leclerc with the bases loaded in the eighth inning Monday, the right-hander walked in two runs before running into more trouble in the ninth. Smith tried to bail him out, but the Rangers ended up losing in walk-off fashion. It's really been just a couple outings in which Leclerc has struggled with control, which is why I'm not ready to bury him yet, but the next save could go either way.
Brusdar Graterol got the last save for the Dodgers on Sunday, and his last three appearances have all been to finish out a win, with presumed closer Evan Phillips working the eighth inning in the first of them. Unfortunately, there's a complicating factor here. Since that appearance in which Phillips set up for Graterol, Phillips has been away on paternity leave, and now that he's back, Graterol is off to tend to his own newborn baby. So does Phillips lock down the job once and for all now that Graterol is gone? Who knows if the Dodgers will even have a save chance during that short period of time? My read here is still Phillips, but it's in question again.
Just when it seemed like David Robertson had settled into the closer role for the Mets, manager Buck Showalter had to go and muddy the waters again, giving each of the past two and three of the past five saves to Adam Ottavino. In fact, Robertson set up for Ottavino in two of those three appearances. It still seems like Robertson is the more trusted of the two, but rather than handling him like a traditional closer, Showalter is deploying him in the highest-leverage situation, regardless of inning. He did the same with Edwin Diaz a few times last year. It makes Robertson the one to have in Fantasy still, but Ottavino could get his own pile of saves.
Manager Pedro Grifol has shown no inclination to try anyone other than Reynaldo Lopez in the closer role even though the right-hander has gotten knocked around, surrendering four home runs already. It's to the point where Liam Hendriks is now the preferred White Sox reliever to roster even though we still don't have a timetable for his return from non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Hendriks did announce Thursday that he's cancer-free, which is of course great news beyond just baseball but also suggests he'll begin to ramp up soon. If the White Sox need ninth-inning help before he's deemed ready to return, it'll probably be Aaron Bummer or Kendall Graveman who gets a look.
At last report, everything was pointing to Aroldis Chapman snatching the closer role away from Scott Barlow, who appeared to be in full meltdown, but Barlow handled the team's latest save chance Saturday with aplomb. Meanwhile, Chapman suffered his first letdown Monday, failing to preserve a tie by allowing one eighth-inning run to the Diamondbacks. He's still looked fantastic in this reclamation stint with the Royals, so Barlow can't afford too many more missteps. But as of right now, a change doesn't appear imminent.
Seriously, who cares? The Athletics are historically bad, and their bullpen is as complicit as any other unit. So Jeurys Familia got the last two saves. Big deal -- he still has twice as many walks as strikeouts. He's even worse than Dany Jimenez, who turned out to be a big waste of FAB after his save on Opening Day. Both Jimenez and Trevor May are on the IL at present, which I guess limits the Athletics' options, but on the rare occasion they're presented with a save chance, are you confident they'll go back to the same guy? And are you confident he'll seal the deal? Frankly, these saves are too much work.