With the season winding down, wouldn't you know some of the closer scenarios that have given us fits for months on end are finally showing signs of stability, with the Mariners, Reds, Royals and perhaps even the Rays seemingly having settled on just one guy?
Famous last words, I know.
But what those teams are running out there pales in comparison to the latest to emerge for the Cardinals. If you've been stashing away FAB dollars for that perfect saves source, time to throw them all at this guy.
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).
In the last Bullpen Report two weeks ago, it looked like Alex Reyes' removal from the closer role was only temporary, but the Cardinals have since confirmed that he'll spend the rest of the year as a multi-inning reliever in preparation for a rotation spot next year. Meanwhile, Giovanny Gallegos, who was arguably their best reliever to begin with, has restored order to the ninth inning, not only having handled each of the Cardinals' past six saves but also having secured four during a recent five-day span. In a field of flighty saves sources, he's the answer to our prayers.
Matt Barnes' COVID-19 diagnosis came right after the Red Sox decided to give him a break from the closer role, and with the season winding down, I wondered if he'd have enough time to both recover from the illness and regain Alex Cora's trust. But since then, intended replacement Adam Ottavino has blown Cora's trust, leaving the manager to turn to a different reliever for each of the Red Sox's past six saves. With Barnes expected back this weekend, he's still Cora's best hope of regaining stability and thus deserves another look in Fantasy.
It's a sucker's bet, trying to predict manager Scott Servais' bullpen usage, but lately, the scales have been tipping toward Drew Steckenrider in the ninth inning. His save Monday gave him each of the Mariners' past two and four of their past six. Diego Castillo worked the seventh inning and Paul Sewald the eighth, which is how things have generally gone on the days all three have pitched. Helping clear things up is how shaky Sewald has been of late, reminding us that strikeouts aren't everything, and Servais hasn't seemed particularly inclined to use Castillo in the ninth inning. My faith in Steckenrider is beginning to match my faith in Kendall Graveman back when he was still with the Mariners.
Lou Trivino's struggles have mostly taken him out of this conversation, but because no successor has emerged yet, we can't rule him out completely. The other right-hander in the picture, Sergio Romo, has been a disaster area himself of late. Between the two left-handers, Andrew Chafin, a fairly recent acquisition from the Cubs, has emerged as the preferred option, securing two of the team's past three saves (albeit a couple weeks apart), but he took a loss in his latest opportunity Sunday while attempting to put out Romo's fire in the eighth. The Athletics have been in a tailspin of late, giving us little insight into their plans for the late innings.
Granted, this isn't the first time the Reds have had me convinced Mychal Givens is the guy, but it sure seems like David Bell has learned his lesson after meddling a month ago, throwing Givens off his game in the process. Since then, things have re-stabilized. Givens has handled each of the Reds' three save chances in September, working the ninth inning in each of his past four appearances, while Michael Lorenzen, who emerged as the B source for saves while Bell was tinkering with Givens, has worked almost exclusively the eighth. If the Reds would just settle on one guy, he could be a reliable save source with the team still fighting for a playoff spot.
Could it be that Mike Matheny has finally settled on a singular closer? He's another manager who has faked us out in the past, but Scott Barlow's latest run in the role has been the longest for any of their relievers yet. He has recorded six of the Royals' past seven saves, with the other one going to a recently activated Greg Holland last week. But Holland's came in the 11th inning after Barlow had already worked the ninth, and Barlow bounced back with his own save two days later. The right-hander has been the Royals' best reliever this year, so it stands to reason he'd be the one to solidify the role.
Things have gone reasonably well for Carlos Estevez following the ousting of Daniel Bard. He's already up to four saves in September, with an ugly blown save sandwiched in the middle. His overall numbers are enough to make you queasy and certainly not closer-caliber, but the bottom line is the Rockies don't have anyone else. Saves are saves are saves, as the saying goes, and the Rockies do play in their share of close games. If you can withstand the hit to your ERA and WHIP, Estevez might be of some use to you.
I don't know why I even bother to fill out a pecking order. With the Rays, it could be anyone on any day, and we should know this by now. But I do think Andrew Kittredge has emerged as a legitimate front-runner, to the point he may actually worth using in Fantasy as more than just ratio help. Part of the reason is that most everyone else in the Rays bullpen has disqualified himself. Nick Anderson, fresh off an elbow ligament issue, came off the IL throwing 3 mph slower Monday, so he doesn't look like a legitimate alternative. Meanwhile, Kittredge is responsible for four of the Rays' past six saves, with the other two being of the oddball three-inning variety.