With only two lineup locks remaining for weekly Fantasy baseball leagues, we're running out of time to secure saves. A little less speculation would do nicely, thanks.
To that end, I'm happy to inform you that I no longer have any doubts as to who's handling the ninth inning for the Cardinals, where Giovanny Gallegos has settled into the role he should have had all along along, or for the Pirates, where Richard Rodriguez has gotten three of the last four chances and is still sporting a 0.75 WHIP and 12.1 K/9 despite some recent hiccups. So you can add them with confidence, wherever they're available.
Unfortunately, there are still nine teams that, as best I can tell, have yet to settle on a closer. I size up each of those situations below, along with three others (the Padres, Cubs and Rockies) that may at least be on the verge of stabilizing.
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).
When the Padres acquired Trevor Rosenthal from the Royals more than a week ago, the suspicion was that he'd take over in the closer role with Emilio Pagan on the IL and Drew Pomeranz just coming back from it. That theory has been put to the test only twice so far, most recently Wednesday, but it was upheld in both cases, with Rosenthal working a scoreless ninth inning for the save. Pomeranz, meanwhile, has worked exclusively in a setup role during that time.
Pagan's return from the IL this week could still complicate matters since he, like Rosenthal, throws right-handed, but given that Pagan wasn't exactly firing on all cylinders before hurting his biceps, it still seems like it's Rosenthal's job to lose.
This one appears to have stabilized, albeit rather quietly, with Jeremy Jeffress recording four straight saves for the Cubs. He's doing it mostly on the strength of his ground-ball rate, his strikeout and walk rates both lacking, which means he's not totally in the clear. If he falters, there may still be some hope of rehabilitating Craig Kimbrel given that he has generally pitched well in low-leverage situations, and of course, Rowan Wick has also spent some time in the closer role.
The acquisition of Mychal Givens at the trade deadline seemed like an obvious attempt to stop the Rockies' closer carousel, but apparently, his new team is just as reluctant to use him in that role as his old one was. Daniel Bard is responsible for all three of the Rockies' saves since then (and five of their last six overall) while Givens has made four appearances in more of a setup role. He still seems like the obvious choice to step in if the 35-year-old Bard falters, especially given how ugly things have gotten for Carlos Estevez and Jairo Diaz, but Wade Davis' eventual return could still shake things up.
The Blue Jays briefly turned back to Anthony Bass after Jordan Romano went down with a finger injury, but Rafael Dolis has been unhittable through four appearances in September, converting two saves. They're both just biding time for Ken Giles' return, though, which is expected this weekend, and while it sounds like the Blue Jays won't immediately move Giles back into the closer role, my suspicion is he'll be back there before the end of next week.
Is ... is it possible Nick Anderson is just the closer now? No, it couldn't be that simple — not for the Rays. But for all the times they've appeared in my Bullpen Report this year (i.e., every single one), this is the first time I've been able to narrow their situation down to just two names.
Diego Castillo recorded three straight saves with Anderson on the IL but then went right back to pitching the middle innings as soon as Anderson came off. Meanwhile, Anderson converted a conventional ninth-inning save in his first appearance back Friday and looked like he might be settling into the role before straining his forearm in mid-August, converting three saves within a span of 12 days to take the team lead. Again, it'll always be messy for the Rays, but the pecking order looks clearer now than ever.
Armed with above-average control and a wipeout slider Felix Pena looked like he might be a natural fit for the closer role when manager Joe Maddon shifted him into it about a week ago. But blown saves in back-to-back appearances over the weekend (in which he allowed a combined five earned runs) may have already taken him out of the running. It's hard to say at this point, though, because Ty Buttrey's latest save Saturday came in Game 2 of a doubleheader after Pena already blew the save in Game 1 and was presumably unavailable. Even with his recent struggles, Pena's overall numbers far outshine Buttrey's.
So is Kevin Ginkel the closer or isn't he? He got the Diamondbacks' first and (so far) only save with Archie Bradley out of the picture but then he worked in non-save situations both Tuesday and Wednesday. The score was tied in both cases, which maybe justified the Diamondbacks using their closer. It doesn't necessarily disqualify him, in other words, and it's not like the Diamondbacks have been holding anyone else back for the ninth inning. The way Ginkel has been performing this year, though, you wouldn't be making a strong push for him even if he for sure had the job.
I still think the job is ultimately Gregory Soto's even though manager Ron Gardenhire has tried him in different spots lately. The left-hander looked like he was settling into the closer role with back-to-back saves at the end of August but then slipped out of it with a not-so-ugly one-run blown save last Friday. Jose Cisnero, whose numbers once rivaled Soto's, has seemingly disqualified himself by allowing a combined five earned runs in his past two appearances. Buck Farmer continues to work the eighth inning and remains a possibility, but he doesn't seem like as good of a fit as Soto, who could be a longer-term fit as a 25-year-old.
The Royals have no shortage of exciting closer possibilities, led by Scott Barlow with his 11.5 K/9 and Josh Staumont with his 15.5 K/9, but the team's first three save chances after dealing Trevor Rosenthal to the Padres went to Jesse Hahn, Greg Holland and Barlow, respectively. Barlow didn't make his easy, though, so it wasn't too surprising for manager Mike Matheny to turn back to Holland for the team's fourth save chance sans Rosenthal Wednesday, which the 34-year-old converted with ease. It would suggest he's in the driver's seat, but with Matheny, you never know. He took his time before settling on Rosenthal the first time around. Why not Staumont? As good as his strikeouts are, he also has 6.5 BB/9.
If it was as simple as manager Gabe Kapler playing matchups between the right-handed Tyler Rogers and the left-handed Tony Watson, who each have two saves over the past week and a half, we'd have a reasonable plan of attack, but Sam Coonrod has two saves of his own during that stretch despite an 8.10 ERA. Watson has the best numbers for and most experience in the role, and the Giants do have another reliable left-hander in Sam Selman, meaning they don't need to be so fixated on keeping Watson versatile.
Though Yoshihisa Hirano is widely assumed to have the role, Yohan Ramirez has recorded three of the Mariners' four saves with Taylor Williams out of the picture, including the most recent one. He has the right strikeout rate for the role but also a walk rate that should be disqualifying, which is why my money is still on Hirano even though he hasn't put his best foot forward here so far in September.
The Orioles are said to be easing Hunter Harvey into the closer role after he missed the first month with a sore elbow, and so far, all his appearances have come in the seventh or eighth inning. So who would actually handle save chances if Harvey still isn't ready? We know Cole Sulser was removed from the role and then allowed three earned runs in an appearance two days later, so presumably, he's out. Since then, though, the Orioles haven't tipped their hand by holding anyone back for the ninth inning. Feels like a total guessing game as we await the inevitability of Harvey's first save.