Sure seems like Peter Fairbanks is right back to closing games for the Rays, handling each of the team's two save chances since returning from a hip injury -- and on back-to-back days, no less. Nobody would have predicted such predictability from the team most notorious for its unpredictable saves distribution coming into the year, but the Rays have been steadfast using Fairbanks as the closer when he's available and Jason Adam as the closer when he's not.
Fortunately (or unfortunately), there are plenty of other teams to keep us guessing, including the Cardinals, who were dividing saves between Ryan Helsley and Giovanny Gallegos until Helsley got hurt. So naturally, Gallegos stood to get the lion's share with Helsley down, right? Apparently not.
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).
For the 2 1/2 months that Helsley was healthy, Jordan Hicks didn't work back-to-back days even once. Now, he's worked back-to-back-to-back days, picking up a save each time. And lest you think it's because Gallegos wasn't available for whatever reason, no. He worked the eighth inning in two of those games. It just seems like the Cardinals are going back to old well here with Hicks, who, prior to a rash of injuries, was thought to be a closer-in-waiting, even recording 14 saves in 2019. He still has an incredible fastball that peaks at 104 mph and has been nails through these first three chances. Of course, he has 4.02 ERA and 1.50 WHIP on the year, which makes me wonder how sustainable it all is.
I'm still calling Helsley the higher-priority Fantasy hurler for now, with the expectation he'll be back in a matter of weeks, but there's a chance Hicks takes the job and runs with it. It's incumbent on his own performance, of course.
While Andrew Chafin and Miguel Castro each got a chance to fail in the closer role, Scott McGough has now recorded two of the Diamondbacks' past three saves. It may not seem like much of a signal, especially since the other of those three saves went to Castro, but if you look closer at the usage, it's pretty obvious McGough is in the driver's seat now.
Each of his past four appearances has been to finish out a game, including twice for a save, once with a four-run lead and once in the ninth and 10th innings of a tie game (in which he ultimately took the loss). In two of those instances, he was preceded by Chafin. In another, by Castro, whose last three appearances have come in the eighth inning. After a rocky start, McGough has a 0.42 ERA, 0.69 WHIP and 10.8 K/9 in 17 appearances, so why wouldn't the Diamondbacks try him out in the ninth?
Adbert Alzolay has three of the Cubs' last four saves, including two in June, but as with McGough for the Diamondbacks, his usage in between the saves is just as telling as saves themselves. Each of his past four appearances has been to finish out a game, including once with a four-run lead, and in the last three of those appearances, Mark Leiter preceded him. Leiter, meanwhile, hasn't finished out a game in six appearances. The closer gig basically comes down to those two, and sure looks like Leiter is the one setting up for Alzolay right now.
Alex Lange has the stuff to close, but his issues locating the ball have come to a head here in June, with him giving up 10 earned runs over his past seven appearances. His struggles have begun to weigh on manager A.J. Hinch, who brought in Lange to work the eighth inning Sunday only to see him melt down there as well. Setup man Jason Foley ended up having to work the final two innings for the save. The extra work made Foley unavailable for Monday's game, which allowed Lange to bounce right back with a perfect ninth for his 11th save. Foley is now the one with the better ERA and WHIP, and perhaps the confidence of his manager, but Monday's save means Lange isn't out of a job yet.
Though Craig Kimbrel seemed to secure the closer role in his absence, there was some concern that Jose Alvarado's return from an elbow injury might reintroduce uncertainty to the back of the Phillies bullpen, but so far, that hasn't been the case. Alvarado did get a save in the 10th inning of a game in which Kimbrel worked the ninth, but the left-hander's other four appearances since being activated from the IL were all in the eighth inning, including twice to set up for Kimbrel. Only twice in his past 16 appearances has Kimbrel entered prior ninth inning. He has a 1.69 ERA, 0.69 WHIP and 15.2 K/9 during that stretch.
Liam Hendriks never fully recaptured the closer role after recovering from lymphoma, and the White Sox's only save chance since he began his bout with elbow inflammation came in the 11th inning. Suffice it to say, then, much is still up in the air here. Kendall Graveman had settled in as the ninth-inning option before Hendriks re-entered the picture, and his usage since Hendriks re-exited would suggest he's still the front-runner for saves. However, Hendriks has received both a cortisone and PRP injection, and the inflammation has apparently subsided enough for him to begin throwing in a week. The plan is still presumably for him to recapture the closer role, so he remains the highest priority in Fantasy.
The Rockies' only two saves since ousting Pierce Johnson from the closer role have come in extra innings, with Matt Carasiti picking up one and Johnson actually picking up the other. In both instances, Daniel Bard worked a scoreless ninth, which would seem to suggest that the 39-year-old, who led the team with 34 saves last year, is ready to step back into the closer role. He, after all, has a 0.79 ERA in 22 appearances since returning from his bout with anxiety.
But his latest two appearances have come in the sixth and seventh inning, respectively, and if you take a closer look at the numbers, you'll see that the walk rate is far too high to entrust to the ninth inning. Justin Lawrence remains the odds-on favorite, then, but it's worth noting that the Rockies haven't made much of an effort to reserve him for the ninth inning. It's all rather messy.
The save chances for the Athletics have been so infrequent this year that they're hardly even worth the bother outside of deeper leagues. And pursuing them is liable to do more harm than good when you consider that the current front-runner has a 6.23 ERA and 1.79 WHIP. Trevor May indeed has three of the team's past six saves, though, all coming in June, and his are the most conventional of the lot. The others were a three-inning save for Ken Waldichuk and both an extra-inning save and a one-out save for Sam Long. Still, May has a bloated walk rate and hasn't performed up to his past velocities. The juice really isn't worth the squeeze here.