If you're looking for insight into the Athletics bullpen, I'll tell you right now: I got nothing.
Zach Jackson was the last real hope, I think, for a closer of Fantasy consequence, and now he's down with a flexor strain, leaving the Athletics without a single player on their active roster with a save.
Who gets the next one, you ask? Here's a better question: why should we care? They entire team has gotten four saves all year. There's nobody left to claim the job outright, and even if there was, he wouldn't get regular enough chances to matter.
So I've excluded the Athletics bullpen scenario from the 10 demanding the most attention in Fantasy right now. In a way, it couldn't possibly demand less.
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).
Earlier this month, it seemed like the Yankees were gearing up to move Michael King into the closer role, and he still may be the best fit for it in the long run. But then left-hander Wandy Peralta got a save in a game when King and Clay Holmes were both used already, and manager Aaron Boone seemed content to ride the hot hand for a while, giving Peralta three saves in a five-day span.
It took only one hiccup for Peralta to return to eighth-inning duties. That includes Sunday, when he set up for Holmes, who apparently remains in the mix. Holmes ultimately converted the save, but he allowed three baserunners in the process, so it's unlikely he's regained a stranglehold on the role. Suffice it to say, though, this pecking order is about as loose as any, and nobody knows where the next save chance is going.
Liam Hendriks' buildup after his bout with non-Hodgkin lymphoma hasn't been entirely concern-free. He struggled on a minor-league rehab assignment and has spent the last few days with the major-league team despite not being called up. He has been throwing simulated games, though, and the latest report from Monday's bullpen session was encouraging. "The velocity was really high," manager Pedro Grifol said. "His slider was really, really good. He's trending in the right direction. He's getting really close."
In the meantime, Kendall Graveman has stabilized the back end of the bullpen, collecting three of the team's last four saves. The latest went to Joe Kelly, with Graveman having worked three of the previous four days. Both represent an upgrade over Reynaldo Lopez, who the White Sox endured for far too long, and will allow Grifol to ease in Hendriks if he so chooses.
Just when it seemed like manager Torey Lovullo had lost faith in Andrew Chafin as his go-to in the ninth inning, turning to Miguel Castro for three of four save chances, the roles were reversed again Monday. Castro actually entered in the seventh inning, and Chafin worked the ninth for the save, striking out three. Castro was brought in to face the top of the Phillies lineup with a runner already on base, so it may well be that he's Lovullo's more trusted option now and was simply needed for the high-leverage moment. Chafin has a more typical closer profile, being a big bat-misser, but Castro has been more reliable so far. Because the former throws lefty and the latter righty, it's likely they continue to share the role in some form or fashion.
If nothing else, it's pretty clear Evan Phillips is manager Dave Roberts' most trusted reliever even if he's not a "closer" in the strictest sense. Case in point: he entered Monday's game in the fifth inning because the Braves had runners on first and third with nobody out. He did his job, which necessitated someone else handle the save chance in the ninth, and that someone was, unsurprisingly, Brusdar Graterol, who notched his third save. It was his first since April 29, though, while Phillips had gotten five during that time. There's no reason to believe a changing of the guard has occurred.
One trait that rookie manager Skip Schumaker shares with his predecessor Don Mattingly is predictable bullpen usage, and we should all thank him for it. Dylan Floro was reliably the eighth-inning guy when A.J. Puk first took the closer reins, and now with Puk sidelined by nerve irritation in his elbow, Floro has become reliably the ninth-inning guy, converting all four of the Marlins' saves during that time. With Puk now building back up to return, the expectation is he'll reclaim the closer role from Floro, but it's possible Floro's reliability will keep him right where he is. Whatever Schumaker decides, though, you can trust that he'll decide on one guy.
Though Jose Alvarado has been the only Phillies reliever deserving of the closer nod this year (and one of the most deserving in all of baseball at that), he hadn't quite locked it down when he suffered an elbow injury in early May. The good news is that nobody's locked it down in his absence either. Of the team's last three saves, which have come over nearly a two-week span, two have gone to Craig Kimbrel and one to Gregory Soto. Meanwhile, both have had their share of misfires, their ERAs sitting at 6.35 and 4.87, respectively. Kimbrel has at least been piling up strikeouts of late, but we should all be rooting for Alvarado to reclaim the role. He's scheduled to throw a bullpen session soon.
While it's true Giovanny Gallegos has gotten three of the Cardinals' past four saves, it looked for a while like just a matter of happenstance. Presumed closer Ryan Helsley simply wasn't available for the first two of those save chances. But then came latest save for Gallegos Saturday, which came in a game that Helsley also worked. Helsley may have simply been overextended again. The Cardinals were asking him to go two innings, which would have earned him the save, but after a scoreless eighth, he ran into trouble in the ninth, requiring Gallegos to bail him out.
The two are now nearly even in save count, with Helsley having five to Gallegos' four. Helsley is presumably still the preferred option for the ninth inning, but it's clear that manager Oliver Marmol isn't necessarily reserving him for that.
As a last-place team with no designs on contention, the Nationals' save chances tend to be few and far between. But they've seemed less committed to having Kyle Finnegan handle them of late. For instance, two of their last four saves have gone to Hunter Harvey, son of former All-Star closer Bryan Harvey. That includes Sunday's game, which saw Finnegan work part of the sixth and seventh innings. It's true he entered against the heart of the order, with a couple men on base, but it was only the Tigers. How high-leverage could that spot have been?
It wasn't the first time Finnegan had preceded Harvey either. The same happened on May 16, but Harvey was unable to convert the save that day. Perhaps Finnegan is still the more trusted reliever of the two, but Harvey seems to be gaining ground (and has better ratios, it's worth noting).
Famous last words when discussing the Rays bullpen, I know, but this one may not be as complicated as it seems. Peter Fairbanks was handling basically every save chance before succumbing to forearm inflammation in early May. Jason Adam handled basically every save chance in his absence. Since returning, Fairbanks has recorded two saves to Adams' one, but the one Adams got came a day after Fairbanks worked and in an unconventional situation anyway, with the Rays leading by four runs. The latest save went to Fairbanks Monday, and it seems like Kevin Cash is handling him like a true closer again. You can never be too sure how long that will last, though.
A Mark Leiter was on the verge of claiming the closer role for he Cubs. He hasn't gotten a save since then, which is the bad news. The good news is that no one else has either. Meanwhile, while most Cubs relievers have continued to occupy their usual roles, Leiter has been kept on ice, as if the Cubs are waiting for the right opportunity to use him ... a save opportunity, you might even say., I was hopeful
Of his two appearances in the last two weeks, one was to close out a four-run lead, which is absolutely when a closer might be used. The other came in the eighth inning, but after four days of rest and with an obvious need to get some work. (It's worth pointing out that he struggled.) He still has the best numbers of any Cubs reliever and is still the leader in the clubhouse for saves, I would venture to say.