Aroldis Chapman has been one of the few mainstays at closer, handling the role with aplomb for over a decade now. It's rare, then, that you ever have to consider who's backing him up for saves.
But now is one of those instances. The 34-year-old's availability has been in question lately because of Achilles tendinitis, and it sounds like the Yankees may be leaning toward putting him on the IL.
Fortunately, the replacement has already made himself known, and he may be the more effective option anyway.
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).
Clay Holmes is fairly well vetted as a closer already, having secured four saves as an occasional fill-in for Chapman. His ERA currently sits at 0.42, and in 45 appearances with the Yankees between this year and last, he has a 1.09 ERA, 0.74 WHIP and 10.0 K/9. He was already attracting interest in Fantasy just as a ratios darling, and we may be rooting for him to overtake Chapman outright (unlikely though it seems). For what it's worth, Chad Green is no longer a viable alternative, having recently succumbed to Tommy John surgery.
Though Emilio Pagan still leads the Twins with six saves, the latest went to fireballer Jhoan Duran on a day when both were presumably available. He was asked to secure a one-run lead, too, which might suggest he's the one manager Rocco Baldelli trusts more right now. And the numbers say he should. Pagan has nearly a walk per inning this year and has long struggled to keep the ball in the yard. Duran has been near untouchable even dating back to spring training, firing in fastballs at 103 mph. Pagan followed up Duran's save Sunday with two innings in a tight game Monday, securing the win. He still appears to have the edge, but the gap is closing.
Manager Alex Cora has stated his preference for defined bullpen roles and was initially backing Matt Barnes to be his closer. But it just wasn't possible when the 2021 All-Star's fastball was down 2 mph out of the gate. He seems, though, to have recaptured that lost velocity over his past 4-5 appearances and got a chance to close out Saturday's game, notching his second save. Availability may have played a part, but the fact no one has secured the job yet means every chance is an audition. Barnes may have reminded Cora how good he can have it.
The Cardinals flip-flopped these two Tuesday, using Giovanny Gallegos in the eighth and Ryan Helsley in the ninth. The score was tied at the time, with the game eventually going 10 innings, so neither actually recorded a save. It's also worth noting that Gallegos worked against the middle third of the opposing lineup while Helsley faced the bottom third. Helsley does have the team's most recent save Sunday, but only because Gallegos was asked to deliver a five-out save the day before. The closer gig may be trending toward a timeshare between the two, but it still seems like the Cardinals consider Gallegos to be the higher-leverage guy.
Andrew Kittredge (back) going on the IL likely signals pandemonium for a team that already doesn't like to have the same guy close twice in a row. Brooks Raley is second on the team with three saves, but seeing as he throws left-handed, it's likely he shares closer duties with Jason Adam and J.P. Feyereisen, two righties who've allowed a combined two earned runs this year. Of course, it may only be a short-term absence for Kittredge, who the Rays obviously considered their highest-leverage guy, so it doesn't make sense to throw a bunch of FAB dollars at the situation.
David Bell has been the most difficult manager to pin down the past couple years, partly because the Reds so rarely have save chances but mostly because they so rarely have good relivers. It always seemed like a long shot Lucas Sims would stabilize the role seeing as he was with the team last year, too, and now he's back on the IL. Art Warren got the latest save chance Sunday and may be the front-runner, but rookie Alexis Diaz, the brother of Edwin Diaz, has far superior numbers.
After a surprise Will Vest save May 13 shined a light on how effective the right-hander has been this year, incumbent closer Gregory Soto, a lefty, has restored order, converting all three of the team's save chances. It's not even clear anymore than Vest, who is currently on the IL after testing positive for COVID-19, is the best of the right-handed alternatives. Alex Lange has been working higher-leverage situations and himself has a 1.62 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 11.3 K/9. Soto's control issues make him no sure bet to keep the role, but it's not clear who the likeliest replacement would be.
David Robertson finally got a save Tuesday, his first since returning from a bout with COVID almost a week earlier, and he looked good doing it, striking out two in a perfect inning. It puts to rest any ideas of Rowan Wick having overtaken him. Wick notched three saves in Robertson's absence and has clearly emerged as the backup for saves, but he probably is the inferior pitcher.
Mark Melancon has to be hanging by a thread at this point, his ERA approaching 8.00. He has recorded each of the Diamondbacks' past four saves but he hasn't looked good doing it, also suffering three losses during that time. His latest outing saw him allow two runs, one earned, so it's fortunate he entered with a three-run lead. The 37-year-old's stuff seems to have gone to mush this year, and at some point, the financial commitment won't be enough for the Diamondbacks to keep running him out there.
Anyone who tells you he knows who's getting the next save for the Marlins is a liar and a scoundrel. It's a complete and utter mess right now. Dylan Floro hasn't come in and stabilized things, his velocity lagging from a year ago. Anthony Bender, who leads the team with six saves, clearly isn't being reserved for the ninth anymore. Anthony Bass has been the team's best reliever to this point, but manager Don Mattingly has shown no inclination to try him at closer. I am detecting a slight preference for Cole Sulser of late, but it's not much to go on. The team hasn't actually registered a save all month.