It's been three weeks since we last surveyed the closer landscape, and things have been curiously stable during that time.
Still, it's worth taking inventory one last time before we say goodbye to 2022, if only for those who are chasing saves or looking to block someone who is.
Recently, we've seen Ryan Pressly reinstalled for the Astros after missing two weeks with neck spasms. Josh Hader has gotten each of the Padres' past four saves, walking just one during that stretch, and has apparently put his rocky period behind him. Alexis Diaz finally seems to have settled in as the Reds closer, but they get so few save chances that it hasn't much mattered for Fantasy purposes. The Pirates' David Bednar is on the verge of returning from a seven-week absence for a lower back issue, which means we can stop caring about Wil Crowe (to the extent we ever did).
So if you had any questions about those four three closer scenarios, hopefully that answers that. Now for the 10 without such easy answers.
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).
It wouldn't be the first time manager Kevin Cash has faked me out this year -- or make that the past five -- but I think his recent leanings toward Peter Fairbanks in the ninth inning are about as strong as he's ever hard. It's easier to say with the right-hander having recorded four of the team's past five saves, and I'd be remiss not to point out that other Rays relievers (yes, multiple) have enjoyed similar stretches this year. But none of them profile as the sort of shutdown reliever Fairbanks has been since returning from a strained lat, having finally gotten his electric stuff under control for a 1.29 ERA, 0.67 WHIP and 13.7 K/9.
Fellow righty Jason Adam's numbers come pretty close to those, and the fact Cash has two of them now makes it easier to confine one to the ninth inning. Each of Fairbanks' past four appearances has been for a save, so the consistency of his role is beginning to stand out.
Manager Rocco Baldelli didn't settle on a closer until the Twins acquired Jorge Lopez at the trade deadline. With the way that's gone, he may never again. Lopez is basically out of the role now and deserves to be after allowing eight earned runs in seven appearances this month, including four on Monday alone. Rookie flamethrower Jhoan Duran has gotten each of the team's past two saves and still boasts a 1.78 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 11.9 K/9 for the year. I had lost faith in him claiming the closer role even prior to the Lopez acquisition, and I still don't trust Baldelli to adhere to anything. Nevertheless, Duran is looking like a legitimate saves source at the moment.
Apparently, that IL stint for a tight back wasn't enough to get Clay Holmes right. He's allowed at least one run in three of his past four appearances and may be on the verge of losing the closer role again. The question is to whom? Aroldis Chapman (infection in leg) just came back from his own IL stint, but he hasn't been any more reliable than Holmes when healthy. Jonathan Loaisiga and Wandy Peralta have handled setup duties capably but don't miss enough bats for the pivotal ninth-inning role. Rookie Ron Marinaccio is the dark horse, boasting strong numbers overall, but he's had a few hiccups recently, too.
If it's not Holmes, it's most likely a committee, so I'm thinking Boone will keep giving the right-hander a chance to get right. They're going to need him for the postseason.
The Phillies were reluctant to name Seranthony Dominguez their closer the first time around. Then they were reluctant to name David Robertson his replacement. Now that Dominguez is healthy again, well, you can imagine what he's encountering: reluctance. What doesn't help is him giving up five earned runs in his third appearance off the IL Friday. If he was trending toward reclaiming ninth-inning duties prior to then, he probably isn't anymore. It's worth pointing out that Robertson wasn't nails in his absence (and didn't get every save chance either), but his past six appearances have all been to finish off a game. Whether manager Rob Thomson has the inclination to shake things up with so little time left remains to be seen, but I'm skeptical.
With Dany Jimenez and Zach Jackson both hitting the IL in late August, left-hander A.J. Puk seemed like the next man up for saves, but he's gotten only one since then. A righty, Domingo Acevedo, has gotten two, and they've both come in the past week. His numbers are fine. The strikeouts are lacking, but the swinging strike, which might be a better indicator of his stuff, is nothing short of elite. He probably doesn't have a firm grip on the closer role, but he does seem to be the Athletics' preferred choice for saves right now, for however many they're likely to get the rest of the way.
Manager Don Mattingly must have finally reached his breaking point with Tanner Scott because the left-hander, who leads the team with 19 saves despite his ERA hovering in the mid-fours all year, hasn't worked the ninth inning of a game since Aug. 26. During that time, Dylan Floro has converted the Marlins' only two save chances, the most recent coming Thursday. Floro also claimed the role down the stretch last season, converting 8 of 9 save chances in September, and likely would of held it to begin this year if not for a rotator cuff injury. He's nothing special, but he's steady. The Marlins' starting pitching could make him a surprisingly prolific source of saves over the next couple of weeks.
It seems like manager David Ross is treating Brandon Hughes more like a leverage guy than a true closer. The left-hander does have two of the team's past four saves and five of its past nine, but he's worked the eighth inning just as often during that span. The Cubs' latest save went to Manuel Rodriguez, who also got one toward the end of August, but there's no reason to believe he's a serious candidate to close full-time. Really, no one in this bullpen can match Hughes' effectiveness, which is probably why Ross has to keep him versatile. It certainly limits his upside in what's already a bad situation for saves.
The pecking order was precisely reversed when we last took stock of the Rangers bullpen three weeks ago, but since then, Jose Leclerc has had a chance to prove his health. And the Rangers apparently still like him for the role they signed him long-term to fill back before all the arm trouble, most recently Tommy John surgery. He's not even walking guys like he was back in those days. Of course, he's not missing bats quite like he did back then either, and I wouldn't say he has an especially long leash in the role. But it's telling that after a blown save Wednesday, the Rangers went right back to him for the save two days later, giving Leclerc each of the team's past five.
I don't necessarily believe John Schreiber will lead the Red Sox in saves the rest of the way. If I had to guess the lead dog in their committee right now, I would say Matt Barnes. But of those in the committee, I believe Schreiber to be the most stable, which should ensure he makes good on whatever chances he gets. Barnes still has an ERA over 5.00, after all. Left-hander Matt Strahm has become the latest entrant in the committee, contributing the Red Sox's most recent save Friday, and has numbers nearly as impressive as Schreiber. The one who's fading here is Garrett Whitlock, who has scuffled of late and is better left for multi-inning scenarios anyway.
Jimmy Herget recorded three saves over a five-day span at the end of August, making him the clear favorite in what had been an unpredictable committee to that point. But he hasn't gotten a save since. To be fair, the Angels as a team have gotten only two, converted by Ryan Tepera and Aaron Loup on back-to-back days over the weekend, but Herget worked the eighth inning in one of those games and in fact hasn't worked the ninth since his last save in August. So he ain't it.
Is Tepera? Is Loup? Neither one of them has a consistent pattern of use (if anything, Loup is more like a sixth-inning guy), so I think every day is "anything goes" with this bullpen. Herget and Jose Quijada I believe are their two most talented relievers, so I'm ranking them 1 and 2. You'll be lucky to get even two saves from any Angels reliever the rest of the way, though.