Two of the most consistent clubs featured in this space, which generally highlights the 10 most volatile closer scenarios in a given week, have been the Red Sox and Marlins. They've struggled to fill the ninth-inning role all season.
But both may have their clearest front-runners yet -- or at least since Matt Barnes and Anthony Bender went busto. Here's why Tanner Houck and Tanner Scott are two of the hottest pickups for saves right now.
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 manager Alex Cora said he would begin using Tanner Houck in a late-inning relief role, he apparently meant the ninth inning, giving him a save chance both Friday and Sunday. And why not? No Red Sox reliever has gotten any traction in the role despite Matt Barnes, Hansel Robles, Jake Diekman and Matt Strahm each getting looks there. Houck's limited arsenal will probably play better as a closer than as a starting pitcher, where he's spent most of his career, but it's not an open-and-shut case after only two save chances. Still, this is the most promising closer pickup the Red Sox have had all season.
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The Marlins may have finally settled on their guy, too. Lefty Tanner Scott, who was often cited as a closer-in-waiting for the Orioles, has gotten each of the Marlins' past three saves, including on back-to-back days last week. He has the stuff for the role, averaging 13.9 K/9, but control has always been a problem. He has issued no walks in his past seven appearances, though, for whatever that's worth. The Marlins have another capable lefty in Steven Okert, which is why Scott could stick in the role, though it's worth noting Anthony Bender could return from his back issue soon.
Is it time to declare Ryan Helsley the closer and be done with it? His latest save Monday may have been the nail in the coffin for me. Fact is he's now gotten four saves since Giovanny Gallegos got his last. That's over a span of three weeks given how infrequent the Cardinals' save chances have been, so it's not as straightforward as it sounds. Gallegos has come in after Helsley at times during that stretch. More often, though, it's been Helsley working the ninth inning, save chance or not. Gallegos, meanwhile, worked the seventh inning in Monday's game.
Corey Knebel is currently dealing with shoulder tightness, which is thought to be just a day-to-day issue, but you never know, especially given his injury history. Truth is he's been far from lights out anyway, making now the time to scoop up Seranthony Dominguez regardless. The righty has mostly been sidelined by injuries since his rookie 2018 season, when he recorded 16 saves, but he has a 1.54 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 11.6 K/9 this year, performing far more reliably than Knebel.
Oh, Gabe Kapler, you treacherous trickster, daring us to dream of well-defined bullpen roles. It seemed to be his plan at the start of the year, but then when setup options like Jake McGee and Tyler Rogers proved to be more vulnerable than in past years, he could no longer afford to confine Camilo Doval to the ninth inning, instead shifting him around as needed. We saw him make back-to-back sixth-inning appearances earlier this month, and he worked the eighth inning in a game over the weekend. He pitched the ninth inning with a four-run lead Monday and still appears to be the most likely bet for saves, but the inconsistent usage is enough to drive you crazy.
Things went from bad to worse for Andrew Kittredge, who was off the IL for two appearances before discovering he needed Tommy John surgery. With him now sidelined for the long haul, the Rays may be more inclined to find a dedicated replacement than the last time Kittredge was out. Of course, Kittredge himself was more like the top leverage guy than a true closer, occasionally tasked with working innings other than the ninth. Left-hander Colin Poche got the most saves when Kittredge was initially sidelined, but Jason Adam got the Rays' latest save and has numbers more befitting the role.
It's been a full-scale meltdown for Dany Jimenez over the past three weeks, his ERA climbing from 0.49 to 4.70 as he's blown two saves and suffered three losses. With the Athletics having so little to play for, they might just ride it out and see if he can recover. It's not like Lou Trivino, the favorite for saves coming into the year, has been any better. Former starter A.J. Puk has looked good, but he and Sam Moll are the bullpen's only lefties. Zach Jackson has been tasked with setup duties lately and might be the most logical replacement if the Athletics decide to go that route.
I just can't anymore with this team. Seems like the manager doesn't want a closer. Seems like nobody wants to be the closer. The Reds' best reliever, Alexis Diaz, finally got a chance to close out a game Sunday and managed to secure the save, but not without surrendering a walk and a homer. He wasn't available the next day, when Hunter Strickland got the save, but it's not clear he would have gotten the call if he was. The team's past five saves have gone to Strickland, Diaz, Tony Santillan, Santillan again and Art Warren, so while I do think Diaz is probably the one to roster at this point, it's with no conviction whatsoever.
A week ago, I suggested that Paul Sewald might be settling in as the front-runner for saves in Seattle. So much for that. The Mariners have had two save chances since then, and both went to Diego Castillo. Sewald even worked the eighth inning in one. Castillo, for what it's worth, has been near untouchable lately, allowing a total of two baserunners while striking out 15 in his past eight appearances, and he does have the most closing experience of anyone in the Mariners bullpen. Of course, this situation could be complicated further by the return of Ken Giles, if he ever gets right at Triple-A.
Mark Melancon has been a little more stable lately, allowing three earned runs in his past 10 appearances, but the Diamondbacks' latest save chance Thursday nonetheless went to Ian Kennedy, with Melancon working the eighth inning. Turns out the team was trailing going into that inning, and manager Torey Lovullo just wanted to get Melancon some work. The right-hander wasn't equipped to go a second inning once the Diamondbacks took the lead, so Lovullo brought in Kennedy. Melancon is still on thin ice, but it hasn't broken yet.