Fantasy Baseball Bullpen Report: Can we trust Art Warren, Jake Diekman or David Robertson for saves?

If you want to know who’s in line for every team’s next save, you’ve come to the right place.

Kidding, of course. It’s impossible to know these days. Managers are deliberately tight-lipped, and the ones who aren’t seem to go out of their way to mislead us (looking at you, Gabe Kapler). Generally, we’re left to infer their leanings based on past usage, but as you might expect, patterns are difficult to detect this time of year.

Here’s my read on the 10 closer scenarios most in flux 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).

Tony Santillan notching a save on opening day introduced an immediate complication to a closer scenario that was never resolved last season, but in retrospect, it was probably just because he was already warming up when the save chance came into being. A more conventional one came up Sunday, and that’s when Art Warren made his season debut, almost as if it was the Reds’ plan all along. Presumably, it was. He certainly showed closer potential last year, and as long as there are no meltdowns between now and Lucas Sims’ return from an elbow injury, I’m presuming that’s how things will remain.

At one point in spring training, Matt Barnes was manager Alex Cora’s stated preference to close, but he’s struggled to get his velocity up to snuff while Jake Diekman was electric in recording to save against the rival Yankees on Sunday. “He was the closer today” is all Cora would say about Diekman afterward, but when Barnes made his season debut the very next day, it was in the sixth inning, with his velocity still lagging from a year ago. Diekman is the Red Sox’s one high-leverage lefty, which makes confining him to the ninth inning tricky, but it may be the way Cora is leaning.

Manager Gabe Kapler has been his usual hot mess as far as bullpen usage has gone. One thing that’s clear is that Jake McGee isn’t the closer despite Kapler seemingly annointing him such in spring training. He worked the eighth inning in one game, setting up a save chance for Camilo Doval, and the seventh inning in another. So it’s Doval, then? Well, he blew that save in particularly disastrous fashion and hasn’t worked the ninth inning since. Dominic Leone is the one Giants reliever with an actual save, but he got it on a day when both McGee and Doval were unavailable. Doval has looked good since the one meltdown, so I’m guessing he gets another chance.

David Robertson got the save on opening day, with Mychal Givens and Rowan Wick tag-teaming the eighth inning, and it all went so smoothly and conventionally that it seemed like it had to be the plan. And we have no reason to believe yet that it isn’t, but Robertson’s second appearance came in the eighth inning of a one-run loss Sunday. Maybe I just needed the work. He has the most closing experience of anyone in the Cubs bullpen, but after three injury-ravaged seasons, it’s hard to have much confidence in the 37-year-old.

Manager Rocco Baldelli has long expressed a preference for a closer committee, which is why he rarely stuck with Taylor Rogers in the role even though he was clearly the team’s best reliever. Well, Rogers is gone now, and Baldelli is left with a bunch of similarly unproven right-handers. Tyler Duffey got the first save chance Saturday and blew it. He was then asked to work the seventh inning Monday. Emilio Pagan, who came back the other way in the Rogers trade, has only worked the eighth inning so far, which would suggest he has a high-leverage role. Jhoan Duran is the least proven but also highest-upside of the group and closed out a four-run lead Monday. Whatever Baldelli’s leanings today, though, they’re likely to change on a whim.

The Mariners never settled on a closer last year during their surprising push for the playoffs, so it’s fitting that their two saves so far have gone to different guys (Drew Steckenrider and Diego Castillo). Manager Scott Servais seemed to favor Steckenrider slightly toward the end of last season, and it’s possible he still does. Steckenrider got the chance on opening day, and then Castillo got the chance the next day, presumably because Steckenrider wasn’t ready to go back-to-back yet. Ken Giles still has the best chance of claiming the role outright whenever he returns from a finger injury, but it’s far from a certainty.

This one isn’t a mystery, but seeing as Anthony Bender is still rostered in only 41 percent of CBS Sports leagues, well behind even non-closers like Jake McGee and Blake Treinen, it’s deserving of a mention here. Manager Don Mattingly called Bender his go-to for the ninth inning just before the start of the season, and so far he has gotten the Marlins’ only two save chances, blowing the first but then converting the second the next day. He was the team’s best reliever last year, so it makes sense that he’d keep the role even when Dylan Floro returns from injury.

There were rumblings just before the start of the season that Daniel Bard would get the first chance to close even though the Rockies signed a more proven option, Alex Colome, in the offseason, and that’s exactly how it’s gone so far. Bard looked particularly impressive in striking out three Dodgers for his first save Saturday, and while he blew his second chance Monday, a solo home run was the only damage against him. He features a 98 mph fastball and swing-and-miss slider, both with plenty of spin, so our only reason to think he can’t keep the job is… well, he didn’t last year.

We still don’t have much insight into the Rangers’ thinking given that they haven’t had a save chance yet, but Monday’s game offered some hints. Presumed closer Joe Barlow was brought in to preserve a tie in the ninth, and while he didn’t get it done, serving up a solo home run, he also struck out three. Greg Holland, Barlow’s prime competition for the role, didn’t fare any better when the Rangers rallied to send it to the 10th, so Barlow still appears to be the front-runner here. His only other outing from him was also in the ninth inning of a game, but with the Rangers leading by six.

Manager Brandon Hyde, who has never had a chance to settle on a closer given how much losing the Orioles have done under his watch, identified Jorge Lopez as his top choice for saves after the Orioles traded away Cole Sulser, and sure enough, the veteran right-hander converted the team’s first chance Monday. His major-league track record is pretty miserable, and again, you can’t count on the Orioles to give him many chances. With his fastball velocity up to 2 mph, though, he could potentially survive in the role.

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