In a perfect world fantasy owners would be mind readers. They would be able to predict if a player was hiding an injury or when he was going to break out of a slump. It's not a perfect world, but owners can still read the tea leaves, especially when it comes to closers.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa is famously difficult to decipher, but it doesn't take a seer to predict that Fernando Salas isn't long for the closer role. In June, Salas has given up six earned runs in 9.1 innings, blown two saves and recorded his only loss of the season. Given his track record (he recorded his first career save this year), it's officially time to be worried about the Red Birds' closer.
If Salas is removed, Jason Motte (2.10 ERA, 8.40 K/9) should get the first shot at the job. He's always been considered the heir apparent in St. Louis, and Trever Miller and Miguel Batista shouldn't be anywhere near high-leverage situations. Motte should already be owned in NL-only leagues, and mixed-league owners in need of saves might want to take a flyer on him as well.
In Florida, Leo Nunez is slumping at the wrong time. He's given up six earned runs in his last 6.2 innings, and new manager Jack McKeon is desperate to save the sinking Fish. Bad luck has been the culprit here: In June, Nunez is sporting a .417 BABIP and stranding only 53.6 percent of base runners.
Unfortunately for Nunez, McKeon has a wealth of other options. Steve Chisek (1.42 ERA, 4.50 K/BB) picked up a save when Nunez was sidelined and the reliever saved 20 games in the minors. Brian Sanches (1.93 ERA) is having a career year, but the 32-year-old's peripherals (1.20 K/BB, .198 BABIP) scream regression. Clay Hensley (3.60 ERA) is currently on the DL, but he filled in admirably when Nunez was pulled from the ninth inning in 2010. He's aiming to return in early July.
For now, Nunez looks safe. He's got a reliable track record and is one off the league lead in saves. It's a situation that bears watching though.
How did the rest of the major league bullpens fare this week? Let's take a look around the league:
After two-and-a-half months of inspired pitching, Hanrahan (1.39 ERA, 19 saves) finally gets the bump to first-class. His strikeouts are down (8.07 K/9) but pin-point control (1.95 BB/9) has pushed his game to the next level. The only thing that can stop him is a trade to a contender.
Valverde has given up only two hits in June. The Tigers' closer is zeroed in right now and pitching like one of the best closers in the AL. ... Bailey is healthy and pitching like an All-Star again. He's converted four straight saves and the window to buy low is rapidly closing. ... Soria has also rediscovered his All-Star form. He's given up three hits and zero runs in 9.0 innings in June.
Perez might have 17 saves, but his walks (4.78 BB/9) are bound to catch up with him. If you can still deal him, do it. ... Putz has given up four earned runs in his last 4.0 innings. He's been superb this season and this looks like a minor speed bump. Stick with him. ... With Lyon sidelined again, Melancon has ample job security. Somehow, he's owned in only 78.9 percent of leagues. Add him immediately if he's available in yours.
Francisco has recorded two straight saves and sports a 1.69 ERA in June. Blue Jays manager John Farrell wanted Francisco to re-claim the ninth inning, and the former Texas stopper looks ready to. ... Guerra has emerged as the favorite for saves in L.A. ... for now. Guerra doesn't have a closer's arsenal (4.73 K/9), but if your desperate for saves in NL-only leagues, he's worth a shot until Jonathan Broxton returns from the DL.
Padilla is apparently done for the year after undergoing next surgery. ... Lyon will likely need season-ending surgery, too.
Backups who will ensure you're banking saves even if your closer goes down: