By Rob Steingall
Frank Francisco, Mets: After a few hiccups in the early stages of May, Francisco has been rock solid, converting his last five save chances without giving up a run. On the season, he's 14-for-16, which is certainly effective. The Mets aren't an offensive juggernautand will be in their share of close games, which should allow Francisco to have a plenty of opportunities to pick up saves for the remainder of the year.
Addison Reed, White Sox: There are always growing pains from rookies who are thrust into ninth inning duty, but Reed has handled his first few weeks as the White Sox closer exceptionally well. He's a perfect 7-for-7 in save chances, and he's striking out overa batter per inning. While he doesn't have name value just yet, that doesn't mean he can't net you a hefty profit the remainder of the season.
Ernesto Frieri, Angels: Outside of the Reds' Aroldis Chapman, I don't think there has been a more dominant reliever in the majors than Frieri. His numbers are extraordinary (26 IP, 1.04 ERA, 4815 KBB), and now he's picking up saves. He's good enough to lockdown this job and be one of the most dominant closers in the American League.
Alfredo Aceves, Red Sox: The nice thing about Aceves is that manager Bobby Valentine has no problem calling on him for multiple inning saves, allowing him to collect more strikeouts and help your ratios. He picked up two saves last week, and has a secure holdon the ninth inning gig.
Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners: With the saves landscape constantly changing, you need to chase every last handshake, which brings us to Iwakuma. He closed out two games last week, and while the Mariners bullpen situation is in a state of flux, you have to go withthe hot hand.
LOS ANGELES – The Cubs drafted and developed Ian Happ with the idea of turning him into a Ben Zobrist-type player who would move quickly through the farm system and surface as a versatile big-league contributor and/or legitimate trade chip.
With Zobrist sidelined because of a sore left wrist, the Cubs got their first look at Happ playing second base in The Show during Saturday’s 5-0 loss at Dodger Stadium. That kind of depth – plugging in a 2015 first-round pick while a World Series MVP rests – should ultimately propel the Cubs over the course of a 162-game season.
Even as the Cubs stutter-step through a 25-23 start, there are enough choices for the best defensive second baseman on the team and a National League Championship Series co-MVP (Javier Baez) to sit on the bench.
“We know that the talent’s there,” Zobrist said. “It’s not like having any one or two guys out of the lineup is a big drop-off for us because of the talent that’s there. And we know that just because we have a lot of young players doesn’t mean that they’re not extremely capable of doing the job as well.”
Zobrist – who’s reached base in 23 straight games and emerged as a new leadoff option with Kyle Schwarber struggling – felt something on an awkward swing in the first inning of Friday’s 4-0 loss to the Dodgers. Zobrist played through it that night and called it a “day-to-day thing” that didn’t require an MRI.
[MORE: Is Joe Maddon turning Kyle Schwarber into a platoon player?]
Facing Clayton Kershaw on Sunday after back-to-back shutouts will be a game-time decision.
“It’s tough,” Zobrist said. “We just haven’t strung together enough quality at-bats to score runs the last two games. It’s not just because of us. They’ve pitched well. Their pitchers are pretty hot right now. They’ve spotted up. They’ve gotten early strikes where they needed to and then gone to work pretty well on us.
“The task doesn’t get any easier tomorrow with Kershaw. We just got to keep trying to chip away.”