Are you in search of saves later this season? Obviously we can’t predict injuries (like Frank Francisco going down recently), but every week we will update these rankings in an effort to keep you updated on which setup men appear primed to overtake the current closer. In same cases we will keep the injury replacements on this list, because even when healthy the closer’s job is in jeopardy for a variety of reasons. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the current rankings:
1. Francisco Rodriguez – Milwaukee Brewers
This one is a no-brainer, isn’t it? John Axford has been an absolute disaster this season, with 4 blown saves and a walk rate nearing 6.00. He’s shown flashes of his 2011 self (1.95 ERA, 1.14 WHIP), but how many more meltdowns can the Brewers actually endure? He’s allowed runs in five of his past nine June outings, giving him a tidy 9.00 ERA.
While Rodriguez is nothing fancy at this point, he appears to be the most likely setup man to gain a closing role. Of course, his time as closer is likely to just be a short-term one. He is been almost as poor as Axford, with a 3.90 ERA and 1.42 WHIP. He’s the one of the best options for short-term saves, but he won’t be a long-term solution.
2. Glen Perkins/Jared Burton – Minnesota Twins
Sure, in theory the two are closing now but it’s a short-term situation with Matt Capps on the DL. When he returns he will likely step right back into the role. That said, it would be a mild surprise if Capps isn’t traded by the deadline, meaning this could easily be an audition for the remainder of the season. Perkins has pitched surprisingly well, with a 2.84 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 41 K over 31.2 IP. He had saves in back-to-back outings last week, though he has allowed 2 H and 1 BB in his two innings of work.
Burton has actually been pitching better than Perkins, with a 2.90 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 29 K over 31.0 innings of work. Even more impressive, he’s walked just 6 batters all season long. I’d love to endorse him as the young up-and-comer, but he is 31-years old so it’s not like he is the long-term solution either. Still, as the right-hander in this closing combination, he may have the early lead (he’s now seen the past two chances). The control could waiver, though, opening the door for Perkins. At this point I would try to stash both and see how the situation plays out.
3. Joaquin Benoit – Detroit Tigers
Jose Valverde is hurting right now, and the extent is unknown. If Valverde ends up on the DL, Benoit is going to be the long-term answer. As I mentioned in yesterday’s closer report, however (click hereto view), a healthy Valverde could be in jeopardy of losing his job as the Tigers try to claw back into the race. He’s not striking batters out (6.11 K/9) and he’s walking the ballpark (5.46 BB/9). Just how long can the Tigers tolerate it?Benoit has a 1.93 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 44 K over 32.2 IP, so what exactly is there not to like?
4. Mitchell Boggs – St. Louis Cardinals
Jason Motte has 4 blown saves, matching the number for John Axford and Heath Bell, yet he has gone fairly unnoticed or had his future as the Cardinals’ closer questioned. Maybe it’s because he hasn’t had the same type of epic breakdowns or that he’s allowed runs in back-to-back outings just once (May 25 & May 30). That said, it may only take one bad spurt for the Cardinals to decide to utilize a different option.
As of right now, that option would be Boggs, who has posted an extremely impressive 2012 campaign with a 2.16 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 27 K over 33.1 IP. Even more impressive has been his pinpoint control, with just 9 walks on the season (he hit a rough patch in May, as he had 8 of them in that month). With the control back in order he’s well worth monitoring, because you would think that Motte’s rope could be getting short.
5. Rex Brothers – Colorado Rockies
The Rockies are awful this season so, while Rafael Betancourt has pitched well, he is 37-years old and is not going to be the answer for the Rockies’ bullpen long-term. Brothers could easily be that answer and, in a lost season, the Rockies could give him an opportunity to see if he could fill the role in 2013. Since returning from the minor leagues he has posted a 0.84 ERA while allowing just 4 H and 3 BB, striking out 17, over 10.2 IP. It really is just a matter of time.
What are your thoughts on these relief options? Who else are you looking at for potential saves in 2012?