As we head towards the second half of the season contenders may have a shorter leash with their closers, as they try to stay in the race, while non-contenders could look at their bullpens and try to determine if they have a long-term solution. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the options who could emerge and see save opportunities by year’s end:
1. Sergio Romo – San Francisco Giants (Last Week Unranked)
Why he’s on the list: The struggles of Santiago Casilla are really beginning to mount. He’s allowed runs in four of his past six appearances and has now blown 4 saves on the season (3 of which have come in his past 4 appearances).
Recent Performance: Romo has allowed 0 ER on 1 H and 2 BB over his past six appearances. In fact, He has allowed a run in just two of his appearances this season and allowed multiple base runners just three times (and only once since the start of May).
Outlook: The Giants are telling us that they are not going to make a change, but if Casilla continues to struggle they really can’t afford not to. While Romo may not be able to maintain his current pace, it is hard to imagine him not getting an opportunity.
2. Drew Storen – Washington Nationals (Last Week Unranked)
Why he’s on the list: Do we really need more than he is Drew Storen to justify putting him on this list?
Recent Performance: He is working his way through a minor league rehab assignment, but word is he will rejoin the Nationals early in the second half.
Outlook: The Nationals will likely stick wither Clippard initially, but with Storen in the picture each mistake will be magnified and it won’t take much for a change to come. Clippard allowed a run in his final appearance of the first half and, while it is just one outing, we have to hope that it’s not the start of things to come. If it is, Storen will quickly return to his role as the teams closer.
3. Rex Brothers – Colorado Rockies (Last Week #1)
Why he’s on the list: As I’ve said before, sooner or later the Rockies need to find out if their 2013 closer is currently on the roster or not. While Rafael Betancourt has pitched well, he is 37-years old. The Rockies have him signed for next season with a 2014 option, but if they can find a long-term solution to their closer spot why wouldn’t they take the shot?
Recent Performance: Brothers has been a little spotty of late, allowing 8 H in his past 3.0 innings (4 appearances), but overall has pitched well since returning from the minor leagues.
Outlook: The Rockies are enduring a lost season, so now is the time to experiment and see what they have. Betancourt likely doesn’t have to falter in order to lose his job, as given his age it isn’t surprising that he isn’t the long-term answer. Brothers has the chance to be, so the Rockies need to take this opportunity instead of finding out in a year or two during a pennant race.
4. Steve Cishek – Florida Marlins (Last Week Unranked)
Why he’s on the list: The Marlins have a lot of money invested in Heath Bell, but with six blown saves it is hard to imagine them not making at least a short-term change once again.
Recent Performance: Cishek hasn’t given up an earned run in his past eight appearances. Even more important is that he appears to have corrected his control issues, having not issued a walk in July (5.1 innings). That is the biggest question facing Cishek, as he has a 2.17 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 36 K over 37.1 innings.
Outlook: I wouldn’t view Cishek as a long-term answer for the Marlins, as Bell has two more years on his contract and a lot of money remaining. They almost have to get him on track, so look for him to continue to get opportunities. That said, Cishek should get a few save opportunities at some point.
5. Mitchell Boggs – St. Louis Cardinals (Last Week #3)
Why he’s on the list: As I’ve said before, Jason Motte’s blown saves have been overshadowed by guys like Heath Bell and John Axford. That said, if he blows another save or two I don’t think the Cardinals will hesitate to make a move.
Recent Performance: Boggs has been lights out all season, with a 1.91 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. Even more impressive is that he has walked just 9 batters over 37.2 innings.
Outlook: He’s not your prototypical blow away closer, but he clearly has the stuff to excel. If he does get a chance, it may be short-term, but he’s definitely first in line should Motte start to struggle.
Others to Watch:
- Kyle Farnsworth – Can Fernando Rodney really keep doing what he’s been doing? With Farnsworth healthy, a few poor appearances could lead to a change.
- Shawn Tolleson – I mentioned him last week and he’s not going to get a shot in Los Angeles. Could he be part of a trade package to Houston or Chicago, however? Then he suddenly becomes a prime candidate for saves.
- Jared Burton/Glen Perkins – Matt Capps should return soon and it remains to be seen who the go to option is should Capps struggle or be traded. That said, chances are one of them will get the job before the end of 2012.