Searching for Saves: Miami Marlins: Can Steve Cishek Thrive? Is A.J. Ramos A Viable Sleeper?

It was a year ago that the Marlins lit up baseball’s offseason signing, numerous big free agents and flirting with others. We all know what happened in the weeks and months since, including the implosion and ultimate departure of Heath Bell. The team was counting on him to be a force at the end of games and, while he was an utter disaster, there is no arguing that he left a void at the back of the bullpen. While Steve Cishek will open the season with the job, is he really the best candidate? Lets take a look at and all the options in Miami and who may be a nice sleeper source of saves:

Steve Cishek
He s the incumbent and fared well, posting 15 saves in 19 opportunities to go along with a 2.69 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. It’s that latter number that should worry us, at least a little bit, though it was more due to control issues than anything.

Cishek posted a 4.10 BB/9 last season, though the year before he was at 3.13. That gives us hope, but 2012 is probably a lot closer to his true ability. Over his minor league career he posted a mark of 3.91 so it is not like it hasn’t been an issue before.

However, he otherwise has the skill set to excel. He has a career 9.24 K/9 and 54.2% groundball rate. Those are two numbers fantasy owners should love to see.

The only other concern I would have is the rest of the league catching up to him. He has posted line drive rates of 16.9% and 16.3% the past two seasons. Is that something that can continue, or will opponents make adjustments and start making better contact? It’s not something we can say for certain, but it is something to keep in mind.

While Cishek could excel, he is far from a lock. Don’t be surprised if the Marlins are looking at other closer options at some point in 2013.

A.J. Ramos
He made his MLB debut in 2012 (3.86 ERA, 1.29 WHIP over 9.1 innings), though the majority of people probably have no clue who he is.  That said, if there is anyone in the Marlins bullpen who is equipped to step in and fill the closers role Ramos is likely the guy.

He spent the bulk of 2012 at Double-A, where he tossed 68.2 innings.  Over that time he posted a 1.44 ERA, 0.83 WHIP (he benefited from a .223 BABIP) and 21 saves.  He also showed electric strikeout stuff, with 89 K vs. 21 BB.

In his brief stint in the Majors he flashed a fastball that averaged just under 94 mph, while striking out 13 and walking 4.  He has worked as a closer throughout his minor league career and, while that doesn’t necessarily mean much, he does at least have some experience in the role.

Don’t be surprised if the Marlins throw him into the fire if Cishek stumbles, as he certainly has the makeup to close (something you can’t say about the rest of the bullpen).

Ryan Webb
Over 195.2 Major League innings Webb has mustered a 6.35 K/9.  While a higher strikeout rate isn’t mandatory for a closer, it is preferred.  He does offer good control (3.22 BB/9) and generates groundballs (57.9%), so there is some hope.

However, when the team needed a closer the Marlins never turned to him.  In fact, in four seasons he has mustered just 33 holds.  It’s obvious that the team hasn’t trusted him in late game situations before so why should we think they suddenly will now?

Mike Dunn
He brings the strikeout rate (9.61 K/9 in ’12), but his control is erratic, at best, and he’s a lefty.  Those last two things are what really works against him getting an opportunity to close games.  If he can’t throw strikes (5.68 BB/9 for his career), he’s not going to be trusted.

What are your thoughts of the Marlins bullpen?  Do you think Cishek can thrive in the closer’s role?  Who do you think is next in line?

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