by Steven Grindstaff
If there is any closer in baseball that gives Craig Kimbrel a run for the #1 spot, it has to be Aroldis Chapman. Chapman brings serious heat and the results don’t lie, considering he strikes out nearly 16 per 9 innings. The only question is will new manager Bryan Price move Chapman to the rotation full time in 2014? Price has been known to want Chapman to transition to starting, but it’s hard to argue the results in the closer’s role. It’s definitely worth keeping an eye on as we enter 2014, but for now we will project him as a closer.
The Reds have some viable options to take over the ninth inning if the Reds decide to move Chapman to the rotation. Jonathan Broxton was given a large deal last offseason in hopes of him being the closer while Chapman transitioned to the rotation. However, the Reds kept Chapman in the ninth inning and Broxton was left as the 8th inning man before injuries had a major impact. He wasn’t the only reliever to battle injuries throughout the season. Sean Marshall pitched in only 16 games in 2013. Since he was expected to be one of the top set-up men, the Reds had to call upon Sam LeCure and J.J. Hoover to step up in high pressure situations. LeCure and Hoover did just that, which should have the Reds hopeful for what they expect the bullpen to produce in 2014.
You want an overpowering arm that brings the heat and generates massive strikeout numbers? Well look no further than Aroldis Chapman. He can absolutely bring it, consistently in the triple digits. It would be nice to see the walk rate decline, but considering he can strikeout anyone at will, it’s not much of a concern. When opposing batters get the bat on the ball, they do square it up as evidenced by the 24% LD rate. He also boasts a below average FB rate, which has to concern some considering the ballpark he calls home. You can see the elevated HR/FB rate, which is double the rate he posted in 2011 and 2012. I’d expect this to regress some, which will improve his ERA and FIP numbers. I believe it’s safe to say he should post numbers closer to that of his xFIP and SIERA. Like we mentioned before, the only concern is whether he will be moved to the rotation. If not, he should be at worst the #2 closer to come off the board this spring.
Marshall was limited to just 16 games, but if healthy he should be a solid set up man in the 7th and 8th innings. I’d place him ahead of Broxton in the bullpen, as far as holds are concerned. It wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine him closing out games if Chapman goes to the rotation. He is going to post decent-to-solid strikeout rates, solid walk rates and keeps the ball on the ground. This is exactly what you want coming into the late innings. He has the experience and has been extremely effective over the last few seasons.
Broxton would like to forget 2013, as would some of his owners. Injuries derailed him for the better part of the year, leaving his health in question for spring training. If healthy, and considering the contract, you’d have to imagine him returning to the 7th/8th innings where he should rack up holds, and possibly vulture a few saves. If Chapman is moved to the rotation, he could see some chances to close out a few games for the Reds. His HR/FB and LOB rates should balance back out to his career norms, so expect some better numbers in those departments. On the flip side, his LD rate was well below career marks, so this could be an issue in 2014 if the numbers correct themselves.
His LOB rate is higher than his career marks, and his walk rate continues to go in the wrong direction. He does limit the home runs and flyballs, which could prove beneficial in Great American Ballpark. The question is whether he will pitch in the later innings if Broxton and Marshall prove to be healthy.
Hoover pitched extremely well for the Reds when he was called upon, something they needed considering the injuries. However, his BABIP seems unsustainable, and it appears he is an extreme fly ball pitcher. Considering the environment, he could be prone to a blowup here and there. I fully expect him to be behind Chapman, Marshall and Broxton in the pecking order.
Make sure to check out our previous Bullpen Reports: