by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Are you someone constantly on the lookout for the next potential closer? That’s what we are trying to pinpoint here, with our new Top 5 Closer In Waiting Power Rankings. These rankings look at the pitchers who appear to be on the precipice of taking over their team’s respective closing duties (or they could be in the not too distant future). Keep in mind, if a pitcher is currently part of a committee they will not be included in these rankings despite not currently “holding” the job outright.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at how things stand (all stats are through Saturday):
1) Cody Allen – Cleveland Indians
Current Closer – John Axford
Axford has already blown two saves, but more importantly owns a 7.98 BB/9 and 1.84 HR/9. Neither of those marks are indicative of a strong closer and it’s only a matter of time before he’s yanked from the job at this point. Allen, meanwhile, is one of the better setup men in baseball. He currently has a 1.84 ERA and 1.16 WHIP to go along with a 13.50 K/9 and 3.07 BB/9. He does give up a fair amount of fly balls (48.4% this season) so home runs could be an issue, but with a fastball averaging 95.2 mph and a massive 16.1% SwStr% (11.5% last season) he is your prototypical fireball closer. If he’s available, grab him now.
It is interesting to note that it was Bryan Shaw, and not Allen, who got the opportunity yesterday in lieu of Axford. That said, with the way Allen is throwing the baseball, it would appear to only be a matter of time before he gets his opportunity.
2) Zach Britton – Baltimore Orioles
Current Closer – Tommy Hunter
Darren O’Day received a save chance recently, but Britton had worked on back-to-back days, just like Tommy Hunter, so he was likely unavailable. O’Day is more of a specialist, and Britton has been setting up for Hunter. We’ve talked about this situation multiple times recently (click here for our in-depth look), so we aren’t going to rehash it again here. The fact is that after faltering as a starter, Britton has reinvented himself and the recent slide of Hunter (runs in three consecutive outings, 1.67 WHIP) could lead to an opportunity.
3) Jake McGee – Tampa Bay Rays
Current Closer – Grant Balfour
Balfour owns a pathetic 5.02 ERA, as his strikeouts are down (6.28 K/9) and he owns an astronomical 7.53 BB/9. It’s not like he’s generating swings and misses either (7.1%), and you have to think that his 12.8% line drive rate is going to rise. In other words, the outlook simply isn’t good. McGee, meanwhile, owns a 9.00 K/9, 2.25 BB/9 and has yet to allow a home run. The AL East is extremely tight, and the Rays simply can’t afford to give away games. Unless Balfour rights the ship, don’t be surprised if a change is made.
4) Jeurys Familia – New York Mets
Current Closer – Kyle Farnsworth
We all know that the Mets’ closing situation is a mess, but Adam Rubin recently Tweeted that, “Terry Collins says Jeurys Familia moving closer to becoming closer.” It certainly makes sense, as Familia has been performing well of late. The only big red flag is his control, with a 4.15 BB/9, but there’s upside in the strikeouts (12.0% SwStr%) and he’s been generating groundballs (52.0%). Even with the control, only once has he walked more than one batter in an outing so it’s not the end of the world. The Mets need to find an answer late in games, so it certainly makes sense to see if the youngster could be the answer (as opposed to trying these retreads destined to fail).
5) Ronald Belisario – Chicago White Sox
Current Closer – Matt Lindstrom
Belisario may carry a 5.03 ERA overall, but he hasn’t allowed a run since April 17 (12.0 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 7 K) so he’s clearly been pitching well recently. He also owns a 1.07 WHIP, second behind Zach Putnam among White Sox relievers. He may have limited strikeout stuff, but the veteran has been showing the best control of his career (1.83 BB/9) and is among the elite groundball artists in the game (67.8% in ’14, 61.3% for his career). With Lindstrom already suffering three blown saves, Belisario is a name to follow closely. He may not be your prototypical closer, but he could get an opportunity.
Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com