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 Top 5 Closer In Waiting Power Rankings. These rankings look at the pitchers who appear capable of taking over their team’s respective closing duties (though in some cases, will need some help to get there). 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) Jake McGee – Tampa Bay Rays (3)
Current Closer – Grant Balfour
On Thursday Balfour entered the ninth inning with a lead and promptly allowed a hit and a pair of walks. Instead of letting his veteran try to get himself out of the mess, Joe Maddon promptly decided that he didn’t have it and yanked him from the game. You would think that type of impatience means that Balfour’s time as closer could quickly be running out.
Balfour’s strikeouts are down and his walks are sky high (8.22 BB/9), a terrible mix for any closer. Meanwhile, McGee brings electric stuff and easily could hold down the job. While being the only lefty in the bullpen would seem like a detriment, it’s not like he’s used as a specialist (since April 4 he’s been used for less than 1 inning in two of his 17 appearances). He brings prototypical blow away closer stuff to the role.
2) Adam Ottavino – Colorado Rockies (NR)
Current Closer – Latroy Hawkins
As we discussed in this morning’s column, while Latroy Hawkins blew his first save of the season yesterday he has hardly been impressive. Ottavino, meanwhile, pitched the eighth inning and has been highly impressive all season long. He has always shown solid strikeout stuff (9.35 K/9), but thus far has paired it with outstanding control (1.04 BB/9). That’s an impressive mix, and he’s also proven capable of keeping the ball in the ballpark despite not being a groundball pitcher. As long has he can avoid that, he should continue to thrive. Most thought Hawkins would implode much earlier than this, and it could be just a matter of time before Ottavino gets his chance to close out games in Colorado.
3) Brad Ziegler – Arizona Diamondbacks (NR)
Current Closer – Addison Reed
Reed has had his obvious issues thus far, with a 5.03 ERA. Even in Chicago he was always susceptible to the blow up, so it really shouldn’t come as a surprise. His biggest issue this season has been home runs, though, with a massive 21.4% HR/FB (2.75 HR/9). That’s never been a problem before, but 6 HR in 19.2 IP could eventually cause him to be removed from the role.
Ziegler, meanwhile, has yet to allow a home on the season and proved he can handle closing duties last season (13 for 15 in save opportunities). While he doesn’t own the same blow away stuff that Reed does, he is one of the elite grounball artists in the league (66.2% for his career). If a change is ultimately needed, Ziegler should thrive in the role once again.
4) Cody Allen – Cleveland Indians (1)
Current Closer – Bryan Shaw
Is this a committee? It remains to be seen, but what we do know is that John Axford is out and that Shaw saw the first save chance after the removal. How long will that last, though? Allen simply continues to thrive, demonstrating both strikeouts (12.94 K/9) and control (2.81 BB/9). While the fly balls are up (50.0%), meaning home runs could become an issue, they haven’t been thus far in his career (0.78 HR/9) so we would really be splitting hairs there. You would think that Allen’s time is going to come, at some point, and he is a middle man that needs to be on all of our radars.
5) Dellin Betances – New York Yankees (NR)
Current Closer – David Robertson
It’s not that the Yankees are in a rush to replace Robertson (1.74 ERA, 0.68 WHIP), who has done a fine job, but Betances has just been that impressive that eventually he’s going to garner attention. The former top prospect has clearly taken to a relief role, averaging 95.4 mph on his fastball an owning a 15.72 K/9 over 22.1 innings of work. If he continues to pitch like this, it may only take a handful of poor outings from Robertson (who has proven that he can thrive in the eighth inning) to give Betances an opportunity. Nothing is happening at the moment, but with the way Betances has pitched it is becoming a very plausible situation.
Honorable Mention – Joaquin Benoit – San Diego Padres – Could Huston Street ultimately be traded? It’s always on the table and, if he is, Benoit should seamlessly step into the role.
- Zach Britton – Baltimore Orioles (2) – It appears he has gotten himself a share of closing duties, at the least, and could have the opportunity to run with it.
- Jeurys Familia – New York Mets (4) – Maybe he does get an opportunity, at some point, but right now it’s Jenrry Mejia’s job and he has the stuff to run with it.
- Ronald Bellisario – Chicago White Sox (5) – Matt Lindstrom has settled down for the White Sox and Bellisario’s upside just isn’t that high anyways.
Sources – Fangraphs