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 (1)
Current Closer – Grant Balfour?
The Rays said they were moving to a committee, then Balfour went out there and earned a 7 out save late last week. It doesn’t appear that it has resulted in him returning to closing, however, as McGee earned a save on Sunday and could be primed to run with an opportunity.
Sure people can look at Juan Carlos Oviedo as an alternative, but McGee’s numbers are simply too impressive. In 30.2 IP McGee owns a 1.47 ERA and 0.78 WHIP, as well as 35 K and 7 BB. Since the calendar turned to May he’s allowed runs in just one of his 21 appearances. Throw in that the Rays currently own the worst record in the Majors, so they should be looking a little more long-term, and it all comes together.
Long considered a potential closer of the future, now should be McGee’s chance to finally shine.
2) Joba Chamberlain – Detroit Tigers (2)
Current Closer – Joe Nathan
Just how much longer will the Tigers continue to run the ineffective Joe Nathan out there with the game on the line? Through Friday he had allowed 7 R (6 ER) on 7 H and 4 BB, striking out 1, over 3.0 IP in June. In his last seven appearances he’s allowed 10 ER on 14 H and 5 BB over 5.0 IP. In other words he’s been a complete disaster and, with the AL Central race growing tighter, it’s impossible to think the Tigers are going to continue letting him torpedo winnable games.
You would think that it would be Joba Chamberlain who steps into the role, though it’s not a guarantee. While he’s been pitching well, he blew a save opportunity in spectacular fashion recently and has two blown saves on the season.
Al Alburquerque could be a candidate (As is Ian Krol), but it’s important to note that he entered to pitch the seventh on Friday with Chamberlain claiming the eighth. Chamberlain should still be the first in line, but stashing one of the alternatives in deeper formats makes sense as well.
3) Mark Melancon – Pittsburgh Pirates (5)
Current Closer – Jason Grilli
It wasn’t Jason Grilli who was charged with a blown save on Friday, though he definitely contributed to the damage (2 ER on 1 H and 3 BB over 0.1 IP). One poor outing doesn’t generate a change, but the truth was that Melancon is already breathing down Grilli’s neck. He proved he can handle the role when Grilli was on the DL and it likely won’t take much for him to retake it.
4) John Axford – Cleveland Indians (NR)
Current Closer – Cody Allen
This has nothing to do with the way Allen has pitched, because he’s looked good in the role, but Axford has been pitching well of late himself. Just to add to things lost week Jordan Bastian tweeted:
“Francona said the eventual goal remains to have Axford return to the closer’s role. Likes how others are performing in 9th right now.”
While Axford struggled and lost the role early, he should get back there before long.
5) Vic Black – New York Mets (4)
Current Closer – Jenrry Mejia
Black was viewed as a potential closer entering the season, but he opened the year in the minors as he struggled with his control. At Triple-A he didn’t do anything to ease those concerns, with an 8.20 BB/9 over 18.2 IP. He’s been better since returning to the Majors, though he still owns a 5.23 mark.
That said, he’s showing electric stuff with an 11.32 K/9, fastball averaging 95.8 mph and a 10.6% SwStr% (though this mark could indicate a drop in his strikeout rate). He’s definitely worth keeping an eye on, as he could get a shot, but he needs to do a better job of avoiding the walk if he wants to hold down the role.
Also on the radar:
- Dellin Betances – New York Yankees – He clearly has the stuff, but it’s hard to justify removing David Robertson from the role.
- Josh Zeid – Houston Astros – Chad Qualls has run with the job, but it’s not impossible to think that he could ultimately become trade bait.
- Joaquin Benoit – San Diego Padres – With Huston Street a free agent at the end of the year, the rumors are already beginning to start.
Fell off the List:
- Adam Ottavino – Colorado Rockies (3)
- Jeurys Familia – New York Mets (4)
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Sources – MLB.com, Fangraphs