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) Dale Thayer – San Diego Padres (NR)
Current Closer – Joaquin Benoit
Huston Street has already been traded and there are rumors that Benoit could be the next one ticketed out of town. The Padres have a deep bullpen, but they have used Thayer in the closers role before (7 of 10 back in 2012 and he owns 173 saves in the minor leagues). If another move is made, he’d be the likely choice to get the first crack at closing.
He has been fantastic this season, with a 2.09 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 8.61 K/9 and 2.56 BB/9, so it’s not just experience that is working in his favor. The only “negative” could be his age, at 33-years old. If the team wants to see if one of their younger relievers can be a long-term solution, Kevin Quackenbush (25-years old) would be the favorite. He has been every bit as impressive as Thayer, and also has experience closing in the minor leagues. Depending on your format, it makes sense to stash both pitchers to see how things play out.
2) Ken Giles – Philadelphia Phillies (4)
Current Closer – Jonathan Papelbon
It remains to be seen if the Phillies will be willing to eat enough of Papelbon’s contract to move him (he’s owed $13 million in 2015 with a $13 million vesting option in 2016), but you have to think it’s a realistic possibility for a franchise that need to rebuild. The biggest concern for Giles coming up through the minor leagues has been his control, with a 5.4 BB/9 over his minor league career. That has hardly been an issue thus far in the Majors, with 3 BB over 15.0 IP.
He’s averaging 97.2 mph on his fastball, and also owns an impressive 17.2% SwStr%. Obviously you can argue he isn’t THIS good, considering a 0.60 ERA courtesy of a 100.0% strand rate, but he clearly has the stuff to close out games. As long as he’s hammering the strike zone, as he has thus far, he’s going to have the upside of an elite closer.
3) Neil Ramirez – Chicago Cubs (1)
Current Closer – Hector Rondon
Rondon is still the closer, and you can argue that part of his issues have been luck related (.358 BABIP, 66.5% strand rate). Still it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Cubs evaluate Ramirez in the role as well. You could easily say that Ramirez’ success has actually been luck related, with a .232 BABIP and 99.2% strand rate. Can he really be expected to maintain those types of numbers?
Still, the owner of a 14.0% SwStr% and a fastball that’s averaging 94.2 mph, he certainly has the makeup of a closer in the making. For a club in rebuilding mode, it definitely makes sense to test him out and see if he can handle the role for when the team is actually in a pennant race.
4) Will Smith – Milwaukee Brewers (NR)
Current Closer – Francisco Rodriguez
Francisco Rodriguez has been struggling of late, having allowed runs in three straight outings, and suddenly becoming homer prone. The home runs are not necessarily a new problem, with 15 HR allowed in 118.2 IP between 2012 and 2013. However he’s already up to 8 HR allowed and, with the Brewers suddenly in a dog fight for a playoff spot, they could lose their patience sooner than we would’ve expected.
Smith has had some control issues this season, with a 4.33 BB/9, though he had been significantly better in May (2.08) and June (3.77). He has the strikeout stuff, he’s been generating groundballs (50.0%) and figures to be the first in line should the Brewers opt to make a change.
5) Joba Chamberlain – Detroit Tigers (3)
Current Closer – Joe Nathan
In regards to making a change at closer, Manager Brad Ausmus was quoted by Chris Iott of M-Live.com (click here for the article) as saying:
“I’m sure there’s a possibility I could reach a point sometime,” he said. “I’m not near that point. I’ll let you know when I am.”
At least he finally acknowledged the idea of making a change, though you really have to wonder what it’s going to take. While his most recent debacle came in a non-save situation and he’s shown signs, occasionally, the bottom line is that he’s been consistently bad this season:
- April – 5.59 ERA
- May – 5.40 ERA
- June – 9.00 ERA
- July – 5.40 ERA
The Tigers are hardly guaranteed a playoff spot and they simply can’t afford to continue giving away games. If he doesn’t right the ship soon, the Tigers are going to be forced to make a change.
Others We’re Watching:
- Dellin Betances – New York Yankees – We including him in the rankings last week, but with the Yankees staying in playoff contention (for now), the idea of trading David Robertson is remote. That’ll mean Betances stays in a setup role, unless things change dramatically over the next 10 days.
- Jeurys Familia – New York Mets – He’ll get the opportunity when Jenrry Mejia is unavailable and could potentially thrive if given a chance long-term.
- Neftali Feliz – Texas Rangers – Joakim Soria isn’t going to lose his job, unless he’s traded. If he is moved, Feliz could step into the role (though his lack of strikeouts, with a 3.52 K/9, could ultimately sabotage him)
Dropped From Rankings:
- Brad Ziegler – Arizona Diamondbacks (2)
- Dellin Betances – New York Yankees (5)
Sources – CBS Sports, Fangraphs, Cot’s Baseball Contracts, M-Live, Baseball Reference
Make sure to check out all of our Rest of Season Rankings:
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