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) Jeurys Familia – New York Mets (NR)
Current Closer – Jenrry Mejia
We’ve been saying that Familia could ultimately prove that he has better closer’s stuff than Mejia for a while and now comes word that Mejia has been pitching with a hernia for the past three weeks. While the Mets have allowed him to pitch through the injury, thus far, how much longer will that really last? Why run the risk of further injury, or worse Mejia altering his mechanics and ultimately injuring his arm?
This switch simply seems inevitable at this point, so now is the time to grab Mejia before the switch becomes “official”.
2) Kevin Quackenbush – San Diego Padres (3)
Current Closer – Joaquin Benoit
As we’ve said before, it makes sense for the Padres to see if their long-term closer is already on the roster because there’s a very good chance that Benoit is traded in the offseason. Quackenbush has proven that he can closer games in the minor leagues and has quickly worked his way into the back of the Padres’ bullpen. He’s shown strikeouts and control throughout his professional career and pitching half his games at Petco Park just makes him that much more appealing. The Padres are showing an eye for the future, as they’re primed to recall Rymer Liriano, and a look at Quackenbush in the ninth inning is the next logical move.
3) Joba Chamberlain – Detroit Tigers (NR)
Current Closer – Joe Nathan
Didn’t we think the time had passed where Chamberlain could potentially be a closing option? How quickly things change, after Soria went down with an injury Saturday night and Joe Nathan imploded again (he’s now allowed 3 H and 4 BB over his past 1.1 IP). Chamberlain has been pitching like a closer candidate all season long, but the Tigers continue to show faith in Nathan. How much longer will that last? Only time will tell, but you have to think his leash is going to run out eventually. Of course Chamberlain promptly blew a save on Sunday so we’re right back to square one…
4) Brad Boxberger – Tampa Bay Rays (2)
Current Closer – Jake McGee
Is this headed back to a committee? Fantasy owners certainly hope not, though Boxberger was given an opportunity to close on Friday night (with McGee pitching the eighth inning). Of course Boxberger promptly blew the game, so chances are McGee is right back in the closers role.
As we’ve said before, though, Boxberger could ultimately prove to be the better closing option long-term. While he has benefited from ample luck (92.3% strand rate, .218 BABIP), he also has shown an electric strikeout rate (14.17 K/9), much improved control (3.06 BB/9) and a solid groundball rate (49.4%). Those three things give him the potential to be elite.
5) Pat Neshek – St. Louis Cardinals (NR)
Current Closer – Trevor Rosenthal
It’s hard to imagine the Cardinals replacing Rosenthal, who has 35 saves on the season, but he has struggled with his control this season (4.70 BB/9) and has been hit hard consistently (27.9% line drive rate). Considering that the team is in the midst of a playoff race (2.0 games out in the division, tied for the final Wild Card spot), the team can’t afford to watch Rosenthal blow games.
After struggling in his last appearance the team actually turned to Neshek in a save opportunity. While they aren’t likely ready to make a change, it may not take much for a change to be made.
Others We’re Watching:
- Delin Betances – New York Yankees – He clearly has closer stuff, but barring an injury to David Robertson he’s going to be locked into a setup role all season
- Kyuji Fujikawa – Chicago Cubs – Once thought of as a closing candidate for the Cubs, could he quickly work his way to the back of the bullpen now that he’s healthy again
- Aaron Loup – Toronto Blue Jays – Casey Janssen imploded in his last outing and, if his struggles continue, it’s Loup that will step in and assume the role
- Adam Ottavino – Colorado Rockies – We all know Latroy Hawkins isn’t the Rockies future, but it’s easy to argue Ottavino/Rex Brothers aren’t either
- Shawn Tolleson – Texas Rangers – Neftali Feliz has handled the role thus far, but if he can’t maintain an elevated strikeout rate (and starts to blow saves) it’s Tolleson who should get a shot
Fell Off Rankings:
- Josh Fields – Houston Astros (1)
- Adam Ottavino – Colorado Rockies (4)
- Neal Cotts – Texas Rangers (5)
Make sure to check out all of our Rest of Season Rankings:
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