Bullpen Banter: Could An Under-The-Radar Closer Option Emerge In Colorado?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

We all know that LaTroy Hawkins is a risky closer this season, given his age and lack of strikeouts.  Sooner or later the team needs to start looking towards who could fill the role in 2016 and beyond.

It’s always been assumed that Rex Brothers was a candidate, but control issues have consistently sabotaged him.  While his recent demotion to Triple-A doesn’t take him out of the conversation, it casts a shadow of doubt.

The current heir apparent appears to be Adam Ottavino, who we’ve discussed numerous times before, but is he a guarantee?  Absolutely not, so here are a few more names to keep tabs on as we prepare for Opening Day:

 

Rafael Betancourt
He missed last season due to Tommy John surgery, but he racked up 47 saves between 2012 and 2013 and appears to be healthy this spring.  Over 8.2 IP he’s posted a 1.04 ERA and 1.04 WHIP to go along with 10 K and 1 BB.

Home runs could be an issue (career 49.9% fly ball rate), though he does bring strikeouts (9.52 career K/9) and control (2.12 BB/9).  Then again, at 39-years old is he really the future?

Don’t be surprised if he works his way into a spot for holds, and maybe an occasional save, but it’s hard to imagine him as the solution.

 

John Axford
He has had a strong spring as well, with a 0.00 ERA and 0.60 WHIP over 5.0 innings of work.  He’s had success as closer before, but that feels like a lifetime ago.  Sure he brings strikeouts, but he needs to find his control (walk rates of 5.06, 3.60 and 5.93 the past three seasons) and keep the ball in the ballpark (HR/9 of 1.30, 1.38 and 0.99 the past three seasons) to have success.  Considering he’ll be pitching in Coors Field, is anyone really going to believe that?

 

Brooks Brown
The former starter actually worked 26.0 innings for the Rockies last season and showed the three skills we look for:

  • Strikeouts – 7.27 K/9
  • Control – 1.73 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 58.4%

The strikeouts don’t appear to be impressive, but he did have a 14.1% SwStr% and averaged 94.3 mph on his fastball.  We can’t draw many conclusions from his minor league numbers, since he was a starter until recently, but what he showed in the Majors looks a lot like the Orioles’ Zach Britton.

Brown is a long-shot, but he’s an under-the-radar option to keep tabs on.

 

Jairo Diaz
Another under-the-radar option, he was acquired from the Angels after posting an 11.65 K/9 and 2.88 BB/9 between Single and Double-A in ’14 and getting a cup of coffee in the Majors.  Minor League Central ranked him as the team’s 19th best prospect heading into 2015 saying:

“Throws very hard, mid-upper-90s and has a good slider, very erratic track record due to command issues but has made progress over the last year.”

The potential is there, but he has to throw strikes.

 

Conclusion
Adam Ottavino is likely first in line, but he’s no guarantee to produce himself.  It’s hard to imagine Betancourt or Axford rising to the position, so if Ottavino were to stumble Brooks Brown looks to be an intriguing name.  He’s a long-shot, at best, but one that appears to bring similar upside to Zach Britton.  A closer we love to fully emerge this season, that’s a comparison that should get us excited.

Brown isn’t worth grabbing, outside of deeper NL-Only formats, but he’s definitely a player to monitor.

Sources – MLB.com, Fangraphs, Minor League Central, Minor League Ball

3 comments

  1. Mark says:

    Who would you grab, Romo or Ottavino?

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