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 (for example we’ve excluded the situations in Tampa Bay & Chicago).
Without further ado, let’s take a look at how things stand:
1) Roberto Osuna – Toronto Blue Jays (1)
Current Closer – Brett Cecil
(Note: He had a dominant 2.0 IP save yesterday, with 5 K and 1 BB, potentially staking claim on job)
By the time this article is published it wouldn’t be surprising if the Blue Jays had either acquired a new closer or announced that Cecil had been removed from the role. Time will tell which path they opt to take, but they simply can’t continue with their current direction. Cecil has been abysmal of late, with 8 ER on 6 H and 3 BB over his past 2.1 IP (3 outings) and runs allowed in five of his past six appearances. According to Jamie Ross of mlb.com (click here for the article) Cecil feels like he may be tipping his pitches, as per this quote:
“It came up a while ago during the first month of the season, it was just a little thing and I thought I had fixed it,” Cecil said. “I don’t know if hitters are getting it or not, [but our coaches] just said they could be.”
If Toronto stays in house it’s Osuna who should get the first opportunity to fill the spot. Toronto has already tried a rookie once this season, so that shouldn’t be an issue. From a skill perspective he’s shown strikeouts (9.84 K/9), and he’s gotten better in the department in June with a gaudy 14.21 K/9. He’s also shown control, with a 2.53 BB/9 and no month above a 2.84. He doesn’t generate groundballs, meaning the long ball could hurt him, though that hasn’t been the case as of yet. With a 2.25 ERA and 0.94 WHIP, fantasy owners should be running to the waiver wire to claim him.
2) Evan Scribner – Oakland Athletics (3)
Current Closer – Tyler Clippard
Scribner has had some issues of late, with a 7.36 ERA in June, but all that’s done is raise his season mark to 3.25. Everyone is going to have some bumps along the way and it shows just how dominant Scribner was over the first two months of the season. Overall he has a 9.75 K/9, 0.75 BB/9 and 42.6% groundball rate. The problem has been home runs, with a 1.50 HR/9 and 3 HR over 7.1 IP in June, but pitching in Oakland is that really something we’d consider likely to continue? Given the other numbers it’s easy to imagine success.
As for Clippard, he has been solid this season but the rumors are flying fast and furious. Having proven that he can close as well as operate as a setup man, you can make a case for him to go to almost any contender (and he’s been tied to the Blue Jays, Nationals and Mets, just to name a few). At this point there’s little doubt that he will get moved, and there’s a good chance it comes sooner rather than later.
3) Daniel Hudson – Arizona Diamondbacks (1)
Current Closer – Brad Ziegler
The Diamondbacks just sold off one of their best prospects in what appeared to be a cost saving move, so would it surprise anyone to see them start selling off assets despite being in the mix? As it is you could argue that Ziegler may not be able to succeed long-term in the closers role, thanks to his lack of strikeouts, and it’s clear Addison Reed is nowhere near reclaiming his job (in fact he’s been demoted to Triple-A). That leaves Hudson, who has made the transition to the bullpen seamlessly, as the next in line. He owns an overall 3.16 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, but has been even better than that since the calendar turned to May:
- May – 1.93 ERA/1.14 WHIP
- June – 1.04 ERA/0.92 WHIP
With the way he’s been going and at 28-years old offering a potential long-term solution to the role, it is just a matter of when the team opts to give him a shot. Don’t be surprised if it comes in short order.
4) Joba Chamberlain – Detroit Tigers (NR)
Current Closer – Joakim Soria
(Note: Soria made it four straight appearances with a home run allowed last night)
Weren’t the Tigers supposed to have solved their ninth inning issues? It looked that way for a little while, though not so much anymore. While Soria hasn’t necessarily been blowing saves, he’s allowed a HR in three straight appearances (through Sunday) and in four of his past five. That’s simply unacceptable and could lead to the Tigers making a change.
Chamberlain isn’t necessarily the first man up, with pitchers like Al Alburquerque and Blaine Hardy also potentially in the mix, but Chamberlain could have the edge. That said, while Chamberlain owns a 1.53 ERA there are warning bells ringing everywhere we look:
- 5.60 K/9
- 93.1 mph (showing a diminishing fastball)
- 35.0% line drive rate
He may get the first chance, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to succeed…
5) Ken Giles – Philadelphia Phillies (5)
Current Closer – Jonathan Papelbon
We’ve talked about Giles numerous times and, with the trade deadline approaching, his time as a closer would appear to be coming. It would be surprising if Jonathan Papelbon isn’t moved, especially with contenders like the Blue Jays in desperate need of help. The question is going to be if Giles can continue to find the strike zone or not. If he avoids walking a significant number of batters there’s little doubt that he can be successful.
Fell off the Rankings:
- Fernando Rodney – Seattle Mariners (2)
- Jim Johnson – Atlanta Braves (4)
Others We’re Watching:
- Arquimedes Caminero – Pittsburgh Pirates – Mark Melancon continues to get the job done, without the benefit of strikeouts, but he feels like a ticking time bomb. Caminero has shown prototypical closer stuff, with a 9.77 K/9 and 3.16 BB/9, and could get the first crack at the job if something should happen. Obviously Tony Watson would also be in the mix, but the team could opt to keep him in the 8th inning.
- Carter Capps – Miami Marlins – He’s been discussed as a potential closer of the future before and is backing it up in 2015. A 16.53 K/9, coupled with a 2.20 BB/9? That’s downright nasty and if A.J. Ramos shows any type of a stumble the Marlins could make a move.
- J.J. Hoover – Cincinnati Reds – Hoover has risen to “next up” and there has been rumblings that the Reds could potentially trade Aroldis Chapman. While we’d believe that when we see it, it still needs to be monitored just in case.
- Jeremy Jeffress – Milwaukee Brewers – Jeffress could be another trade deadline beneficiary, as Francisco Rodriguez’ name has come up in rumors. Long on radars for those looking for “potential closers”, Jeffress has shown strikeouts (9.46 K/9), solid control (3.34 BB/9) and groundballs (56.7%).
- Keona Kela – Texas Rangers – You can argue Kela has a better closer skill set than Shawn Tolleson, and he’s even earned a save recently when the current closer was unavailable. That said Tolleson has been lights out and is really going to need to hit a rough stretch to be replaced.
- Junichi Tazawa – Boston Red Sox – Uehara has struggled, though mostly in non-save situations, and also could be a trade candidate. Tazawa has had his own issues of late, but should still remain next up if a new closer is needed.
Sources – MLB.com, Fangraphs, Minor League Central