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:
1) Ken Giles – Philadelphia Phillies (2)
Current Closer – Jonathan Papelbon
We’ve been a broken record when it comes to Giles, but the facts are the facts. If he has his control he is going to be a lights out closer in the Majors. If he doesn’t? He’s an implosion waiting to happen. He does own a 1.86 ERA and 11.41 K/9, so even if he’s a bit wild at times the numbers are impressive. Even better, his 3.96 BB/9 doesn’t tell the whole story as he’s been better since a poor April:
- April – 5.79
- May – 3.00
- June – 4.26
- July – 1.93
With his ability to miss bats, even the June mark is acceptable. With Jonathan Papelbon having one foot out of the door already, it’s just a matter of time for Giles to be handed the role.
2) Jeremy Jeffress – Milwaukee Brewers (3)
Current Closer – Francisco Rodriguez
If Papelbon is the most likely closer to be traded, Rodriguez could be the second most likely at this point. Jeffress, long considered a potential closer of the future, finally appears to be living up to the billing and has the underlying metrics we love to see from any pitcher:
- Strikeouts – 8.85 K/9 (10.9% SwStr%)
- Control – 3.18 BB/9
- Groundballs -58.9%
Those numbers would excel in any role and he’s proving he can get the job done with a 2.95 ERA and 1.29 WHIP (.306 BABIP does show a bit of poor luck). You could argue that Will Smith will get the first shot, but he’s a southpaw and you can argue doesn’t have quite the same upside in his skillset (3.74 BB/9, 45.5% groundball rate).
3) Pedro Strop – Chicago Cubs (4)
Current Closer – Jason Motte
Motte is a ticking time bomb and, at least for now, Strop has been operating as the primary setup man. We all know that Hector Rondon could easily get an opportunity and Rafael Soriano is working his way up from the minors, so Strop may not last long as the “next up” option for the Cubs. However, much like with Jeurys Familia a year ago, we could easily argue that Strop’s skill set is the best suited to close out games.
He’s been showing strikeouts (10.24 K/9) and groundballs (52.9%), nearly matching last season’s marks (10.48, 55.0%). His control has regressed a bit (3.96, up from 3.69), which has always been the biggest question hanging over him. It would be nice if he could get that in order, but he’s been above 4.00 every month since April (when he posted a 1.93 BB/9) so it’s hard to bank on. That could easily keep him out of the role, though time will tell.
4) Hunter Strickland – San Francisco Giants (NR)
Current Closer – Santiago Casilla
Casilla has really hit a rough stretch, allowing runs in 3 of his final 5 appearances of the first half. Sergio Romo has been even worse, so could that help Strickland, long considered a potential closer of the future, get an opportunity to claim the role for himself?
He owns a 2.18 ERA and 1.11 WHIP, courtesy of an 11.32 K/9 and 2.18 BB/9, so there obviously is a lot to like in the numbers. The Giants have also shown that they are willing to be creative and make changes at the back of their bullpen when necessary. They have a deep ‘pen, but you could argue that Strickland is the best arm they have. Don’t be shocked to see him get a shot if the struggles of the veterans continue for much longer.
5) Neftali Feliz – Detroit Tigers (NR)
Current Closer – Joakim Soria
Soria has simply not been very good of late, with a 5.23 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in June and an epic blowup in July. Given the history of issues at the back of the Tigers’ bullpen and the struggles of Bruce Rondon and others to step up, it certainly made sense for the team to grab Feliz and thrust him right into the back of the bullpen. While he was a risk to hold the Rangers job early in the season, he now finds himself in the exact opposite situation. Does that make him a great option? Not really, as the same concerns we had entering the season are still there, but the potential opportunity has to put him on our radars.
Others We’re Watching:
- Enrique Burgos – Arizona Diamondbacks – Brad Ziegler has the job locked down, for now, but Burgos has been given a chance before and Ziegler could become a trade candidate as the deadline approaches. He certainly brings big-time strikeout stuff (13.95 K/9), as long as he’s throwing strikes.
- Arquimedes Caminero – Pittsburgh Pirates – Mark Melancon has settled down and solidified his job plus the team has Tony Watson capable of stepping in. That said, Caminero could easily emerge as the long-term future.
- Carter Capps – Miami Marlins – In another situation Capps would find himself in the Top 5, but it’s hard to imagine A.J. Ramos being replaced. Of course the current closer is arbitration eligible for the first time after this season and Capps owns a gaudy 17.05 K/9 and 2.13 BB/9. In other words, you never know.
- Sean Doolittle – Oakland A’s – The A’s current secondary options have been unimpressive and Doolittle is roughly a month away from returning. While many wrote this year off for him, it’s possible he makes a significant impact down the stretch if he can finally get healthy. As his recovery progresses, don’t be surprised to see him rise into the Top 5.
- J.J. Hoover – Cincinnati Reds – Will Aroldis Chapman be traded? That’s the only chance Hoover has of getting the role, so time will tell.
- Junichi Tazawa – Boston Red Sox – The Red Sox are back in the race, so a Koji Uehara trade is off the table. That said, they replaced their closer late last season so we don’t want to ignore Tazawa.
- Arodys Vizcaino – Atlanta Braves – The Braves lost their closer and, as we discussed on Sunday (click here to view), Vizcaino could offer the most long-term potential for the job. He’s not going to inherit the role yet, but he could get there should Jim Johnson be moved.
Dropped off the Rankings:
- Jake McGee – Tampa Bay Rays (1)
- Drew Pomeranz – Oakland A’s (5)