Closer Watch: Who Could Now Rise To The Role In San Diego?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The offseason is barely underway, but in the matter of days the Padres have sent both of their obvious late inning candidates packing in separate trades:

  • Joaquin Benoit to the Mariners for RHP Enyel De Los Santos & SS Nelson Ward
  • Craig Kimbrel to the Red Sox for OF Manuel Margot, SS Javy Guerra, 2B/SS Carlos Asuaje & LHP Logan Allen

There’s a lot of time for the team to go out and acquire another option, but chances are these moves were made to reallocate their financial assets elsewhere (the move cleared roughly $18.5 million in ’16 salaries, which could be allocated to Ian Desmond, for instance).  Maybe they sign a low cost veteran, but it makes sense that they consider their in-house alternatives.  Who could rise up to closing duties?  There are two obvious candidates, so let’s take a look:

Kevin Quackenbush
Prior to the addition of Kimbrel there had been a thought that he’d rise to closing duties in ’15 over Benoit.  While he struggled at times (overall 4.01 ERA in ‘15), ultimately spending time at Triple-A, the peripherals were still promising over his 58.1 IP:

  • Strikeouts – 8.95 K/9
  • Walks – 3.09 BB/9

That’s right along the lines of what he did coming up through the minors, with an 11.8 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9, when he proved capable of closing games (70 saves).  He predominantly throws his fourseam fastball (74.0%), though he’s successful with it (19.83% Whiff%) and has proven that he can consistently get outs.

While he’s not a groundball pitcher, calling San Diego home obviously helps to reduce the risk of the long ball.

Brandon Maurer
The converted starter acquired from the Mariners prior to 2015, it was interesting to see his strikeout rate actually decline as he posted a 6.88 K/9 (8.4 K/9 coming up in the minors).  His 12.3% SwStr%, however, indicates that significantly more strikeouts are possible.  You have to wonder if the regression was thanks to the increased usage of his cutter (42.8%), though some metrics consider the pitch a slider and it did generate a 15.20% Whiff%.

The pitch mix generated an increase in groundballs (47.7%) and popups (15.6%), plus he’s always shown strong control (2.65 BB/9 in ’15, 2.61 in the Majors, 3.1 in the minors).  Armed with a fastball that averaged 95.1 mph last season, it’s obvious to see that the potential is there to significantly improve.

There has been talk of Maurer being shifted back to the rotation, but with the moves they’ve made that seems a little bit harder to believe.

Conclusion
Barring an acquisition it would make sense for Quackenbush and Maurer to battle for the job, both in the spring and the early season.  That may not be what fantasy owners want to hear, but both still have a lot to prove.  Maurer appears to have the higher upside, and would be the favorable option, but whichever were to get the role would have ample value.  This is certainly going to be a situation to monitor throughout the offseason.

Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, Brooks Baseball

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