Searching For Saves: Is Kelvin Herrera Prepared To Be A Top 10 Closer In 2017?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The trade of Wade Davis has opened the Royals’ closing job for Kelvin Herrera, who fared well in the role when Davis was injured in ’16 (12 saves).  Can he maintain his impressive marks from a year ago or is he destined to stumble?  First his numbers from 2016:

72.0 IP
2 Wins
12 Saves
2.75 ERA
0.96 WHIP
86 Strikeouts (10.75 K/9)
12 Walks (1.50 BB/9)
44.2% Groundball Rate
.290 BABIP

The owner of a career 9.09 K/9 and 2.68 BB/9, his success boils down to his ability to maintain his strikeout and walk rates from a year ago.  The question is, can he?

Herrera has actually shown an impressive ability to both generate swings and misses (13.1% SwStr%) and get opponents to chase outside the strike zone (35.2% O-Swing%).  That makes last year’s marks of 15.2% and 35.2%, respectively, easy to buy in to.

He also ditched his sinker (which he had thrown 34.23% of the time in ’15), in favor of utilizing his curveball and slider more:

  • Curveball – 1.67% to 12.95%
  • Slider – 3.53% to 8.26%

He was effective with both of the pitches (.204 against curveball, .133 against slider), and when joining his changeup gives him a four pitch mix that generally isn’t seen from a reliever.  It’s impressive, and it certainly will help to keep opposing hitters off balance when coupled with a fastball that averaged 97.81 mph in ’16.

He generates swings and misses with all of his pitches, just adding support to the numbers (Whiff%):

  • Fourseam Fastball – 14.01%
  • Changeup – 22.17%
  • Slider – 30.00%
  • Curveball – 10.64%

The underlying numbers and the new mix of pitches certainly helps to justify his breakout performance.  He had also shown significant upside in his control as well, including a 2.2 BB/9 back in the minors, so there’s reason to buy into that as well.  If he can maintain those two things he is going to continue thriving and flourish as the closer.

While it isn’t a given, right now it’s hard to imagine Herrera not grabbing the role and running with it.  While he has the upside of a Top 10-15 closer, that’s not how he should be valued on draft day.  As your CL2, or maybe CL3, though, he should prove to be an absolute steal.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Reference

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Make sure to check out our other Early 2017 Rankings:

Standard League
OBP League
First Base01/16/1703/07/17
Second Base03/22/1703/09/17
Third Base02/06/1703/12/17
Outfield#1-20 |03/16/17

#21-40 |03/16/17
Starting Pitcher#1-20 |02/27/17

#21-40 |03/02/17
Relief Pitcher01/02/17--

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