Searching for Saves: Can Daniel Hudson Claim The Closers Role In Pittsburgh?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The Pirates took a step in replacing Mark Melancon, the ace closer they traded at the Trade Deadline, with the addition of Daniel Hudson yesterday. The question now is if he’s going to step into the closer’s role? Maybe not initially, after Tony Watson fared well in the role in ’16, but it’s certainly not impossible at some point. Let’s take a look at both relievers and their potential upside:


Daniel Hudson
His 5.22 ERA would make you think that he isn’t a strong option, and he obviously struggled (a 27.1% line drive rate tells us that), but there clearly is upside. As it is he showed enough strikeouts (8.65 K/8) and solid control (3.28 BB/9) for the second straight season.  That said, his strikeouts improved dramatically as the season progressed:

  • First Half – 6.82
  • Second Half – 10.87

With a 12.0% SwStr% (after a 13.0% mark in 2015) and a fastball that averaged 95.7 mph, there’s obviously reason to believe in the increased numbers. He also generated a lot of popups (19.0%), so while we’d love to see a few more groundballs (40.9%) the makeup is strong.

We all know that Pittsburgh has a habit of turning these types of pitchers into stars, and Hudson could easily thrive.


Tony Watson
He did earn 15 saves last season, but he’s not your prototypical strikeout closer (7.71 K/9) nor does he generate a lot of groundballs (43.8%). The question is if he’s more of a left-handed specialist, after allowing 8 HR to right-handed hitters last season.

He has held righties to a .211 BAA against over his career and his slugging isn’t all that bad:

  • vs. RHH – .352
  • vs. LHH – .284

It’s easy to see him getting a shot to open the year with the role, given his success. At the same time could the Pirates want him back in his prototypical setup role? That’s another easy thing to envision.


While we wouldn’t expect Hudson to open the year with the job, even if it’s not Watson who doesn’t start in it, would it be a surprise if he ultimately got an opportunity? We long thought he could rise to the role in Arizona, and a fresh start in an organization that has long gotten the most out of its pitchers could be the perfect opportunity. As a late round flier, for those searching for saves, he makes a ton of sense.

Source – Fangraphs

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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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