Setting the Odds: Could A Sleeper Emerge As The Best Closing Option In Cincinnati?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The question of who would close for the Reds was already hanging out there, but the addition of Drew Storen puts a new spin on things.  While he’s coming off a down season, without an established option in the mix it’s impossible to count him out of the running.  Who is the favorite to get the role?  Who has the highest upside?  Let’s take a look at the options and set the odds as to who is going to get the job:

 

Raisel Iglesias
Chances of Closing: 45%

The Reds converted Iglesias to the bullpen in an effort to keep him healthy, and the results were certainly impressive as he posted a 1.98 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 9.72 K/9 and 3.42 BB/9 over 50.0 IP as a reliever.  You can argue that there was luck behind the success, with a .215 BABIP and 86.1% strand rate, but even a regression in those marks may not hurt him.  As it is his 11.6% SwStr% should lead to more strikeouts while he’s proven to have better control (2.64 BB/9 in ’15) and the ability to generate more groundballs (40.6% in ’16 as compared to 47.2% in ’15).

He has the stuff to close, the real question is whether or not that’s how the team opts to deploy him.  After the conversion the team seemed to prefer to utilize him for multiple innings, and also were also hesitant to utilize him on back-to-back days.  Considering the thought was to keep him healthy, that shouldn’t be a surprise since he didn’t have much history out of the bullpen.

Now that he’s proven that he can thrive in the role, as well as time to prepare as a reliever in Spring Training, the chances of him being utilized in a more “classical” relief role are greater.  Given his stuff and success in ’16, that should mean he’s the favorite to close.

 

Drew Storen
Chances of Closing: 30%

There was a time that he was considered among the better closers in the game, but since the Nationals bumped him from the role in favor of Jonathan Papelbon things have been an utter disaster.  Of course his 5.23 ERA last season was driven by some poor luck (69.5% strand rate), so there should be reason for optimism…  At least if he can regain his velocity.  After averaging 94.0 mph on his fastball in ’15 it plummeted to 91.8 mph last season.  As it is he had never been a huge strikeout producer (outside of in ’15), but the drop in velocity certainly would have a negative impact.

Still he has the stuff to post 8+ strikeouts per nine innings, and also showed an improved groundball rate (48.7%, reminiscent of his 52.5% mark in ’14) and strong control (2.26 BB/9).  Don’t underestimate his potential to thrive, if given the opportunity.

 

Michael Lorenzen
Chances of Closing: 25%

If not for the Storen signing, Lorenzen would look a lot more palatable of a closing option.  Like Iglesias he was converted from a starter and thrived, with a 2.88 ERA and 1.08 WHIP.  He utilized an elite groundball rate (62.7%) as well as impressive control (2.34 BB/9), and with a fourseam fastball that averaged 97.33 mph (his sinker was at 96.61 mph) and a wide array of pitches it’s possible that he starts generating more strikeouts as well (8.64 K/9).

At the end of the day he may actually represent the best skillset to thrive in the role (think of him as a similar reliever to Sam Dyson, or Zach Britton-lite), and no one is going to be paying attention.  While the odds aren’t that great, if you are looking for a sleeper option he needs to be on radars.

 

Tony Cingrani
Chances of Closing: .000001%

He’s had the role, and he failed in the role.  With three more intriguing options in the mix it’s impossible to view him as a viable candidate.  He’s not a zero option (though in theory we total 100.0000001%), but he’s also highly unlikely at this point.

 

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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Make sure to check out our other Early 2017 Rankings:

Position
Standard League
OBP League
Catcher03/20/1702/28/17
First Base01/16/1703/07/17
Second Base03/22/1703/09/17
Third Base02/06/1703/12/17
Shortstop02/13/1703/15/17
Outfield#1-20 |03/16/17

#21-40 |03/16/17
03/19/17
Starting Pitcher#1-20 |02/27/17

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

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