by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The Minnesota Twins somewhat quietly signed Fernando Rodney to a one-year contract (with an option), giving him an opportunity to continue to close (and therefore maintain some fantasy value). After the trade of Brandon Kintzler it was Matt Belisle who stepped into the role, though we all knew he wasn’t a long-term solution. Is Rodney truly the best option, though, or is there another under-the-radar option who could claim the role?
Sure he racked up 39 saves in ’17, but there was always the thought that he could lose the role at any time with Archie Bradley waiting in the wings. Sure Rodney brought swing and miss stuff (10.57 K/9), and he also continued to generate groundballs (52.2%). Sure he also suffered from some poor luck, with a 61.1% strand rate. However, is that enough of a reason to consider him a can’t miss closer?
The question boils down to his control, having posted a 4.34 BB/9 (4.43 for his career), and his age (he’ll be 41-years old by Opening Day). Obviously the latter isn’t necessarily a significant concern, but sooner or later you have to wonder how long he can keep going.
As for the control, he did post a 2.92 BB/9 after the All-Star Break. Obviously, given his track record, it’s hard to buy into the mark and assume he’s suddenly figured it out. He will likely continue struggling to find the strike zone and there also is no guarantee that he can maintain this type of strikeout rate (9.03 K/9 for his career).
Rodney will likely open the year with the job, unless, barring a subsequent move, but the risk of his control and the owner of a less than stellar 3.73 ERA could easily lead to a change.
There was thought that he could get an opportunity to hold the job in ’17, and the underlying numbers certainly indicate that he has the skillset to handle the role:
- Strikeouts – 9.43 K/9
- Walks – 1.29 BB/9
- Groundballs – 58.8%
Over his minor league career he owns a 10.5 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9, and last season he carried an 11.8% SwStr% in the Majors. It’s clear that the stuff is there, and you can argue that he’s better than the 3.21 ERA he posted in 42.0 innings in the Majors (0.86 HR/9). It’s just a matter of when the Twins turn the role over, and it shouldn’t take long.
This feels like an Archie Bradley situation all over again. While Rodney may open with the role, does anyone believe he’s going to keep it? Hopefully he can help mentor Hildenberger, who clearly should be the future closer (and the future should be early in 2018). If you are looking for sleeper source of saves late in your draft, target him and ultimately reap the benefits.
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference
Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Projections: