Searching For Saves: Who Is The Favorite For Saves In The Texas Bullpen?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Yesterday the news broke that the Texas Rangers had signed Seung Hwan Oh to a free agent contract.  It’s an interesting landing spot, with the team having a question in regards to who will close, but can Oh rebound and grab the role?  Let’s take a look:

 

Alex Claudio – Current Closer?
He arguably has the best skill set in a deep bullpen, as he brought elite control (1.63 BB/9) and groundball stuff (66.7%) last season.  However there are two things that work against him:

  1. He’s left-handed
  2. He lacked the prototypical strikeout stuff (6.10 K/9)

While he’s shown more upside in his strikeout rate before, being a southpaw is never going to change.  With a distinct split last season (.274 BAA by right-hand hitters), it’s easy to envision him being replaced as the team instead utilizes him more in a specialist role.

 

Seung Hwan Oh
After a dominating rookie year Oh took a significant step backwards as he struggled with home runs (1.52 HR/9) and saw his strikeout rate drop (8.19 K/9).  The latter isn’t a big concern, as he still carried a 12.9% SwStr%.  It’s the home runs that are an issue, especially as he moves to a hitter friendly ballpark and has generally struggled generating groundballs:

  • 2016 – 40.0%
  • 2017 – 28.7%

Even if the strikeouts don’t rebound, if he can find a way to keep the ball in the ballpark the upside will be there.  That’s unfortunately a big if, especially considering he allowed 4 HR in the second half of 2016 (setting the trend that followed in ’17).

 

The Field
The Rangers have numerous other options who could rise into the role:

  • Matt Bush – He struggled with home runs (1.20 HR/9) and doesn’t have the elite control of the alternatives.  He does carry strikeout stuff, with a fastball that averaged 97.5 mph and that’s enough to make him a consideration for the role.
  • Keone Kela – Kela’s groundball rate has been all over the map over the course of his career, but he’s consistently shown strikeouts (11.10 K/9) and enough control (3.52 BB/9).  He has seen his SwStr% regress (10.7% in 2017), which we will have to monitor, but with what he’s shown he should be able to thrive late in games.

 

Current Outlook
It actually wouldn’t be surprising if all four pitchers picked up saves during 2018.  While Claudio may open the year in the role, Oh is actually the most likely to run with it.  He’s well worth targeting in all formats, especially with many focusing on Claudio instead.

Source – Fangraphs

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Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Preseason Rankings:

Position
Standard League
OBP League
Catchers03/14/1802/02/18
First Basemen01/08/1802/09/18
Second Basemen01/15/1802/13/18
Shortstops03/21/1802/27/18
Third Basemen03/09/1803/06/18
Outfielders1-20: 03/18/18

21-40: 03/19/18
1-20: 03/12/18

21-40:
Starting Pitchers1-20: 03/24/18

21-40: 03/24/18
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Relief Pitchers02/12/18--

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