Bullpen Banter: Who Is Most Likely To Emerge As The Closer For The Chicago White Sox?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The Chicago White Sox are clearly rebuilding, and the long-term outlook appears bright.  That said a closer is a luxury they don’t necessarily need since they know they won’t be competing in 2018.  Someone is going to get saves, but as soon as they establish themselves the team could easily look to flip him for a better long-term commodity.  Keep that in mind before investing heavily in whoever is the closer du jour…

Of course there also is a significant question as to who will be getting the opportunities.  There are a few veterans who have the chance to step up and claim the role, so let’s take a look and try to determine who the best investment is:


Joakim Soria
Soria has closing experience (he’s had as many as 43 saves in a season), though it’s been a few years since he’s been utilized in the role.  That said he was strong once again last season, despite a 3.70 ERA, as he showed the full skill set we look for from a pitcher:

  • Strikeouts – 10.29 K/9
  • Control – 3.21 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 54.8%

His 13.2% SwStr% backs up the strikeout rate, and a change in philosophy could’ve triggered the career best mark.  He was throwing his changeup 31.94% of the time, which likely helped to keep hitters off-balance and play his other pitches up (like his fastball, that average 92.9 mph).

With better luck (67.1% strand rate, .329 BABIP) the ERA/WHIP would’ve been that much better.  Considering his past success and the makeup, there’s every reason to believe that he’ll get the first opportunity to close.

Closing Odds – 60%


Nate Jones
He may have the most upside of anyone in the bullpen, but he lacks closing experience and has consistently missed time due to injury.  Last year he was limited to 11.2 innings in the Majors due to elbow surgery, and that comes after throwing 19.0 innings in ’15 and only facing a handful of batters in the Majors in ’14.  Skills or not, that’s going to make him a tough sell due to the potential that the White Sox don’t want to push him too hard and risk injury.

That said, when you look at a 10.19 K/9, 1.91 BB/9 and 45.9% groundball rate over 70.2 innings, backed up by a 14.3% SwStr% and 35.5% O-Swing%, in ’16 it’s easy to envision the upside. While he may not open the year getting saves, he should get an opportunity at some point as long as he can prove his health (and isn’t traded before the opportunity arrives).

Closing Odds – 40%


Juan Minaya
Minaya saw save opportunities in ’17, going 9-for-10, and racked up ample strikeouts over his 43.2 IP (10.51 K/9).  Unfortunately that’s where the positives end:

  • Control – 4.12 BB/9
  • Home Runs – 1.44 HR/9 (courtesy of a 35.2% groundball rate)

While he had shown more groundballs earlier in his career, since reaching High-A that hasn’t been the case (GO/AO):

  • High-A – 0.82
  • Double-A – 0.74
  • Triple-A – 1.12
  • Majors – 0.51

In other words the home run issue isn’t going to disappear.  While he also spent time as a starter, he has long struggled with his control (4.4 BB/9 in the minors), so again that’s going to be a consistent battle.  Walks + Home Runs is a terrible formula for a reliever, so it’s hard to imagine much of an impact.

Closing Odds – 0%

Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, MILB.com, Brooks Baseball

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

Standard League
OBP League
First Basemen01/08/1802/09/18
Second Basemen01/15/1802/13/18
Third Basemen03/09/1803/06/18
Outfielders1-20: 03/18/18

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

Starting Pitchers1-20: 03/24/18

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

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