Bullpen Banter: St. Louis Cardinals: Identifying The Long & Short-Term Favorite For Saves

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

It was a surprise that the St. Louis Cardinals didn’t address the closer’s role with a more definitive option this offseason (though it’s still possible, with Greg Holland remaining on the free agent market).  That doesn’t mean that they don’t have alternatives, as it could be a three horse race all season long.  Could someone emerge?  Is there one option who is better than the others?  Let’s take a look:


Luke Gregerson
He has the experience, having saved 31 games for the Astros in 2015.  He also has shown all three skills we look for throughout his career as a reliever:

  • Strikeouts – 9.12 K/9
  • Control – 2.55 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 50.9%

Gregerson has shown more upside in his strikeouts (10.46 and 10.33 K/9 the past two seasons) and groundballs (he posted a 60.4% in ’15 and 60.0% in ’16), further adding to the appeal.

A 4.57 ERA and 1.34 WHIP last season cloud the appeal, but a .306 BABIP and 23.6% HR/FB are both marks that should improve dramatically.  He did see his spring stall due to an oblique injury, so instead of claiming the job he opened the door for others (and they did take advantage).  He should get opportunities at some point, but Gregerson may be behind at this point.

Chance of Closing on Opening Day – 30%
Chance of Closing Long-Term – 60%


Dominic Leone
He’s been the most impressive this spring and is coming off a year with the Blue Jays that saw him post a 2.56 ERA, 10.36 K/9 and 2.94 BB/9.  He does carry a few risks, despite impressive strikeout upside:

  • Home Runs – While it wasn’t an issue in ’17 (0.77 HR/9), a 40.2% groundball rate and 8.2% HR/FB indicate a potential issue
  • Control – While he had a strong number overall (2.94 BB/9), he was at 4.08 in the first half and was at 3.4 over his minor league career

Potential Control Issues + Potential Home Run Issues = Potential Implosion

As of today Leone may be the favorite, but given the risks he won’t hold the job all season long.

Chance of Closing on Opening Day – 60%
Chance of Closing Long-Term – 35%


Bud Norris
When he was signed the talk was that he’d be used in the rotation, but that quickly fizzled and he’s now set to work in the bullpen.  Norris reinvented himself as a reliever last season, including going 19-for-22 in save opportunities for the Angels.  Of course he continued to show issues with his control (4.02 BB/9 as a RP) and home runs (1.34 HR/9 as a reliever) and ultimately that is going to cost him.

It’s not impossible that he sees save opportunities, especially early, he’s behind the other options long-term.

Chance of Closing on Opening Day – 10%
Chance of Closing Long-Term – 5%

Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference

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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--


  1. DCflash says:

    Tyler Lyons not in the mix?

  2. Dave N says:

    No mention of Tyler Lyons?
    Sounds like the Cards may go with a committee, at least to start.

  3. Rotoprofessor says:

    You could make The argument for Lyons, but I wouldntgivehim more than a 5-10% shot (and that’s a stretch)

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