by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Just hours after it was revealed that the Philadelphia Phillies wouldn’t be utilizing a traditional closer, Hector Neris went out and took the loss as he allowed a walk-off home run to Nick Markakis (0.2 IP, 3 ER, 2 H, 1 BB). While it’s possible Neris is able to reestablish himself, there’s a possibility he never returns to closing. Who is the best bet to step up and claim the job, assuming Neris can’t regain it (though, at this point it’s looking likely he gets another opportunity)? Let’s break it down:
He didn’t generate a gaudy number of strikeouts last season, with a 7.57 K/9, but you can easily argue more upside considering his 11.7% SwStr%. When coupled with the ability to generate groundballs (56.3% in ’17, 59.6% for his career) and a career best walk rate (3.28 BB/9) and it would appear like he’s got the stuff to thrive in the role.
Garcia isn’t young, at 31-years old, but he could become a mainstay at the back of the bullpen if he can continue to avoid walking batters. That’s a big if (career 4.82 BB/9), but he’s worth the “gamble” if you find yourself searching for saves.
Odds of Becoming Closer – 35%
He’s currently battling a lat injury and has landed on the DL, but once healthy it’s easy to argue that he’s the best arm in the bullpen having proven capable over the long haul. With 445.2 innings under his belt Neshek owns a 2.75 ERA, 9.03 K/9 and 2.54 BB/9. You can argue that he’s not as good as last year’s numbers (buoyed by a 0.84 BB/9), but he’s clearly good.
Can he close, though? He’s never really done it, with 8 career saves, and at 37-years old he obviously isn’t a long-term solution. Those two things could work against him, especially since the Phillies may value him more as a matchup play in the earlier innings. Right-handed hitters have slashed .184/.239/.303 against him for his career, and while he can also get left-handed hitters out it’s clear where the maximum value may lie.
Odds of Becoming Closer – 10%
The 25-year old struggled with his control last season (4.37 BB/9), and he also was hit extremely hard (26.7% line drive rate). Those two things don’t mix well, regardless of how many batters you strikeout, and he also could struggle with home runs (37.3% groundball rate). Primarily a two-pitch pitcher, only one of those pitches were effective last season:
- Slider – .126 BAA / .219 SLG
- Fourseam Fastball – .410 BAA / .542 SLG
You can’t come at opposing hitters with one pitch, and if he’s forced to throw a fastball he’s going to get rocked. At this point it’s hard to envision the team trusting him.
Odds of Becoming Closer – 5%
Odds Hector Neris continues getting Save opportunities – 50%
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Preseason Rankings:
|Starting Pitchers||1-20: 03/24/18|