by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Are you someone constantly on the lookout for the next potential closer? That’s what we are trying to pinpoint here, with our Top 5 Closer In Waiting Power Rankings. These rankings look at the pitchers who appear capable of taking over their team’s respective closing duties (though in some cases, will need some help to get there). Keep in mind, if a pitcher is currently part of a committee they will not be included in these rankings despite not currently “holding” the job outright.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at how things stand (all statistics are through Saturday, unless otherwise noted):
1) Nate Jones – Chicago White Sox (5)
Current Closer – Joakim Soria
It seems like a foregone conclusion that Soria won’t last the season as the White Sox closer, and the last time he had a save opportunity he imploded (1.0 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, 0 BB, 0 K). The bigger questions may be:
- Would the White Sox rather try a younger, potentially long-term, solution (like Bruce Rondon, who had an impressive debut on Sunday striking out all four batters he faced)?
- How quickly will the White Sox push Jones, who has struggled with injuries?
- Will the White Sox win enough games for it to matter?
Thus far Jones has looked solid, with a 2.70 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 3.1 IP, and he has been used on back-to-back days. That may minimize the second question and every team is going to win at least 50-60 games (regardless of how bad they are). The upside is there, so keep a close eye on the situation.
2) Kyle Barraclough – Miami Marlins (1)
Current Closer – Brad Ziegler
Ziegler converted his last save opportunity and maybe that helps to ease any concerns currently hanging over him (and he’s had three scoreless outings among his four in ’18). That said we all know he’s a non-conventional closer who appears to have a tenuous hold on the job thanks to younger, prototypical options setting up for him. Whether it’s Barraclough (3.0 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.33 WHIP, 5 K) or Drew Steckenrider (4.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 4 K), it’s more a matter of when Miami opts to turn the page and look at their long-term solution.
It may not take much for that time to come, and while the opportunities may be limited they will still be there and Barraclough has significant upside in the role.
3) Addison Reed – Minnesota Twins (3)
Current Closer – Fernando Rodney
It’s Fernando Rodney, so you know that there is going to be continuous speculation that his job is in jeopardy. Rodney has allowed just 1 ER on the season, which makes his ERA look solid (3.38 ERA). He owns a 1.88 WHIP over his three appearances and has yet to throw a clean inning (4 H and 1 BB over 2.2 IP). On the flipside Reed, who was initially was expected to be the closer (prior to the subsequent addition of Rodney) owns a 0.00 ERA and 0.75 WHIP over 5.1 IP (4 appearances). He’s been nearly unhittable (1 H allowed) and has racked up 6 K.
He’s clearly the next up, and for a team looking to compete for a World Series title it’s just a matter of Rodney officially blowing a save or two before a change is made.
4) Brad Peacock – Houston Astros (NR)
Current Closer – Ken Giles
The Astros’ bullpen has earned 1 SV this season, and that has gone to Peacock not Giles. That came due to Giles’ being unavailable (he had worked the previous two days), but that doesn’t explain what happened on April 4. Instead of turning to Giles in a 3-2 game the Astros stuck with Peacock, who pitched the final 3.0 innings (0 R, 2 H, 0 BB, 5 K) to notch the win and avoid giving anyone a save opportunity.
In regards to Giles he’s allowed runs in two of his four appearances, having allowed 2 ER on 6 H over 3.2 IP (4.91 ERA, 1.64 WHIP). He also is coming off a terrible postseason, where he owned an 11.74 ERA and 2.22 WHIP over 7 appearances, and you have to wonder if the Houston leadership is starting to lose a little bit of faith in him. The fact that Peacock earned the save shows he could be the man to step into the role, and that should put him on all radars.
5) A.J. Minter – Atlanta Braves (NR)
Current Closer – Arodys Vizcaino
Minter was one of the more hyped relievers entering the season, and while he has yet to give up a run in his four outings he has 0 K vs. 3 BB over 4.0 IP. The lack of strikeouts is a concern, especially for a pitcher who was so electric in 2017:
- Triple-A – 9.98 K/9 over 15.1 IP
- Majors – 15.60 K/9 over 15.0 IP
Is it that he’s still warming up, with his velocity down (his fourseam fastball velocity has gone from 96.44 mph in ’17 to 94.85 in his first four appearances)? It’s possible, though he was up to 96.22 mph in his most recent outing so it’s something we’ll have to watch closely.
The bottom line is that Vizcaino has shown some struggles in the past and has walked 6 batters over his first 4.2 IP. It seems inevitable that a change comes, sooner or later, and Minter has the potential to be the long-term solution.
Keep An Eye On – Kirby Yates – San Diego Padres (4)
Current Closer – Brad Hand
Yates is being left off the rankings, for now, as we wait to hear how serious his injury is (he was lifted after one pitch over the weekend due to a leg injury). If he were healthy, given the struggles of Hand Yates would’ve been the #3 ranking (and you could make the argument for him to take an even higher place).
- Keynan Middleton – Los Angeles Angels (2) – He hasn’t officially earned a save, but all signs point towards it being his job and therefore he’s being removed from the list
Others We’re Watching:
- Carl Edwards Jr. – Chicago Cubs
- Yoshihisa Hirano – Arizona Diamondbacks
- Kevin Jepsen – Texas Rangers
- Jake McGee – Colorado Rockies
- Sergio Romo – Tampa Bay Rays (if Tampa Bay had a better replacement, he’d be ranked among the Top 5 options)
“Committees” Currently Excluded:
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Philadelphia Phillies
Sources – Fangraphs, ESPN, Brooks Baseball
Missed our Top 100 prospect rankings? Make sure to check it out by clicking here.