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) Kyle Barraclough – Miami Marlins (2)
Current Closer – Brad Ziegler
In theory Ziegler has not yet blown a save, but he is 0-3 (after taking another loss on Saturday) and owns an 8.10 ERA. It always felt like he was going to be removed from the role, and that time could be coming in short order. For now we’d expect Barraclough to take the reins, but Drew Steckenrider is also an option. Both bring a more traditional closer’s skillset and have the potential to run with the role if given the chance.
The biggest question for Barraclough has always been his control, but in the early going it appears like he may have corrected the issue (2 BB over 5.2 IP) as he’s getting opposing hitters to chase outside the strike zone at an improved rate (30.4% O-Swing%). Maybe that has to do with significantly more usage of his changeup (17.9%, compared to 4.1% for his career), and with more experience he’ll likely get the first shot at the role.
2) Luis Garcia – Philadelphia Phillies (NR)
Current Closer – Hector Neris
The Phillies appear to be committed to Neris, though for how much longer remains to be seen (he owns a 6.35 ERA and continues to struggle generating groundballs, leading to a 1.59 HR/9). Garcia may not be a traditional option, with a 7.79 K/9 for his career, but the underlying metrics tell a different story (2018 numbers):
- SwStr% – 12.5%
- O-Swing% – 38.5%
- Walks – 2.57 BB/9
- Groundballs – 55.6%
He continues to utilize his split-finger fastball (17.0%), a pitch he began incorporating last season, and that easily could explain his metamorphosis into a potential closing option. Given the struggles of Neris, it’s a matter of when (not if) the opportunity presents itself.
3) Sergio Romo – Tampa Bay Rays (NR)
Current Closer – Alex Colome
It has been a disastrous season for Colome, who has struggled with his control (7.20 K/9) and home runs (1.80 HR/9). It would be easy if we could point towards one down outing, but he’s allowed runs in four of his six appearances and has been hit extremely hard (27.3% line drive rate). We want to believe that he’s going to right the ship at some point, and there’s a good chance he does, but the numbers are a bit scary and the reasons to grow skeptical are seemingly increasing by the day (as it is, since 2016 he’s tied for the tenth most blown saves with 11).
Is Romo the long-term solution? Absolutely not, and that’s part of the reason he isn’t ranked higher on this list. There’s a good chance he’s nothing more than a short-term bridge, giving Colome a chance to get on track or ultimately turn things over to Jose Alvarado (who has the profile of the long-term solution). If you are searching for any save you can find Romo is worth picking up, just don’t expect him to be on your roster for very long.
4) Addison Reed – Minnesota Twins (3)
Current Closer – Fernando Rodney
Let’s be honest, does anyone truly believe Fernando Rodney is going to be the Twins’ closer all year long? We asked a similar question last year in Arizona, but the Twins have their eyes set on a deep playoff run and they aren’t going to let him sabotage their season. Reed was signed to be the closer, but was moved to a setup role with the subsequent addition of Rodney. There’s no questioning his ability to fill the role, with as many as 40 saves in a season, and he’s shown elite control in recent years. Couple that with his 14.9% SwStr% and 40.3% O-Swing% in the early going and you could argue that he is the better option today. The question simply is when Minnesota sees it.
5) A.J. Minter – Atlanta Braves (5)
Current Closer – Arodys Vizcaino
Vizcaino owns a 2.70 ERA, but he’s struggled with his control (8.10 BB/9), doesn’t generate groundballs (31.3%, leading to a 1.35 HR/9) and has benefited from a lot of luck (.200 BABIP, 93.8% strand rate). Considering how had he’s been hit (37.5% line drive rate) it seems like only a matter of time before it comes crumbling down, and Minter is quickly emerging as a potentially elite option. The hard-throwing southpaw elicits memories of Craig Kimbrel, as we see the upside of a lights out strikeout machine (15.4% SwStr% in ’18, after a 18.2% in ’17). The biggest question is if the Braves will keep him out of the role to keep his future earnings down via the arbitration process. Time will tell, but he could quickly force their hands if he’s producing.
Removed from Rankings:
- Nate Jones – Chicago White Sox (1) – Jones recently picked up a save, and at the very least could be part of a committee with Joakim Soria (though he also could already own the job himself, time will tell)
- Brad Peacock – Houston Astros (4)– He looked like he had a chance to claim a stake on the role, but he imploded on Saturday and will likely stick in a setup role ahead of either Ken Giles or Chris Devenski (or both, as they appear to be headed towards a committee)
Others We’re Watching:
- Jose Alvarado – Tampa Bay Rays
- Archie Bradley – Arizona Diamondbacks
- Carl Edwards Jr. – Chicago Cubs
- Joe Jimenez – Detroit Tigers
- Jake McGee – Colorado Rockies
“Committees” Currently Excluded:
- Chicago White Sox
- Houston Astros
- Milwaukee Brewers
Sources – Fangraphs, ESPN, Brooks Baseball
Missed our Top 100 prospect rankings? Make sure to check it out by clicking here.