by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
We are all trying to find saves, given the seemingly uncertainty surrounding the closers role for many teams. Which pitchers could be currently flying under-the-radar, but have excelled in the early going and could emerge as viable candidates to close (whether it’s a trade, injury or inability)? Here’s three names you want to have on your radars:
Over 18.0 innings in the Majors over the past two years he has thrown 148 sliders and has not yet allowed a hit off the pitch
Arano goes after hitters with a fastball/slider combination, though the pitch he uses most often is his slider (50.0%). It makes sense as it is generating a 28.57% Whiff% this season, but that’s not the most impressive number. Over 18.0 innings in the Majors over the past two years he has thrown 148 sliders and has not yet allowed a hit off the pitch. Now let that set in for a moment…
Arano has coupled those impressive numbers with the ability to generate enough groundballs (0.90 GO/AO over his minor league career) and strong control (2.1 BB/9 over his minor league career, 0 walks in ’18). What exactly is there not to like in that profile?
The Phillies have questions in their bullpen, and while there are a few names ahead of him if he keeps pitching like this Arano is going to force their hand. Don’t be surprised to see him move towards the back of the bullpen and soon start to be discussed as a potential closing candidate.
Amir Garrett – Cincinnati Reds
With Raisel Iglesias in place it’s hard to imagine Garrett getting an opportunity for saves (barring a trade), but the Reds have had success transitioning their young starters into a primary relief role before. Garrett appears to have taken to the role, flashing all three skills over his first 7 appearances (9.1 IP):
- Strikeouts – 10.61 K/9
- Control – 0.96 BB/9
- Groundballs – 57.1%
In 16 appearances in the Majors in ’17 he struggled with his control (5.09 BB/9), something that was never seen as a strength while coming up in the minors (3.6 BB/9). He certainly has seen a spike in velocity (94.2 mph), which isn’t a surprise, and increased usage of his slider (22.3% to 36.8%) could help to explain an improvement in his SwStr% (14.3%) and O-Swing% (31.3%). It’s a clear swing and miss pitch (32.65% Whiff%) and opponents are hitting just .067 on it.
At this point it’s hard to imagine him being pushed back to the rotation, as his stuff appears to be playing too well coming out of the bullpen.
Jose Alvarado – Tampa Bay Rays
We’ve talked about Alvarado in the past as a potential next up in Tampa Bay, but he’s deserving of his place in this article as well. You can argue that he won’t be able to maintain the numbers he’s posted thus far, but an 11.25 K/9 and 73.7% groundball rate are highly impressive and obviously would play well at the end of games. He’s generating a lot of swings and misses (11.3% SwStr%) and getting opponents to chase outside the strike zone (35.2%), leading to weak contact when opponents are able to touch him.
His fourseam fastball, which is averaging 98.63 mph, is his main pitch but he’s utilized his curveball (19.82%) and slider (15.32%) more than enough and both have proven to be swing and miss pitches (Whiff%):
- Curveball – 27.27%
- Slider – 17.65%
Those numbers play, and play well, and while the former starting pitcher has struggled with his control in the past he appears to have solved the issue as a reliever (2.95 BB/9 over 36.2 IP over the past two seasons). His name has already started garnering attention, and as he shows these skills the hype is only going to continue to grow.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Reference, MILB.com
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