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 Sunday, unless otherwise noted):
1) Kyle Barraclough – Miami Marlins (2)
Current Closer – Brad Ziegler
It looked like the Marlins had finally made the change, with Barraclough getting a save on Saturday in impressive fashion, but we learned after the fact that Ziegler was banged up and unavailable. The latter was back out there on Sunday, locking down a save, so for now we have to handle this the same way we have been. Ziegler has always felt like he’s had one foot out the door, as a “non-traditional” closer with impressive flame throwers pitching ahead of him.
Drew Stenckenrider also needs to be on radars, just in case, but it’s clear that Barraclough is the first choice to step into the role when (not if) a change is made. That’s not to say that Barraclough doesn’t carry his own questions, as he continues to struggle with his control (5.40 BB/9) and has struggled with home runs (1.54 HR/9). He’s only walked batters in 4 of his 12 appearances, so it’s avoiding the complete disaster, and both home runs he allowed came in one appearance (he’s gone 7 straight without allowing a home run). In other words it’s easy to explain away the “struggles” and there’s no question as to how good he can be.
2) Addison Reed – Minnesota Twins (HM)
Current Closer – Fernando Rodney
We’ve long considered Rodney as one of the worst closers in the game, and he put it on full display in recent days as he blew three straight saves across four outings. The Twins have stubbornly stuck with him, at least for now, but how much longer can they justify that decision? Maybe it’s because Reed has had his own issues of late, but overall he owns a 2.57 ERA and 1.00 WHIP with 13 K vs. 4 BB over 14.0 IP. Those are obviously the superior numbers, and maybe it takes just one more stumble to force the Twins’ hands. That will likely come sooner rather than later, so be prepared to make the move.
3) Archie Bradley – Arizona Diamondbacks (1)
Current Closer – Brad Boxberger
Is this a case of Boxberger being bad or is it that Bradley has simply been too good for the team to keep out of the ninth inning much longer? Boxberger is a perfect 8-for-8 in his save chances and owns a 2.45 ERA, but a 1.55 WHIP due to control (4.91 BB/9) and a lot of hits (.357 BABIP) both contributing to the issue. The bigger problem may be his sudden drop in swinging strikes (7.3%, compared to a career mark of 12.1%), which casts doubt on his ability to continue getting strikeouts.
Bradley has thrived when given an opportunity, including a pair of saves, as he’s displayed all three skills we look for:
- Strikeouts – 10.57 K/9
- Control – 2.93 BB/9
- Groundballs – 54.5%
The Diamondbacks may want to keep him flexible, but if Boxberger coughs up a game or two the pressure will be there to make a move.
4) Tommy Hunter – Philadelphia Phillies (NR)
Current Closer – Hector Nerris
The Philadelphia Phillies are surprisingly in contention in the AL East, and that could shorten their patience with Neris. The current closer has shown some struggles before, though he has been pitching better as of late (six straight scoreless appearances). It has been speculated that he’s a better fit as a setup man, though, and given his history of putting on base runners (1.26 WHIP in ’17, 1.27 this season) it may not take much.
Enter Hunter, who recently came off the DL and has been lights out in his three appearances (1 H and 0 BB over 2.2 IP). Signed in the offseason to help setup for Neris, he picked up a HLD in his most recent appearance and has quickly assumed the role of primary setup man. It makes sense for the Phillies to look towards a veteran, as opposed to one of their younger alternatives, so when a change is needed (and that time could come quickly) look for Hunter to get the shot.
5) Nate Jones – Chicago White Sox (NR)
Current Closer – Joakim Soria
It had been viewed as if Jones had taken over the role, but that has clearly proven to be incorrect. Soria has picked up the past few saves, but how long will it be until the team does make a change? It’s easy to argue that Jones is the better pitcher long-term but for now Soria has been doing the job and there’s no reason to think that a change is inevitable. That said, this is a situation that can easily be influenced by a trade or one or two struggles (especially for a rebuilding franchise).
Removed from Rankings:
- Greg Holland – St. Louis Cardinals (3)
- Kevin Jepsen – Texas Rangers (4)
- Joe Jimenez – Detroit Tigers (5)
Others We’re Watching:
- Jose Alvarado – Tampa Bay Rays
- Carl Edwards Jr. – Chicago Cubs
- Adam Ottavino – Colorado Rockies
- Chris Martin – Texas Rangers
- Bruce Rondon – Chicago White Sox
“Committees” Currently Excluded:
- Atlanta Braves – Arodys Vizcaino/A.J. Minter
- Baltimore Orioles – Brad Brach/Darren O’Day
- Houston Astros – Ken Giles/Chris Devenski
- Milwaukee Brewers – Josh Hader/Jacob Barnes/Matt Albers
- Louis Cardinals – Bud Norris/Greg Holland
Sources – Fangraphs, ESPN, Brooks Baseball
Missed our Top 100 prospect rankings? Make sure to check it out by clicking here.