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) Josh Hader – Milwaukee Brewers (NR)
Current Closer – Corey Knebel
Maybe it’s a bad assumption that Knebel is returning to the role, though it makes sense having worked the ninth inning on Sunday (with a four-run lead) and the ability to keep Hader in a flexible role in the earlier innings. That said Hader proved he can get the job done while Knebel was sidelined and it may not take too many missteps for the team to make a change.
(Hader was used for the seventh and eighth last night, strengthening the thought of Knebel returning to the role)
2) Chris Devenski – Houston Astros (NR)
Current Closer – Ken Giles
The Astros appear to have returned Giles to the closer’s role, but does anyone really trust him at this point? It’s hard to, and it may not take more than 1 minor stumble for the team to pull the plug once again. While Devenski has benefited from a lot of luck (95.2% strand rate, .242 BABIP), he’s proven to be one of the most dominant relievers in the game carrying all three skills that we look for:
- Strikeouts – 11.25 K/9
- Control – 2.25 BB/9
- Groundballs – 46.9%
There’s far too much upside and potential opportunity here to ignore.
3) Dan Winkler – Atlanta Braves (NR)
Current Closer – Arodys Vizcaino
It had been A.J. Minter who was being viewed as the next up (and part of a committee), but the southpaw has hit a bit of a rough patch and hasn’t been seeing ninth inning time. Instead could a new name be emerging as a potential replacement for Vizcaino (who Atlanta seems to want to move out of the role)? Enter Winkler, who has been downright nasty.
Over 17.2 innings he’s put up a 1.02 ERA and 0.68 WHIP, courtesy of strong underlying metrics:
- Strikeouts – 12.74 K/9
- Control – 2.55 BB/9
- Groundballs – 35.3%
Obviously there is a little bit of risk in the home run department, though you need to make contact (and hard contact) in order to hit it out. Considering a 14.5% SwStr% and 11.8% Hard%, those things don’t happen very often.
(Minter was used for the save last night, though he struggled further strengthening the potential of Winkler rising into the next up role)
4) Kyle Barraclough – Miami Marlins (1)
Current Closer – Brad Ziegler
For a while there was a debate whether Barraclough or Drew Steckenrider deserved to be considered “next up” for the Marlins. Steckenrider’s recent struggles have cleared that up, now it’s just a matter of when the Marlins opt to move away from Ziegler and give Barraclough an extended look in the ninth inning.
The question for Barraclough has always been his control, and his current 6.11 BB/9 doesn’t ease any concerns. A 12.23 K/9 helps to offset that, though he has seen the strikeout number fall off a cliff over the first few weeks of May (2 K in 5.0 IP). Couple that with a lack of groundball stuff (38.9%), bringing with it the risk of home runs, and while he continues to get the job done right now disaster could be in his future.
For now we’ll have to keep him ranked as one of the Top 5 next up options, but know the risk involved and you may want to cut bait before it’s too late.
5) Greg Holland – St. Louis Cardinals (NR)
Current Closer – Bud Norris
Obviously it’s hard to envision a change coming at this particular moment, given the respective numbers of the two:
- Bud Norris – 19.1 IP, 2.33 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 12.57 K/9, 1.40 BB/9
- Greg Holland – 11.1 IP, 4.76 ERA, 1.85 WHIP, 6.35 K/9, 8.74 BB/9
That said Norris is highly unlikely to maintain these numbers, considering his likely regression in his control (career 3.95 BB/9 as a reliever), elevated line drive rate (34.1%) and potential to be burned by the long ball (31.8% groundball rate). For his part Holland has a 0.00 ERA over 4.0 May innings, and if he can fully re-discover his control (he has 3 BB still) it may only be a matter of time. He’s worked his way into the 8th inning and should be considered the next up when a change is needed (and it likely will be before long).
Removed from Rankings:
- Addison Reed – Minnesota Twins (2)
- Archie Bradley – Arizona Diamondbacks (3)
- Tommy Hunter – Philadelphia Phillies (4)
- Nate Jones – Chicago White Sox (5)
Others We’re Watching:
- Jose Alvarado – Tampa Bay Rays
- Archie Bradley – Arizona Diamondbacks
- Buck Farmer – Detroit Tigers
- Jace Fry – Chicago White Sox
- Amir Garrett – Cincinnati Reds
- Addison Reed – Minnesota Twins
“Committees” Currently Excluded:
- Baltimore Orioles – Brad Brach/Mychal Givens
- Chicago White Sox – Bruce Rondon/Nate Jones/Joakim Soria
- Philadelphia Phillies – Entire Bullpen
- Toronto Blue Jays – Tyler Clippard/Seung Hwan Oh/Ryan Tepera
Sources – Fangraphs, ESPN, Brooks Baseball
Missed our Top 100 prospect rankings? Make sure to check it out by clicking here.