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) Chris Devenski – Houston Astros (5)
Current Closer – Ken Giles
Giles imploded on Sunday, ultimately being charged with 3 runs on 3 hits without recording an out. It was just the start of a devastating loss (the Astros entered the ninth with a five-run lead) and puts a huge red flag back on a closer who had appeared to finally settle down. It was a non-save situation, so that one performance won’t likely cost him the job, but the Astros have already shown that they can quickly become uncomfortable with him in the role. The usage yesterday indicates that Giles is still safe, for now, but it may not take much for a change.
Enter Devenski, who continues to thrive as the primary setup man (1.45 ERA, 0.91 WHIP) showing all of the skills we look for (11.09 K/9, 2.41 BB/9, 42.5% groundball rate heading into Sunday’s game). For the past two years he’s established himself as one of the elite bullpen arms, and it may not take much for him to get his opportunity once again.
2) Kyle Barraclough – Miami Marlins (1)
Current Closer – Brad Ziegler
Ziegler imploded again on Saturday, albeit in a non-save situation, and now owns a 7.54 ERA and 1.59 WHIP. The only thing potentially keeping him in the role is the fact that he’s a perfect 9-for-9 in save opportunities, so maybe the team should simply use him for saves and not in tie-games? It seems silly, but that’s where we are today.
Barraclough, on the other hand, has thrived in all situations with a 1.54 ERA and 0.99 WHIP. That said, there continue to be some significant warning signs:
- Control – 5.40 BB/9
- Strand Rate – 90.1%
- BABIP – .135 (despite a 23.1% line drive rate)
- Strikeouts – 3.38 K/9 in May (after a 15.63 in April)
He’s ranked highly due to the likely opportunity, but it’s impossible to consider him a lock to thrive when his chance does come.
3) Josh Hader – Milwaukee Brewers (2)
Current Closer – Corey Knebel
Corey Knebel has allowed runs in each of his past two outings, and with Hader looming that’s always going to cause a little bit of a red flag. That said you can argue that Knebel is still working his way back and Hader’s value is much greater as a multi-inning weapon as opposed to being pigeon holed to the ninth inning. His video game like numbers have to make you think that there’s always a chance that a change comes, and if it does he could easily become one of the elite, but we aren’t there yet.
4) Edgar Santana – Pittsburgh Pirates (NR)
Current Closer – Felipe Vazquez
Vazquez has been in a vicious tailspin, and he was also forced to leave Sunday’s game with a forearm issue. A DL stint seemed imminent, though recent reports indicate that he escaped without a significant injury, and while Santana may not get the first opportunity to fill the void (which keeps him from the #2 spot on these rankings) he has the upside to force the issue. Just look at the underlying stats:
- Strikeouts – 7.59 K/9 (a 13.0% SwStr% shows more upside)
- Control – 1.69 BB/9
- Groundballs – 54.1%
You could argue a few others for a crack at the role, like Rich Rodriguez or Michael Feliz, but he’s shown these types of metrics coming up through the minors as well. Monitor him closely, as if he gets his shot he could really run with it.
5) Joe Jimenez – Detroit Tigers (NR)
Current Closer – Shane Green
Greene has never been considered a lock to keep his job, and after allowing a run on Sunday he now owns a 4.07 ERA and 1.32 WHIP on the season. That’s not to say that Jimenez is a can’t miss option, but he struck out the side ahead of Greene and hasn’t allowed an earned run in eight straight appearances (he did allow 3 unearned runs over this stretch). He also has 14 K vs. 1 BB and has a 2.55 ERA and 1.18 WHIP overall. He has been considered the team’s closer of the future, and the future could be coming quickly.
Removed from Rankings:
- Dan Winkler – Atlanta Braves (3)
- Jace Fry – Chicago White Sox (4)
- Jordan Hicks – St. Louis Cardinals (HM)
Others We’re Watching:
- Jose Alvarado – Tampa Bay Rays
- Archie Bradley – Arizona Diamondbacks
- Jace Fry – Chicago White Sox
- Amir Garrett – Cincinnati Reds
- Addison Reed – Minnesota Twins
“Committees” Currently Excluded:
- Baltimore Orioles – Brad Brach/Mychal Givens
- 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.