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 look at how things stand (all statistics are through Sunday, unless otherwise noted):
1) Archie Bradley – Arizona Diamondbacks (NR)
Current Closer – Brad Boxberger
Boxberger’s blown save against the Mets on Sunday night, in a game that the team had in hand, looms large and could ultimately cost him his job. The Diamondbacks are clinging to a 1.5 game lead over the Dodgers, a team that has been plagued by injuries and is just now finding it’s stride. They can’t afford to give away games, and Boxberger has blown two of his past four save opportunities and owns an uninspiring 3.91 ERA and 1.30 WHIP.
Boxberger has struggled with his control (3.94 BB/9) and he’s also been burnt by the long ball (1.79 HR/9). That was the biggest issue on Sunday, as Brandon Nimmo & Asdrubal Cabrera went back-to-back, and he’s now allowed 5 HR overall.
Many have been waiting for Bradley to assume the job, though Arizona has been hesitant to remove him from his primary setup role. At this point they may no longer be able to do so. You could argue that he’s an implosion waiting to happen himself (he entered Sunday with a .221 BABIP and 87.1% strand rate), but there’s too much upside to ignore.
Side Note – The team could opt to leave Bradley in the eighth inning, instead promoting Yoshihisa Hirano to the ninth inning, though that appears unlikely today
2) Jordan Hicks – St. Louis Cardinals (1)
Current Closer – Bud Norris
Norris has rebounded from a rough stretch, posting back-to-back perfect innings and picked up a save in the process. That said he’s allowed runs in three of his past six outings (and four of his past nine), watching his ERA climb from 2.01 to it’s 3.26 today. It’s hard to imagine him being pulled from the role, but another stumble or two could force the team’s hand.
Of course the lack of alternatives helps, and Hicks had his own stumble recently. However Hicks has started to overcome the lack of strikeout rate, something we’ve long expected, with 13 K vs. 2 BB over 7.2 IP in June. Pairing that with an elite groundball rate (59.8%) and he has the upside of being one of the dominating closers in the league. It’s just a matter of when he rises into the role, or if the team would rather develop him as a starter long-term (though it’s obvious he’s not moving to that role in ’18).
3) Joe Jimenez – Detroit Tigers (3)
Current Closer – Shane Greene
Greene has done the job well overall, going 19-of-22 in save opportunities to go along with a 3.57 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. That said he’s not the future for the team and is a likely trade candidate as the deadline approaches. That should clear the spot Jimenez, who has been considered the team’s closer of the future and when given a shot in ’18 has shined. Already operating as the primary setup man, he was forced into a save opportunity on Sunday (Greene had worked four straight days) and promptly struck out the side on only 14 pitches. He has 40 K vs. 8 BB over 35.1 IP on the season and has 1 W, 2 SV and 3 HLD in June. If you are stashing a potential pitcher to step in, he’s anideal candidate.
4) Ken Giles – Houston Astros (NR)
Current Closer – Hector Rondon
While Giles did pick up a save recently, it’s Rondon who appears to have staked his claim on the job (1.38 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and saves in four of his past five appearances). Giles has had his inconsistencies this season and has clearly lost the faith of his manager, but that recent save keeps him on our radar. It appears that if Rondon stumbles he’s the preferred choice, even with Chris Devenski also in the mix, and until the team acquires a true lockdown option (and there’s a good chance that they do) he’s worth stashing just in case.
5) Josh Hader – Milwaukee Brewers (4)
Current Closer – Corey Knebel
It seems like the Brewers want to keep him in a setup role, and it makes sense, but Hader’s video game like numbers keeps him on our radar. That said Knebel has clearly settled back into the role and has Top 5 upside of his own.
Removed from Rankings:
- Chris Devenski – Houston Astros (2)
- Jake Diekman – Texas Rangers (5)
Others We’re Watching:
- Justin Anderson – Los Angeles Angels
- Mark Melancon – San Francisco Giants
- Bruce Rondon – Chicago White Sox
- Drew Steckenrider – Miami Marlins
- Lou Trivino – Oakland A’s
- Dan Winkler – Atlanta Braves
“Committees” Currently Excluded:
- Baltimore Orioles – Zach Britton/Brad Brach/Darren O’Day
- New York Mets – Robert Gsellman/Anthony Swarzak/Jeurys Familia
- Philadelphia Phillies – Entire Bullpen
- Tampa Bay Rays – Chaz Roe/Jose Alvarado/Jonny Venters/Sergio Romo
- 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.