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 (1)
Current Closer – Brad Boxberger
At this point we are waiting for the other shoe to drop for Boxberger, who did pick up a save on Sunday but it feels like he’s holding onto the role by a thread. He had blown back-to-back saves heading into that one and owns 3 blown saves with an 8.59 ERA and 1.91 WHIP over 7.1 IP in June.
Bradley, meanwhile, continues to roll with a 2.19 ERA over 37.0 IP. You can argue that he’s a ticking time bomb given the luck metrics (88.4% strand rate, .214 BABIP), but he’s shown an improved groundball rate (53.0%) and has continued to show control (2.43 BB/9). The real question is in regards to his strikeouts, as he’s gone from a 9.74 K/9 in ’17 to a 7.30, with a 7.2% SwStr% being the big culprit and his K/9 has been trending in the wrong direction:
- April – 10.34
- May – 6.75
- June – 3.38
It’s something to watch closely, but it doesn’t change the fact that he appears primed to assume the role at any moment.
2) Chaz Roe – Tampa Bay Rays (NR)
Current Closer – Sergio Romo
It appears that Romo has emerged from the committee in Tampa Bay, getting the bulk of the opportunities. While Jose Alvarado could emerge as the next up, for now we’d lean towards Roe to get the next shot (and with Romo highly unlikely to keep the job all year long it’s just a matter of when the change comes). It certainly makes sense, as Roe brings the skillset we try to target:
- Strikeouts – 10.27 K/9
- Control – 2.93 BB/9
- Groundballs – 49.3%
Control has generally been an issue (career 4.08), but he’s posted a BB/9 of 3.27 or better in two of three months this season. He’s also seen his groundball rate spike in June to 60.0%, which is more in line with what he’s done throughout his career (53.2%). It’s always hard to predict what Tampa Bay will do, but Roe seems like a good bet to assume the closers role at some point.
3) Jordan Hicks – St. Louis Cardinals (2)
Current Closer – Bud Norris
Greg Holland could surpass Hicks on the depth chart, but as of today that hasn’t happened and Hicks should continue to be viewed as “next up”. Norris thrived in April (2.25 ERA), but things have been heading in the wrong direction since as he posted a 3.75 ERA in May and 4.91 over 7.1 IP in June (including a pair of blown saves).
No one is going to question Hicks’ upside, as the 21-year old has finally figured out his strikeout issues and his overall June skillset would place him among the elite:
- Strikeouts – 13.94 K/9
- Control – 2.61 BB/9
- Groundballs – 61.9%
He’s shown the groundball stuff throughout the season (61.0% in May) and it was just a matter of time before the strikeouts presented themselves. When the opportunity comes, he should excel.
4) Brad Brach – Baltimore Orioles (NR)
Current Closer – Zach Britton
Brach has proven he can handle the role, but with Britton finally back and healthy it appears he’s ceded things to the veteran southpaw. That said the Trade Deadline is quickly approaching and there’s a good chance that Britton is jettisoned to a contender. That would free up the job for Brach once again, and while it’s easy to move on today he should be stashed because four or five weeks from now the saves should once again be there.
5) Cam Bedrosian – Los Angeles Angels (NR)
Current Closer – Blake Parker
Parker has fared fairly well, though does anyone believe that he (or Justin Anderson) could truly thrive in the role? Bedrosian has long been considered a potential closer of the future, and while he’s struggled when given opportunities in the past it’s likely that he gets another shot at it given the uncertainty (though the Angels could also go out and acquire a true option).
He’s seen his strikeout rate rebound as the season has progressed (8.03 K/9 in June) and while his overall control hasn’t been spectacular (4.04 BB/9 for the season) he posted a BB/9 under 3.00 in two of three months (including a 2.92 BB/9 in June). Throw in improved groundball stuff (62.5% in June) and it’s all coming together. There is a lot of risk involved, which is why he’s not ranked higher, but we also can’t ignore the potential.
Removed from Rankings:
- Joe Jimenez – Detroit Tigers (3) – Shane Greene appears safe, for now, though Jimenez needs to remain on radars due to the likelihood of a deadline deal
- Ken Giles – Houston Astros (4) – This appears to have evolved back into a committee, as we wait for the Astros to acquire a shutdown ninth inning option
- Josh Hader – Milwaukee Brewers (5) – This has nothing to do with Hader and his ability, it just seems unlikely that he assumes the role at this point
Others We’re Watching:
- Justin Anderson – Los Angeles Angels
- Jake Diekman – Texas Rangers
- Drew Steckenrider – Miami Marlins
- Lou Trivino – Oakland A’s
“Committees” Currently Excluded:
- Atlanta Braves – A.J. Minter / Dan Winkler
- Chicago Cubs – Steve Cishek / Pedro Strop / Justin Wilson
- Kansas City Royals – Tim Hill / Brandon Maurer / Kevin McCarthy
- Houston Astros – Ken Giles / Hector Rondon
- New York Mets – Robert Gsellman / Anthony Swarzak / Jeurys Familia
- Philadelphia Phillies – Entire Bullpen
Sources – Fangraphs, ESPN, Brooks Baseball
Missed our Top 100 prospect rankings? Make sure to check it out by clicking here.