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) since we “officially” checked in about three weeks ago:
1) Brad Hand – Cleveland Indians (NR)
Current Closer – Cody Allen
You can argue that Allen may already be out as closer, though time will tell. The fact is that he’s hardly been a dominant force at the back of the Indians’ bullpen this season, currently owning a 4.95 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. The biggest issue has been 8 HR allowed over his 40.0 IP, and three of those have come within the past two weeks.
Obviously Hand is viewed as the long-term solution, with both Allen and Andrew Miller set to reach free agency after the year. Once Miller is healthy you also can’t use the fact that Hand is left-handed against him (in fact, using Allen/Miller in the earlier innings could prove to be more dynamic, with a RHP/LHP duo). Hand proved to be one of the elite closers in the game prior to being acquired from San Diego, owing a 3.18 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 24 saves in 29 opportunities, and could have been acquired with an eye towards inserting him into the role. If we aren’t there yet, it may not take long.
2) Trevor Hildenberger – Minnesota Twins (NR)
Current Closer – Fernando Rodney
While his name hasn’t been prominent in trade rumors, would it really be a surprise to see Rodney jettisoned prior to the deadline? That would leave Hildenberger to claim the role, and the skill set is there for him to thrive (entering play on Sunday):
- Strikeouts – 8.23 K/9 (but a 14.3% SwStr% and 36.5% O-Swing% show significantly more upside)
- Control – 2.68 BB/9
- Groundballs – 47.4%
He’s struggled over his last three appearances (4 ER on 6 H and 1 BB, striking out 0, over 2.1 IP), but don’t let that distract you from the actual potential. He’s the clear next up option and he should thrive in the role when given the opportunity.
3) Drew Steckenrider – Miami Marlins (NR)
Current Closer – Kyle Barraclough
Sunday’s implosion (he allowed 5 ER on 4 H and 1 BB, striking out 1, over 0.2 IP) was just the latest in what has been an abysmal month for Barraclough. He’s allowed runs in four of his nine appearances, including each of the past two, totaling 8 ER on 13 H and 7 BB over 7.2 IP. As it is he’s continued to be inconsistent with his control (4.78 BB/9 entering the day on Sunday) and seeing the numbers collapse shouldn’t come as a surprise (93.8% strand rate, .156 BABIP).
The thought had been that Barraclough would only get replaced if a trade was to be completed, but as of today we can no longer say that. Steckenreider’s had his own issues in July, though not even close to the level of Barraclough, as he’s allowed 4 ER on 11 H and 5 BB over 8.1 IP. He doesn’t bring “elite” swing and miss stuff (10.1% SwStr%) and his control isn’t spectacular (4.09 BB/9), but the real concern is the risk of home runs (37.8% groundball rate)… That sounds like an awful lot of negatives, doesn’t it? It sounds worse than it is, and he has the potential to assume the role and thrive in it.
4) Craig Stammen – San Diego Padres (NR)
Current Closer – Kirby Yates
Yates was the obvious choice to step in for the jettisoned Brad Hand, but the Padres have an alternative waiting in the wings if he should struggle or get traded himself. We took a closer look at the situation immediately following the trade, which you can view by clicking here. The fact is that Stammen features strikeouts (9.91 K/9), control (1.75 BB/9) and groundballs (51.2%), and if he’s given the opportunity he should thrive in the role.
5) Brad Brach – Baltimore Orioles (4)
Current Closer – Zach Britton
It’s a foregone conclusion that Britton will be dealt ahead of the deadline, with a deal potentially being completed any day now. While Brach could also be moved, for now we’ll have to consider him the next up (Mychel Givens is in the mix if Brach were to be moved as well).
Of course Brach’s numbers are ugly this year, with a 4.97 ERA and 1.74 WHIP, though he has gone 10-for-12 in save opportunities while Britton was sidelined earlier in the year. His control has been spotty (4.34 BB/9) and there’s been a bit of poor luck (.362 BABP), which will continue to keep him as a less than stellar option (though Givens doesn’t appear much better on paper).
Removed from Rankings:
- Archie Bradley – Arizona Diamondbacks (1)
- Seung-Hwan Oh – Toronto Blue Jays (2)
- Chaz Roe – Tampa Bay Rays (3)
- Kevin McCarthy – Kansas City Royals (5)
Others We’re Watching:
- Justin Anderson – Los Angeles Angels
- Jake Diekman – Texas Rangers
- Jeurys Familia – New York Mets
- Josh Hader – Milwaukee Brewers
- Jordan Hicks – St. Louis Cardinals
- Joe Jimenez – Detroit Tigers
“Committees” Currently Excluded:
- Atlanta Braves – A.J. Minter / Dan Winkler
- Philadelphia Phillies
- Toronto Blue Jays
Sources – Fangraphs, ESPN, Brooks Baseball
Make sure to check out all of our Midseason Prospect Rankings: