Fantasy Fallout: Who Will Emerge As Texas’ Closer After Keone Kela Is Sent To Pittsburgh?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Obviously things can change quickly, and there are still rumors that the Rangers will make another deal prior to the Trade Deadline (there’s talk that Jake Diekman could be the next domino to fall).  As of this moment there are two obvious candidates to step into the closer’s role.  As we tweeted this morning, it does appear that there is a favorite to assume the role:

Just as quickly as Diekman could be subsequently shipped out, the team could also opt to give Jose Leclerc an opportunity.  With the instability in mind, let’s take a look at both pitchers and determine who has the best upside:


Jake Diekman – Left-Handed Pitcher
It’s interesting that Diekman has actually been worse against left-handed hitters (.273) as opposed to right-handed hitters (.186) this season, though for his career he’s been equally as impressive against both:

  • LHH – .221/.320/.292
  • RHH – .220/.330/.346

The biggest concern has always been his control, with a 4.87 BB/9 for his career and a 5.31 this season.  But is that the biggest current issue…  While he’s generally generated ample groundballs something has changed over the course of this season:

  • April – 54.2%
  • May – 52.0%
  • June – 34.6%
  • July – 39.1%

It hasn’t been a reduction in the use of his sinker (67.07% used in June, 61.31% in July), and while that hasn’t been as productive neither has his slider (28.57% and 36.36% groundballs per BIP on the pitch the past two months).  That’s not a good sign, especially for a pitcher who has struggled with his control.  If he’s walking batters and starts to struggles with home runs (something that could happen considering his 37.8% Hard%), things could get ugly quickly.


Jose Leclerc – Right-Handed Pitcher
Of course how much different is Leclerc, outside of throwing with his right hand?  He too has struggled with his control (4.31 BB/9 in ’18, 6.46 over his career) and fails to generate many groundballs (32.1%).  While he hasn’t been plagued by home runs (0.23 HR/9), is it really a stretch to see that coming?

He hasn’t been hit hard (25.6% Hard%), and that does help him to overcome the lack of groundballs (and he also should improve upon his 64.0% strand rate, off-setting the expected slight regression in his .247 BABIP).  Couple that with his split-finger fastball, which is a strikeout pitch (24.04% Whiff%) that he’s throwing it more than ever before this season (44.57%).  That helps to back-up the strikeout number but it would be easier to trust him if he was pairing it with another skill…

While he may not get the first opportunity, it’s easy to argue that his upside is higher and he deserves the shot.  Everyone else may rush to add Diekman, but the savvy owner will stash Leclerc and watch the situation play out.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

Make sure to check out all of our Midseason Prospect Rankings:

First Baseman
Second Base
Third Baseman


  1. Frederic Kass says:

    Swarzak or Giles ROS?

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      I would go Giles, who should be safer in role. Swarzak could be great, but Mets could still take a look at Gsellman and others

  2. Bbboston says:

    Article suggestion:

    It occurs to me that for many of these teams jettisoning closers there be a high quality back-up plan lurking in the minors. For intolerance, when I look at Texas top prospects there are a ton of Ps. Who’s to say Texas isn’t going to simply promote a number of Prospect Ps to find a replacement, or already has one in mind?

    • Bbboston says:

      Sorry autocorrect is a killer

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      Generally teams aren’t going to promote a reliever and thrust them right into the closers role. Usually teams like them to gain experience first, plus if someone starts accumulating saves that quickly their price in arbitration is going to be huge

  3. Jack says:

    Alex Claudio have no chance?

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      Anything is possible, but the other two have been the primary setup men of late and make the most sense to transition into the role

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