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 two weeks ago:
1) Drew Steckenrider – Miami Marlins (3)
Current Closer – Kyle Barraclough
There had always been some risk in regards Barraclough, but he has suddenly become an absolute disaster. He’s blown three straight save opportunities, appeared to be on the verge of blowing another before he was pulled and has allowed runs in five of his past six appearances, totaling 12 ER on 12 H and 5 BB over 4.2 IP. How much rope he’s built up remains to be seen, but you would think that he’s just about at the end of it. (Update – It was revealed last night that Barraclough had officially been removed from the role, though a committee may the initial plan)
That’s not to say that Steckenrider doesn’t come with his own warts, with a 3.78 BB/9 and 35.4% groundball rate. While home runs haven’t been an issue it’s easy to imagine them coming, as that’s what’s plagued Barraclough of late (3 HR in his past six appearances). The opportunity is the key here, though a 3.42 ERA and 10.08 K/9 obviously shows that there’s value.
2) Justin Anderson – Los Angeles Angels (NR)
Current Closer – Blake Parker
There haven’t been many save opportunities, but Parker’s struggles (he’s allowed runs in four of his past seven appearances, including blowing his last save chance) could lead to the Angels to look towards an alternative option. Anderson has had his own issues, including a 5.57 BB/9 over 42.0 IP, but he’s posted 51 K, generates enough groundballs (46.0%) and has shown better control in the past. He’s hardly a lock to thrive, but he has the stuff and the potential to get an opportunity. The fact that he was used in the ninth inning recently, with the Angels owning a 4 run lead, could indicate that the change has already come.
3) Roberto Osuna – Houston Astros (NR)
Current Closer – Hector Rondon
Those who thought Osuna was just going to be handed the job have already been proven wrong (he worked the eighth inning in his first appearance, ahead of Rondon who earned the save). There’s already been chatter about him being acquired to begin with, and just handing him the role would only accentuate those issues. That’s not to say that he won’t eventually get an opportunity, because it will likely come, but he hasn’t pitched in two and a half months, Rondon is thriving and the off-the-field concerns all come together to keep him out of the role initially.
4) Trevor Hildenberger – Minnesota Twins (2)
Current Closer – Fernando Rodney
It was a bit of a surprise that Rodney wasn’t jettisoned prior to the Trade Deadline and now there have been rumors that they actually want to bring him back for 2019. That’s still hard to believe and it would make sense for the Twins to check out Hildenberger to see if he could thrive in the role.
For his part Hildenberger brings the type of skill set we look for from a pitcher:
- Strikeouts – 8.28 K/9 (courtesy of a 14.0% SwStr% and 35.6% O-Swing%)
- Control – 2.65 BB/9
- Groundballs – 47.8%
Of course he’s had a few stumbles of late, including this past Sunday, which could make his ascent into the role a bit harder to imagine.
5) Brad Brach – Atlanta Braves (5)
Current Closer – A.J. Minter
Brach is pitching for a new team, but he was acquired to help solidify the back of a relatively young bullpen and should get an opportunity if Minter were to struggle before the return of Arodys Vizcaino. It’s been a rough season for Brach, with an overall 4.61 ERA, though in two innings since the trade to Atlanta he’s allowed 0 R on 2 H with 2 K. Strikeouts haven’t been the issue (he had an 8.77 K/9 with Baltimore) and he’s been generating more than enough groundballs (47.8%). The problem with Baltimore was in his control (4.38 BB/9) and a little bit of poor luck (.371 BABIP despite a 32.0% Hard%). The control was already improving (2.35 BB/9 in 7.2 IP in July) and there’s every reason to think the luck will continue to turn as well.
Removed from Rankings:
- Brad Hand – Cleveland Indians (1) – You can argue this is already a timeshare
- Craig Stammen – San Diego Padres (4) – The team held Kirby Yates at the deadline, locking him into the role
Others We’re Watching:
- Archie Bradley – Arizona Diamondbacks
- Josh Hader – Milwaukee Brewers
- Jordan Hicks – St. Louis Cardinals – Consider him the Honorable Mention, and he could join the Top 5 next week
- Jeremy Jeffress – Milwaukee Brewers
- Joe Jimenez – Detroit Tigers
“Committees” Currently Excluded:
- Cleveland Indians
- New York Mets
- Philadelphia Phillies
- Toronto Blue Jays
Sources – Fangraphs, ESPN, Brooks Baseball
Make sure to check out all of our Midseason Prospect Rankings: