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) Justin Anderson – Los Angeles Angels (2)
Current Closer – Blake Parker
It is easy to say that Anderson is the best reliever the Angels have, and he’s been especially strong in the second half:
8.2 IP, 1.04 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 10 K, 4 BB
You can point towards an overall 5.40 BB/9 as a reason to be skeptical, but his BB/9 sits at 4.15 since the All-Star Break (including 0 BB in his first 3.1 IP in August). As long as he can maintain this type of walk rate (even though it’s unimpressive), if not show further improvement, the other skills will allow him to thrive. Overall he owns a 46.0% groundball rate and 11.42 K/9 (courtesy of an impressive 15.4% SwStr% as his slider is a wipeout pitch, with a 23.14% Whiff%).
Does anyone truly believe that Blake Parker is an impediment to Anderson’s rise into the role? Parker has proven to be extremely home run prone (9 HR allowed, including 3 in the second half). That simply doesn’t get it done as a closer and it’s only a matter of time before Anderson claims the job.
2) Trevor May – Minnesota Twins (NR)
Current Closer – Trevor Hildenberger?
The first opportunity post-Fernando Rodney era went to Hildenberger? Really?!? He has been abysmal recently, and has now given up multiple runs in four straight appearances (9 ER over 3.2 IP), including a home run in each of them. Trusting him in a late inning situation seems impossible, and while the team could turn to the veteran Addison Reed it appears that May is primed to become the next man up.
Despite only recently being recalled he worked the eighth inning ahead of Hildenberger and has thrived overall (4.2 IP, 1.93 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 3 HLD in five appearances). A former starter, May thrived while at Triple-A but there are questions considering the numbers from his 15.1 IP as a reliever:
- Control – 7 BB
- Groundballs – 0.57 GO/AO
He hasn’t walked a batter in the Majors and also showed dramatic improvement as he settled into his role at Triple-A (2 BB over final 8.1 IP), so that shouldn’t be seen as an issue. He’s never been much of a groundball pitcher, but if he’s throwing strikes and opponents can’t touch him (22.2% SwStr%, 43.9% O-Swing% in the Majors) it’s not going to matter. Obviously the MLB numbers are in an extremely short sample, but it’s possible his stuff simply plays better coming out of the bullpen and with an opportunity looming he needs to be monitored closely.
3) Koda Glover – Washington Nationals (NR)
Current Closer – Ryan Madson
The Nationals already have Sean Doolittle and Kelvin Herrera on the DL, and after Madson’s implosion on Sunday night (0.2 IP, 4 ER, 2 H, 2 HBP) there’s talk that he’s battling a back injury of his own. Viewed as the last man standing, it’s possible that he too is going to be sidelined.
Glover, who was only recently recalled, has been viewed as a potential closer of the future in the past. He has struggled over his MLB career (4.87 ERA over 40.2 IP), but there’s no questioning the pure stuff that the 25-year old brings to the table. In 8.0 IP at Triple-A this season he had 10 K vs. 2 BB while generating an impressive 3.00 GO/AO and worked the eighth inning on Sunday before Madson’s implosion.
4) Adam Ottavino – Colorado Rockies (NR)
Current Closer – Wade Davis
Davis has been an absolute disaster, and while we never want to point towards money as a reason for a player to keep his role it is a reality of the sport. The Rockies invested heavily in Davis for him to hold down the closers role for the next few years, and pulling him in Year 1 of the contract just doesn’t seem to be a realistic outcome. That said, he owns a 21.60 ERA in August going 1-3 with 2 BSV so it’s possible he makes it impossible for the Rockies not to make a change.
Ottavino has been tremendous overall this season, working ahead of Davis, and has gotten the opportunities when the closer has needed a day off. It’s worth monitoring closely, but it’s a hard sell to think that an official change is going to come (barring an injury).
5) Roberto Osuna – Houston Astros (3)
Current Closer – Hector Rondon
As expected Rondon has held the closers role, even with Osuna’s debut with the Astros. There’s no questioning that Osuna can handle the role, but Rondon has been among the better closers in baseball and has the stuff to continue to thrive. That’s not to say that a change won’t come, but it simply isn’t imminent.
Note – You can argue that the Indians’ Brad Hand belongs on this list, but he’s had save opportunities recently and should continue to see some (potentially sharing the role with Cody Allen). If he were to be on this list, he’d take hope the top spot and is a must own in all formats.
Removed from Rankings:
- Drew Steckenrider – Miami Marlins (1)
- Trevor Hildenberger – Minnesota Twins (4)
- Brad Brach – Atlanta Braves (5)
Others We’re Watching:
- Archie Bradley – Arizona Diamondbacks
- Josh Hader – Milwaukee Brewers
- Jordan Hicks – St. Louis Cardinals
- Jeremy Jeffress – Milwaukee Brewers
- Joe Jimenez – Detroit Tigers
“Committees” Currently Excluded:
- Chicago White Sox
- Milwaukee Brewers
- New York Mets
- Philadelphia Phillies
- Toronto Blue Jays
Sources – Fangraphs, ESPN, Brooks Baseball, MILB.com
Make sure to check out all of our Midseason Prospect Rankings: