Everyone is always on the lookout for the next great closer. While the 2020 season has just started, this year figures to be even more unpredictable as teams can’t afford to give games away. Who could be an under-the-radar option to proactively grab? Let’s take a look:
Scott Barlow – Kansas City Royals
Current Closer – Ian Kennedy
Kennedy transitioned from mediocre starter to “ace” closer in 2019, posting a 30 SV season. At the same time is anyone really willing to bet on him replicating that success? While an improvement in his luck (.343 BABIP) will help, he’s unlikely to maintain the strikeout rate (10.37 K/9 despite a pedestrian 9.9% SwStr%) and could face some home run issues (0.85 HR/9 in ’19, 1.25 for his career).
While Barlow posted a 4.22 ERA over 70.1 IP in the Majors last season, he did it with an 11.77 K/9 (behind an impressive 14.7% SwStr%). He needs to improve his control (4.73 BB/9), but maybe September offers a glimpse into what is possible (3.46 BB/9 over 13.0 IP). If he can maintain that type of mark with his strikeout stuff, his upside is immense.
Already ticketed to be the primary setup man, it may not take much for him to be thrust into the opportunity.
Jairo Diaz – Colorado Rockies
Current Closer – Wade Davis
We all know that Davis’ hold on the closer’s role is shaky, at best, but with Scott Oberg sidelined who could step into the role may not be as obvious. You wouldn’t think that Diaz and his 4.53 ERA from 2019 would garner much consideration, but the skills speak to significantly more success:
- Strikeouts – 9.83 K/9
- Control – 2.97 BB/9
- Groundballs – 49.4%
With a 14.3% SwStr% and 35.7% O-Swing% it is clear that Diaz has the stuff to fool hitters, behind a fastball that averaged 97.0 mph last season. His struggles were more tied to poor luck (64.0% strand rate) than anything else. Considering the state of the bullpen, that has to grab your attention.
Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com