Closer in Waiting Power Rankings: April 2, 2019: Could Youngsters Push For Prominent Roles?

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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) Diego Castillo – Tampa Bay Rays
Current Closer – Jose Alvarado

Castillo was used for a save on Sunday, but there’s a good chance that was due more to Alvarado being used on back-to-back days than anything (though yesterday’s usage may change that thinking).  That said there’s no question that Castillo has the potential to emerge as one of the better options in the league, if the opportunity were to present itself.

A year ago he tossed 56.2 IP in the Majors, posting a 3.18 ERA and 0.95 WHIP.  While you can argue that there was a little bit of luck involved (.229 BABIP), the underlying skills were obvious:

  • Strikeouts – 10.32 K/9 (courtesy of a 13.2% SwStr%)
  • Control – 2.86 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 45.3%

This could be as much of a situation where the team wants to keep Castillo flexible (he was used for 2.0 innings in his first appearance), including utilizing him as an “opener”.  That said if Alvarado stumbles, Castillo is the most likely option to step in and assume the role.

2) Ty Buttrey – Los Angeles Angels
Current Closer – Cody Allen

You would think that Allen would be locked into the role, but the Angels are a team who have championship aspirations and they aren’t going to let poor pitching in the ninth cost them games.  Let’s not forget that Allen has seen home runs plague him in recent seasons (HR/9 of 1.06, 1.20 and 1.48) while his control also went south in ’18 (BB/9 of 4.43).  Both of those things continued to plague him this spring, as he walked 6 and allowed 2 HR over 10.0 innings. 

That should put Buttrey squarely on our radars after he impressed across the board in 2018 (16.1 IP):

  • Strikeouts – 11.02 K/9
  • Control – 2.76 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 56.8%

That groundball rate may be a little bit deceiving, but he should be able to post a mark in the 50% range to go along with strikeouts and control.  In other words he has the stuff to emerge as one of the better options in the league and while we can’t put much stock in Spring Training struggles, given what happened in ’18 it’s more than enough to cause some concern.

3) Alex Reyes – St. Louis Cardinals
Current Closer – Jordan Hicks

It was a complete meltdown for the St. Louis bullpen on Sunday, with Andrew Miller, Reyes and Hicks all giving up runs.  Obviously the performance of Hicks gets magnified, since he was the man in the closers role and got charged with the a blown save and a loss (though he bounced back yesterday).  Asked to get four outs, Hicks got just one as he was charged with 2 R on 3 H.  No one is going to raise the red flag off of one poor outing (especially with the guys in front of him also stumbling), but there’s always been speculation of Reyes (or maybe Carlos Martinez) overtaking him for the role. 

While a change isn’t imminent today, would it be surprising if another stumble by Hicks led to someone else getting an opportunity?  With Miller being left-handed and Martinez on the DL, we’ll put Reyes as the next man up for now.  Whether that lasts or not remains to be seen, however.

4) Kelvin Herrera – Chicago White Sox
Current Closer – Alex Colome

Colome has proven capable of doing the job before, posting 84 saves for Tampa Bay between 2016 and 2017.  He relinquished the role after being traded to Seattle a year ago, but even before there had been questions as to whether or not he could continue to thrive, like a career 22.6% line drive rate and inconsistent strikeout stuff (K/9):

  • 2016 – 11.28
  • 2017 – 7.83
  • 2018 – 9.53

If the strikeouts are there Colome should continue to do the job, but if not Herrera will be waiting in the wings to get an opportunity.

5) Joe Jimenez – Detroit Tigers
Current Closer – Shane Greene

This is more long-term speculation than anything, as we await some situations to play themselves out and more names to become viable “alternate” options.  There’s a good change that Jimenez gets an opportunity before long, and it’s possible that a trade of Greene as Detroit furthers it’s rebuild is what spurs it.  For now this is merely speculation (but at this point in the season that’s enough to earn Jimenez a spot on these rankings).

Current Committee/More Information Needed:

  • Baltimore Orioles – Mychal Givens/Paul Fry/Michael Wright – For now Givens remains the name to own, but his usage has been frustrating as he has yet to earn a save.
  • Kansas City Royals – Ian Kennedy/Wily Peralta – How long will it be before Kennedy fully emerges as “the man” for KC?
  • Miami Marlins – Sergio Romo/Drew Steckenrider – This could easily be an even split, with Adam Conley also potentially becoming an option.
  • Minnesota Twins – Trevor May/Blake Parker/Taylor Rogers – Thus far Rogers is the name to own, but keep the other two stashed until we get some clarity.
  • Philadelphia Phillies – David Robertson/Seranthony Dominguez – This really should be Dominguez’ job already, shouldn’t it?
  • Seattle Mariners – The injury to Hunter Strickland makes this an exceptionally messy situation, but Anthony Swarzak coming off the DL is the name to stash.

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