Closer in Waiting Power Rankings: May 28, 2019: Two Must Grab Options Emerging, A Surprise At #3 & More

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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) Jose Leclerc – Texas Rangers (1)
Current Closer – Shawn Kelley

Kelley was thrust back into the closers role upon returning from the IL, though after taking a BSV/L on Saturday night his role is definitely in question.  It was the fourth time he’d worked in five days, but even when he was getting the job done things seemed shaky.  In these four outings (3.2 IP) he’s allowed 3 ER on 6 H and 1 BB, striking out 3, and his hold on the job is quickly slipping away.

That speculation has as much to do about Leclerc as anything.  There has been talk that he’d return to the role before long, and he’s earning his way back into the role.  Over his past five outings (6.1 IP) he’s allowed 0 R on 0 H and 1 BB, striking out 14 in the process.  All told in May he owns a 0.90 ERA with 19 K over 10.0 IP.  The Rangers are paying him to be the closer, and he’s pitching like he belongs back in the role today.  His time is coming, and it’s coming quickly.

2) Jake Diekman – Kansas City Royals (2)
Current Closer – Ian Kennedy

Kennedy took a blown save on Sunday (3 ER on 4 H and 1 BB in his inning of work), the third time in his past seven appearances that he’s allowed multiple runs.  He owns a 9.00 ERA over 8.0 innings in May, and he has just 2 K over his past 4.1 IP.  He’s shown some interesting skills, at times, and while a lot of his limited appeal is due to only getting a few opportunities, at this point it’s hard to envision another shot coming.

Enter Diekman, who owns a 2.86 ERA and 0.86 WHIP over 22.0 IP on the season.  He did have a little bump along the way (runs allowed in back-to-back outings in the middle of May), but that does little to eliminate the luster.  Over 10.0 innings in May he owns a 1.80 ERA with 20 K, including 7 K over his past 3.0 IP.  He has 4 HLD in the month and could quickly overtake Kennedy to get whatever opportunities the Royals provide him.

3) Carlos Martinez – St. Louis Cardinals (5)
Current Closer – Jordan Hicks

It was hard to envision Hicks losing his grip on the Cardinals’ closers role, but he’s now imploded in two of his past three outings.  In the most recent blowup he failed to get an out and after holding a 1.84 ERA on May 16 it has suddenly ballooned to 4.24.  There were always whispers of Martinez as possible option to step into the closers role, though there also has been talk about him returning to the rotation.  For now he’s going to remain in the bullpen, and if Hicks continues to stumble is it hard to envision Martinez stepping in and thriving?  It’s not like he hasn’t proven capable before, including a 1.47 ERA over 18.1 innings working in relief a year ago (while going a perfect 5-for-5 in save opportunities).  It’s still not easy to imagine a change, but it’s possible it comes quickly.

4) Ty Buttrey – Los Angeles Angels (NR)
Current Closer – Hansel Robles

It appears that the committee is over for the Angels, even with Robles having a little stumble lately.  That said would it really be surprising to see Buttrey forcing his way into the conversation?  You can easily argue that he has the better stuff, as the owner of a 1.37 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 32 K over 26.1 innings (not to mention just 5 BB).  For now the Angels appear to prefer utilizing the veteran to close out games, but with Cody Allen out it may be just a matter of time before Buttrey gets his shot at consistent opportunities.

5) Paul Fry – Baltimore Orioles (NR)
Current Closer – Committee?

Givens has been operating as the Orioles’ closer, but he’s been an unmitigated disaster of late (and has officially been relieved of his duties).  Over his past four outings he’s been saddled with three losses and two blown saves, watching his ERA blow up to 5.56 to go along with a 1.50 WHIP.  Walks have been an issue (13 BB over 22.2 IP), and while he still may be the “best” option he has some work to do in order to get back there.

Does that mean that Fry is an ideal option to close out games?  He hasn’t been generating many strikeout this season (5.40 K/9), though a 9.6% SwStr% does offer a little bit more upside (as does his 8.60 K/9 last season).  Even if there isn’t a significant improvement, his elite groundball rate (63.5% in ’19, 59.9% in the Majors) is more than enough to excite you.  He could use a little bit better control, but he has a little bit of Zack Britton in him, and that’s going to put Fry squarely on radars. He didn’t get the first save opportunity, but keep an eye on him.

Graduated from Rankings
All of these appear to now have at least a hold of their current closers role

  • None

Dropped from Rankings:

  • Brandon Brennan – Seattle Mariners (3)
  • Adam Conley – Miami Marlins (4)

Current Committee/More Information Needed:

  • Atlanta Braves – Luke Jackson/Sean Newcomb/Anthony Swarzak
  • Boston Red Sox – Matt Barnes/Ryan Brasier/Marcus Walden/Brandon Workman
  • Minnesota Twins – Blake Parker/Taylor Rogers
  • Tampa Bay Rays – Jose Alvarado/Diego Castillo/Emilio Pagan

Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs

4 COMMENTS

    • It’s possible, but he hasn’t been particularly good. It would seem likely that Martinez gets the first opportunity if a need arises.

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