We all know that closers come and closers go, and ultimately playing the waiver wire in order to fill the position could be the difference. However that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be proactive. Obviously there’s a long way and a lot of moves to come before we get some clarity, but let’s take a look at two potential closing options who were on radars in 2020 and who could emerge in 2021:
Jordan Romano – Toronto Blue Jays
Injuries to Ken Giles opened up an opportunity, but Romano went down with his own injury and that cost him his chance to already secure the role for 2021. In his 15.2 IP he did get 2 SV and delivered across the board:
- Strikeouts – 12.89 K/9
- Control – 3.07 BB/9
- Groundballs – 58.1%
Obviously we can’t anticipate him maintaining a .207 BABIP and 98.0% strand rate, though with those skills even a step back should mean a 2.50-3.00 ERA. A fastball-slider pitcher, he averaged 96.96 mph on his fourseam fastball while showing an ability to get swings and misses with both (Whiff%):
- Fourseam – 23.16%
- Slider – 19.15%
The former starting pitching prospect has always shown the potential for strikeouts and control, including a 12.66 K/9 and 3.35 BB/9 at Triple-A in ’19. If he can maintain this type of groundball rate, and with a 54.9% mark over 30.0 IP in the Majors the past two seasons there is reason to believe and the sky truly is the limit.
Romano brings the total package and there’s a clear opportunity in the late innings. Don’t be surprised if he emerges as the teams closer sooner rather than later.
Hunter Harvey – Baltimore Orioles
Harvey is another former starting pitching prospect who flourished with a transition to the bullpen. He showed it over 16.2 IP at Triple-A in ’19 (11.88 K/9, 2.70 BB/9, 40.0% groundball rate), and while injuries limited him to 8.2 IP in ’20 he showed similar skills:
- Strikeouts – 6.23 K/9
- Control – 2.08 BB/9
- Groundballs – 39.3%
His 10.3% SwStr% shows more upside in his strikeout rate, though he leans on his fourseam fastball a significant amount (77.24% in ’20). Can he be successful use one pitch that much?
He averaged 97.73 mph on it in ’20 and in his 15.0 IP in the Majors over his career opponents have hit a meager .175 on the pitch. We’d love to see him show his other offerings a little bit more (he also throws a changeup and curveball), and with experience that should come. He also needs to prove that he can stay healthy, as injuries have consistently sabotaged him year after year.
The Orioles have questions in the late innings and it’s not a spot we’d expect them to invest in this offseason. That means Harvey should be able to grow into the role, and his stuff should play exceptionally well there.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball