With the news that Jordan Hicks could be facing Tommy John surgery, which would wipe out the rest of 2019 as well as a good chunk of 2020, it appears that John Gant will step in as the St. Louis Cardinals’ closer. It will be interesting to see how long he assumes the role, as the Cardinals could easily go out and try to acquire a replacement. Could Gant pitch well enough to take the job and run with it? Let’s take a look at the skillset to find out:
He currently owns an 8.06 K/9, though a 12.7% SwStr% supports a bit more upside. In fact the number has been dragged down by a poor June (K/9):
- April – 8.55
- May – 12.10
- June – 3.86
He has been using his sinker more this month (41.38%), at least in part at the expense of his changeup (14.94%), which helps to explain the drop-off. That helps to explain the overall struggles (5.40 ERA) for the month, though you also have to wonder if a better book around the league s helping hurt his upside (SwStr% of 9.8%).
Working as a starter Gant has generally shown mediocre control, but in his first full season as a reliever he owns a 2.61 BB/9. For his career as a reliever he owns a 3.40 BB/9, compared to a 4.46 as a starter, so he should at least remain solid.
Like with his control Gant has generally proven to be solid, though unspectacular, with a 47.1% groundball rate in ’19 (45.5% for his career).
So there’s potential in his strikeout rate, but his control and groundball rate are pedestrian. If he can rediscover his strikeout stuff there is the potential to produce, but it’s unfortunately not a guarantee. Couple that with the benefit of a .208 BABIP and it’s a lock that his 2.40 ERA and 0.87 WHIP take a step backward (and it could be a significant one).
With the job in hand he’s obviously worth adding, but don’t be surprised if he doesn’t get a very long run in the role.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball