by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
It’s not easy for a prospect to make the leap all the way to the closers role shortly after arriving in the Majors. Teams tend to want some type of experience at the back of the bullpen, though there are times that pitchers have been able to force the issue (assuming the back of their team’s bullpen is in shambles). There are a few relievers that are in situations where they could arrive quickly, so let’s take a look at who we should be watching:
Jimmy Herget – Cincinnati Reds
The 23-year old righty has been stellar at Double-A, earning a save in all five of his appearances in ’17. While that is impressive alone, his 13 K vs. 1 BB over 6.0 IP makes it look even better. It comes a year after posting a 12.31 K/9 and 3.26 BB/9 over 60.2 IP at High-A in ’16, so it’s hard to consider it an aberration.
It’s an interesting skill set, but will his makeup play at the higher levels? So far so good, but here’s how MLB.com described him prior to the season:
“Whether Herget can close at the highest level remains to be seen, but he does have some nasty stuff thrown with a ton of deception. He’ll change his arm slots, from high three-quarters down to sidearm, firing fastballs in the 92-96 mph range. He’ll throw his slider from all slots and will try to disrupt hitters’ timing by hesitating in his leg kick or quick pitching. He does have a changeup that he doesn’t use that much, but he misses plenty of bats with his first two offerings.”
While it has looked good at Double-A early on, we’ll have to wait and see if that success continues at Triple-A and in the Majors (especially with the potential to be beat by the long ball). That said, he’s an interesting name to monitor considering the stability in Cincinnati’s bullpen. Raisel Iglesias could ultimately settle into the role, but if he continues at this pace Herget could give them an alternative option (replacing the Drew Storen/Michael Lorenzen combination) by the second half.
Joe Jimenez – Detroit Tigers
Obviously we can’t do an article like this one without mentioning Jimenez, who is the clear “closer of the future” in Detroit. He got a taste of the Majors already this season and it’s simply a matter of when he returns, not if. The owner of a big strikeout rate in the minors (13.0 K/9) and the ability to fire strikes (2.6 BB/9), there could eventually be home run concerns (0.62 GO/AO). Of course opponents need to hit the ball in order to send it flying over the fences.
Here’s the preseason scouting report, courtesy of Rich Wilson of Prospect 361:
“Jimenez was built to be a closer. He’s 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds with a thick lower half. He’s primarily a two pitch pitcher with a double-plus fastball that sits 95 to 97 MPH and a tight hard slider that he sits in the upper 80’s. Both pitches are swing and miss offerings and Jimenez is able to throw each for strikes. The delivery is aggressive with a lot of effort and while that is a problem for a starter, for one inning bullpen arms, it should work ok. The delivery also has a lot of deception, which simply adds to his effectiveness.”
Justin Wilson could be the choice to step in, if/when Francisco Rodriguez is removed from the role, though time will tell. Jimenez will get there at some point, whether it’s later in ’17 or in ’18.
Sources – MLB.com, MILB.com, Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, Prospect 361
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: