The Baltimore Orioles are a team undergoing a rebuild, and that means an experienced closer is a luxury that they don’t need. We saw them move on from Zach Britton a year ago, getting future assets and leaving a void at the back of their bullpen. While Mychal Givens stepped in and filled the role in ’18, is he the best option in ’19? Even if he is, could he be the next man moved with an eye towards the future? If he is jettisoned, is there a candidate to move in and thrive? Let’s take a look:
The Current Closer –
A generally solid reliever, Givens struggled early in 2018 before being pushed into the closers role and rediscovering himself. Just look at the split:
- First Half – 4.28 ERA, 1.39 WHIP
- Second Half – 3.49 ERA, 0.85 WHIP
His strikeout rate did fall (10.24 K/9 to 7.62), though his control improved significantly (4.28 BB/9 to 2.22). His first half strikeout rate is more in-line with what he’s shown (10.42 career K/9) and his first half control struggles are not indicative of his stuff (2.86 BB/9 in ’17). Is that enough to hang our hats on? His strikeout rate isn’t a concern (12.9% SwStr% in the second half) and the control should be there. It’s the potential for home run issues (36.8% groundball rate in ’18) that looms large, especially with the potential for a trade if he gets off to a strong start.
There’s short-term value, at the very least, but pitching in the AL East with the threat of home run issues isn’t going to disappear.
Next Up – Paul Fry
It’s possible that Richard Bleier gets the billing, though a lack of strikeouts (4.13 K/9) could take him out of consideration since he may be nothing more than a Brad Ziegler type option. Fry may not be much different, though he does bring more strikeouts (10.1% SwSr%) and an overall strong skillset:
- Strikeouts – 8.60 K/9
- Control – 3.58 BB/9
- Groundballs – 57.7%
His biggest issue is his control, having shown even more strikeouts (11.19 K/9) and a strong groundball rate (51.7%) at Triple-A prior to his promotion. He also proved that he’s more than a specialist, getting right-handed hitters out at each level:
- Triple-A – .245 BAA
- Majors – .218 BAA
That’s a strong makeup and gives him the potential to step into the role in short order.
The Highest Upside –
The question is whether or not Scot can find his control (4.73 BB/9 over 53.1 IP in the Majors last season), because if he does the stuff could be devastating. He posted a gaudy 12.83 K/9 thanks to a fastball that averaged 97.1 mph, pairing it with a wipeout slider (29.67% Whiff%). That’s an impressive two-pitch arsenal, especially when paired with a minor league career 1.70 GO/AO (1.35 in the Majors in ’18).
His numbers last season weren’t impressive, in part due to poor luck (.380 BABIP, 67.5% strand rate) as he wasn’t hit particularly hard (31.9% Hard%). If he could just improve his control, even marginally (think a 4.00 BB/9), he has the stuff to evolve into the team’s best reliever. Those looking to stash potential saves he’s a name to have strongly on your radar.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, MILB.com