It would appear that the Tigers will once again lean on Shane Greene as their closer to open the season. Is he really the team’s best option, or could Joe Jimenez ultimately emerge as “the man” regardless of if Greene is traded or not? Let’s take a look:
Maybe his stuff is better than his surface numbers, with a 5.12 ERA over 63.1 IP, and he did go 32-for-38 in save opportunities. The skills also seem to support a strong arsenal:
- Strikeouts – 9.24 K/9
- Control – 2.70 BB/9
- Groundballs – 40.7%
He’s shown better groundball stuff (45.8% for his career), and his control has generally been solid (3.33 BB/9 for his career). It’s the strikeout rate that’s questionable, with a lackluster 8.4% SwStr% and 28.6% O-Swing%. He saw his strikeout rate fall in the second half (8.49 K/9) and without a true put-away pitch (his best Whiff% was 13.62%) it’s easy to envision that type of number continuing.
Greene also struggled to keep opponents from making strong contact, with an overall 37.5% Hard% including marks of 41.9% or higher in three of the final four months. Considering a 41.3% mark in 2017 it’s easy to envision it continuing. It helped lead to his significant home run struggles last season (1.71 HR/9), and that’s something that could continue.
Jimenez brings prototypical closer stuff, with a fourseam fastball that averaged 96.21 mph last season. That, coupled with the ability to get swings and misses with all three of his pitches, led to a 13.4% SwStr% and 11.20 K/9. Couple that with a 3.12 BB/9, something that he’s shown coming up through the minors, and there is potential for a lights out closer.
There is the risk of some home run issues, with a 35.6% groundball rate and 39.7% Hard% over 81.2 innings in the Majors, but opposing hitters need to make contact for that to be an issue. With the stuff that he’s shown there’s a lot to like.
Jimenez has long been considered a closer of the future, and at 24-years old his time should be coming in short order. Whether Greene is jettisoned with an eye for the future or not, Jimenez could simply outpitch him and earn the job outright. Whether that comes during Spring Training, by the All-Star Break or sometime after that, it will likely come. Make sure to stash him and be prepared.
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference