There were significant questions as to who would fill the Cardinals’ closers role this season, and for the most part those remain unanswered. However the news that Jordan Hicks had opted out of the 2020 campaign (due to “pre-existing health concerns”, as reports state he has Type 1 diabetes) adds some long-term clarity. Expected to return in August after undergoing Tommy John surgery, Hicks is not an option. So who will/could close in 2020? The field is still fairly deep, so let’s take a look:
It had appeared like Martinez would return to the rotation for 2020, but at this point that may not be the case. A late arrival to “Summer Camp”, the loss of Hicks, the absence of Gallegos (we’ll get to him shortly) and the rotation depth combine to create the perfect opportunity. Even without Martinez in the mix, look at the names available to start:
- Jack Flaherty
- Adam Wainwright
- Dakota Hudson
- Miles Mikolas
- Kwang Hyun Kim
There’s also top prospects, like Matthew Liberatore, included in the 60-man player pool. Martinez also seemingly thrived in the closers role last year, racking up 24 SV in 27 opportunities with a 3.17 ERA over 48.1 IP. He showed all of the skills we look for, with a 9.87 K/9, 3.35 BB/9 and 56.5% groundball rate. As long as he can maintain the strikeout rate (12.6% SwStr%) he should continue to thrive, though he did regress in both his control (2.84 BB/9 to 3.68) and groundballs (63.8% to 51.9%) in the second half.
It’s worth watching, but he should be seen as the favorite.
The story may change under different circumstances, but Gallegos has not yet appeared at “Summer Camp”. There has been a lot of speculation as to whether or not he’s tested positive for COVID-19, but that has not been confirmed as of now. Regardless of the reason he’s behind the other pitchers and it’s looking less and less likely that he’d be ready for Opening Day (and how much time he’d miss is a complete unknown).
He showed strikeout stuff (11.31 K/9) and elite control (1.95 BB/9), as he featured a lights out slider (24.75% Whiff%) in 2019. He could be prone to home runs (33.5% groundball rate), but without control issues that shouldn’t be as big of a concern.
The bigger issue is his availability, and with the Cardinals wanting to challenge for a World Series title they aren’t going to wait around.
The 25-year old made his MLB debut last season and has had his name bandied about as an option. However, when you look at the skills over 36.2 IP you have to wonder if that’ll come to fruition:
- Strikeouts – 7.85 K/9
- Control – 2.95 BB/9
- Groundballs – 33.6%
His 2.95 ERA came courtesy of an 84.6% strand rate and a 10.1% SwStr% isn’t going to excite you. Without strikeouts and with the risk of home runs, is he really a name that we’d want to count on thriving in the role?
Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com
Make sure to check out all of our Updated 2020 preseason rankings: