According to T.R. Sullivan of mlb.com (click here for the article):
José Leclerc would seem to be a lock as the Rangers’ closer just as Santana appears to be the obvious choice in center. But this is another position where Texas is weighing alternatives.
Leclerc has had his rocky moments as closer, and manager Chris Woodward has contemplated the idea of using him in an earlier role. That would allow the Rangers to use Leclerc’s enormous talent in a less-pressured but still significant role, possibly one that includes multi-inning game assignments.
It’s an interesting development, and considering Leclerc has 26 SV in 34 SVO the past two seasons it’s not a huge surprise. The question is who could step into the role? Let’s take a look at the two prime options:
Once a top prospect for the Mets, Montero returned after injuries helped to derail his career. Transitioned to the bullpen he immediately thrived, with a 2.48 ERA over 29.0 IP and showing enough in all three skills we look for:
- Strikeouts – 10.55 K/9
- Control – 1.55 BB/9
- Groundballs – 40.3%
Obviously it wasn’t the biggest sample and he benefited from a 95.7% strand rate, but the skills are there to thrive. The question is whether or not the Rangers will trust an inexperienced option, but in this type of a sprint scenario it could make sense.
Allen was a non-roster invite to camp, but he has been included in the 60-man player pool and he’s the player with the most experience in the role. While he’s struggled over the past two seasons, let’s not forget that he was one of the dominant relievers from 2014-2018 as he amassed five straight seasons with 24+ SV. The questions he faces are:
- Can he find his control? He owns a career 3.75 BB/9 and over the past two seasons has marks of 4.43 and 7.83. This alone could keep him out of the role.
- Can he keep the ball in the ballpark? The owner of a career 33.9% groundball rate, he’s allowed at least 8 HR in four straight seasons.
Control issues coupled with home run issues is never a good formula for a closer, and while he has the experience it’s hard to anticipate him running with the role.
Sources – MLB.com, Fangraphs
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