Searching For Saves: Who Is The Favorite In Chicago (Herrera vs. Colome)

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When the White Sox acquired Alex Colome in exchange for Omar Narvaez the assumption was that he’d assume closing duties in Chicago.  Just a few weeks later that no longer appears to be the case, after Kelvin Herrera was added on a two-year, $18 million contract.  So who is the better option for the team in the ninth?  Who should fantasy owners be targets? Let’s take a look:

Kelvin Herrera
It was just two years ago that Herrera looked primed to emerge as one of the elite closers in the game.  Despite saving 26 games in 2017 he posted a 4.25 ERA as he struggled with home runs (1.37 HR/9) and saw both his strikeout rate (10.75 K/9 to 8.49) and walk rate (1.50 BB/9 to 3.03) take steps backward.

Sure the control returned last season, splitting his time as a closer and setup man for Sean Doolittle after a mid-season trade, but the strikeouts (7.71 K/9) remained down and the home runs (1.22 HR/9) continued.  Throw in a 92.1% strand rate and it’s easy to see why the questions remain. 

While there is still upside in his strikeout rate (13.1% SwStr%), is that enough of a reason to fully believe?  Can he limit the home runs?  Can he overcome the inevitable luck regression?  There’s potential, but it’s hardly a guarantee.

Alex Colome
Colome too is not far removed from being an elite closer.  He racked up 84 saves between 2016 and 2017 and only lost the role due to being traded to Seattle, where he was “stuck” setting up for Edwin Diaz.  Last year saw his strikeout rate rebound (9.53 K/9) while he continued to find the strike zone (2.78 BB/9) and generate enough groundballs (46.2%).

His swing and miss stuff was similar to that of Herrera’s (13.6% SwStr%), though it’s fair to wonder how long he can excel given his limited repertoire:

  • Fourseam Fastball – 44.60%
  • Cut-Fastball – 54.66%

Basically a two-pitch pitcher, will opposing batters figure him out?  Considering they hit .367 with a .600 SLG against his fourseam fastball last season, that appears to already be happening.

Conclusion
Both carry significant questions and it wouldn’t be shocking if either one emerges or fails. At this point the money is on Colome opening with the role, but that is subject to change. Consider either one shaky options, and more of a low-end CL2/CL3 given the complete unknown.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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