Closer is among the most frustrating positions for fantasy owners to fill, and with injuries mounting and teams being less patient in the sprint that is 2020 things are that much worse. At the same time there are young pitchers who normally wouldn’t be considered who could rise into the role before long. Let’s take a look at two intriguing “next up” youngsters and determine if they are worth considering:
Jordan Romano – Toronto Blue Jays
Romano has been labeled as a potential “closer of the future”, and you have to wonder if the future will be in 2020. While the Blue Jays are expecting (or hoping) that Ken Giles can return quickly, it’s hardly a given as he works his way back from a strained forearm. Anthony Bass is currently filling in as the closer, but does anyone have faith in him?
That could mean Romano, who is currently operating as the primary setup man, stepping into the role. It’s interesting that Romano has generated a 56.3% groundball rate over 20.1 IP to open his MLB career, because that wasn’t a strength in the minors (39.4% at Triple-A in ’19). If he can maintain that improvement, when coupled with an ability to miss bats (12.9% SwStr% in the Majors) it’s easy to envision a potentially elite closer.
This season he’s clearly been going with more sliders (59.42%), and with that it makes sense that he’s getting more groundballs. While it’s small sample sizes, looking at the Groundballs per BIP on his slider shows why the groundball rate has spiked:
- 2019 – 73.33%
- 2020 – 71.43%
It’s also his swing and miss pitch, while his fastball has been dynamic averaging 96.81 mph and was described by MLB.com as a “high-spin” fastball. In other words, the approach and the stuff should combine to produce an electric late inning arm. Even with a healthy Giles, would it be surprising if the future is now?
Andre Scrubb – Houston Astros
Roberto Osuna is on the IL, with rumors swirling that he needs Tommy John surgery, and with Ryan Pressly stumbling on Thursday in a save opportunity the Astros could be forced to look for an alternative to close out games. Enter Scrubb, who worked ahead of Pressly and has already earned a save. He hasn’t allowed a run over his first 5.1 IP in the Majors, though his control has been an issue (6 BB).
Walks have been an issue throughout his minor league career. In 74.0 IP at Double-A between 2018 and 2019 he does have a 10.46 K/9, but it came with a 4.62 BB/9 and questions regarding his potential to maintain the strikeout rate (8.8% SwStr%). Over his first few appearances in the Majors, we’ve continued to see the questions build:
- SwStr% – 7.0%
- O-Swing% – 16.3%
While he’s proving capable of generating groundballs, is that enough for a late inning reliever? The Astros may be forced to lean on him in the short-term, but it’s hard to envision him thriving in the role without making an adjustment.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, MLB.com