Whether the current closer is ineffective or a random injury has hobbled their bull pen, here are five relievers who could step into the job in 2011.
I recommend picking these guys up if you own the closers they currently pitch in front of.
(Note: I’m not picking these guys because I think the closers in front of them will lose their jobs. I’m just saying they have the right stuff.)
Aaron Crow, Kansas City Royals
Crow finally gave up runs last Saturday after going 15.1 consecutive scoreless innings. Not only has the young right-handed pitcher dominated American League hitters to a tune of a .190 batting average, but he also has been striking them out at a K/9 right around 9.0. He serves under Joakim Soria, who hasn’t had the best year so far and has been known to see the DL now and then.
There could be a ton of pressure on Soria to perform this year for several reasons. One being, the Royals could decide to trade Soria by the deadline and move Crow into the closer role. They could trade him to add a bat or to unload older players, it just depended where they are at in the standing.
Crow should not be on free agency in any league of 12 or more teams with benches.
Mike Adams, San Diego Padres
The Padres have a great situation. They are in yet another rebuilding year and will likely move some veteran players by the deadline.
One of those players should be Heath Bell. Several teams will be looking for a closer, including the Phillies, and Bell will get a lot of attention.
The Padres have two options, Mike Adams or the future closer Luke Gregerson. Gregerson hasn’t been himself in 2011 and has regressed from his 2010 numbers. Adams has always been an effective set-up man and has always posted strong numbers. While he may not be the closer type, Adams will get the job if the Padres move Heath Bell in a trade. Adams has a sparkling 1.06 ERA, 0.47 WHIP, and batters cannot hit him with a .123 BAA. Even more impressive is his K/9 rate that sits 7.9.
Why is that impressive? Adams normally has a K/9 above 9.0, so that means he isn’t recording strikeouts at the same clip and we know he can. Own this guy in your league!
Arnoldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds
Chapman is a Cuban phenom. Why he’s not the Reds closer yet I’m not sure, but the young hurler can close with the best of them once given the chance. With a fastball that can reach 105 MPH and the attitude for the closer role, Chapman should be closing for the Reds by year end.
His only obstacles are his control and how well will Francisco Cordero pitch. Right now Chapman has 15 Ks in 12.2 innings, but he also has 13 walks. That just won’t fly as a closer. However, his ability to come in and throw 100+ MPH pitches means he can strikeout anyone at anytime.
He’s a closer, just hasn’t gotten tapped just yet.
Sean Marshall, Chicago Cubs
Could Marshall end up being traded? Who knows what the Cubs will do, but Marshall is definitely on the road to becoming a closer.
Last year he finished the full season with a 10.8 K/9 and a ERA of 2.65. So far in 2011, his K/9 stands at 9.6 and his ERA a microscopic 0.64. He is the setup man for Carlos Marmol, who always seems to be on thin water, especially with his control.
What is interesting about Marshall is he could be used as trade bait and likely close for another team. With the way he’s pitching, the Cubs will not hesitate to bring him in the ninth whenever they have too and if you own Marmol, own this guy as well.
Joel Peralta, Tampa Bay Rays
Peralta has had a strong start with the Rays posting a 2.76 ERA and 14 strikeouts. He sets up for Kyle Farnsworth, who happens is doing an outstanding job.
Anyone who knows Farnsworth, knows that the wheels can fall off at any moment and if that happens, gusty Joe Madden will make the quick hook and go to Peralta. What has made him closer material this year was adding a new pitch to his arsenal, the splitter.
If Farnsworth fails or goes down to injury, Peralta will take the job and likely never let it go.