I tend to leave the draft table in poor shape in saves, at least by the measure of projections. But if your projection gives Francisco Rodriguez 20 or more saves, I’d rather be wrong. I’ll draft two or three unspectacular closers and spend the season hunting for the next-in-line closers who are fooling hitters and rolling up strikeout counts.
So here are several 2015 closers and whether I’m flushing them or whether I’m crushing on them. To be clear, Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman are the clear elite closers, and I think Greg Holland and David Robertson top the second tier of closers. Let’s look at many of this year’s closers:
Trevor Rosenthal – He struck out 11 batters per 9 innings last season and recorded 45 saves. But I’m FLUSHing Rosenthal. He’s just too wild (5.37 BB/9) and throws too few ground balls (38 percent) to be consistent. If I were the Cards, I would go back to the plan where Rosenthal would be a starter and hope he’s more Adam Wainwright than Carlos Marmol. FLUSH
Francisco Rodriguez – He somehow had a crazy-good year last year, but there’s no way it continues over the full 2015 season. Call him FLUSHcisco because that’s what I’m doing. You can argue his ERA of 3.04 was actually artificially high because of 20.5 HR/FB percentage. You can argue it should have been better because a .216 Batting Average of Balls In Play (BABIP) is just stupid low (average about .295), but that is actually a reason for his ERA to jump in 2015. Someone is going to like those 44 saves more than you should, so let them draft or buy him. I just don’t see it again. FLUSH
Kenley Jansen – He’s the one on the Dodgers, not the Blue Jays, and I think he will be a Top 3 closer this season. That’s not exactly a bold prediction, but his 2.76 ERA should have been about a run lower because of a .350 BABIP. That just shouldn’t happen with the same Swinging Strike percentage (SwStr%) as Kimbrel (16.6) and for someone who struck out almost 14 hitters per every 9 innings last season. CRUSH
Huston Street – Street had 41 saves and just three blown saves – nobody saw that coming last year. The historical injury risk is a FLUSH for me though, not because I fear DL time, but because I think a good .247 BABIP will rise, a 93 percent Left-on-Base percentage (LOB%) will come down, and a 36 percent ground ball rate should be higher with top level closers. His K-rate improved last year, but I wouldn’t sign up for a repeat. His skills are fairly stable, but you do have to worry about luck (and, yes, injury) catching up to him. FLUSH
Steve Cishek – Posted 39 saves and four blown saves last season in Miami. He’s obviously not the prototypical closer, with his sidearm delivery and a 91 mph fastball. Hitters do make contact, and they hit .331 when they put the ball in play. But I’m CRUSHing because Cishek Simply Secures Saves by the Seashore. He struck out 11.57 hitters per 9 last year and throws enough ground balls (43 percent) to get by. He’s a safe name among that second group of closers, and one you should call and never worry about it. CRUSH
Zach Britton – Came out of nowhere to save 37 games in 41 chances for the O’s last season. I’m a bit worried about the low-for-a-closer K/9 of 7.31 and a low .215 BABIP from 2014. What I’m NOT worried about? A superhero-like 75 percent ground ball rate. He fooled enough hitters and throws 95 mph, so I’m CRUSHing for another great season. Britton would ideally fit where I already had one closer on my roster to absorb some of that “let’s see you do that again” risk. CRUSH
Glen Perkins – His skillset is fine, but I’m concerned about a K-rate that dipped last year, along with his ground ball rate (35 percent). He blew seven of his 41 save chances in 2014. Perkins’ 3.65 ERA was artificially high due to a .316 BABIP, but I’m FLUSHing, but only by a round or so. More a gut feeling, but I think you can do better in this area of the draft.
Jake McGee – This one is kind of unfair, because I’ve been crushing on McGee for years, and he performed well when he got the opportunity to close. I’m going to assume his five-point dip in GB% (to 38) and four-point increase in FB% (to 43 percent) was temporary, as he’d been consistent in the past. If McGee can reverse those and continue to miss bats, he could be a Top 10 closer and in the discussion for Top 5. CRUSH
Rafael Soriano – Saved 32 games; blew seven saves. Soriano hasn’t signed up with a team yet, so his status as a closer will be up in the air. He wasn’t dominant and saw his GB% slip a bit to 32 percent, and fly balls soared (from 42 to 49 percent). Soriano had a terrible second half, giving up many more line drives and runs. He’s 35 years old, and I tend to crush on younger arms, so I’m going to FLUSH him (but I might talk him up to see if someone jumps, clearing another name I don’t want off the draft board.) FLUSH
Neftali Feliz – Saved 13 games last year and is in line for the closer’s job in 2015. Posted a 1.99 ERA. So, I’m flushing him. He needed time in the minors to overcome a shaky start and admittedly was much better upon his return, so I get it if you are crushing on him. But consider: Feliz’s fastball is a modest 93 miles per hour, he struck out fewer than six per nine innings (5.97), his ground ball rate was just 27.3 percent and none of his base runners scored last year. That’s right – a 100 percent LOB%. So the ERA is headed north, he won’t strike out a ton and will give up tons of fly balls; but go ahead, crush on. FLUSH
Hector Rondon – Saved 29 games and blew four saves for the Cubs last year, posting a 2.42 ERA. He was a touch lucky with a 4.1 HR/FB, but hitters don’t make great contact off of Rondon. He owns better than a 4:1 K/BB ratio (8.95:2.13 per nine IP) and 49.2 GB%. Rondon is solid and won’t likely disappoint on what will be a better pitching staff on Chicago’s North Side. CRUSH
Sean Doolittle – I wasn’t high on Doolittle getting the closer’s job, but once he did, he owned it and then some. Earned 22 saves versus four blown saves and posted an amazing 11:1 K:BB ratio (12.8 K/9 versus 1.15 BB/9). Doolitte’s 2.73 ERA should have been better considering he stranded only 69 percent of his runners. He’s not the hardest throwing closer, and I don’t like his 23 GB%, but he misses bats and everything else gives me reasons to CRUSH.
Mark Melancon – Very good skillset and his 33 saves were the prize for his owners. His 1.90 ERA will likely rise, but not by much. Melancon misses bats (13.7 SwStr%), induces groundballs (57.4 percent) and whiffs a batter per inning. No matter where his ADP ends up, he’s probably the best, safest choice in that group. CRUSH