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2020 Closer Situations: Team-By-Analysis
Arizona Diamondbacks
Current Closer: Archie Bradley
Team: Arizona Diamondbacks
(1/29) The decision to give embattled righty Greg Holland the closer's job at the start of the 2019 campaign surprisingly worked out through the first couple months as he began the season 11-for-13 in save chances with a 2.08 ERA, but he allowed 12 runs over his next 9.2 innings and was released in early August.

Bradley subsequently took over the ninth-inning job and converted 16 of 17 save chances down the stretch with a 2.53 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, putting him on track to begin 2020 as the closer. The right-hander's full-season numbers don't look quite as rosy (3.52 ERA and 1.44 WHIP), though he did post the best strikeout rate (27.4%) of his career. Bradley's 11.4% walk rate could use improvement, but the major concern are his splits after surrendering a .792 OPS to LHH, compared to a .657 OPS to RHH. However, he still managed a 32.8% strikeout rate against LHH, so the swings are still there if he can find more consistency, though that's been an issue throughout his career.

Rondon spent the last two seasons in Houston and amassed a 3.46 ERA and 1.29 WHIP with 28 holds in 125 appearances, leading to a one-year deal with Arizona in January. The right-hander's production is nothing to sneeze at, but it was concerning to see his strikeout rate drop 9.1 percentage points to 18.7% in 2019. Rondon's fastball velocity (96.7 mph) remained consistent with previous seasons, though he did nearly triple the usage of his sinker to 14.2% at the expense of his fastball. He has 92 career saves -- and recorded 15 in 2018 -- but at this point Rondon profiles as more of a setup man.

Ginkel didn't make his major-league debut until August but quickly settled in, posting a 1.48 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 28:9 K:BB with nine holds and two saves in 24.1 innings. The young right-hander posted some ridiculous numbers at Triple-A (53.7% strikeout rate), and he show zero issues transitioning to the big leagues. Ginkel should enter 2020 in a high-leverage role and have an outside chance for saves, though he shouldn't be expected to replicate the elite numbers from last season.

Lopez had one save last season and mostly worked in a setup role with 21 holds and a 3.41 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. A 5.02 FIP provides a less optimistic outlook, and a drop in strikeout rate from 31.4% in 2018 to 17.1% in 2019 is fairly alarming. Lopez figures to enter 2020 in a similar role, but any fantasy appeal will take a hit without a rebound in his strikeout numbers.

Guerra was shifted to the bullpen by the Brewers in 2019 and had a solid season with a 3.55 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 21 holds and three saves in 60 appearances, so it was somewhat surprising to see him non-tendered in December. A 22.4% strikeout rate was similar to his rate as a starter but he did have a career-best .191 BAA, and he'll provide some multi-inning versatility for the mid-to-late innings in Arizona.
Atlanta Braves
Current Closer: Mark Melancon
Team: Atlanta Braves
(1/29) Arodys Vizcaino and Minter were expected to begin 2019 splitting save opportunities, but Vizcaino appeared in only four games before requiring shoulder surgery while Minter also battled shoulder issues and finished the year with a 7.06 ERA. As a result, the Braves have completely revamped their bullpen since the July trade deadline, acquiring Mark Melancon and Shane Greene while also bringing in Will Smith and Chris Martin.

Melancon finished the season in the closer's role and is expected to remain there at the start of 2020, but the plethora of proven options -- Greene and Smith combined for 57 saves last season -- will keep him on a short leash. Melancon was acquired from the Giants and was 11-for-11 in save chances after the trade, while posting a 3.86 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. He finished the season with his best strikeout rate since 2016 (23.9%) and the best groundball rate (62.1%) of his career.

Smith was tied-fifth in MLB with 34 saves for the Giants last season, resulting in a three-year, $39 million deal with the Braves. The veteran left-hander likely will begin the year in a setup role to Melancon, but he figures to be the next man up if there are any struggles. Smith had a 2.76 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and career-high 37.4% strikeout rate, and he was especially dominant against LHH with a 42:1 K:BB and .157 BAA. Atlanta's numerous high-leverage options may lead to more favorable matchups for Smith in 2020, though that may come at the expense of save chances.

Green was acquired from the Tigers in July carrying a pristine 1.18 ERA with 22 saves, but he allowed seven runs and blew two save chances in his first six appearances with the Braves to lose out on the closer's role. The righty pulled it together and had a 1.77 ERA the rest of the season, recording nine holds and converting his lone save opportunity. Overall he had a 25.8% strikeout rate and 6.8% walk rate for the season, but it's probable he's no higher than third on the list for save opportunities in 2020.

Jackson stepped up amidst the Braves' ninth-inning issues last season and recorded 18 saves, but he largely struggled in the second half with a 5.65 ERA and .297 BAA in 30 appearances. Overall it was still a solid season for the right-hander, who increased his strikeout rate nearly nine percentage points to 33.7% while also inducing groundballs at a 60.5% clip. Jackson seems unlikely to see any consistent save chances with more proven options available, but he could still work in a high-leverage role if he can rediscover his pre-All-Star break form from 2019.

Martin was also acquired by Atlanta at the trade deadline and had a 4.08 ERA with six holds in 20 outings, and he re-signed with the team after going down with an oblique injury in the NLDS. He significantly increased his strikeout rate (30.1%) in 2020 while also posting a 2.3% walk rate, which tied for best in the majors among qualified relievers. The walk rate isn't surprising -- it was 2.8% in 2018 -- but Martin seems unlikely to replicate the strikeout rate this year. Regardless, he'll start the season buried on the bullpen chart for save chances but nonetheless provides quality high-leverage depth.

Minter finished the season on the injured list with left shoulder inflammation after battling similar problems early in the year, which put the finish touches on a rough season. The left-hander appeared in only 36 major-league games between the shoulder issues and ineffectiveness after being a reliable option over the previous two seasons. Minter will look to regain his form in 2020 but will be hard pressed to see save chances given the additions to the Braves' bullpen.
Chicago Cubs
Current Closer: Craig Kimbrel
Team: Chicago Cubs
(3/13) Brandon Morrow joined the Cubs for the 2018 campaign and entered the All-Star break with 22 saves and a 1.47 ERA, but he missed the rest of the season with an elbow injury and never took the mound in 2019 due to numerous setbacks. He remains in Chicago on a minor-league deal, but it's difficult to have much optimism for his outlook given the circumstances, especially since he's been battling additional injuries in spring training.

The Cubs signed Kimbrel after the 2019 first-year player draft in June once it was clear Morrow's return was in doubt, but the veteran closer failed to provide much stability to the bullpen after inking the three-year, $43 million deal. Kimbrel posted a 6.53 ERA and 1.60 WHIP while converting 13 of 16 save opportunities, and he also gave up a career-high nine homers despite throwing only 20.2 frames. His fastball velocity was down almost a full tick from 2018 (96.2 mph), which helped lead to a career-low 31.3% strikeout rate and unattractive 12.5% walk rate. Sitting out nearly the entire first half of the season certainly did Kimbrel no favors, but his heavy mileage could be catching up to him as he's beginning his 11th season and will turn 32 in May. The offseason departures of Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek and Brandon Kintzler leave the Cubs with much less depth than 2019, which in turn provides Kimbrel with some additional job security beyond his contract despite his struggles last season.

Wick wasn't a full-time member of the bullpen until after the All-Star break, but he put together a quality season with a 2.43 ERA, two saves and five holds in 31 outings. He had a 25.0% strikeout rate and somewhat troublesome 11.4% walk rate in 2019. Wick is primed to work in a high-leverage role in 2020 given the numerous offseason departures from the bullpen, but save chances figure to be hard to come by with Kimbrel in the fold.

Chatwood made five spot starts for Chicago but primarily worked out of the bullpen last season, and overall it was a solid campaign with a 3.76 ERA and 1.33 WHIP over 76.2 innings. The veteran right-hander saw his fastball velocity increase almost three ticks to 95.9 mph with the move to the bullpen, but his strikeout rate only increased to 22.5%, which is a career high. According to Jordan Bastian of MLB.com, manager David Ross said March 8 that Chatwood was in the lead for the fifth spot in the rotation, so working in a relief role would likely only come later in the season.

Ryan spent 2018 in the minors with the Cubs after losing out on his major-league chance with the Tigers the year prior, but he returned to the majors with the Cubs and ended up posting a 3.54 ERA 1.38 WHIP with 14 holds in 73 appearances during 2019. He should be involved in high-leverage spots for the Cubs and figures to be a prime candidate for saves if Kimbrel is unavailable or injured.

Wieck struggled with a 6.57 ERA and 1.42 WHIP through the first half with the Padres, but he put up improved numbers after being shipped to the Cubs at the trade deadline. The lefty had quality strikeout (33.1%) and walk (8.8%) walk rates in 2019, but he also had a 2.08 HR/9 and 47.0% hard-hit rate. Interestingly, Wieck had troubles against LHH with an .880 OPS allowed, but found significant success versus RHH with a .592 OPS allowed, which works in his favor with the new three-batter minimum. He underwent a heart procedure in late February and may not be ready for the start of the season while he continues to build up his arm strength.
Cincinnati Reds
Current Closer: Raisel Iglesias
Team: Cincinnati Reds
(3/13) Iglesias' stats took a dip in 2019 with the career-worst marks in ERA (4.16), WHIP (1.22), blown saves (six) and losses (12), but he still recorded 34 saves and there's nothing overly concerning about his peripheral numbers. He had the lowest walk rate (7.5%) since his rookie season and the highest strikeout rate (31.9%) of his career, so he appears to be a solid candidate for a rebound campaign in 2020. Most of Iglesias' issues occurred in non-save situations (5.18 ERA and 1.52 WHIP in 25 outings), so his usage pattern may impact production if that trend continues.

Much of Lorenzen's publicity in 2019 came from his ability to work as a situational two-way player, but his success on the mound (2.92 ERA and 1.15 WHIP) warrant attention in its own right. The right-hander recorded seven saves in 11 chances in addition to 21 holds in 73 outings. Lorenzen added almost two ticks to his fastball (96.9 mph) in 2019, but he dropped its usage to to 36.0% while nearly tripling the usage of his changeup (19.3%). He figures to begin the season working in a setup role, but manager David Bell showed plenty of willingness to plug Lorenzen in during the ninth inning last season, when necessary.

Strop had a 4.97 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 41.2 innings with the Cubs last season, but over the previous five years he was a fairly consistent setup option. He went 10-for-16 in save chances and had six holds during 2019 while struggling with walks (11.2%) and the long ball (1.30 HR/9, which more than doubled his mark from the previous two seasons). Strop did increase his strikeout rate to 27.5%, but he also saw his fastball velocity drop 1.5 ticks to 93.6 mph. His addition to the Reds certainly provides some depth to the bullpen, but he shouldn't be expected to see more than the occasional ninth-inning opportunity.

Garrett took another step forward in 2019 as he continues the progression from his time as a college basketball player, posting a 3.21 ERA and 1.41 WHIP with 22 holds in 69 outings. The left-hander was much more reliant on his slider (57.3% usage), which helped lead to increased strikeout (31.7%) and walk (14.2%) rates. Garrett has 43 holds over the past two seasons and should begin 2020 working in a similarly high-leverage capacity.

Stephenson was once one of the organization's top prospects as a starter, but he fully transitioned to the bullpen last season and adjusted well to the change (3.76 ERA and 1.04 WHIP). He earned his way into a higher-leverage role down the stretch, recording nine of his 11 holds over his final 19 appearances. Stephenson saw drastic improvement as a reliever, with both his strikeout (30.9%) and walk (9.2%) rates improving by nearly 10 percentage points each. The right-hander saw his fastball velocity rise from 93.2 mph to 95.0 mph, and he also upped his slider usage to 56.6%.

Kuhnel made his major-league debut in August and is the clear wild card among these relievers with only 9.2 big-league innings under his belt. He averages 96.1 mph on his fastball and can reach triple-digits, but he never put up huge strikeout numbers in the minors (27.4% at Triple-A). Kuhnel didn't struggle with walks in the lower minors, though his walk rate between Triple-A and the majors exceeded 11.0%. The young right-hander likely will begin the season in middle relief given the more established options in the bullpen, but he could make a the transition to higher-leverage spots with a strong early performance.
Colorado Rockies
Current Closer: Wade Davis
Team: Colorado Rockies
(2/25) The three-year, $52 million deal the Rockies gave Davis never looked all that great to begin with, but still looks even worse after 2019 as he delivered an 8.65 ERA in 50 outings. He's set to begin 2020 in the closer's role once again, but he'll likely be one of the least attractive ninth-inning options out there. Early results were actually much improved for Davis in 2019 as he had seven saves in as many chances with a 2.45 ERA through his first 14.2 innings. However, things changed quickly after a three-week stint on the injured list, and he had an 11.89 ERA and 24:19 K:BB the rest of the way. Most concerning for Davis was a meager 20.4% strikeout rate (down from 29.9%) and a 14.1% walk rate (up from 10.0%). At this point he is very much looking like a pitcher needing to reinvent himself in order to find success with his fastball velocity dropping from north of 95 mph a few years ago to a 93.2-mph average last year.

Oberg stepped into the closer's role once it was clear Davis couldn't get it done and earned five saves, but his season ended six weeks early due to blood clots in his throwing arm. He's apparently past the issue and enters 2020 in the setup role. Oberg delivered the most productive season of his career in 2019 with a 2.25 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 26.0% strikeout rate despite a 10.3% walk rate. He doesn't provide anything special with a 94-mph fastball and mid-80s curveball, but his 2.35 ERA and 1.04 WHIP over the last two years represents a more stable secondary option behind Davis.

Diaz underwent Tommy John surgery after the 2015 campaign and appeared in only four major-league games over the next three seasons, but he returned in 2019 with a 4.53 ERA and 1.30 WHIP while recording five saves and seven holds for the Rockies in 56 outings. The right-hander was a bit more reliable than the numbers suggest as he allowed earned runs in only 13 of his appearances, but he gave up multiple runs in seven of those outings, including a pair of five-run blowups. Diaz still features a 97-mph fastball and upper-80s slider, which resulted in solid strikeout (25.7%) and walk (7.8%) rates. He should find himself in the high-leverage mix in 2020 and could see some solid save chances with a bit more consistency.

Estevez took a major step forward in 2019 and was a reliable bullpen piece for the Rockies with a 3.75 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 11 holds in 71 appearances. He pumps in his fastball at just under 98 mph and also features a hard slider. His strikeout (26.3%) and walk (7.5%) rates were perfectly acceptable, though despite the velocity there may not be a further bump to the strikeouts given he's already in line with his Triple-A rate. The lack of stability with Davis starting in the closer's role provides an inherent opportunity for Estevez if he has a strong beginning of the season.

Shaw also joined Colorado as a free agent prior to the 2018 season (same as Davis), and his tenure with the team has been similarly disappointing. He was a model of consistency over the first seven years of his career with a 3.13 ERA, but he's posted an ERA north of five in both his seasons with the Rockies, with a 1.49 HR/9 dwarfing his career high with another team. The 18.7% strikeout rate last season was his worst mark since 2012, and the 9.3% walk rate and 48.8% groundball rate weren't good enough to make up for it. Shaw figures to see chances to reclaim a high-leverage role once again since he's set to receive $9 million in 2020 and 2021, if only to potentially recoup some value in a trade.
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Closers in Waiting Ranks
  1. Will Smith (ATL)
  2. Daniel Hudson (WAS)
  3. Corey Knebel (MIL)
  4. Ryan Pressly (HOU)
  5. Diego Castillo (TB)
  6. Scott Oberg (COL)
  7. Matt Barnes (BOS)
  8. James Karinchak (CLE)
  9. Rafael Montero (TEX)
  10. Michael Lorenzen (CIN)
  11. Ryan Helsley (STL)
  12. Rowan Wick (CHC)
  13. Blake Treinen (LAD)
  14. Emilio Pagan (SD)
  15. Seth Lugo (NYM)
  16. Trevor Rosenthal (KC)
  17. Jordan Hicks (STL)
  18. Yimi Garcia (MIA)
  19. Ryne Stanek (MIA)
  20. Trevor May (MIN)