by Eno Sarris //
There’s a new closer in the greater Los Angeles / Anaheim area. Jordan Walden is young (23) and has a nice fastball (96 MPH+), and took over the role last night. What worked with him might tell us a little something about where to look for future closers.
What was wrong in front of Jordan Walden was Fernando Rodney. The veteran pitcher had never once put in a walk rate better than league average. Lately, he’d been inducing ground balls, but that caused his strikeout rate to fall even further. Mostly, the 33-year-old is in a decline off of a questionable peak.
So, first our future closer needs opportunity. Perhaps one of the worst closers in the league is Brandon Lyon – who has a bad strikeout rate (5.86 K/9 career) and supplements it with a flyball tendency in a home-run happy ball park (8.4% home runs above average park). Ryan Franklin doesn’t really have a strikeout rate (5 K/9 career) or an elite groundball rate (around 44% the last three years, 40% is average). Recently, Francisco Cordero‘s strikeout rate has been falling and his walk rate has been rising.
Look behind these three guys and you might find a young, exciting pitcher. In Houston, Wilton Lopez doesn’t have the fastball (92+ MPH career), but he induces groundballs (56.1% career) and avoids the walk (1.32 BB/9 career). The Cardinals have Jason Motte, meaning they have a reliever with gas (95.9 MPH career on the fastball) that has fewer than 150 innings pitched in the major leagues. You’ve probably heard Aroldis Chapman.
In each of these cases, a weak veteran pitcher is in front of a young player with intriguing abilities. In each of these cases, the team would love to have a cost-controlled closer in their pen. In each of these cases, the young player should be on your team if you are looking for saves and need to get ahead of the pack.
So that the next Jordan Walden doesn’t end up already on some other team’s roster.
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