Preview: Reds Closer Candidates


After the recent trade shipping Reds’ closer Aroldis Chapman to the New York Yankees, the team is left with yet another hole in the bullpen. The team is ultimately expected to seek the new closer through in-house options, leaving a massive opportunity on the table for a lot of the younger guys on the roster to prove themselves in a big-time role. It never hurts to have an option, or four. That being said, with great power, comes great responsibility. Here is a list of guys who could be (or should be) in line for some saves in the future.

1) J.J. Hoover

This one was pretty obvious, I know. Hoover was the clear-cut preferred option for the 8th inning gig last year ahead of Chapman, so he should, theoretically, be the preferred option for 9th inning work now as the predecessor. However, the man has only recorded five career saves in four years–three of which came in 2013. With that said, Hoover should get the first crack at the job, and have a fairly long leash, considering he was the teams best reliever not named Aroldis last season. He finished last season with a record of 8-2 with a nice ERA of 2.94. The only problem being the fear of regression seems imminent, thanks to the following thoughts from Fangraph’s Jeff Zimmerman:

In 2015, he looked like he made some changes to help limit the home runs. He pitched lower in the strike zone with the same pitches and ended up with a 40% GB% and nearly cut his homers per nine rate in half. The problem was he didn’t get the high swinging strikes and his strikeout rate dropped to 7.3 per nine. The results looked good with 2.94 ERA, but his ERA estimators point to an ERA near 4.50. With the lower strikeouts and normally high walk rate, his strikeout minus walk rate came in at 8.0%. Of 137 qualified relievers, he ranked 124th in that stat.

2) Jumbo Diaz

As the only other true reliever really deserving of consideration, Jumbo is the only true competition for saves, at least to start the season. After serving a decent chunk of last season as the teams 6th or 7th inning guy, Jumbo figures to be the next man out after recent roster changes. While he is highly unlikely to make an immediate impact as the closer, if Hoover were to struggle or get hurt, Diaz would likely be the next man up. Capable of hitting the high 90s with his fastball, his prospects as a closer are certainly intriguing. Particularly when you factor in his sparking 10.1 K/9 innings he boasts in his short career, and his career average of 3.0 BB/9, which certainly won’t kill a team. It is worth noting his K/9 raised from 9.6 K/9 to 10.4 K/9 from his rookie to sophomore seasons, while his BB/9 dropped from 3.6 BB/9 to 2.7 BB/9–making him the anti-Hoover.

“A bottom of the barrel reliever (Hoover) is going to have trouble keeping the closer’s role. Expect Tony Cingrani or Jumbo Diaz to eventually fill the role,” says Zimmerman.

3) Brandon Finnegan

Here is where the speculation on my part begins. To be clear, by all accounts the Reds still would like Finnegan to be a starter, and he still has a strong desire to remain as such; however, every baseball fan saw what the young man could do out of the ‘pen during the Royals’ postseason run a couple seasons ago. As a left-hander, who can pitch to both righties and lefties at the dish, he certainly deserves all the chatter–considering those don’t exactly grow on trees. Plus, from the business side of things, you don’t give up a long-time ace (fan favorite Johnny Cueto) for a middle-reliever. Finnegan will get every opportunity to succeed whether it be in the rotation, or the back end of the bullpen. Whatever role he’s thrown into, Finnegan most certainly would look to build off last seasons record of 2-2 with a 4.18 ERA while posting a 9.1 K/9 compared to a 3.0 BB/9.

4) Michael Lorenzen

I know what you’re thinking, this makes no sense. Well, did you know that coming out of college Lorenzen was ranked the #52 prospect the year the Reds selected him 38th overall, while never making a collegiate start? Well, he was. Lorenzen actually played primarily outfield and served as the primary closer at Cal-State Fullerton. He managed to register 16 saves as a sophomore to the tune of a 1.23 ERA, and 19 saves as a junior to the tune of a 1.99 ERA. He finished those two seasons with a 5-0 record. His fastball-slider combo was what raised so many eyebrows coming out of college as he consistently sat in the high-90s and flirted with 100 MPH on occasion with the “heater”, supplementing it with a nasty slider.

Since being drafted, Lorenzen has featured more 2-seam fastballs into his game, plus he has added a changeup that is a work-in-progress. After seeing how much Lorenzen tired out towards the end of last season, why not give it a chance and let the guy go back to what he knows best? His stuff would likely go back to the stuff that opened the scouts eyes, plus his arm would be in much better shape as the season winds down. Wait. No. This makes too much sense.

What do you think? Who would you like to see the Reds give a shot to become the long-term closer?

Let us know in the comment section below!