Surprising stat could see Art Warren as the Cincinnati Reds closer in 2022

Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Art Warren (77) pitches.
Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Art Warren (77) pitches. / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In a day and age when the strikeout is king, it's good to have a pitcher like Art Warren on your team. The Cincinnati Reds reliever led the team in strikeout-rate last season, and could be a surprise candidate to occupy the closer's role in 2022.

Warren was traded from the Seattle Mariners to the Cincinnati Reds prior to last season, and while the right-hander wasn't on the team's Opening Day roster, he made his 2021 debut in mid-May. After two innings of work, Warren was sent down to Triple-A Louisville where he honed his craft and became a fantastic option out of the bullpen for Reds' manager David Bell.

Who will be the Cincinnati Reds' closer in 2022?

While Bell is unlikely to name a closer in spring training, don't be shocked to see Art Warren be given opportunities in that type of role early in 2022. Following Raisel Iglesias' departure after the 2020 season, Bell turned to a number of different relievers in the ninth inning with the game hanging in the balance.

The odds-on favorite to land the gig full-time out of Goodyear last season was Amir Garrett. Unfortunately, the southpaw crumbled, saw his ERA balloon to more than 6.00, and was relegated to a middle relief role midway through the season.

Lucas Sims was another weapon out of Reds' bullpen. While Sims' numbers weren't awful, he too was unable to lock down the job as Cincinnati's go-to guy in the ninth inning with the game on the line. Tejay Antone looked the part, and had he not blown out his elbow last season, perhaps the right-hander would be the leading candidate to snag the closer's job this season.

Cincinnati Reds RHP Art Warren could be David Bell's best reliever.

But there's not clear cut frontrunner for the job as spring training quickly approaches (provided the owners and players come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement). Tony Santillan is another option, but for my money, I'm going with Art Warren.

The Ohio native seemed to ooze composure on the mound. After landing on the IL midway through the season, Warren returned in September and looked unhittable. The 28-year-old punched out 13 batters over 6.2 innings of work didn't allow a single run to cross the plate.

Warren owned an impressive 0.17 FIP and 54.2% strikeout-rate during that span. Perhaps more impressive was his 8.3% walk-rate and staggering 45.8% strikeout-walk percentage. If those numbers carry over to the upcoming season, David Bell will have no choice to give Warren opportunities late in games.

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Art Warren does not have a save to his credit. Warren appeared in the ninth inning four times last season, but none of those appearances offered the right-hander an opportunity to lockdown a save. Still, Warren allowed just two hits and punched out eight batters when toeing the rubber in the ninth inning last year. Don't sleep on Warren as one of Cincinnati's best relievers in 2022.