With the news that Joakim Soria will be out for the season with Tommy John Surgery, the Royals need to look for another option at closer. Automatically Jonathan Broxton comes to mind to a lot of people because of his prior closing experience*, but let’s take a look at some other options that the Royals will have in the bullpen and on the 40 man roster.
* I said at the time that I liked the Broxton signing because it added depth and experience to the pen and you can never have too many quality relievers. Relievers are probably the hardest spot to evaluate statistically in baseball from year to year due to the smaller sample size in the number of innings they pitch.
Here are the current guys that are on the roster that I see as legitimate shots of getting the closer’s role: Greg Holland, Jonathan Broxton, and Aaron Crow. I do not feel that any of the left handers or Luis Coleman having a legitimate shot at closers spot. Holland, Broxton, and Crow each have their pluses and minuses that they bring to the closer position. We’ll take a look at each of the guys and rank each one as the probability to be the closer
Let’s start with Greg Holland. Holland, selected in the 10th round of the 2007 draft, has not been a closer at any level of his professional career. But the statistics have shown that through the minors he had swing and miss stuff, and it continued to show last year in the majors when he averaged 11.1 K’s/9. Keeping in mind that Holland has only had one full season in the pro’s that number can be skewed. If you go to his minor league stats, he averaged nearly 10 K’s/9. Now putting that in perspective with Soria’s 5 years in the pros, Soria has averaged 9.7 K’s/9. The statistics show that Holland has the capability to produce as a closer, the real question is does he have the mental make up for a closer.
Next up on the list is Jonathan Broxton. I’m sure Dayton Moore will never say this, but I had a feeling the Broxton signing in the off season was an insurance policy for if Soria went down sometime during the season. Broxton does have prior closing experience, albeit it is in the national league. The down side with Broxton is that he is coming off of a season that was shortened in which he was shut down due to shoulder soreness and tightness in his elbow. Add to the fact that since 2009, Broxton has seen his K’s/9 drop from 13.5 to 7.1 (on 12.2 innings pitched in 2011) and his BB/9 has increased from 3.4 to 6.0 (on 12.2 innings in 2011. As I said earlier, I liked the Broxton signing, but in my eye’s, he’s going to have to prove that he is healthy and can handle the closing situation again.
Aaron Crow is the third possible candidate for the closers role. In my eyes Aaron Crow needs to be a starter, plain and simple. If there has been one Dayton Moore first round pick that I’ve absolutely loathed, Aaron Crow has been it. A first round draft pick that is a pitcher has to contribute to the team either as a starter or a closer. If Aaron Crow in 2013 is coming out of the pen as a setup guy/middle reliever is an absolute failure on Dayton Moore and his staff, but I’ll have more on this in a later article. That being said, Crow showed last year as the lone all-star for the Royals, that he should be more than capable of coming out of the bullpen. Like Holland, Crow also averaged 10 K’s/9 last season for the Royals. His minor league stats do not look as good, only averaging 7.9 K’s/9 as he progressed through the minor league system. While I feel Crow needs to contribute to the team, given where he was drafted, I think that his year it will be best for him to be the long reliever out of the bullpen with the chance to step into the rotation if Duffy or Mendoza falters. This will set him up to make the transition to starter for next season.
With all this information out there, I’ll put Holland as the odds on favorite to win the closer’s job when the Royals break camp next week. Yost is familiar with Holland and isn’t afraid to through someone into the closers position that does not have prior experience (see Derrick Turnbow – 2005). Plus Holland does have some limited closing experience when Soria was down with arm issues in May. Even though I like the fact that Broxton has prior closing experience, combine the fact that Broxton is coming off a season that was shortened by elbow and shoulder soreness, I do not like the idea of Yost throwing Broxton immediately back into the closer’s role.