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Finish him! Top closer option for all 30 teams

March 21, 2018

Opening Day is a little more than a week away, and all eyes are on the remaining position battles in big league camps. Among those battles are competitions for closer, a role that is still undefined for many clubs.Following is a look at where things stand for all 30 teams.AL

Opening Day is a little more than a week away, and all eyes are on the remaining position battles in big league camps. Among those battles are competitions for closer, a role that is still undefined for many clubs.
Following is a look at where things stand for all 30 teams.
AL East
Blue Jays
Roberto Osuna is only 23 years old, but he is already entering his fourth full season as Toronto's closer. He remains one of the elite relievers in the game, but he's coming off a year in which he blew 10 saves. That was pretty uncharacteristic, and a bounceback season should be expected in 2018.
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Next man up:Dennis Tepera was a solid setup man in 2017, so he could get a look if needed, as could Seung Hwan Oh, who has big league closing experience.
While All-Star Zach Britton rehabs from offseason Achilles surgery, the Orioles are expected to use righty Brad Brach as their primary closer. Brach, an All-Star as well, has filled the role capably, and there's no reason to think that won't be the case in 2018.
Next man up:Mychal Givens could get some save opportunities early on.
Alex Colome will return as the Rays' closer, and he'll be a closer in the traditional sense of the word, which means logging the final three outs of a game and not coming in earlier in the game to snuff out hot situations. Colome, who led the Major Leagues in saves in 2017 with 47, knows about getting extra outs, too. He led the AL in 2017 with six saves of four outs or more.
Next man up:Sergio Romo is a veteran who has closed before, although up-and-coming flamethrower Ryne Stanek would be an intriguing option.

Red Sox
Craig Kimbrel is back for his third season with the Red Sox, and he is in the elite category, considered the best in the game by some. His combination of upper-90s fastball and wicked knuckle-curve remains devastating. He is entering his free-agent year, but the Red Sox will try to keep him long-term.

The Yankees' elite bullpen features the hardest fastball in the sport's history, as Albertin Chapman prepares for his second full season as a member of the club. Despite losing his ninth-inning role for a period in 2017, the flame-throwing lefty recorded 22 saves while striking out 69 in 50 1/3 innings. His 3.22 ERA was the second-highest of his career.
Next man up: The Yankees have no shortage of options, but Dellin Betances or Player Page for David Robertson would likely get the first crack.
NL East
Arodys Vizcaino will open the season as the closer, but A.J. Minter is capable of taking the role if necessary. Vizcaino surrendered a career-high seven homers last year, but four came within two games. He produced career-best marks in hits per nine innings and walks per nine innings.
Next man up: If Vizcaino regresses, the ninth inning could belong to Minter, who has shown he can miss bats nearly as frequently as Kimbrel.
Brad Ziegler has 95 career saves, and the 38-year-old is in position to have a chance to reach 100. Still, his status in the role is subject to change. Ziegler is a finesse, ground-ball specialist. The organization views hard-throwing righties Drew Steckenrider and Kyle Barraclough as longer-term candidates.
Next man up: Steckenrider or Barraclough, who averaged 14.0 and 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings last season, respectively.
On paper the Mets' closer is Jeurys Familia. The actual answer is more complicated, with the team also planning to use AJ Ramos, Jerry Blevins and Anthony Swarzak in high-leverage situations. If Familia shows he's not totally recovered from shoulder surgery -- his velocity was down this spring -- he could cede even more save chances to the other three.
Next man up: Ramos, a closer in Miami, would probably get the first shot, with Swarzak potentially in the mix.

For the first time in years, the Nationals are settled at closer. Left-hander Sean Doolittle has a firm grasp on the job after his impressive end of the 2017 season once the Nats acquired him from Oakland. Combine him with Brandon Kintzler and Ryan Madson, and the Nats are set at the back end of the bullpen.
Next man up: Kintzler or Madson, who are both proven closing options.

Hector Neris emerged out of a volatile Phillies bullpen to solidify the closer role down the stretch last season. The 28-year-old right-hander posted a 3.01 ERA and recorded 26 saves, with 86 strikeouts in 74 2/3 innings. He ended the year converting his final 20 save opportunities, putting him in a good position to start 2018.
Next man up:Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, Philadelphia's key bullpen signings, were valuable setup men last season, and either could close.
AL Central
This season will mark Cody Allen's fifth in a row as the Tribe's primary closer. Over the past four years, the righty has turned in a 2.62 ERA with 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings and 120 saves in 282 appearances. The Indians may also give relief ace Andrew Miller save chances on occasion.
Next man up: Miller is one of the most valuable relievers in the game, and he's more than capable of closing if called upon.

Right-hander Kelvin Herrera will return as the closer in 2018, even though he lost that role in September to left-hander Mike Minor, who signed a free-agent deal with the Rangers in the offseason. Herrera had a rocky 2017, with five blown saves and three losses. After losing his closer's job, he took on a setup role and had five scoreless appearances to end the season. But manager Ned Yost said Herrera should learn from his 2017 experience, which will make him stronger this season.
Next man up: The Royals don't have the deepest bullpen, but Yost said the recently signed Justin Grimm is in line for a setup role, so he might be called on if needed.
Shane Greene was the last of three Tiger closers last season, taking over once Justin Wilson was traded to the Cubs. Greene was quietly effective, racking up nine saves in 10 chances over the final two months while striking out 23 batters in 21 2/3 innings. His ability to work multiple innings as a converted starter provides the advantage of four-, five-, even six-out saves. A solid first half could put him on the block for contenders around July's non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Next man up:Alex Wilson has had some success in the Tigers bullpen and could be an option.
The Twins signed veteran Fernando Rodney to a one-year deal to be their closer after trading Kintzler and losing Matt Belisle to free agency. Rodney, 41, saved 39 games with the D-backs a year ago; the Twins also have Addison Reed waiting in the wings in case Rodney falters.
Next man up: Reed, who filled in as Mets closer in Familia's absence last season.

White Sox
Manager Rick Renteria has a number of options at the back end of his bullpen in Joakim Soria, Nate Jones and Juan Minaya. But he has not named an official closer, and he probably won't. Instead he will mix and match based on the highest-leverage late-inning situations, also employing numerous relievers who can work multiple innings.
Next man up: If one of those three emerges as closer, another will likely be next in line.
NL Central
Corey Knebel started last season as a setup man but ascended to closer duty in May and was so dominant he made the NL All-Star team. His fastball/curveball combo produces a ton of swings and misses, leading to 126 strikeouts in 76 innings, a Brewers relief record.
Next man up: That could be Josh Hader or new addition Matt Albers.

The Cardinals still don't know. It'll be closer-by-committee at first, but the club hopes the late-inning chain of command solidifies before long. Luke Gregerson, Dominic Leone and Bud Norris were imported to battle it out, but no one had a better spring than Mike Mayers. Prospects Jordan Hicks and Ryan Helsley could spend time in St. Louis sooner rather than later. And then there is Alex Reyes, whom the club doesn't want to restrict to such an opportunity-based role. But his stuff certainly profiles for it in the short-term.
Next man up: That depends on who wins the closer job. Gregerson seems the most likely, in which case Leone or Norris could be next up.
Brandon Morrow set up Kenley Jansen in Los Angeles last season. This year he will be the Cubs' fourth closer in as many seasons, and it will be his first time in that role since 2008, when he was with the Mariners. He's been a starter and setup man since then. This year he can focus on getting the last out.
Next man up: Both Pedro Strop and C.J. Edwards have excellent stuff and could close a game.
Felipe Rivero established himself as one of the Majors' best young late-inning arms last season, moving from a setup role into the ninth inning. After signing a long-term contract extension this offseason, the hard-throwing left-hander will be there from the start this season to lead an inexperienced bullpen.
Next man up:George Kontos seems the likeliest to get opportunities should something happen to Rivero, with Michael Feliz another option.
There's no question who will close games for the Reds in 2018: Raisel Iglesias. Last season he had 28 saves in 30 chances and led the Majors with eight saves of at least two innings. With a better bullpen assembled, the Reds hope they don't have to use Iglesias for more than three outs often, but if he's rested, it's something the right-hander could easily do.
Next man up: With Michael Lorenzen hurt, it could be Wandy Peralta, Jared Hughes or Kevin Shackelford.

AL West
The Angels have been noncommittal about using a designated closer this season and seem more likely to use a committee that will include Richard Parker, Cam Bedrosian and Jim Johnson. The Angels were fluid with their bullpen roles in 2017, and that structure will likely carry over to this season.
Next man up: Any one of those three could fill in.
Ken Giles, who saved 34 of 38 games in the regular season and struck out 83 batters in 62 2/3 innings, enters the season as the closer despite his World Series woes. In seven playoff appearances last year, Giles gave up 10 runs and 12 hits in 7 2/3 innings.
Next man up:Chris Devenski might get the first shot, although newly added Joe Smith or Hector Rondon could be options.

The A's gave up two of their former closers -- Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson -- in a deal for Blake Treinen last summer, also landing prospects Jesus Luzardo and Sheldon Neuse from Washington. Treinen quickly became their new closer, picking up 13 saves with a 2.13 ERA in 35 appearances.
Next man up: It could be either Chris Hatcher or Liam Hendriks.
Edwin Diaz is one of the youngest closers, as he turns 24 on Thursday, but the hard-throwing right-hander from Puerto Rico already has racked up 52 saves in his first year and a half in that role, with 177 strikeouts in 117 2/3 innings. He tied for fourth in the AL with 34 saves in 39 opportunities last season.
Next man up:Juan Nicasio had an impressive 2017 season in the NL and might be the first to get looks.
Alex Claudio finished last season as the Rangers' closer and has pitched well this spring, but the Rangers love his versatility and ability to pitch multiple innings in any situation. Timothy Lincecum could become the closer once he gets some innings in the bank. The Rangers have not pursued Greg Holland, but he remains unsigned.
Next man up: Lincecum would be interesting, but Matt Bush or Keone Kela might get the first crack if Lincecum hasn't proven himself ready.
NL West
The D-backs have a three-man competition as Opening Day approaches. Brad Boxberger is the only contender with significant experience closing games at the Major League level, saving 41 games for the Rays in 2015. Yoshihisa Hirano has the most experience overall, with 156 saves over eight seasons in Japan. And Archie Bradley is the most familiar, emerging as a dominant reliever after being a top pitching prospect in the Arizona system.
Next man up: One of the above trio, depending on who wins the job.

Jansen is a two-time All-Star and two-time Trevor Hoffman Award winner, with three consecutive 40-save seasons. He's the franchise all-time leader in saves and strikeouts by a reliever, and he leads active relievers with a 0.87 WHIP while averaging 13.98 strikeouts per nine innings.
Next man up:Josh Fields or Tony Cingrani would appear to be first in line.
Mark Melancon's the guy. Whether that's good news for the Giants, nobody knows for sure yet. The Giants believed in Melancon enough to give him a four-year, $62 million contract before the 2017 season. He responded by converting 11 of 16 save chances and developing a sore forearm that required surgery. He has basically recovered but acknowledged that he still feels vague discomfort in the affected area.
Next man up: If injuries or ineffectiveness impede Melancon again, Sam Dyson, who has struggled through most of this spring, or Tony Watson, who has never closed full-time, would be summoned to preserve ninth-inning leads.

Brad Hand has become one of the game's most effective and durable relievers since he was claimed off waivers by San Diego in 2016. For the most part, he will serve as closer in 2018, but the Padres have said they'd be open to using him before the ninth if the matchups call for it.
Next man up:Kirby Yates, Craig Stammen or newly signed submariner Kazuhisa Makita might all be options.
Wade Davis begins a three-year, $52 million contract with the Rockies after converting 32 of his 33 save chances last season for the Cubs. Davis dealt with elbow issues in 2016 while with the Royals, so Cubs manager Joe Maddon used him carefully. He went three straight days just three times. Rockies manager Bud Black helped keep Holland -- who had missed 2016 because of Tommy John surgery -- fresh through a mostly successful 2017. So while there isn't a huge concern about Davis, Black has proven he can help keep a reliever healthy.
Next man up:Jake McGee or new signee Bryan Shaw would both be strong candidates, as both are proven setup men.