Hey, yo! I’m back and hopefully better than ever! Any of you guys remember back in the day when WWF didn't have a monopoly on terrible acting? Well, unfortunately (and I really hate to admit this), I used to be an avid WCW fan until they were banished from this so-called sport forever.
“I was younger then." (Trevor Noah) Someone handed me a picture and said, 'This is a picture of me when I was younger.' Every picture of you is when you were younger. 'Here's a picture of me when I'm older.' Holy shit, lemme see that camera!" (Mitch Hedberg)
But I digress... where was I going with this, anyway? Oh yeah, I had actually admitted to liking fake wrestling. Anyways, the point of all this is that my greeting, "Hey, yo!" hearkens back to when WCW still existed. There was a WCW group called the New World Order or NWO, consisting of (to name a few): Hollywood Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Scott Steiner. Every time they came on stage for a performance, someone would start it off with a solid "Hey, yo!”
To make a long and pointless story short, I may use that line a bit in my articles, so that is the history behind it. Enough of my sad childhood, though, let’s get into the closer preview. As you may recall from 2013, I am the eye in the sky for the closer carousels around the MLB. I will do my best to keep everyone well informed about every closer situation throughout the season. I work and go to school full-time so if I miss a week or two, don’t hate because at the end of the day, I will help you dominate the Saves category!
This is the first of a series of six articles in which I will examine the bullpen situations for each MLB division. To kick it all off, I will start with the AL East. I want to be clear that these previews will be fairly brief; it's still very early days, and many bullpens are either not yet complete or still without an official closer or true high-leverage arm.
As of right now, Tommy Hunter is the leading candidate to close out games for the Orioles this year. I touted Hunter a lot last year when Jim Johnson was struggling, but the Orioles decided to stick with Johnson to the end. As long as the O's don't sign a veteran replacement like Fernando Rodney, then Hunter should have a very long leash. Hunter’s K/9 of 7.1 is slightly lower than Jim Johnson’s 7.19, but ever since Hunter has moved into the bullpen, his velocity has improved. With the increased velocity, I would be willing to gamble that Hunter’s K/9 increases a bit this year. The other in-house alternatives could be: Ryan Webb, Darren O’Day and possibly Kevin Gausman.
Boston Red Sox
Koji Uehara had an outstanding 2013 season for the Red Sox. Uehara converted 21 saves in 24 chances last year, averaging 12.27 K/9. Heading into 2014, he is the obvious choice to close out games. If he were to falter, his replacements could be: Edward Mujica and Junichi Tazawa.
The odds-on favorite right now to land the Yankees closer role has to be David Robertson, right? Well as of right now, nobody has been named the closer. I haven't seen any rumors of the Yankees signing a veteran to replace Mariano Rivera-- not that he's replaceable, but somebody's got to do the job. I assume that David Robertson is the next man up, but in case Robertson does not earn the closing gig, I am going to throw a few names at you to keep an eye on. I think the most interesting name to watch is Preston Claiborne; another intriguing relief pitcher in the Yankees farm system is Mark Montgomery; and the last possible in-house candidate could be Dellin Betances. I’m not exactly sure how Betances will be used at the moment-- will they keep him as a reliever or give him a chance to start? My prediction (and it’s only a guess) is that Robertson's lack of success when given the chance to close means he will remain the 8th-inning guy and Claiborne will claim the job, assuming the Yanks don't sign a veteran.
Tampa Bay Rays
At a glance, there is not a whole lot to like about the Rays pen, it’s a solid "meh." I guess Heath Bell is the leading option to close at this point-- ugh! I'm not a fan. If I absolutely had to pick a guy to close right now, I would lean towards Juan Carlos Oviedo, aka Leo Nunez. The other two options would be Jake McGee and Joel Peralta, but neither of them would be prime contenders.
Toronto Blue Jays
Even with a “bum” shoulder, Casey Janssen posted solid numbers in 2013 and should be the Jays closer in 2014. If Janssen happens to lose the closing job due to inefficiency or injury, his successors would likely come from among Sergio Santos, Steve Delabar or possibly Dustin McGowan (I've always loved that cat’s talent).