Arizona Diamondbacks Need a Home Grown Closer
After blowing his fifth save this past Friday, Greg Holland, who had converted 17 saves in 22 opportunities this season, was removed as the Diamondbacks closer. His ERA has escalated each month of the season. Even if he is not traded at the deadline — it is doubtful — he will not be back in Arizona for the 2020 season.
Recent Closers for Arizona
Brad Boxberger, who closed for the Diamondbacks during the 2018 season, put up terrible numbers. He finished the season with eight blown saves, seven losses, and an ERA of 4.39. His contract was not renewed.
Before Boxberger, the team depended on Fernando Rodney to close out games in 2017, and he struggled to keep his ERA down. Yes, he had had 39 saves, but he finished the season with an ERA of 4.23. He also had seven wild pitches and he blew six saves.
What the Diamondbacks Need in a Closer
This team needs a closer who can come in on a consistent basis and get the final outs of the game to secure a win. He needs to have at least two good pitches and position himself into securing outs and performing well in this high-pressure situation. This player also must be the leader of the bullpen. He needs to be able to let the set-up relievers know when it’s getting close for him to come in. They, in turn, must perform their jobs for him to be successful.
Although it has taken a few years for the Diamondbacks to get some pitching help in their minor league system, they have some guys they can groom to be a qualified closer. They have guys at Triple-A Reno, Double-A Jackson, and even Single-A Visalia who could be on the 40-man roster for the Diamondbacks. These players can also get an invite to Spring Training 2020 to compete for the closer position. However, there are two guys currently on the 40-man roster who could step in and perform closing duties — Yoan Lopez and Jimmie Sherfy.
Lopez, who already has a save this season, could be the first guy to get his chance. He throws his fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s with consistency. We have also seen his slider become his true wipeout pitch. Lopez started the season off as the most consistent Diamondbacks reliever. However, his ERA for his last seven games is 8.10, and he lost two of those games.
At one point in the not-too-distant past, it looked as if the money the team spent to sign him was going to waste. Lopez’s first two years, 2015 and 2016, proved to be rough ones in pro ball. After defecting from Cuba, he dealt with personal issues. He even left the team on two occasions. Homesickness played a significant role in his professional struggles. He began to turn things around both on and off the field in 2017, when he moved to the bullpen at Class-A Visalia.
Turning It Around in the Minors
In 2018, he pitched well at Double-A Jackson and was rewarded with his first trip to the big leagues in September. His first big league appearance, against the Atlanta Braves, was a disaster. The first batter he faced was Lucas Duda, who took Lopez’ first major league pitch for a ball. Then, he hit a home run with the second. Next up, Ronald Acuña tripled. Lopez’ disastrous debut ended when the next batter, Johan Camargo, hit a two-run homer. Three batters faced and none-retired, with three extra-base hits and two home runs. All in all, he threw eight pitches, gave up three runs, and hit the record books as the fourth Diamondbacks pitcher that failed to record an out in his major league debut.
Though a first appearance like that can often ruin the confidence of a young pitcher, Lopez went on to throw nine more innings over nine appearances and did not allow another run while striking out 11. He showcased his pitching capabilities in a rebound game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, proving he might have the stuff to be the future closer. With the Diamondbacks holding a 3-2 lead, Manny Machado led off the top of the eighth with a double. Lopez showed his domination by striking out the next three hitters to get out of the inning.
Jimmie Sherfy May Be the Best Choice
The player with the most upside to take over as closer could be Jimmie Sherfy. He played college baseball at the University of Oregon from 2011 to 2013 and was the Ducks closer. When he left in 2013, he was the school’s all-time saves leader with 40. The right-handed reliever has had an up-and-down path but has added 66 Minor League saves to his record, with 50 of those coming over the last two seasons.
Sherfy made his MLB debut on August 20, 2017 with the Diamondbacks. He even pitched his way to a spot on the Diamondbacks postseason roster that year and saw pitching time. This year, he has pitched in five games with 9 2/3 innings pitched and a 0.93 ERA. He is currently on the IL at Reno but soon will be off and could be with the Diamondbacks after July 31.
A possible long-shot for closer is Kevin Ginkel. The Diamondbacks drafted him in the 22nd round out of the University of Arizona. His fastball hits 93-96 MPH, and he throws a slider with depth that hits in the mid-80s. He also has a better-than-expected changeup. Ginkel is currently dominating at AAA Reno with five saves and a 1.76 ERA in 13 games. This is more impressive than usual, because Reno is the launching pad for home runs in the Pacific Coast League.
Some are going to ask about Silvino Bracho. He had a strong finish to the 2018 season that gave him an inside track to a prominent role in the 2019 bullpen. However, he was hurt in Spring Training and required Tommy John surgery. At this point, he could potentially miss some time in 2020 as well.
Bracho has a unique pitching style that includes a four-seam fastball in the 92-94 range, a cutter, a slider, a change-up, and a curve. It is unusual for a relief pitcher to have five pitches, but he does, and he isn’t afraid to use all of them. He is out of options, and the Diamondbacks will have to decide what to do with him if/when he comes back.
Where to Go
There are others in the minors, but, bottom line, the Arizona Diamondbacks need a closer. The guys mentioned above could be the answer that this team needs to close out games. This will hopefully make Torey Lovullo — and the fans — not have to worry about a blown save every time the closer comes in to pitch.
Embed from Getty Images