SF Giants: The 3 candidates for closer, ranked
By Kurt Mensching
The SF Giants entered 2020 without a closer. Here are three candidates.
The SF Giants entered 2020 with no lock for closer. Will Smith did the job last year, but he’s with the Braves now.
Only two other players on the roster even finished more than 20 games, and neither of them are on the current roster either.
So who, exactly, is going to close out games for this team, whenever it happens to play baseball again?
Right now, it’s pretty hard to say. There was no frontrunner entering spring training, and there’s no real clear frontrunner, based on the latest quotes from the staff before spring training shut down in March, now either.
With that in mind, let’s explore three possible closers on the Giants’ 2020 roster and see what we can come up with.
SF Giants closer candidate No. 1: Tony Watson
Soon to be age 34, the left-hander is an obvious guess here because he spent most of 2019 in an eighth-inning setup role anyway. Watson racked up 25 holds for the year, pitching in 45 wins and just 15 losses. He was tagged with three blown saves.
Watson finished the season with a 4.17 ERA across 54 innings, striking out 6.8 per nine innings and walking 2.0.
Due to an injured shoulder, Watson didn’t get to pitch at all in spring training, so the delayed start to the year would be pretty beneficial.
He’ll still need to show he’s ready to step into the position in whatever abbreviated version of spring training MLB might happen to dream up before it can actually play a real game this year.
Fangraphs’ Depth Chart prediction puts him at 3.72 ERA with 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings and 2.5 walks to go with one home run allowed per nine innings.
As long as he proves the shoulder problem is in the past, you can think of Watson as the favorite in the role. But will he?
SF Giants closer candidate No. 2: Tyler Rogers
Giants manager Gabe Kapler spoke about right-handed submariner Rogers with KNBR in the middle of April, saying he’d be a good candidate to open for a few innings, or to closer a game as well.
Rogers had a great MLB debut, with a 1.02 ERA across 17 appearances. He struck out 8.2 and walked 1.5 per nine innings.
His spring training performance only took a step forward: he allowed one hit and no runs in four appearances, striking out seven and walking one. That would translate to 14.5 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9.
FanGraphs isn’t quite as optimistic, with a projection of 3.97 ERA, 7.2 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9, but his stuff this spring may be going beyond the numbers.
KNBR quotes catcher Rob Brantley after one performance:
"“I don’t think anybody got a good look even,” the 30-year-old journeyman told KNBR from Scottsdale Stadium. “He throws like that, he’s gonna be great. He seems really talented, it’s obviously impressive.”"
It’s kind of easy to get excited to see what he would do in the closer’s role. If he’s in the second position to Watson, it’s a closer second.
SF Giants closer candidate No. 3: Trevor Gott
At MLB.com in March, Maria Guardado suggested that Gott could make sense. “Gott is out of options, so he’s a virtual lock for the bullpen and could be a candidate to replace Will Smith as closer,” she wrote.
A right-hander, Gott had a 4.44 ERA (but a much better 3.12 FIP) last season, striking out 9.7 per nine innings while walking 2.9. He pitched all over the place in 50 appearances, picking up seven wins and two holds.
He didn’t have a great spring, allowing four runs in 4.2 innings, striking out seven and walking four, but that doesn’t matter too much.
FanGraphs’ prediction is for a 3.62 ERA with 9.3 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9, along with 0.8 HR/9.
He’s almost certainly a candidate but seems to figure more into a closer by committee role and less into a primary closer spot.