Potential Closer Candidates among Free Agent Relief Pitchers in 2024

The free-agent market still holds plenty of promise for teams seeking talented closers. While the likes of Josh Hader, Jordan Hicks, and Aroldis Chapman are proven closers, there are other pitchers with the potential to transition into a closer role. The next big closer might just be waiting to be discovered among these free-agent relievers.

Robert Stephenson emerged as a standout pitcher in the Rays’ bullpen, contributing to the team’s impressive turnaround during the 2023 season. After being traded to Tampa Bay from the Pittsburgh Pirates, Stephenson showcased his exceptional abilities, striking out 43% of the batters he faced and posting a phenomenal 14.1 strikeouts per nine innings. His performance was further confirmed by Statcast’s quality-of-contact metrics, solidifying his potential as a future closer.

Stephenson’s success can be attributed to a significant adjustment he made by replacing his mid-80s slider with a powerful high-80s cutter. This change, combined with his impressive fastball and splitter, presents him as a formidable closer prospect.

The Houston Astros’ bullpen has also seen a valuable asset in Phil Maton, who has consistently emerged as a reliable presence. Maton’s 3.67 ERA in 162 relief appearances, alongside his postseason contributions, solidifies his potential as a future closer. Notably, his effective breaking balls have been a pivotal factor in his success, highlighting his capability to take on a closing role for a new team.

Yoshinori Fujinami is an enticing prospect, known for his exceptional velocity. Although he struggled with command during his initial season in the Majors, Fujinami’s ability to consistently throw over 100 mph makes him a rare find on the free-agent market. With the right guidance, Fujinami has the potential to become a valuable late-inning reliever, offering a unique combination of overpowering speed and potential as a future closer.

Ryne Stanek, another Astros reliever, presents a different set of strengths. Possessing a powerful 98 mph fastball, Stanek has demonstrated the ability to mix in secondary pitches that generate impressive whiff rates. While his performance has been inconsistent, there is no doubt about Stanek’s potential as an overpowering relief ace given the opportunity to refine his arsenal.

Another standout in the free-agent market is Andrew Miller, who showcased his capabilities during his time with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2023. With a 1.71 ERA and consistent strikeout rates, Miller’s quality as a potential closer is evident. His impressive movement on all three of his pitches further solidifies his ability to potentially transition into a closer role with a new team.

In conclusion, the free-agent market offers numerous intriguing options for teams seeking potential closers. From those making significant adjustments to those boasting exceptional speed and movement, these relievers have the potential to transform their careers and make a significant impact for their new teams as they transition into potential closers.


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