As has become an All-Star break tradition, here’s a peek ahead at some very, very preliminary 2015 player rankings. I’m only concerned with next year here, so these aren’t true keeper rankings; if I were factoring in 2016 and beyond, some younger players would be listed quite a bit higher. As always, I’m going position by position (trying to account for next year’s position eligibility) and including a top 300 overall.
This winter’s free agents are listed without teams. Players facing option years are listed as “opt” in the team column.
2015 Relief pitcher Rankings
|26||Jenrry Mejia||Mets||105 SP|
|30||Daniel Webb||White Sox||40|
|34||Neil Ramirez||Cubs||285 SP|
|47||Nate Jones||White Sox||23|
|58||Tanner Scheppers||Rangers||114 SP|
|60||Junichi Tazawa||Red Sox||41|
|67||Sergio Santos||Blue Jays||34|
|73||Edward Mujica||Red Sox||49|
|74||Jake Petricka||White Sox||180|
|87||Mike Foltynewicz||Astros||293 SP|
|97||Justin De Fratus||Phillies||113|
|99||Juan Carlos Oviedo||170|
- With so many closers set to become free agents, I could do a whole column on relievers here, but it’s a rather scary proposition. I count maybe seven or eight stable closing situations for 2015. Everything else is up in the air, though it should be safe to assume that free agents like Uehara, Robertson, K-Rod and Janssen will be closing somewhere. There are also closers with option years coming due in Soriano, Soria and Street. The latter two there will most likely have their options picked up, though they may be with different teams by the time that happens. Soriano’s option is worth $14 million, and he’ll probably fall a bit short of having it vest automatically. The Nationals will want him back if he keeps performing like this, but $14 million is simply too steep for anything less than an elite closer.
- Current non-closers cracking the top 30 here include Motte, Davis, Betances, Giles and Webb. Motte has yet to regain his best stuff after Tommy John surgery and has been pretty unimpressive for the Cardinals, but as long as he gets at least a little stronger in the second half, I imagine someone will give him a closer gig in free agency this winter.
Davis is an interesting case, in that he has a $7 million option but still isn’t eligible for free agency. That $7 million isn’t necessary too much to pay a setup man, but the Royals are also looking at Holland taking a jump to the $8 million range in arbitration this winter, with Aaron Crow and Herrera due raises as well. I’m assuming Davis will be traded, hopefully to a team that would use him as a closer.
Webb is my high White Sox reliever in the rankings over Nate Jones and Petricka. The ideal for the White Sox would probably be for Jones to get healthy in the second half and win the job late this year, potentially carrying it forward into 2015, but given that he’s missed so much time, I feel a little better about Webb’s future now.
- I’m guessing the Yankees will re-sign Robertson this winter, but Betances is worthy of a spot in the top 30 anyway, assuming Joe Girardi doesn’t completely use him up this summer. I am rather worried about the specter of arm problems there.
- The Red Sox face a dilemma with Uehara, who will turn 40 next April. Trading him this month for a couple of prospects would make a lot of sense, but as long as they’re on the fringes of the race, I imagine they’ll prefer to keep him and try to re-sign him this winter. Then again, even if they trade him, they might try to bring him back as a free agent. Otherwise, they could be looking at closing with Mujica next year. Of their young arms, Rubby De La Rosa seemed like the best bet to perhaps become a closer. However, he’s been impressive enough in his starts lately that he has to be penciled into next year’s rotation for now.
- For the Cubs relievers, I ordered them Ramirez, Rondon, Vizcaino and Strop. If I were sure the Cubs were going to leave Ramirez in the pen going forward, he’d be in the mid-20s, instead of No. 34. He’s clearly talented enough to be a long-term closer. However, he was a starter until this year and it might be worth taking another look at him in the rotation.
- Foltynewicz wasn’t going to crack the SP rankings anyway, so I stuck him at No. 87 here, just in case the Astros do decide to convert him into a reliever. He has the arm to close, and his control simply hasn’t improved to the point at which he could be considered for a major league rotation spot. He’s the third Astros pitcher in the rankings behind Qualls and Fields.