Replacing Jonathan Broxton: Greg Holland and Jeremy Jeffress
Yesterday, the Royals made the right move and traded reliever Jonathan Broxton to Cincinnati for pitchers J.C. Sulbaran and Donnie Joseph.
The move did leave the Royals without a designated pitcher to shut the door in the ninth – until later in the day when Ned Yost named Greg Holland the next closer.
Holland had a great 2011 but his 2012 has been up and down. Early in the year he dealt with a rib injury that put him on the disabled list. Since returning, he’s worked his ERA down to more palatable levels, though his walk rate is higher than last year’s 2.9 BB/9 at 5.2 BB/9. He’s given up more hits, too, but after last year’s 5.6 H/9, it’s hard for any pitcher to repeat that stellar number.
He’s seemed to be the heir apparent to Broxton’s closers role since it became clear that Broxton was on the trading block. His strikeout ability should allow him to get out of jams with less panic than Broxton’s save attempts, though the peripheral numbers are still scary. What hits he has given up this year may be in part due to his inducing more ground balls (which are more likely to sneak through for hits than a fly ball). His .388 BABIP on the year supports that thought.
If Holland falters, Aaron Crow or Kelvin Herrera are favorites to step in.
Another option – though he’s a long shot – is Jeremy Jeffress, who was recalled from Omaha to fill Broxton’s roster spot. In two appearances at the big league level this year, Jeffress gave up four hits and walked two, though he managed to scatter those runners in such a way that none scored. Those appearances came in the first homestand of the year.
Since, he’s put up 58 innings in Omaha with a 4.97 ERA. He’s struck out 9.5 batters per nine innings in Triple A, which is typical for him, but his ERA is a bit deceiving, as he’s given up far less walks than is the norm. In his minor league career, Jeffress had a walk rate of 5.7 BB/9 before 2012. His current rate is 3.9 BB/9 right now, which is encouraging. He features a fastball that regularly sits in the upper 90s (and regularly hits triple digits) and a curveball that can be really nasty when he has command of it. If he can get it together, he’ll make an already solid-looking return for Zack Greinke in 2010 look that much better.