Cincinnati Reds J.J. Hoover: The New Closer in Town

With the move of the former closer to New York, the job is open in Cincinnati. J.J. Hoover has the most experience and could see the bulk of the saves.

The Cincinnati Reds traded away closer Aroldis Chapman to the New York Yankees. As a result, the ninth-inning job is wide open. There are a bunch of options on the roster, but J.J. Hoover will get to see the bulk of the opportunities. He has the most experience and performed well in 2015. He is a deep sleeper in standard leagues this season. 

Chapman was, and still is, an elite closer. He recorded 33 saves with a 1.63 ERA, 1.146 WHIP and 116 strikeouts in 66.1 innings. It will be very hard for the Reds to replace that kind of production, but the team doesn’t need to find a Chapman replica. Hoover is good enough to get the job done and not blow many saves.

Manager Bryan Price said that Hoover will get the first shot at the closer job, according to the Associated Press. “There are not a lot of defined roles in our bullpen. Unless we make a roster move to bring in a definitive closer, it is his job to lose,” Price said.

J.J. Hoover has been with the Reds since 2012. In 218 career games, he has a 3.34 ERA, 1.185 WHIP and 225 strikeouts. The only outlier was the 2014 season when he had a 4.88 ERA and 1.388 WHIP in 54 games. He bounced back greatly last season.

In 67 games, he went 8-2 with a 2.94 ERA, 1.166 WHIP, 52 strikeouts and one save. While it doesn’t matter because of the limited playing time, he was the 53rd-best relief pitcher last season. Most of his appearances came in the eighth inning as Chapman’s set up man.

J.J. Hoover does not strike out many batters, 19.7 strikeout percentage. He needs to cut down on the walks, 11.7 walk rate. He did drop his fly ball rate from 2014 to 2015, it wasn’t enough. He had a 39.5 fly ball rate and seven of the 44 hits allowed were home runs. It’s going to be a big change for him going from the eighth to the ninth inning. If he can make that successfully, he will be a top-20 closer.

During Spring Training, keep an eye on Jumbo Diaz. He was also used in a set-up role and had a 4.18 ERA and 1.260 WHIP in 61 games. If J.J. Hoover struggles early, Diaz could sneak in as the new closer. With a lot of the top closers in the National League moving to the American League, Hoover becomes an attractive name in NL-only leagues. He is undraftable in standard leagues.

Projections: 2-3, 28 saves, 3.80 ERA, 1.290 WHIP, 66 strikeouts

Draft: N/A