The Marlins have two potential options at closer next season. Kyle Barraclough and Brad Ziegler performed well but who will get the majority of saves?
The Miami Marlins are a sleeper team with a lot of potential on both sides of the ball. The starting rotation left a lot to be desired but the bullpen did more than their job to help carry the pitching staff. Even after the team traded away AJ Ramos, there were still two viable options for the future.
Brad Ziegler was signed as a free agent last offseason. He was primarily a setup man behind Ramos for the first half of the season. Kyle Barraclough was the third-most used reliever for the Marlins this season.
After Ramos went to New York, Ziegler took over ninth-inning duties and recorded 10 saves in the final two months. Barraclough, on the other hand, became the new setup pitcher for Ziegler. At the end of the season, Barraclough had better ratio stats across the board. Will he be the new closer or does Ziegler remain in the role next season?
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Ziegler pitched in only 47.0 innings after pitching in at least 67.0 innings in each of the last five seasons. He posted a 4.79 ERA, 1.553 WHIP, 5.0 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9.
Ziegler hasn’t been a big strikeout reliever, career 6.0 K/9. That isn’t a big deal to me if the pitcher doesn’t allow many baserunners or can get out of sticky situations. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. He had 16 walks and 57 runs in his those 47 innings. He even had a 64.4 left on base percentage.
In contrast, Barraclough had a better season. He threw in 66 innings, 6.2 fewer than in 2016. He posted a 3.00 ERA, 1.379 WHIP, 10.4 K/9 and 5.2 BB/9. Like Ziegler, the walk rate was too high to be an elite reliever but the strikeout rate put him ahead of Ziegler at least.
Barraclough had a higher strand rate at 79.1 percent. And, while he had a 33.9 fly ball rate, only 8.9 percent of them were home runs. He posted an 11.9 swinging strike and 42.1 swing rate.
Looking ahead, Ziegler has more closer experience than Barraclough, 95 saves to 1. He performed well while with the Arizona Diamondbacks. This was his first season he had an ERA over 4.00. In 10 years, this season could easily be the outlier and he could post another 2.60 ERA season.
Though, Barraclough is the young pitcher on the rise. He was a little erratic throughout the season but that seems to be the usual with these hard-throwing pitchers. He averaged 95 MPH with his fastball.
I wrote about Barraclough being a sleeper pick in March. I will say the same thing for next season and have him as a sleeper pick among closers. The age and strikeout differences will likely put Barraclough ahead of Ziegler on the depth chart. He is inside my top 30 while Ziegler is just outside the top 40.