Four 2011 Relievers to Watch in 2012

Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman throws a pitch at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo courtesy of Big 3 News Executive Editor Rusty Ray.

There are five pitcher which served as relievers in 2011, which will be worth paying special attention to in 2012. Some of them will remain late inning pitchers, while others will make their way out of the bullpen, and into starting rotations.

The upcoming season will offer some of them the chance to continue success from last year, for others it will be an opportunity to regain old form, and yet still for a few it will be a chance to show versatility. One thing is for sure, this season could make or break these five players.

1) Aroldis Chapman

One thing is certain about this twenty-three year old Cuban defector: he can throw hard, though his ability to locate pitches for strikes has been suspect during his first two big leagues season.

Chapman has the ability to frustrate hitters when they can’t catch up to the heat he throws, but gets in trouble if they connect, or he misses the zone. Reds general manager Walt Jocketty is on the record saying Aroldis will get the chance to earn a place in Cincinnati’s starting rotation this spring. That fact, coupled with rumors that Chapman is starting to learn how to locate his pitches, makes me think Chapman may be ready to start playing to his potential.  He has a career WHIP of 1.24, that is a nice starting point.

2) Joe Nathan

Some argue Nathan’s sub-one WHIP is far more indicative of his ability than his 2011 statistics. His ERA was over four in this past season, and his inability to close out games ended up being the main reason he is not back with the Twins as he enters his eleventh MLB campaign.

Nathan is a mixed bag. He has twice missed an entire season with injuries, but as recently as 2009 had a WHIP less than one. In addition, it should be noted that he is one of the most underrated closers of the last decade. Six of his eleven career seasons have seen him post a WHIP of less than one, and even after a rough 2011 Nathan’s career ERA is 2.37.

Because we live in a world where it isn’t unheard of for great closers to pitch into their late thirties, or early forties (see Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman) I wouldn’t rule out Nathan just yet. Keep in mind he is with the Texas Rangers now. Nolan Ryan is a smart guy, and I don’t think he would sign a pitcher he viewed as out of gas. A change of scenery also may breathe new life into the ex-Twin too. The Rangers better hope it does, because there is not a lot riding on him in Arlington.

3) Jason Motte

Many Cardinal fans used his name as an expletive in the past, but the converted catcher grew into his own this season. He has embraced the role of closer. New manager Mike Matheny is even willing to give him the official title. That, combined with the fact that he threw the final pitch of the 2011 MLB season, should be the fuel Motte needs to continue building on the impressive fall he just compiled.

4) Neftali Feliz

Like Motte, Neftali Feliz has plenty of postseason experience. In fact, he has more. Feliz and the Texas Rangers have lost two straight World Series now. If that doesn’t serve as a motivator nothing probably will. Feliz really doesn’t need much motivation though, because his career numbers are stellar.

The reason Neftali makes this list is, because he will be moving to the Rangers starting rotation in an attempt to bolster his teams front end for hopefully yet another run at a World Series title. The Rangers will need good pitching to win an AL West that now features an L.A. Angels club who has an embarrassment of riches on the mound. Feliz and company have their work cut out for them.

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About brettmcmillan

Believer. Broadcaster. Story Teller.

Posted on January 18, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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