Red Sox Predictions: Who will be the closer in 2019 if Craig Kimbrel leaves?

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 06: Craig Kimbrel
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 06: Craig Kimbrel /
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BBOSTON, MA – SEPTEMBER 28: Matt Barnes (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BBOSTON, MA – SEPTEMBER 28: Matt Barnes (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

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Triple digits on your fastball gets attention and Joe Kelly got a lot of attention in 2017. The right-handed Kelly average 99.2V on his heater last season, which was his primary go-to pitch. The downside with Kelly is a career 4.0 BB/9 with Boston.  Last season was Kelly’s first working exclusively out of the bullpen and 2018 may be one where Kelly is the sixth or seventh inning option. In 2017, Kelly had 13 holds and four blown saves, but his 50 GB% and 0.5 HR/9 in 2017 are positives. Kelly is also under team control through 2019.

Matt Barnes is a pitcher Red Sox fans seem to love and hate, often in the same game.  The 27-year-old right-hander is another one who brings some real gas to the mound with a fastball that ticks into the mid to high 90’s. Barnes mixes in a slider and curve to his pitching toolkit.

The downside is a 3.6 BB/9 in 2017, but the upside is a 7-3 record that produced 21 holds, one save, and a GB% slightly under 50.  The former number one draft selection is under team control through 2022.

Heath Hembree and Barnes are very similar statistically and in style.  Hembree – like Barnes – will hit the mid-90’s with his fastball and show the slider and curve as his other options. Hembree had 14 holds in 2017, three blown saves, 2.6 BB/9, and a 3.63 ERA.

Finding the tender spot for Hembree is rather easy and can be the classifier that gives Kelly and Barnes the edge at this level. Most notable is a 1.5 HR/9 and a dismal 10.5 H/9. Neither becomes much of a selling point in establishing your credentials as a potential closer. Hembree is under team control through 2022.

On this tier, all three represent a significant downgrade from Thornburg and Smith and a sinkhole when compared to Kimbrel. All three are high risk for closing based on the listed negatives.