Closers need to have ice water in their veins and need to be cool under pressure. The best closers generally have a blazing fastball, and/or wicked movement on their pitches. Teams with a good closer can rest easy entering the late innings, but teams with a bad one often crumble when the game is on the line. Here is a ranking of the closers in the NL Central entering 2014
#1 Cincinnati Reds
Aroldis Chapman enters his third season as the Reds closer. With a fastball that often breaks 100 mph and has once been clocked at 106mph, he is one of the scariest pitchers on the mound. The lanky lefthander has racked-up 38 saves in each of the past two seasons and has a career 2.40 ERA. Perhaps the best stat is that opposing batters are hitting just a puny .154 against Chapman in his career. Lefties have even more trouble. When his slider is on, hitters have no chance. He struck out 112 batters in just 63.2 innings pitched. There is belief around the league that the best is yet to come, and the Reds hope that Chapman’s best comes this season.
#2 Pittsburgh Pirates
With the departure of Joel Hanrahan to free agency last season, Jason Grilli took over as Pirates closer. He filled in admirably, having an all-star season in which he did not blow a save until June 20th. He recorded 33 saves in 35 chances last season and could have had a lot more without missing time to injury. If there would be any trouble Mark Melacon, the former Astros’ closer who filled in for Grilli last year, would be ready to step in. Grilli will be 37 entering the season, and having only one year of closing experience, some decline in performance is expected.
#3 St. Louis Cardinals
Edward Mujica recorded 37 saves for the Cardinals last year, but after faltering at the end of the season he eventually lost his job to Trevor Rosenthal. Rosenthal only had three saves during the regular season, but his postseason was spectacular. In 11.2 October innings, Rosenthal recorded four saves and did not allow a single run. His dominant performance showed what he is capable of during a full season. The Cardinal’s bullpen is stocked with arms if Rosenthal struggles. He will begin the year as closer and has potential to be a multiple time all-star.
#4 Milwaukee Brewers
For the second year in a row, Jim Henderson filled in for John Axford’s ineffectiveness. He will finally have the job on his own at the start of this year. Henderson throws just as hard as Axford, and has converted 31 career saves. He showed he was getting better with more time as he recorded a four-out save. If he were to fail, the Brewers have plenty of plus arms available such as, Michael Blazek (who was acquired in the Axford trade), Brandon Kintzler, and converted closer, David Goforth.
#5 Chicago Cubs
Jose Veras, who has plenty of closing experience should take over as the Cubs closer this season. Veras, has bounced around the league the last few seasons, and will now be playing on his 7th team. He brings a career 3.84 ERA and hitters have hit a .216 against him in his career. If he struggles, Kyuji Fujkawa, who closed at the start of last season could take the reins again.
Statistics Compiled by MLB.com