When Joe Nathan signed with the Tigers in December it created an opening for the closer position. Many believe that undoubtedly Neftali Feliz should be the closer and will earn that spot during Spring Training. Others think that Joakim Soria has a good chance, however, in my opinion Tanner Scheppers may be a better choice, at least until Feliz and Soria are proven to be 100 percent.
Let’s look at each player based on numbers.
In 2011, Soria pitched well for the Royals. In 60 games he allowed 29 runs, had 60 strikeouts and saved 28 games. He struggled in the beginning of the season, blowing five of his first twelve save opportunities, and he ended the season with a 4.03 ERA. Soria had Tommy John Surgery in April and missed the entire 2012 season. The Royals declined his 2013 option, which gave the Texas Rangers the opportunity to sign him to a 2-year/$8 million contract. He was used as a utility reliever in 2013, and gave up 10 runs in 26 games with a 3.80 ERA.
With the addition of Nathan in 2012, Neftali Feliz began the season in the starting rotation. Only playing in 8 games, Feliz underwent Tommy John Surgery and started 2013 on the disabled list. However, as the Rangers closer in 2011, Feliz was outstanding, only allowing 22 runs in 64 games. His ERA for the season was 2.74 and he had 32 saves, which was ranked 5th in the A.L. Entering his age 26 season, Feliz has the advantage of earning the closer spot based on previous seasons with the Rangers and his relationship with Ron Washington.
But what about Tanner Scheppers? If Washington feels that Soria and Feliz aren’t quite ready, Scheppers would make a good replacement.
Tanner Scheppers was simply outstanding as Nathan’s set-up man last season. With 59 strikeouts, 21 allowed runs in 76 games, he finished the season with a 1.88 ERA. Entering his age 27 season, he has not been plagued with injuries and has worked this off-season on strengthening his arm. Although Scheppers has not been a closer, I think given the opportunity he would shine in the role.
The Texas Rangers have a tough decision to make during Spring Training on who will be their closer, but with three outstanding candidates they can’t really go wrong.