Greg Holland: KC’s Closer of the Future

On the heels of news that Joakim Soria will need Tommy John surgery, the Royals’ bullpen is a state of flux. Luckily, unlike most bullpens around the majors, the Royals have excellent options to fill the role. Jonathan Broxton may be the frontrunner for the job, given his history as a stud with the Dodgers. But the closer of the future is already in the Royals’ bullpen, and even if he doesn’t become the closer of the present, Greg Holland is already making hitters take notice.

Take, for example, these three hitters:

Sure, it was the Mariners. Still, Holland combines a blazing fastball (95 MPH average velocity) with that vicious slider with excellent results. In 78.2 major league innings, Holland has struck out 97 batters against just 27 walks. Last season, it was 74 strikeouts to 19 walks. He induced more ground balls than fly balls. Only Jonathan Papelbon earned more swings and misses than Holland’s 16.6% ERA, FIP, xFIP, SIERA, tERA — all under 2.70, all except xFIP under 2.30. Hell, he even picked up five wins.

It would be understandable if the Royals went to Jonathan Broxton over Holland in the closer’s role to start the season. Ostensibly, the Royals see Broxton as a reclamation project they can use to build trade value over the course of the season, and there’s not a better place for a reliever to do that than as the closer. And let’s not forget, when Broxton’s on, he’s every bit as good as what Holland showed last year. From 2007-2009 Broxton recorded 301 strikeouts to just 81 walks in 227 innings, posting an ERA- of 68 as he earned the closership in Los Angeles.

Still, Broxton is on a one-year deal, and his time in Kansas City is nothing more than a transition phase — to a playoff team if he succeeds or to retirement (forced or otherwise) if injury problems and ineffectiveness continue to bite. Greg Holland’s time in the Kansas City bullpen spotlight is coming, and current circumstances suggest it will be sooner rather than later.

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16 Responses to “Greg Holland: KC’s Closer of the Future”

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  1. Mike M says:

    Does Aaron Crow have a chance to close?

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    • John says:

      Last I heard they wanted him to go back to starting.

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      • Mike M says:

        Just curious. Had a draft last night, and used my last pick on him (he was just sitting there.) Mainly out of speculation, but would love if he became the closer and gave me 40 saves. I thought he closed last year while Soria was ineffective too…

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      • KCExile says:

        The half hearted crow experiment as a starter has ceased. The day it was revealed that Soria had damage in elbow they returned Crow to the pen. He presumably won’t get the first shot, hopefully he gets the fourth. After the two aforementioned and Kelvin Herrera.

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  2. JdeWitt88 says:

    Broxton is gonna blow up eventually,right? Greg Holland could provide holds until then and saves after, nice little fantasy value.

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  3. Paul says:

    I’d hedge my bets on Holland. I do think that he is very, very good. But a couple notes of caution. First, he was not brought up until June. He did not pitch a ton of high leverage innings. He pitched mostly clean innings. He threw the FB only half the time, and made a lot of good hitters chase that filthy slider. He said the other day that he’s working on pitching inside and on the split, because he knows guys are going to lean over the plate looking for the outer half FB and they’ll lay off the slider better this year if he doesn’t

    On the other hand, Aaron Crow was a guy for them all year and since he made the AS Team and was the closer for a very brief period, teams scouted him heavily and made adjustments. He’s already seen their adjustments. Holland has not, even though he clearly knows what they’ll be. Crow threw his sinker 59% of the time and induced over 50% GBs. If he forget the mediocre change and curve and sticks to two pitches, he can be better than Holland with his four pitches because the slider is not a tilter. It’s sort of like a hard change, it just disappears and it’s beyond filthy. Ned Yost simply does not believe Aaron Crow is a starter.

    I highly doubt Broxton will close to start the season. They are being very careful with him right now, and he’s only scheduled to throw 10 innings for the entire ST. I don’t think he had even thrown to a live batter since the surgery until about 10 days ago. I’d guess the plan is for him to be ready to turn it loose and pitch every other day by May 1.

    Also, I don’t know why Herrera’s name keeps coming up relative to this season, but there is no way in hell he’s the third guy over Crow. He has a ton of work to do on his command and he has zero chance of making the team out of ST unless the injuries continue. For the guy who picked up Crow, that could turn into a really good move. If they just let him be a two pitch reliever, he could close and pick up 30 saves after replacing Holland in May since their offense is better.

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    • patrick says:

      crow has worse command than herrera. plus, they’re more likely to feel comfortable with crow going multiple innings than herrera due to kelvin’s arm troubles. herrera will be 3rd in line. oh, and 10 innings in spring isnt at all out of the norm for veteran relief pitchers.

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    • geo says:

      Beg to differ on the leverage; Holland pitched in 25 high leverage situations and only 8 low leverage situations. Only Soria and Crow had more high leverage situations, but Holland started the year in the minors.

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  4. Shoeless_Mike says:

    The reason Herrera’s name keeps coming up is because he has closer skills. He has a 96 mph heater and a change up that is more than 10 mph slower than the fastball. He has not looked over-matched thus far in the spring. While a dark horse for sure to close this season I do see him making the 25 man roster and getting late inning chances. If not he will be closing in Omaha waiting on a chance. Just keep an eye on him.

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    • Paul says:

      Nobody said Herrera doesn’t have closer skills, but last year he was converted to relief just to try and salvage him since he’s been hurt since he was 12, and had never pitched above A ball. Seems risky to promote him for no reason, since even with injuries to Wood and Soria, they still have quite a bit of solid depth for 7th and even 8th inning roles.

      Last year Kevin Chapman was Herrera. And he just got dealt for a guy who couldn’t hold the third Molina’s jockstrap. Let’s just slow the roll a bit. Agreed that he’s a monitor at Omaha though.

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      • KCExile says:

        Holland’s best skills are coming in during a jam and stranding runners. Not sure what the stat is but he was one of (maybe the) best in the bigs last year. Herrera should start out in the bigs to start the season. He’s got and has always had electric stuff as he showed in the AFL last year, the less demand of innings in relief seemed to be the elixir to his health ills.

        I think Holland should remain as the the “fireman” coming in during sticky situations and allowing Broxton then Herrera or Crow close out the game. SV’s are a fantasy stat, but have less bearing on real baseball. If able to strand Hochevar’s and Sanchez’ runners to hand off a lead to the 8th or 9th inning guy, the Royals would be maximizing the talent and skills of their team adeptly.

        This I think is the true message of Moneyball, not OBP > AVG. It’s assembling the best TEAM, not acquiring the best players

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  5. Shoeless_Mike says:

    Weird – I thought I had posted a pro-Herrera post here, before the one I just posted. I am not seeing it though… if it shows up, sorry for double posting…

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  6. Shoeless_Mike says:

    Last post about Herrera I promise – just wanted to say that his K/BB ratio this spring is 10:3 in 8 IP. Not bad… I know small sample size – just sayin’…

    And yes I did draft him in my Scoresheet league and YES I am from Kansas City :-)

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  7. Shoeless_Mike says:

    Herrera made the team – not saying he will close any time soon, but lots of people on forums here and on other sites thought I was nuts to predict he’d make the team. If you see this guy pitch in real life you will be sold…

    (now watch him walk his first 6 batters and get sent down…)


    Mrs. Herrera

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