With it officially announced that Joakim Soria will receive Tommy John surgery, we are now focused on who ends up with more saves, Jonathan Broxton or Greg Holland. To me, Holland seems like the better bet to both get and hold onto the job for the length of the season.
For starters, Ned Yost has seen firsthand what Holland can do. He saw him net 24 shutdowns and meltdown just once, even though I doubt he uses those two statistics, he saw Holland’s dominance throughout last season. While Broxton does have the “closer experience,” he also pitched just 12.2 innings last year and recorded a 4.04 ERA the season before. His FIP of 3.01 that season was impressive, but I imagine Yost still values ERA more than any defensive independent pitching stat.
Earlier this week, Mike Podhorzer detailed all three of the potential closer candidates, including Aaron Crow with the two previously mentioned relievers. I also wrote about Holland in detail in Februrary, in which I attempted to project if his tremendous season was repeatable. Lastly, Chris Cwik included Holland’s wipeout slider among the best sliders in the game.
Holland most certainly has the stuff to be a dominant late-inning reliever for years to come, and I expect him to get his opportunity to do so this year. This spring, Holland has 11 strikeouts and one walk in seven innings pitched, which should help him as Yost and the Royals staff decide on who will be their ninth inning man this season.
Broxton has thrown just three innings this spring as he recovers from elbow surgery that he received last September. He has been relatively effective and is certainly still in the battle for the closing role, but his health combined with the fact that he has not performed well since 2009 make me believe Holland is the favorite for the job.
The only real thing Broxton has going for him is closer experience. In Milwaukee, Yost had no issues handing the closer job to Derrick Turnbow despite having just one career save before the 2005 season. I expect Yost values the better pitcher more than the closer experience, and while he has yet to play his hand, he wants to see the two perform before he and his staff decide on who will be the closer in Kansas City.
There are arguments for both, but when weighing the two options on a balance beam, Holland’s dominant season weighs more than Broxton’s experience. While it is still somewhat debatable that the better pitcher should be a closer rather than a bullpen ace of sorts, managers still like to have their best arm in the ninth inning and I expect Yost to make his decision in this manner. If you are drafting one, you should draft the other, but if you have to pick one to end up with more saves in the long run, I believe Holland is the correct choice.