I don’t think anyone would have bet that Joe Nathan would be the first closer to pay his quarter to ride the carousel. But Nathan is done for the year, and Roby Neyer does a good job elucidating on the Twins bull pen options.
For my money, the job will initially come down to two guys: Matt Guerrier and Jon Rauch. I don’t think Gardenhire will try the lefty/righty platoon because he’ll lose that situational lefty that Tony LaRussa made famous.
So, how do we guess? Well, we can make it an educated guess based on who we think Guerrier and Rauch will be in 2010.
Guerrier, 31, has pitched his entire career (covering six seasons) with the Minnesota Twins. Way back in 1999, he was a 10th round draft pick of the Chicago White Sox. In his time with the Twins, he has pitched 401 IPs, posted a 3.41 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP. In the last three years he has averaged 80 IPs, a 6.5/9 k-rate, 3.25 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. So, we know Guerrier can pitch a lot of innings; the hope is that he continues to be durable. He is clearly a pitcher Gardenhire has had confidence turning to over and over for the last three+ seasons.
Rauch, also 31, has pitched parts of seven seasons in the majors for four teams. He was acquired by the Twins from the Diamondbacks last season. After the trade, Rauch pitched 15.2 IPS, posted a 1.72 ERA and 1.21 WHIP for the Twinkies. Over the last three years, Rauch has averaged 76 IPs a year with a 7.3/9 K-rate, 3.77 ERA and 1.20 WHIP.
These two guys have had very similar careers: both were drafted in 1999 by the Chicago White Sox, both have ERAs in the mid-3.00s and WHIPs around 1.20. Rauch has 26 career saves and Guerrier has four.
I’m going to bet Rauch has the first shot at the closer role. He has done it before, which always helps allay a manager’s fears. What’s more, Gardenhire is use to being able to plug Guerrier in wherever and whenever he is needed. He is comfortable with that flexibility. That is why I give Rauch the slight nod. That said, until we get clarity, I don’t see either being drafted too far apart. Think around Brandon Lyon in my rankings (available here).