Jordan Kendall | Why Felix Bautista should be the Orioles closer

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Aug. 6—After trading Jorge López to the Minnesota Twins, the Baltimore Orioles will have to find their new closer for the remainder of the season. Usually, losing an All-Star leaves some big shoes to fill.

Luckily for the Orioles, Félix Bautista should be able to do so in more ways than one. I was lucky enough to see Bautista in the minor leagues last year. Watching him last year and so far this year has convinced me that he should be the Orioles closer for the foreseeable future.

Bautista is listed at 6-foot-5, 190 pounds. I saw him last season in person with the Orioles Double-A minor league affiliate, the Bowie Baysox. Those measurements may have been correct when he was signed by the Miami Marlins as a 18-year-old from the Dominican Republic back in 2013.

However, Bautista challenged these numbers when speaking to Bowie's broadcasters. I can't remember the exact numbers Bautista gave; however, he claims to be several inches taller and about 20-30 pounds heavier. Seeing him in person and on TV, calling him a 6-foot-8, 230 pounder would make a lot more sense.

Regardless of how big he actually is, Bautista, nicknamed "The Mountain," has been pitching as well as anyone in baseball this season. Entering Friday, in 44.2 innings, Bautista has a 1.81 ERA and has struck out 60 batters and only allowed nine earned runs. Bautista has walked 14 batters and given up 25 hits.

He has been unstoppable in his last 10 appearances, allowing two hits, two walks and two earned runs in that span. In seven games from July 9-28, he did not allow any hits, runs or walks. Even in his "bad outings," he still finds a way to get himself out of a bad situation.

In two of his last three outings, he's given up a solo home run. However, both home runs were the only hits and runs he allowed. In his last game on Aug. 3 against the Texas Rangers, he struck out the first two batters he faced. With two outs he gave up a solo home run but punched out the next batter to end the inning.

The fact that a one hit, one run stat line is technically a bad game for him says a lot about how dominant he has been. He seems to pitch with so much confidence, which has been a common theme throughout the Orioles' bullpen this year.

Bautista can throw fastballs over 100 miles per hour with ease, and he also has a nasty splitter that has been almost impossible to hit. Last year in Bowie, I was immediately impressed with the velocity. I could count on one hand the number of Baysox pitchers who consistently threw 100 miles per hour.

What worried me was the control. He threw very hard but also would occasionally have bad games where he couldn't consistently find the strike zone.

Those concerns quickly went away once he reached the big leagues. His control has significantly improved, and I can't remember the last time he couldn't consistently throw strikes. Even when he does throw outside the zone, he still gets batters to swing and miss which makes him even more valuable.

The Orioles other options are Cionel Pérez and Dillon Tate. Both have pitched very well and also have impressive numbers. Pérez has a 1.21 ERA and Tate has a 2.31 ERA. However, the reason I prefer Bautista to be the closer is because of his ability to strike batters out at a higher level.

Pérez has pitched 37.1 innings and struck out 35, Tate has gone 50.2 innings and punched out 43 batters. In a late-game situation, I don't want to rely on the defense to make a play. Even though they are in the major leagues and should be able to make most defensive plays, I would prefer to see strikeouts. If Baltimore is up one with two outs and the bases loaded, a ground ball or bloop single isn't good enough.

I want someone who can sit the batter down and get out of that situation without allowing any runs. Of everyone in the bullpen, I trust Bautista to come through in that situation the most. That is why I want Bautista as the Orioles closer of the future.

Jordan Kendall is a Sports Writer for the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @JKendallCTN.