The Washington Nationals had the second lowest bullpen ERA of any team in the National League last season (3.37), but they find themselves at the bottom of this list for one reason. Right now, they do not have a set closer compared to the other four teams in the division that do.
With Mark Melancon now in San Francisco and the Nats missing out on numerous closer targets this winter, it leaves internal options such as Blake Treinen and Shawn Kelley as the two main candidates for the closer spot heading into spring training.
On Tuesday, Dusty Baker met with the media and talked about how just like last year (outside of closer), the Nats still have to figure out which relievers will go in which role:
"“So we’ll come up with that and if we have to still tweak and experiment, I mean last year, don’t forget, we didn’t start out knowing the roles of the guys here other than Pap (Jonathan Papelbon). … We didn’t know where we were gonna use (Shawn) Kelley, we didn’t know when we were gonna use a lot of the guys that ended up emerging.” (h/t Bobby Blanco, MASNSports.com)"
Treinen ended up appearing in more high leverage situations as the season went on and appeared in a team high 73 games. As for Kelley, he went into the postseason having not given up a run in the month of September.
Heading into spring training, the Nats do have other possible closer options in non-roster invitee Joe Nathan and young right-hander Koda Glover. But, if you are looking for a non-closer to watch, keep an eye on Sammy Solis, who did an excellent job in the NLDS against the Dodgers as he pitched in all five games.
It’s possible the Nats could end up being towards the top of the list once the season is over. But, with the uncertainty at closer, it’s just tough to rank them that high until someone steps up and takes the spot.