Washington Nationals: Brandon Kintzler ready to build on 2017

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 09: Brandon Kintzler
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 09: Brandon Kintzler /

Washington Nationals reliever Brandon Kintzler enjoyed a terrific breakout campaign in 2017. Now, he looks to continue building on it.

Washington Nationals reliever Brandon Kintzler has established himself as one of the most dominant relievers in the league, but his road to stardom was not an easy one. Not long ago, the right-hander could not find a job in the independent leagues.

Kintzler finally got his shot in the independent leagues, and he took full advantage of it. His success there led to a major league career, and the rest is history.

Flash forward to 2017, and Kintzler is now the Minnesota Twins’ closer. His phenomenal first half earned him his first career all-star nomination, and he was eventually traded to the Nats at the trade deadline.

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Now, Kintzler is set to play an enormous role on a legitimate World Series contender. The Nats’ bullpen is uncharacteristically strong entering the season, and Kintzler is one of the biggest contributors.

Although Kintzler does not possess overpowering stuff, as many of today’s relievers do, he is exceptionally effective. He primarily relies on a sinker and slider, proving that pitching to contact is still an effective strategy.

Since strikeouts do not come easily to Kintzler, he attempts to induce ground balls and weak contact. He is often successful in this strategy, as his 54.9% ground ball rate ranked sixth among all qualified relievers in 2017.

Kintzler finally put it all together, en route to an all-star campaign in 2017, and he appears ready to continue improving in 2018. The fact that he is not able to overpower most hitters makes him a less than ideal closer, but the Nats’ deep bullpen allows him to fill a setup role instead.

In a seventh or eighth inning role, Kintzler will thrive. When deployed with Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle, “the big three” will form a lethal trio in the back-end of the bullpen.

Although Kintzler’s age, 33, may be concerning to some, he should age well. Velocity is typically among the first skills to deteriorate as pitchers age, but Kintzler does not rely on velocity. Because of this, his 33 is comparable to other pitchers’ 30.

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Kintzler joined the Nats when they were desperately searching for bullpen stability, and he provided just that. Now, he is perfectly set up to succeed once again in 2018. Although his path to the big leagues was extremely unorthodox, he has established himself as one of the most effective relievers around and he is not going anywhere anytime soon.