Tanner Rainey has established himself as a power arm out of the bullpen. Time to audition him as the ninth inning guy of the future.
One good problem the Washington Nationals have is they have a glut of guys in the bullpen who can close games. Sean Doolittle has a proven track record. Daniel Hudson was on the mound for the final out of the World Series and has handled the duties this year. Even Will Harris could close, though slots better in a setup role. As the pieces move around, Tanner Rainey should be groomed as the Nationals next closer.
With a powerful arm and a fastball which reaches mid-to high nineties, Rainey has blow-by-you stuff. His slider is above average and is a nice compliment to the heater.
Rainey was drafted in the 2nd round by the Cincinnati Reds and acquired by the Nationals in a trade which sent Tanner Roark the other way. In his first full season in the majors, Rainey became one of the relievers manager Davey Martinez could rely on.
In the postseason Rainey made nine appearances out of a makeshift bullpen which relied heavily on starting pitchers working on days in between starts.
This year has seen Rainey pitch exceptionally well. He has a WHIP of .70, an ERA of 1.26 and a K/9 of 12.6. His numbers have been great and even though he has just 74 regular season games to his name, he is ready to be placed in more high leverage situations.
What does the closer situation look like next year? Sean Doolittle is a free agent. After his injury issues and decline in effectiveness, I do not think he’ll be back. Hopefully he makes closer money somewhere else.
Hudson will be back, in the closer’s role, self admittedly he does not cherish. Leaving Harris as the setup man. Could Hudson and Rainey share the role of closer? Not a closer by committee, but a true shared role. Based on matchups.
Forget the saying, “if you have two closers, you have no closers.” Plenty of teams have utilized two closers in the past, before egos and salaries became overblown. Slowly work Rainey into the role, so after next year when Hudson’s contract expires, there is a built in closer option.
Remember Joel Hanrahan? Remember Felipe Vazquez? Remember Blake Treinen? All power arms the Nats should have utilized as closers, didn’t, then traded away to become All-Stars elsewhere.
In a season which seems more and more lost by the day, start grooming Tanner Rainey to be your next closer.