The 2013 MLB draft is rife with potential aces, big bats and slick fielders, but the selection of future stars doesn’t end there. Teams will also be looking for the next Mariano Rivera or Joe Nathan, the type of closer who can shut down games in the late innings.
Some pitchers on this list excelled as closers in their college years, while others may have been strong starters, even aces, who have the right makeup to be closers in the big leagues.
Here are the eight prospects who have the best potential as closers in the big show.
All statistics via the NCAA.
Jimmie Sherfy, Oregon
Sherfy has ranked second in the nation in saves the past season with 20 in 2012 and 22 this year. In his junior year for the Ducks, the 6’0”, 175-pound right-hander pitched to a 1.63 earned run average with 53 strikeouts in 38.2 innings. Unlike many players on this list, Sherfy doesn’t just have great stuff, but has proven himself as a big-game closer.
Colby Suggs, Arkansas
One of the other pure closers in the draft is Suggs, a 6’0”, 225-pound flame-throwing right-hander. Suggs looked dominant for the Razorbacks this season, throwing more than a strikeout per inning (28 in 19.2 innings pitched) and pitching to a 1.83 ERA. Like Sherfy, Suggs has proven he has the mettle to handle dicey late-inning situations.
Corey Knebel, Texas
The 6’4”, 205-pound right-handed closer for the Longhorns seems to have regressed a bit in each of his three seasons in Austin. His ERA has slipped from 1.13 his freshman year (when he ranked second in the nation in saves and first in hits allowed per nine innings) to 2.08 his sophomore year and 3.38 his junior season. But if he develops correctly in the right minor league system, he could be a shutdown reliever for his MLB team.
Ryne Stanek, Arkansas
This tall (6’4”) and lanky (190 lbs) right-hander started 16 games for the Razorbacks this season, throwing 79 strikeouts in 97.1 innings. Stanek also had a 1.39 ERA his junior year, showing improvement over his three years at Arkansas. While Stanek projects as a starter, he could also end up as a closer in the big leagues.
Alex Gonzalez, Oral Roberts
Gonzalez is a big right-hander, standing 6’3” and 200 pounds, who ranked fifth in the nation in strikeouts this season with 126. Gonzalez went deep in his 15 starts for the Golden Eagles, throwing 113.1 innings with a 1.83 ERA. Gonzalez showed remarkable development in his three years at Oral Roberts, and while he was an ace for his team in college, he could close for his pro team.
Jason Hursh, Oklahoma State
After redshirting the 2012 season to recover from Tommy John surgery, the Cowboys right-hander had a strong return to action in 2013. Hursh pitched 106.1 innings in 16 appearances, throwing a 2.79 ERA and 86 strikeouts. Standing 6’1” and weighing 197 pounds, Hursh has the makings of a big league closer.
Jonathan Crawford, Florida
Crawford, a 6’1”, 205-pound right-hander, could eventually develop into a big league closer for the right team. A starter in his junior season as a Gator, Crawford threw for a 3.84 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 15 appearances. Crawford has control issues (he walked 37 batters) and may be more of a project than some of the other players on this list.
Andrew Mitchell, TCU
This big righty (Mitchell stands 6’3” and 225 lbs) split time as a starter and reliever his junior season, starting 10 games but making 20 appearances in 2013. He pitched to a 3.49 ERA and 57 strikeouts in just 49.0 innings of action this year, following up on a stellar 2012 campaign. Last year Mitchell struck out 101 batters and ranked fifth in the nation in strikeouts per nine innings.