Mike Silva raised an interesting point this morning, one that often gets overlooked in all the hullabaloo around Joba and Hughes:

Everyone talks about Joba Chamberlain as the “heir apparent” but Robertson should be just as much in the conversation. If he qualified his 12.98 K/9 would be second to only Jonathan Broxton last season. The one thing he needs to work on is his command, but that hasn’t stopped K-Rod (4.1 BB/9) from carving out a great career as a closer…..
Look, no one will ever replace Mariano Rivera. There is also no indication he is ready to retire or hang it up. At some point, unless he isn’t human, there will be a need for someone else to take the reins. Even if he is still around perhaps a break would be necessary from time to time. If you want him to pitch two innings every postseason you might need to pace him during the regular season.
Robertson gets overlooked in the conversation, but a pitcher that can miss bats like him certainly should have a bright future.

As Silva notes elsewhere in the article, if Joba and Hughes both succeed in the rotation, the Yankees will be in the market for a closer. Can Robertson be that guy? Some would watch him and wonder how a guy with just two pitches, including a fastball that averages just under 92MPH, could be so successful and strike out so many batters. However, his curveball is excellent and he hides the ball very well in his delivery on the fastball, such that it has “sneaky speed” and plays more like 94-95 than 91-93. He has the minor league pedigree and major league success, he has the stuff, and he has the K-rate. So where are the flaws? Why isn’t he seen as a future closer?

Jim Callis was asked that question in his chat this week, and said the following:

Not sure I see him as a top-notch closer, but I love him as a setup man. Yet another guy whose prospect stock soared in the Cape Cod League.

I agree with Callis, simply due to the one issue that Silva raises: his BB rate (4.74 last season) is high for a top closer. K-Rod is simply the exception that proves the rule, and he has a better repertoire than Robertson. While Robertson could improve in that area, he has always walked plenty of hitters, with a minor league BB-rate of 3.6. Even if he drops the walk rate below 4, that will still be significantly higher than most elite closers. Putting a lot of runners on base through the free pass is a dangerous prospect for a person who will often be pitching with a one run lead and the game on the line. I could see Robertson closing for some other clubs, but for a team that is used to the greatness that is Mariano Rivera, I think David will have to be satisfied with being the setup man.

6 Responses to “Is Robertson The Next Yankee Closer?”

  1. Maybe Robertson hasn’t been mentioned in this conversation because it isn’t a conversation yet. Rivera is still playing, and could play for three more years. Also, Robertson has never even been considered a setup man, and now Silva thinks he should be considered for closer?

    It sounds like Robertson won’t even be setup man this year. He still has A LOT to prove.  (Quote)

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    Matt Imbrogno Reply:

    He’s got a long way to go, but the skill-set is there. I echoed a similar sentiment in my post today. His two pitch combo is perfect for a closer and all he needs is a chance.  (Quote)

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  2. Yeah, he looks good. Surprised that he has a high walk rate, since his stuff is straightforward, except for a good bit of curve. He’ll be employed as the un-jammer, and that will draw on his command.  (Quote)

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  3. Robertson is only 24(?), Mo came up as a starter in ’95 as a 25 year old before going to the Pen as a set-up man.
    Discounting anyone at this age is not the best thing to do. We also have Melancon setting in the wings, with others on the way. One of them may surprise us and step up to grab the spot, of closer…will it be Melancon, Robertson, Z-Mac, Brackman, De La Rosa maybe even Betances?  (Quote)

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  4. I’m with Callis. Love him as a setup man, but have concerns about him closing. Mostly because he’s the type of pitcher that when he gets his ball up, he’ll get hit hard. You may have noticed him constantly working low in the zone last year, that’s where he will have success. But guys like that get destroyed when their location is off, so you need someone behind him.

    One other thing, that much-referenced SO/9 rate appears to be real. It was almost identical in the minors, with a somewhat lower BB/9 rate. He may regress a bit, but he should get lots of swing and misses.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

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