With B.J. Ryan’s and Jorge Julio‘s departures from the Orioles, it looks like Chris Ray will get a shot at closing games. Ryan saved 36 games last year, blowing only five saves with a 2.43 ERA. Those are some pretty big shoes for Ray to fill in his sophomore season. After being called up from AA in mid-June, he had an excellent rookie season, throwing just over 40 innings with a 2.66 ERA. Let’s see if he has the stuff to handle full-time closer duties.
He has an excellent strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate (K/9) of 9.52, which is certainly closer worthy. He relies heavily on his mid-90s fastball, which tops out at 99 mph. Occasionally he’ll mix in his slider, and he also has an 85 mph changeup that he doesn’t throw all that often. He started off the year with some excellent control, but as the season wore on, his walks-per-nine-innings rate (BB/9) crept up to unacceptable levels.
In his brief minor league career, his highest BB/9 was 3.06, which is quite good, and with his K/9 as high as it is, he can afford to have a slightly higher walk rate. He did experience a bit of trouble with left-handed batters; they batted .298 against him, as opposed to .177 by right-handed batters.
In all honesty, it probably wouldn’t hurt if he waited another season before taking over as a full-time closer, but it looks like he’s the Orioles’ best option at this point. He certainly appears to have the right stuff to close out games, and if he can recapture his minor league walk rate he should be primed for a good season. I’m sure there will be a few bumps in the road, but with a little leeway, he should be able to hang on to the job all year long. I can certainly think of a few higher profile closers who will probably be out of a job before Chris Ray.