Thirty teams, 30 burning fantasy questions. Throughout the preseason, we put one of these questions to an ESPN.com analyst for an in-depth look at the most interesting, perplexing or dumbfounding fantasy facet of each major league team.
Can Jonathan Broxton be a top-flight closer?
Let's skip right to the end of the page: Injury is the only thing that will keep Broxton from being a top-flight closer.
Of course, we could say that about any of the big save producers, but given health, Broxton has the profile of an elite stopper.
Still just 24, he's proven to be fairly durable in his three years in the big leagues. He had a strained lat muscle that bothered him for a couple of weeks last season, and some lingering effects of that caused him to give up six runs in one-third of an inning in an early May outing -- a quarter of the runs he gave up all season -- otherwise his numbers (3.13 ERA, 1.17 WHIP) would have been even better last year.
Stepping in for an injured Takashi Saito, Broxton showed he could do the job, going 14-for-17 in save situations and pitching well in the playoffs, and expect him to do so over a full season this year. When you strike out a ton of batters, throw strikes and keep the ball in the park, you're going to succeed, regardless of your role.
At age 24, the 6-foot-4, 290-pound power pitcher has the ability to be among the elite closers in the game thanks to a stable and dominating skill set. His average fastball was better than 96 mph last year, as fast as it's been in his whole career. His 88-mph slider is a true swing-and-miss pitch, and he's got enough of a change to keep you off the other two pitches if you're trying to sit on one.
Let's look at some other stats:
Over the past three seasons, here are Broxton's K/9 numbers: 11.44, 10.87, 11.48.
Here are his K/BB numbers: 2.94, 3.96, 3.26. Every so often he'll get into a tiny rut with his control, especially against left-handed hitters, but he can usually get himself out of it fairly quickly.
Batters have hit .221, .230 and .217 off him the past three seasons.
His profile is that of a groundball pitcher, which means fewer of those ninth-inning homers that cause blown saves. His homers allowed over the past three seasons have gone from seven to six to just two last year.
Put that all together, and does that sound like a closer to you? You'll find that those stats aren't that far off from those of a guy who saved 62 games last season, Francisco Rodriguez.
Broxton is an aggressive, intimidating pitcher who is not afraid to work inside, and that aggressiveness will continue to serve him well when he's looking to get the last three outs of the game instead of setting them up, and the Dodgers should have a healthy win total to keep him flush with save opportunities.
Don't buy into the notion that Broxton hasn't had much experience as a closer and is thus a risky play. The ability to get outs is the ability to get outs, plain and simple. I'm not so naïve to say that getting outs 22, 23 and 24 in a game is exactly the same as getting numbers 25, 26 and 27, as there have certainly been pitchers that have problems making that adjustment mentally, but Broxton is not one of them.
All he has done over the past three seasons is prove how much of a shutdown reliever he is, and a change of inning is likely not going to alter that.
Jason Grey is a graduate of the MLB Scouting Bureau's Scout Development Program and has won two Tout Wars titles, one LABR title and numerous other national "experts" competitions.