Will Hibbs received the most votes in the Best Closers Poll as selected by Phuture Phillies readers. He had a sizable lead over Luke Leftwich , Victor Arano, and Jeff Singer.
Hibbs was the Phillies 19th round pick in 2016. After a solid campaign at Williamsport, he started the 2017 season in Lakewood. Hibbs began with season with 18 consecutive appearances where he did not allow a run. He had 20 of 21 scoreless outings when he was promoted to Clearwater. He didn’t fare well in 5 appearances, and returned to Lakewood. He finished the season with a combined 6-4, 2.48 which was greatly affected by his 7.88 in Clearwater. Hibbs also posted a 3.1 BB/9 and 10.4 K/9 across both levels to go along with his 20 low A saves.
Luke Leftwich was a seventh round selection in 2015. He was used as a starter his first 2 seasons, but was converted to a reliever to start the 2017 season in Clearwater. He posted a 1-6 record with a 2.70 ERA in 80 innings. He appeared in 42 games and notched 8 saves in 14 save opportunities. He had a 2.4 BB/9 and an 11.0 K/9.
Victor Arano went 1-2, 4.19 at Reading with 9 saves in 11 opportunities with a 3.4 BB/9 and a 11.0 K/9. He was called up to the Phillies when Reading’s season was over and made 10 appearances with a win and 1.69 ERA with a 2.6 BB/9 and an 8.8 K/9.
Jeff Singer compiled a 5-2 record and a 2.34 ERA at Clearwater in 37 appearances and saved 19 games in 21 opportunities. He wasn’t as successful in Reading where he went 0-2, 5.54 in 12 appearances although he converted both of his save opportunities. Singer racked up a combined 11.1 K/9, but had trouble with walks at both stops as he had a combined 5.3 BB/9.
Notes: Success as a closer in the minors does not necessarily mean a pitcher will remain a closer through his career. It’s equally likely that some other pitcher (like a converted starter) becomes a closer. Ironically, Pedro Beato was the best closer in the system with 33 saves at Lehigh Valley. He got 9 votes. Singer (21) and Hibbs (20) were second and third. Luis Ramirez led Williamsport with eleven and Trevor Bettencourt had ten. Bettencourt looked looked good during his stint with the Threshers and looked sharp in Instructs before going to Arizona. Yacksel Rios has pitched well in his preferred role as a reliever ever since the Phillies abandoned their effort to make him a starter. Jesen Therrien pitched well at AA and AAA before getting roughed up with the Phillies. Seth McGarry’s post-trade numbers were not very good even though he remained in the FSL. The two most interesting pitchers among the rest (IMO) are Anton Kuznetsov and Jakob Hernandez. Kuznetsov was signed as an international free agent out of Moscow, Russia. The 19-year old made his pro debut in the GCL and allowed one earned run in 15 games, 25.1 innings. He went 2-1, 0.71 with a 1.4 BB/9, 8.5 K/9, and 5 saves. Hernandez was the Phillies 21st round selection in the 2017 draft. He made 9 appearances and pitched 11.0 innings. He walked none and struck out 15 (12.3 K/9). He used a fastball and curve ball primarily, but was working on a change up during Instructs. He was a starter at UTA, and I’m wondering a return to starting is in the Phillies plans. If not, his overhand curve will give hitters fits for a few levels while he adds to his arsenal.