Aug 2, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Nate Jones (65) pitches in the eighth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
It had been expected that, once Addison Reed was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks, that Nate Jones was going to take over as the Chicago White Sox closer. Jones would certainly appear to have the required skillset to become a closer, possessing a sinking fastball that has averaged approximately 97.5 MPH over the past two seasons. If he faltered during Spring Training, the White Sox also had Matt Lindstrom, who had closer experience with the Houston Astros in 2010.
Yet, due to a myriad of issues, the White Sox have still yet to identify their closer. Jones and Lindstrom have both been injured. Even the secondary candidates for the job have had their own struggles. Daniel Webb had a death in his family, causing him to miss a week. Ronald Bellisario had difficulty in getting a visa to leave Venezuela amid the turmoil the country is embroiled in. Mitchell Boggs is attempting to make a comeback after struggling through a disappointing 2013 season.
Nate Jones would certainly appear to be the favorite to be the White Sox closer, based on his potential alone. Looking at his performance last year, it would seem that Jones regressed, posting a 4-5 record with a 4.15 ERA. However, Jones managed to not only increase his strikeout rate to 10.3 per nine innings, while decreasing his walks to 3.0 per nine, leading to a 1.218 WHiP. Based on his performance, Jones would have actually have been expected to put together an ERA of 2.77.
While managers talk of closing experience and the perceived importance of having a proven closer, the fact of the matter remains that closers tend to have a very short shelf life. Unless a team happens to come across a truly dominant closer, then it may be worth their time to just cycle through solid pitchers in that role. However, when a team has a young relief pitcher who may end up being a dynamic piece at the back of the bullpen, it is certainly worth taking the time to see if he can perform in such a role.
The Chicago White Sox may not have determined who their closer is at this point, yet it would appear as though Nate Jones has the most potential in that role. If Jones is able to prove that he can handle being the closer, he could end up being another piece for the White Sox to build around.