The Orioles should consider these three relievers to replace Craig Kimbrel at closer

Craig Kimbrel was signed this offseason as a closing option while Felix Bautista recovers from Tommy John surgery. After a good start to the season, Kimbrel hit a wall with his play in a sharp decline. The Orioles may need to carefully consider other closing options, and these three O’s might be worth a try.

Albert Suarez has been one of the Orioles’ biggest surprises this season. After showing his strengths during spring training, Suarez was promoted to the major league roster on April 17. He was the starter after Tyler Wells was placed on the IL, and he has since earned a roster spot.

Suarez made three starts for the O’s before being moved to the bullpen. He pitched well, but the returns of John Means and Kyle Bradish to the rotation forced the Orioles’ hand. Suarez was then moved to the bullpen, where he pitched quite well. He pitched 4.1 innings, allowing one earned run, one hit and one walk.

Suarez may not seem like the ideal closing option, but the O’s have had success with players like Suarez in the past. Birds Watcher contributor Cameron McGuire mentioned that Suarez could be the next Jorge Lopez for the O’s.

Jorge Lopez made the All-Star team in 2022 as the Orioles’ closer. Lopez was a starter who transitioned to the bullpen after struggling in the rotation. Lopez always had good stuff, but the results never showed until he became a full-time reliever.

Given that the rotation is filled with productive starters at the moment (and also expects to reinstate Grayson Rodriguez soon), Suarez will continue to work from the pen. Like Lopez, Suarez possesses a hard, fastball that boasts an astonishing 37.4 percent whiff rate. He also has an excellent cutter who has only allowed a .143 batting average to opponents this season.

Suarez has very good advanced figures which confirm his good start to the season. He fills the strike zone and gets a lot of swings and misses. It wouldn’t shock me if Brandon Hyde started trusting the veteran to get him some outs in the ninth inning.

Like Albert Suarez, Keegan Akin has fantastic advanced numbers to start the season. His expected numbers top the league; he currently ranks in the top 20 for expected ERA and expected batting average.

Much of Akin’s success lies in his ability to get strikeouts and induce weak contact. Akin ranks in the 95th percentile in average exit velocity, while also boasting a strikeout rate of over 30%.

Akin has been extremely solid this season, and while he doesn’t throw exceptionally hard, his stuff is certainly good enough to close out games for the Orioles. The only question is whether Brandon Hyde would be willing to move him from his current left-handed specialist role.

Jacob Webb has had a fantastic start to the season. He has arguably been the Orioles’ best reliever thus far. He has pitched 16.1 innings this season with an ERA of just 1.65. He struck out a career-high 11.02 batters per nine innings this season, getting plenty of swings and misses inside the strike zone.

Although Webb is at the bottom of the league in pursuit rate, he still gets swings and misses regularly. It is in the 88th percentile in terms of odor percentage. Much of that can be attributed to his changeup, which has been remarkable this season. Webb has currently allowed just two hits in his changeup, while hitters swing and miss more than 37 percent of the time.

Jacob Webb, Adley Rutschman

Webb recorded two big saves recently, one against the Yankees and one Wednesday night against the Nationals as an extra. With his ability to get swings and misses and limit baserunners (15 baserunners in 16.1 innings), Webb could be a viable closing option for Hyde.

Although Brandon Hyde said they were going to stick closer to Kimbrel, another bad outing from him could lead to a change. Look for these three relievers in the mix if that time comes.