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Can Pirates rookie Arquimedes Caminero be a closer?

Arquimedes Caminero
Arquimedes Caminero
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Yesterday we looked at Seattle Mariners rookie Carson Smith and asked if he could be a big league closer eventually (the answer was yes). The question was prompted by the Miami Marlins looking far and wide for a closer after incumbent Steve Cishek lost the job. As mentioned yesterday, they are trying some internal candidates by committee first (Michael Dunn, Bryan Morris, A.J. Ramos) but none of those guys look like obvious long-term solutions. Searches on the trade and/or free agent markets are underway.

Back in February 2015, the Marlins sold rookie right-hander Arquimedes Caminero to the Pittsburgh Pirates. This is unfortunate for the Marlins because Caminero would have been another interesting internal option in the search for relief help. Caminero was a Marlin for a decade, signed back in 2005 out of the Dominican Republic.

The early part of his career was slowed by serious command issues and injuries including elbow surgery that cost him all of 2011. Once healthy he took rapid steps forward and reached the majors in 2013, with a good early run throw the Show (2.77 ERA, 12/3 K/BB in 13 innings) making him look like a key part of the pen going forward. However 2014 was much less successful (4.86 ERA in Triple-A, 10.80 in the majors) and he fell out of Miami's plans.

As noted above the Pirates picked him up. He's done OK so far, better than OK actually, with a 17/4 K/BB in 15 innings, a 4.20 ERA. His FIP and xFIP are much more impressive at 2.74 and 2.99 respectively so the ERA is a bit misleading right now.

Caminero certainly has classic bullpen stuff: his heater averages 96 MPH and has been clocked as high as 101 by PITCHf/x. Add in a slider and a few curves and changes and you have an overpowering pitcher.

The results have not always been there, of course, and after his troubles last year it is understandable why the Marlins felt he was expendable.

The Pirates saw a diamond in the rough and turned it over to noted jeweler and pitching coach Ray Searage. The change of scenery, a new coaching staff, a mental adjustment suggested by Searage, plus some mechanical tweaks have made all the difference. As Jeff Sullivan noted for Fangraphs back in April, Caminero is actually throwing harder now while showing better command at the same time.

It is still early in the season and we'll have to see if the changes stick, but right now Caminero certainly looks like someone with the stuff and command to close at some point. I wonder if the Marlins would like him back.