- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
On the same day the Washington Nationals placed future star Stephen Strasburg on the disabled list, they also traded Matt Capps to the Minnesota Twins for catching prospect Wilson Ramos. Capps is having a slightly better statistical season than the current Twins closer, Jon Rauch, and it makes sense that he will supplant Rauch and inherit the role.
Yes, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire is a loyal guy, but Capps does possess a longer track record than Rauch for earning saves, and it's not as if Rauch has been a Twin for many years. Each of these average right-handers has allowed more hits than innings pitched, and neither is terribly overpowering. Capps has a 1.30 WHIP this season; Rauch's WHIP is 1.36. Both have four blown saves.
According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Capps will indeed be the closer ahead of Rauch. Even if that occurs, Capps isn't so safe that both pitchers can't receive save opportunities at some point. Ah, Twins fans must really miss all those years of dominant Joe Nathan ninth innings by now. Maybe next year.
With the Nationals, one would certainly expect youngster Drew Storen to become the closer, and obviously, that would make him a must-add in all leagues. Think the Nationals, despite lingering in last place, can't provide save chances? Capps was leading the National League in saves for a while, ultimately turning this piece of good fortune into an All-Star selection. Storen could pick up double-digit saves the rest of the way, and while I wouldn't call him a top-20 closer yet, remember this is the role he was drafted for. Storen was the organization's other first-round pick from the Strasburg draft, has yet to allow a home run and is dominating right-handed hitters (.159 batting average against, .445 OPS). Sure, he's struggling against lefties some, but he's clearly the organization's future closer, so let the future start now.
The Nationals could also turn to Tyler Clippard, but I doubt they will. He is one of the most highly owned middle relievers in fantasy baseball, mainly because he was fortunate to win seven games before mid-May. At the time, Clippard was thriving in ERA and strikeouts, and was right there with Ubaldo Jimenez among the league leaders in wins. Since mid-May, Clippard's performance hasn't been so special. His July ERA is 7.71. Expect him to continue to pitch the seventh/eighth innings.
Update: MLB.com's Bill Ladson reports via Twitter that the Nationals will go with a committee of Storen, Clippard and Sean Burnett for now. The smart money is still on Storen leading the Nationals in saves the rest of the way.
As for Ramos, a decent-hitting catching prospect who has been in trade rumors all season because Joe Mauer certainly isn't going anywhere, it's possible the Nationals will give him major league at-bats this season, as there's little blocking him. Ivan Rodriguez is hitting .164 in July, and he's not Gold Glove caliber anymore at this point.
More on Ramos from Jason Grey: Ramos has lost some of the luster off of his prospect status this season. He'd hit for average consistently as he moved up the ladder, but the 22-year-old was hitting just .241 at Triple-A, and hasn't been able to tone down his aggressiveness in the box, offering at pitches he can make contact with rather than ones he can drive too much. He has good hand-eye coordination and thinks he can get his bat on everything, which at times works to his detriment. He's hit five homers in 278 at-bats this year, but has good raw power and should hit for more pop as he matures, with the defensive chops to stick behind the plate. Still, Ramos is more a play in dynasty formats than for 2011, and gives the Nats another option as their future catcher given Jesus Flores has had a tough road in coming back from a torn labrum, and Derek Norris -- though still posting a good on-base percentage -- has struggled a bit in high Class A.
Eric Karabell says Matt Capps will get saves for the Twins, at the expense of Jon Rauch but helping Drew Storen.