Blake Treinen developed into a true late-inning arm in 2016 after an up-and-down performance in his first two years in the league, leading the Nationals' bullpen with 67 innings while posting a 2.28 ERA. His main step forward was that he was simply adequate against left-handers, yielding a league-average .737 OPS to lefties in 2016 compared to an awful .934 in 2015. Treinen is a classic sinker-slider type of pitcher, with both pitches coming in extremely hard. He tops out at around 97 mph, but that hasn't translated into elite strikeout numbers yet (he posted an above-average 24 percent strikeout rate last season). Instead, he lives on the ground, having improved his groundball rate in every season of his MLB career. His 65.9 percent mark was second to only Zach Britton among pitchers with at least 60 innings in 2016. Treinen is likely to again fill a setup role in 2017 alongside Shawn Kelley and Sammy Solis.
Treinen allowed one hit and struck out two while working the ninth inning in Thursday's Grapefruit League game against the Mets. He's been somewhat overshadowed in camp by the attention given to Koda Glover, but Treinen has been outstanding in his own right, posting a 0.00 ERA and 8:0 K:BB in four innings. In fact, Thursday's hit was the first baserunner he'd given up in Grapefruit League action this spring. The Nats have yet to give a hint as to who will be their closer to begin the season, but Treinen remains firmly in the conversation.
Treinen remains among the favorites to win the Nationals closer job this spring, Jamal Collier of MLB.com reports. The righty with the bowling-ball sinker has looked very good through his first two Grapefruit League appearances, striking out four in two innings without allowing a baserunner. If Treinen does emerge with the job, he won't have to share it -- manager Dusty Baker made it clear Monday that he won't be using a committee to close games. Treinen's main competition comes from Shawn Kelley, although recent signee Joe Blanton and young Koda Glover may also get a look, and a trade to bring in a name-brand closer before Opening Day is also possible. Don't expect much clarity on the Nats closer situation until near the end of spring training, though.
Treinen tossed a scoreless inning with two strikeouts in his Grapefruit League debut Thursday. The Nats' addition of Joe Blanton to the bullpen seemingly impacts Treinen less than Shawn Kelley, unless Blanton is added to the mix of possible ninth-inning options by manager Dusty Baker. The battle to open the season as the Nats' closer appears to be a four-man competition between Treinen, Kelley, Koda Glover, and Joe Nathan.
Treinen will be in the mix for the Nationals' closing job in spring training, The Washington Post reports. Nats manager Dusty Baker may prefer to give the spot to someone with more experience, but Treinen improved his numbers against left-handed hitters in 2016 while also looking sharp in high-leverage situations, holding opponents to a tiny .128/.261/.154 line. The 28-year-old should have a prominent late-inning role whether he closes or not, though, making him a safer pick in fantasy formats that use saves plus holds as a category rather than just pure saves.
Treinen could head into spring training as the favorite for the Nationals' closer job if they aren't able to bring in an established option this offseason, The Washington Post reports. Experienced closers like Kenley Jansen and Greg Holland are still available as free agents, but if GM Mike Rizzo doesn't bring in anyone from outside the organization, Treinen would be among the top options for ninth-inning duties along with Koda Glover, Shawn Kelley and Sammy Solis. Treinen's never has a K/9 rate over 9.0 in his brief MLB career, so he wouldn't be a typical choice, but he posted a career-best ERA and WHIP in 2016 and his heavy mid-90s sinker can generate plenty of ground balls, much as Mark Melancon's cutter did for the Nats at the end of last season.