The Nationals have announced that closer Jonathan Papelbon has been placed on the DL with an intercostal strain, opening the door for Shawn Kelley to presumably take over the closer role. Kelley closed out the Cubs in an impressive 5 out save yesterday with Papelbon unavailable.
Checking Kelley's peripherals this year, he's been one of the best relievers in baseball and looks like a good bet to thrive in the closer role. Kelley has a 1.96 FIP, 9th best among qualified relievers. It comes with a 38.2% strikeout rate and 17.7% swinging strike rate, both 5th best. It's led to a 2.70 ERA, which is superior to Papelbon's 3.28 ERA. Kelley was also excellent last season, pitching to a 2.45 ERA and 2.57 FIP with a 31% strikeout rate over 53 games.
As a veteran who makes a lot of money, displacing a healthy Papelbon long term might be difficult, but Kelley has a shot to claim the closer's role for the rest of the year if he continues to pitch this well. Kelley has been about a half run better at preventing runs than Papelbon this year, and his many of peripherals are much stronger.
Regardless, in the meantime, Kelley appears to be an excellent pickup for saves in the short term while Papelbon is out, with upside for more long term if he can hang onto the job, either via injury or performance.