Toiling away in lowly Kansas City, is in my mind, one of the best young closers in the league. Joakim Soria has been a tremendous player since being selected by the Royals in the Rule 5 Draft (from the Padres) in 2006. Nicknamed the "Mexicutioner" Soria is consistently very good day in and day out, and unless you play fantasy baseball, chances are you don't know who the hell he is.
Currently, Soria is 2nd in the MLB with 32 saves. He is 13 behind leader Fransisco Rodriguez (45), but the Royals have only won 53 games to the Angels 71. That puts both the Mexicutioner and K-Rod at saving just over 60% of their teams' games. However, Soria sports a 1.57 ERA (best among closers not named Joe Nathan or Mariano Rivera) and has thrown 3 more innings than K-Rod, with nearly half the ERA (1.57/2.40), almost half the WHIP (.75/1.20) and less than half the K's (11/28). Add in less wild pitches and less stolen bases and Soria has a tremendous stat-line running this season.
In my mind, he is easily in the top tier of the league's closers, along with Nathan, Brad Lidge, K-Rod, Mo Rivera, and Jon Papelbon. Rivera is well into the twilight of his career, despite his success this year, but is widely considered one the best closers of all-time. I see a lot of Mariano in Soria and think that as long as the Royals don't move him to the starting role, he will continue to prove those similarities correct. They are both cutter heavy pitchers who routinely make hitters look foolish, even though they know what's coming.
So a word to the wise, get on the bandwagon while there is still plenty of seating available. Get him on fantasy teams, watch his starts, anything you can. He truely is a hidden gem the common fan doesn't of, who deserves a lot more attention than he is getting. I've got the wonder if the Royals had any idea what they were getting when they picked up off the Padres trash pile in 2006...