Simion Jonker - Closer
Wicked, wicked stuff, but a stats line worthy of a minor league arm. Jonker was a free-agent signing from Oakton prior to the 2020 season after putting together a solid year for the Axemen in the bullpen following an unsuccessful stint as a starter.
Jonker was a solid presence in the pen, but Coyotes fans will always think of Jonker in the closer's role. When he took the ball in save situations, Jonker seemed to shift into another level. His stuff was outstanding and his conversion rate in 2022-23 was 49/55 (89%). It's hard to blame Jonker for the team giving him so few opportunities, but his performance in non-save situations drove both managers and fans to distraction. While wins and losses can be a highly misleading statistic for any pitcher, Jonker's 12 losses in 2023 and five (through half a season) in 2024 illustrates the problem. Jonker's ERA before getting the closer job was 2.02 (2020) and 2.85 (2021), but ballooned to 3.20 (2022) and 3.59 (2023) when he landed the role. Before the start of the 2024 season Jonker was demanding a trade and Cottonwood, in the midst of a 10-year rebuilding program, promised to honor that request. Jonker sulked through the start of the 2024 season with a 4.55 ERA and a 1.58 WHIP, pretty much destroying his chances of landing on a contender. Hood River offered Cottonwood a pitching prospect and the ink was dry on the deal within an hour.
What we'll remember: Jonker on the mound in a save situation. Two strikes on the batter. Everyone in the stadium know what was coming, including the batter. Jonker's change-up was all but unhittable and the almost inevitable swing and miss would make the crowd explode.
Good/bad/indifferent: One can't help but wonder how good Jonker would be on an elite team, but as GM Jeff Grossman said at the time of the deal, "a closer is an expensive luxury on a bad team." Most Cottonwood fans will probably agree that signing Jonker was the right move at the wrong time. With a line-up requiring a complete overhaul and a starting pitching staff that has struggled to struggle, the loss of Jonker leaves us with a feeling of indifference.