The Braves bullpen has been a weak link all season long. Although the Braves actually do have some very talented arms, the good has outweighed the bad. With the team being in rebuild mode, the front office has been hesitant to give up assets for quality bullpen arms, which is justified. After all, they have bullpen arms projected to come in in waves for years. In recent weeks, the Braves first wave of bullpen arms has outperformed the lackluster regulars from 2017.
This wave includes Dan Winkler, Matt Wisler and A.J. Minter.
Winkler impressed in limited action before being sidelined with a fractured elbow in early 2016 but has rebounded and impressed since rejoining the team. He was acquired via the Rule 5 Draft and is a former Pitcher of the Year in the Rockies organization.
The jury is still out of Matt Wisler, but he performed well out of the Braves bullpen in August after making the full-time switch to reliever, giving up just one run in seven innings of work. He is still a former top prospect, and not all pitchers stick as starters. Wisler still has good “stuff” and has one more month to prove he is worth a bullpen spot for 2018.
AJ Minter could be the clsoer of the future for the Braves. He is arguably their best relief prospect and absolutely flew through the minor league system. He has impressed with the big league club.
All three of these guys have outperformed the likes of Rex Brothers, Luke Jackson, Ian Krol, and Jim Johnson. When taking into consideration that youngsters Jason Hursh and Akeel Morris are ready to contribute as well, it seems as if a bullpen purge could be imminent. The Braves could really benefit from addition by subtraction. The team may see if Jim Johnson will rebound in the last season of his deal, but that could prove to be a mistake. Former pitching coach Roger McDowell played a huge part in resurecting Johnson’s career, but he has proven to be ineffective between a stint with the Dodgers in 2015 and this season without him. Brothers, Jackson and Krol likely belong down in the minors. Nobody will lose any sleep if they are no longer in the organization come April.
If the Braves plan on taking the next step in 2018, cutting the “fat” must be done. They currently just have too many weak links at their disposal.