Bullpen Help is Coming to Atlanta

Posted on Jun 30 2015 - 1:36pm by Harrison Coburn

The Braves’ bullpen woes are still a subject of concern, but they have been better the last couple weeks. The unit has had more success as a whole. Jim Johnson has not given up an earned run since June 8th. Jason Grilli is good for 4th in Saves in the NL. David Aardsma has also been great since joining the Braves’ bullpen.

However, it’s still an issue the team has to address if they plan on competing this season. Luckily reinforcements are on the way.

One guy I’m excited to see back with the team is Arodys Vizcaino, who was suspended 80 games for PED use. He’s eligible to return this week. If he can keep up the way he has been pitching in his rehab starts, the Braves could be getting a huge boost from the prospect they have traded for twice. Vizcaino’s fastball touches the upper 90’s, and he has given up just a single run in five rehab appearances in the minors, in which he issued no walks and has tossed nine strikeouts. This is a small sample size, and Vizcaino is far from a proven Major League commodity, but I’m going to bank on the potential of our 12th ranked prospect. I see Vizcaino as a late inning option for the Braves in the future, and his 80 game suspension may have been a blessing in disguise, as he has had months of rest for his surgically repaired arm.

Manny Banuelos has been lights out for AAA Gwinnett this season, and he is making his MLB Debut Thursday against the Nationals. However, it looks like he won’t be starting many games for Atlanta:

Like Vizcaino, Banuelos was acquired as “damaged goods” and has an innings limit set. Banuelos could prove to be a valuable member of our bullpen, and with a solid performance he could receive consideration for a starting spot next season. Banuelos has a 2.29 ERA in 15 starts for AAA Gwinnett, and is proving why he was once one of the most highly touted prospects in the game prior to injury. Lefties are hitting .309 this season against Luis Avilan, and though he leads the MLB in appearances for a reliever, his job could be in jeopardy if Banuelos and Andrew McKirahan are both effective as lefties out of the pen, especially since McKirahan is a Rule 5 pick. We saw James Russell’s stint with the Braves come to a short end due to his misfortune against left-handed hitters.

Ryan Kelly and Jake Brigham are minor leaguers that received callups from the Braves this weekend. One of them will likely be sent back down for Banuelos’ start Thursday, but both have had nice seasons in the farm system and could be contributors out of the bullpen. Kelly has an insane 1.15 ERA in 27  appearances between Mississippi and Gwinnett, and Brigham has had success as a starter.

Things are starting to come together for the bullpen, and their options are expanding. Andrew McKirahan’s return is not too far away, and Chris Withrow could be a nice late season addition as well.

It’s becoming a manageable situation in Atlanta.

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