A lot has changed since Shae Simmons last threw a big league pitch. Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, and Craig Kimbrel were still Braves. The team had just come off another disappointing season with a roster that should have yielded more victories. Now rehabbing from Tommy John Surgery, Simmons returns in the midst of an all-out rebuild.
In three innings of relief in the minors, the righty already has seven strikeouts. The Braves once again have one of the worst bullpens in baseball, and can use any help they can get. Simmons can not only help, but can carve himself a nice role with the recent struggles of Jason Grilli.
In 21.2 innings of work for the big league club in 2014, Simmons tossed 23 strikeouts en route to a 2.91 ERA as a rookie. If he can maintain this production or improve he could be the next premier setup man for the club. He is under team control until 2020. He compiled a career 1.71 ERA in the minors, while maintaining a 13.4 K/9 rate. That is pretty incredible.
One would think that the team will bring back Simmons within the next couple weeks to help bolster the bullpen unit. They likely will keep Jason Grilli around to see if he can regain his form, but a player like Eric O’ Flaherty could find his job in jeopardy. The team is currently carrying three lefties, with Hunter Cervenka being the most effective and Ian Krol under team control past this season.
It will be an interesting development to watch and see if Simmons can become an effective late innings option. If so, he and Arodys Vizcaino could be the foundation for a bullpen of a team that will certainly be competitive by the time their contracts expire. It’s great to see him not have to fight through many lumps as he returns from surgery. It is a small sample size to this point, but enough to gather optimism.