Any hope of this team competing went out the window after the All-Star break. The young group of no-name players had actually put together a promising season through 80 games before the wheels fell off due numerous injuries, trades and one of the worst bullpens in MLB history. There has been a lot of individual disappointment. Julio Teheran struggled throughout most of the year (though h e has really come on in recent weeks). Christian Bethancourt had a short-lived 2015 in the majors, as he was demoted due to poor play and attitude. And of course, there has to be honorable mention to all the dismal bullpen arms the Braves have gone through this season (to be nice their names will not be printed). However, despite the bad there have been a few outliers that have stepped it up in 2015.
Shelby Miller has been one of the best pitchers in the majors this season, although his 5-10 record might not show it. Miller has showcased his abilities every time he has stepped on the mound this season. He has continually pounded the strike zone with high 90’s fastballs and has flirted with a no-hitter twice this season. Miller’s current 2.50 ERA ranks sixth in the MLB. The Braves acquired Miller in the deal that sent Jason Heyward to the Cardinals. Heyward was a fan favorite, but Atlanta fans have more than welcomed their new star, Shelby Miller. He is the ace Atlanta has needed for years.
Despite all the bullpen struggles, there has been one spot that the Braves have been able to consistently rely on. The closer role for the Braves this season has been on lock. Jason Grilli was the Braves’ opening day closer. At 38, Grilli was not expected to be anything spectacular, but he was fantastic for the Braves. In 26 tries he saved 24 games. It may have not always been the prettiest inning, but bottom line, Grilli got the job done before suffering a horrific Achilles injury against the Rockies. Jim Johnson temporarily held the closer role and also did well before departing to Los Angeles. When Johnson left, in stepped the 24-year old Arodys Vizcaino. The fireballer was re-acquired by the Braves this offseason and has been electric for the Braves since returning from an 80-game PED suspension. In 18.2 innings pitched, Vizcaino has a jaw dropping 0.48 ERA and his 5 for 5 in save opportunities. The future Braves closer is Arodys Vizcaino, and this only makes the Craig Kimbrel trade look that much more genius.
Speaking of that infamous Craig Kimbrel trade, the Braves got another impact player in that deal that seemingly came out of nowhere. Cameron Maybin was thrown into the deal likely to offset the money sent over by the Braves in Melvin Upton Jr.’s contract. Maybin had been around the league after once being a top prospect. However, still young at 28, Maybin bought into Kevin Seitzer’s hitting approach and took his game to the next level. Maybin currently is hitting .278 with 10 homers and 52 RBIs. He is also playing spectacular defense in center field for Atlanta. Maybin is under team control for two more season and is another reason why the Craig Kimbrel trade was the best of last offseason.
It is hard to believe the Braves let guys like Trevor Cahill and Eric Stults take the mound for them at the beginning of the year. The two veteran projects panned out miserably for the Braves, and as a result, the Braves delved into their farm system and called up some of their top prospects to take over. Matt Wisler has definitely had his ups and downs, but has had some terrific outings and has shown he has the ability to pitch in the major leagues. His 5.43 ERA may look bad, but at 22-years old his future looks bright in a Braves uniform. On the other hand, Manny Banuelos has been stellar and his numbers reflect as well. In his 4 starts, he boasts a 2.49 ERA. He has had an injury filled career, but if he can stay healthy, he looks to hold down the left-handed spot in the rotation for the Braves.
The season has not been full of many bright spots. In fact, it has significantly lacked them. Even the supposed stars Freddie Freeman and Andrelton Simmons have turned in sort of lackluster seasons by their standards. On paper the numbers are not too shabby, but for two guys expected to lead the team, those numbers are simply not good enough. The future of the Braves will rely a lot on their arms to get the job done, but these young pitchers are going to have to grow up fast.