The Braves bullpen is starting to take shape. Over the past ten days the unit has done a terrific job. Jim Johnson and Arodys Vizcaino have found their consistency. Most importantly, guys like Sam Freeman and Jose Ramirez have stepped up.
Though he has only made a handful of appearances to date,the other Freeman is currently an unsung hero for the Braves. The team’s two lefties they broke camp with, Eric O’Flaherty and Ian Krol, have been ineffective, and it is time to make some changes.
Eric O’Flaherty will always be a folk hero in Atlanta due to his dominant stint with the team from 2009-13. His second go around in Atlanta has not been pretty, as he has posted ERAs of 6.91, and 6.37 last season and this season, respectively. Though optimism grew when EOF looked sharp in spring following an arm procedure, it looks like this was false hope. His ERA this season is inflated by one bad outing, but it is worth questioning whether he belongs on a major league roster on this point.
Ian Krol has been a nightmare for the Braves, which is strange considering he was really the only effective lefty the team had last season. This has not been the case in 2017. Krol has gotten pounded by opposing hitters, and it seems like Brian Snitker arrogantly still throws him out there.
The team does have one effective lefty in Sam Freeman. Unfortunately, he is one of those “reverse splits” lefties who is really only effective against right handed batters. He deserves a shot in the bullpen, and has had some incredible big league seasons. But the Braves must find a lefty specialist who can take care of left-handed batters.
The move to cut Paco Rodriguez in spring training was a head scratcher, but he still does not have a job. So who should the Braves turn to?
The team could dip into their farm and make a deal happen, but it is highly unlikely they give up assets for a LOOGY. The Braves should turn to their internal options in Jesse Biddle and Michael Mader to fill the void in the bullpen.
Biddle is a former top prospect that the Braves claimed on waivers while recovering from injury. He has been terrific in his first season in the Braves organization. Though he is in AA, Biddle has a ton of major leauge experience and is 25-years old. The team should give this guy a shot.
His teammate Michael Mader is two years younger and has been even more effective out of the Mississippi bullpen. Acquired from the Marlins ironically for lefty Hunter Cervenka, the move to the ‘pen has been a smart move for Mader in 2017. Relievers work their way through the system faster than anyone, and hopefully this can be the case for Mader.
Realistically, it is highly unlikely that these guys could perform any worse than Krol and EOF have this season. Not having a guy who can get out a lefty in a tight spot is a recipe for disaster in today’s baseball. The Braves are finding this out the hard way.