Alex Anthopoulos’ diamonds in the rough thriving in Braves bullpen

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The Braves boast one of the most well-rounded rosters in baseball.

The lineup is deep and potent from 1-9. Ronald Acuna Jr. sets the table, reaching base more than 40% of the time while leading the league in steals. Matt Olson‘s 11 home runs are one off from the MLB lead; Sean Murphy has come as advertised… and then some. The former A’s backstop is a legit MVP candidate in Atlanta. And it seems the baseball world forgot about Ozzie Albies, but he’s reminding everyone he’s arguably the best second baseman in the sport.

The starting rotation featured two Cy Young candidates in Max Fried and Spencer Strider; unfortunately, the former finds himself on the IL, dealing with a strained forearm. Even without Kyle Wright, this is still a formidable group with Charlie Morton and Bryce Elder. The staff has gone without Wright for much of the year, and Fried missed several weeks with a tweaked hamstring. This group will be just fine.

Then, there’s the bullpen, which has performed well despite missing two of its most essential arms for a lot of the season — Colin McHugh and Raisel Iglesias. The group owns the 10th-best ERA (3.59) in the MLB while accruing 1.9 fWAR, good for 5th in baseball. It’s because of the under-the-radar additions — Alex Anthopuolos’ diamonds in the rough.

Kirby Yates and Michael Tonkin are two less notable pieces of an outstanding relief core. The former is entering the second season of a two-year deal and is looking much more like the All-Star from San Diego. Yates owns a 2.84 ERA with a 12.08 K/9 across 12.2 innings. He needs to limit his walks, but he’s been an excellent contributor thus far and looks to only be getting better each time out.

Tonkin has been far more unexpected, though. The Braves signed him to a minor league deal, which I assumed would be more of a depth move. After all, he hadn’t played in the MLB since 2017 and boasts a career 4.43 ERA across 146.1 innings. However, like many others, Tonkin has found something in Atlanta. He’s sporting some of the best numbers of his career, including his 1.89 ERA and 0.579 WHIP.

And what’s even crazier? Neither has been performing better than Nick Anderson. The former Tampa Bay Ray signed a non-guaranteed deal this offseason and has accumulated more fWAR (0.6) than any other member of the Braves bullpen. The injury is behind him, and he looks like his old self, boasting an 11.0 K/9, 0.61 BB/9, and 1.96 FIP.

Alex Anthopoulos finds at least a few diamonds in the rough that go above and beyond expectations every season. All three of these guys are stepping up for Atlanta’s relief.

John Adams/Icon Sportswire

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