Alex Anthopoulos may have a secret weapon in the Gwinnett bullpen

Alex Anthopoulos trade deadline

The Braves may need some help in their bullpen. They are currently in the middle of the pack in terms of bullpen ERA, but a few injuries have hampered them early in the season. However, they may not have to look very far for support.

Yacksel Ríos has been a journeyman for most of his career, with stops in Pittsburgh, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Boston, and most recently, the Southside of Chicago with the White Sox. His career began in Philadelphia when he was drafted by the Phillies in the 12th round of the 2011 Draft out of Puerto Rico. Despite his long career, he’s only 29 years old. He has had limited success in the majors over his career, but he has had a few stretches of dominance in AAA. Right now, he’s one of the best pitchers in the International League — currently tied for second in saves with seven over 17 appearances.

The Braves inked Ríos to a minor league deal on January 6th of 2023, and it mostly went under-the-radar. However, Alex Anthopoulos has been known to make chicken salad out of chicken scratch, and Ríos could be his next great reclamation project. Right now, his numbers are eye popping:

Yacksel Ríos (2023 AAA): 20.2 IP, 26 K, 0.87 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, 2.10 FIP

His FIP indicates he may be due for a small amount of regression, but he has still been very impressive this season. His pitch breakdown as of May 17th shows a pretty quality mix for a reliever:

57% 4-Seam: 96 mph, 2111 rpm, 27% Whiff

18% Slider: 87 mph, 2161 rpm, 41% Whiff

13% Splitter: 87 mph, 1452 rpm, 33.5% Whiff

12% Sinker: 97 mph, 2201 rpm, 38% Whiff

The sinker is what’s really catching my eye here. That’s a tough pitch to hit, no matter what level of baseball you’re playing. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Ríos get a chance in Atlanta sooner rather than later, even if he hasn’t had a ton of success in the majors. The last time we saw him in the bigs, he posted a 3.70 ERA for the Red Sox over 24.1 innings pitched. If another injury happens or the Braves continue to have struggles in the bullpen, don’t be shocked if they see what Yacksel Ríos can do. It might be something special.

Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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