Braves 2023 Spring Training Predictions: Battle for the Bullpen

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This continues my series of Braves Spring Training Predictions. If you missed the two previous editions of this series, follow the links below.

Braves Battle for the Bullpen

The Braves bullpen will once again be a strength for this team, even after Kenley Jansen departed for the Red Sox this offseason. The Braves essentially replaced Jansen by trading for Joe Jiménez, who may not be a closer but should provide similar production as a set-up option. As things stand now, here are the four players I consider absolute locks to make the Opening Day roster.

  1. Raisel Iglesias
  2. A.J. Minter
  3. Joe Jiménez
  4. Collin McHugh

I believe four spots will be decided during Spring Training, even if some guys have their foot in the door more than others. This will be an open competition, and the Braves have nine legitimate options that could fill those final four openings.

Let’s start with Lucas Luetge, a soon-to-be 36-year-old that the Braves acquired via trade from the Yankees this offseason. I think he’ll end up winning one of those spots. He doesn’t throw hard or strike a lot of batters out, but he’s a maestro at inducing soft contact and was fantastic over his last two seasons in New York, recording a 2.71 ERA over 129.2 innings.

Dylan Lee is another lefty I think will make the Opening Day roster. He has options remaining, so the Braves could opt to stash him in AAA, but given where this team’s at, they should be trying to win every game from day one. Lee was spectacular for the Braves in 2022, posting a 2.13 ERA. Unless he has a dreadful Spring Training, he should end up on the roster come Opening Day.

The final two spots in the bullpen will come down to five guys — Nick Anderson, Jesse Chavez, Kirby Yates, Dennis Santana, and Jackson Stephens. Frankly, all of these players deserve to be on a major-league roster, but only two can do so with the Braves.

Because of the financial commitment Atlanta has already committed to Yates and his upside, I think he’ll be included on the Opening Day roster. It’s not a slam dunk, but with a solid Spring Training, I don’t see the Braves moving on from him before the season even starts.

That leaves one more spot, which I have Nick Anderson earning. Santana, Chavez, and Stephens are all high-quality relievers, but none of them possess the upside of a player like Anderson. This is more of a shot in the dark because he hasn’t been healthy since 2020, but when he’s right, Anderson posted a 2.89 ERA and 14.1 K/9 over 87.1 career innings. He has the potential to be a weapon out of Atlanta’s bullpen, which is why he’s a player I will be keeping a close eye on throughout Spring Training.

Braves 2023 Opening Day Bullpen

  1. Raisel Iglesias
  2. A.J. Minter
  3. Joe Jiménez
  4. Collin McHugh
  5. Dylan Lee
  6. Lucas Luetge
  7. Kirby Yates
  8. Nick Anderson

Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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