Braves bullpen is filled with high-upside arms

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The Braves are primed to boast one of the best bullpens in baseball. It has every kind of pitcher — hard-throwing, punch-out and soft contact-inducing guys.

Raisel Iglesias posted a 4.04 ERA in 35.2 innings with the Angels before the trade. Once he arrived in Atlanta, he was untouchable. Through 28 games with the Braves, Iglesias posted an eye-popping 0.34 ERA. A.J. Minter is coming off a season in which he posted a 2.06 ERA over 70 innings. He struck out over a third of the batters he faced and had a sub-1.000 WHIP. Collin McHugh had an impressive 2022 campaign too — 2.60 ERA with a 0.938 WHIP over 69.1 innings.

For most games, that will be the trio Brian Snitker turns to in the final three frames. But what makes this group so talented is the depth. Joe Jimenez and Lucas Luetge were acquired this offseason and are primed to be significant contributors.

Luetge had a 2.71 ERA for New York over the last two seasons and throws a baffling curveball. He also went more than an inning in 16 of his 50 appearances last year. The former Yankee isn’t some hard thrower; he’s closer to the type of pitcher McHugh is — one that induces a ton of soft contact. Jiménez is coming off a career year, posting a 3.49 ERA, and his 2.00 FIP suggests he’s in line for some positive regression.

Then, there are the arms of Dylan Lee, Jackson Stephens, and Jesse Chavez that have been critical to the Braves’ recent success. They aren’t high-leverage relievers but perform in their roles exceptionally. Moreover, there are the high upside arms of Kirby Yates, Nick Anderson and Dennis Santana.

The Braves acquired Santana from the Rangers in exchange for cash. He wasn’t the most high-profile acquisition this offseason. After all, he posted a horrid 5.22 ERA over 63 appearances with Texas in 2022. However, his 3.35 FIP suggests he’s in line for some positive regressive, which is even more apparent when looking at his Baseball Savant page

  • 87th percentile in Avg Exit Velocity
  • 85th percentile in HardHit%
  • 89th percentile in Barrell%
  • 79th percentile in xSLG

Injuries have limited Yates and Anderson. The latter has been limited to just six innings over the last two seasons due to a Tommy John surgery, but his career numbers are outstanding, boasting a 2.89 ERA and a ridiculous 14.1 K/9 over 87.1 innings. In 2020, Anderson was nasty for the Rays during their run to the World Series, posting a 0.55 ERA during the shortened regular season. He’s a low-risk, very high-upside piece of the bullpen.

A few years ago, Yates was arguably the best closer in baseball for the Padres. He recorded 41 saves with a 15.0 K/9 over 60 appearances and finished ninth in the NL Cy Young race. The Braves aren’t expecting him to be that same guy, but with a full and healthy offseason to prepare, there’s hope we can see glimpses of the pitcher he was in San Diego.

Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire
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