The Braves bullpen has been one of the better units in the league this season. Contrary to popular belief, Atlanta is not the only team to blow leads late in games. It happens across the league on a daily basis, and the Braves have been arguably the best at preventing it. However, there are some holes beginning to shine through at the worst possible time, particularly when it comes to middle relief.
The top 5-6 guys have been ultra reliable all season. Michael Tonkin has also been a valuable long reliever, capable of eating multiple innings, but after that, there are questions. Collin McHugh was recently placed on the IL, and his season may be finished. Dylan Lee hasn’t looked the same since returning from injury, and he was also added to the IL with the same shoulder injury that kept him out three months. Both of them now are long shots to be included on the Braves postseason roster.
The hope is that Jesse Chavez will return from injury in time to have an impact. He has begun his rehab assignment with the Gwinnett Stripers, but who knows what to expect after such a long layoff at the age of 40-years-old.
What once looked like the deepest relief core in baseball is now showing some kinks in the armor. The Braves do have options, not all of which are inspiring, making it that much more important for Alex Anthopoulos to include the correct players on the postseason roster.
Here is how I see it shaking out as of today:
- Raisel Iglesias
- A.J. Minter
- Joe Jimenez
- Pierce Johnson
- Kirby Yates
- Michael Tonkin
- Kyle Wright
- Jesse Chavez
- Brad Hand
This group continues to change, and that probably won’t stop until we reach the end of the season. I’ve notably included Kyle Wright. With Collin McHugh and Dylan Lee on the IL, the Braves need another guy in their bullpen that can give the team some length if a starter is unable. I also included Jesse Chavez, who tossed 24 pitches for Gwinnett Tuesday night. He’s already as stretched out as he needs to be, and it shouldn’t be long before he’s back with the major-league club.
The final spot I gave to Brad Hand. In my opinion, he solidified his spot with his performance against the Phillies. The Braves need another lefty reliever with Dylan Lee out of the picture, and Hand is dominant against left-handed bats.
When it comes to the Braves bullpen, the circle of trust has certainly begun to dwindle. However, that could change if Kyle Wright can show some progress over his final few outings and Jesse Chavez returns from injury. Despite the Braves clinching the division with 16 games remaining, these next few weeks will be critical in deciding who will be on the roster come October.
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire