Braves: Jacob Webb ready for big role

webb jacob 2020

Last time Braves fans saw Jacob Webb he got hammered for three earned runs in a single inning during a Game 5 loss to the Dodgers in last fall’s NLCS. That was certainly a forgettable outing, but pretty much all of his prior big-league work is worth remembering, as Webb is positioned to assume an important bullpen role in 2021 with the way the roster currently stands.

Webb made his MLB debut on April 16, 2019 and quickly showed he was ready for the show. The hard-throwing righty did not surrender an earned run over his first nine outings, holding the opposition to a .174 average while striking out eight across 6.2 innings in that span. He held that impressive form until a season-ending elbow injury struck in mid-July. 

When Webb’s 2019 campaign was suddenly halted after 36 appearances for the Braves, his stat line included an impressive 1.39 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 7.8 K/9. He even added a couple of saves to his rookie resume.

It looked as if the long-delayed start to the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic would allow Webb to be fully ready to roll by Opening Day. However, a shoulder injury put a fork in that plan. It would not be until early-September when Webb was finally able to contribute last year; and contribute he did.

Down the stretch en route to a third straight division title for the Braves, Webb allowed only two runs (zero earned) on seven hits and five walks while striking out 10 across 10.0 innings. He deservingly received a spot on the postseason roster. We already know that October did not necessarily go so well, but Webb has earned the benefit of the doubt.

What will Webb’s role actually be during the upcoming season? With proven veterans like Will Smith and Chris Martin as well as fireballers A.J. Minter and Tyler Matzek currently in place for the Braves bullpen, Webb seems destined for middle-relief deployment, at least at the outset. 

With his three-pitch arsenal, which includes a mid-90s heater, Webb posted a stellar 14.6% swinging-strike rate and 60.0% groundball rate in 2020. Of course, those stats were achieved in a small sample and will probably regress a bit over a longer haul. Be that as it may, they should still inspire plenty of confidence in the 27-year-old hurler. 

Of his penmates mentioned above, only Martin is a fellow righty. That could open the door a little wider for Webb to see high-leverage opportunities should he ultimately end up as the No. 2 righty reliever for Manager Brian Snitker

Mark Melancon, Shane Greene, and Darren O’Day were all integral parts of the bullpen for the Braves last year. Each of the trio of right-handers are still wading in the free-agent waters. Will the team pursue a reunion with one or more of them? Is the front office eyeing any of the other remaining late-inning arms on the market as some reports suggestHow much trust the Braves are ready to place in Webb could significantly impact the answers to those questions. 

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