One of the moves that might have caught some Braves fans off-guard was the trade of Kolby Allard for Chris Martin. Allard was a borderline top ten prospect in Atlanta’s farm system and a first-round pick just a few years ago. Martin has bounced back nicely in the bigs after a stint in Japan, but his track record was shaky, and he’s on an expiring contract. That’s a pretty hefty price tag for his services. However, it came down to two things: the Braves were desperate for relief help, and it was going to be challenging for Allard to ever crack Atlanta’s starting rotation.
Chris Martin has come to the Braves and been exactly what they needed, helping their bullpen turn into a weapon rather than a shot in the dark. In his last eleven appearances after a rough start, he has a 1.69 ERA and even an immaculate inning under his belt. The Braves were a patched up bullpen away from being legitimate World Series contenders, and they did what they had to do to make sure that was the case. Nobody can blame Alex Anthopoulos for that, but Kolby Allard has been a gem thus far for the Rangers.
In eight starts, Allard has put up a 4.25 ERA, but his 3.73 FIP suggests he has been a tad bit unlucky. His fWAR of 1.2 ties him at the top of pitchers that were traded at the deadline – that includes Zach Grienke, whose fWAR since being acquired by the Astros is also 1.2. Now, this could be a flash in the pan in a small sample size, but Fangraphs doesn’t see it that way. In their most recent article “Kolby Allard Has Been Quite the Find for the Rangers,” they explain why.
What stands out to me is Allard’s jump in velocity, which is what the Braves were waiting for while he was in their farm system. It never came to fruition in Atlanta, as he sat consistently in the 88-90 MPH range. When Allard was called up by the Rangers, that was the trend as well, until he reached his 100th fastball. Since then, he’s seen a spike in velocity, topping out at 94 and sitting around 92 on average. Fangraphs also attributed his newfound success to his cutter – which he recently developed – and has been his best pitch thus far against major league hitters.
So can Allard become a top of the rotation arm? I still find that far-fetched. He always seemed like a prospect that had a ceiling of a #3 starting pitcher, which are extremely valuable in the MLB. If that’s what he turns into, the Rangers will be more than pleased with the return. Anything extra is icing on the cake.
Braves fans should be happy for the success of one of their former farmhands, but if he turns into Jon Lester, they will look upon this with regret. Being in win-now mode; Atlanta needed another reliable arm in the back-end of their bullpen, and Martin has provided that as the pen is as stable as its been in years. And given all the young arms the Braves still have waiting in the wings, they should have plenty of firepower to fill their rotation for years to come.