When the Braves swung the trade this offseason that sent top prospect Justyn-Henry Malloy to the Tigers for relief pitcher Joe Jiménez, I was admittedly a little disappointed. I thought Malloy had a legitimate chance at becoming the team’s left fielder of the future, but I understood the decision-making behind it.
The Braves are in full throttle win-now mode. They don’t need to be concerned with prospects as much as other teams. The major-league roster is the top priority, and the bullpen needed another high-powered reliever following the departure of Kenley Jansen in free agency. However, the early returns on the Jiménez trade were very discouraging.
Jiménez came into the season hobbled, and the results painted the picture of a pitcher that was a shell of the guy he was in 2022 when he posted a 3.49 ERA, 2.00 FIP, and 12.2 K/9 for the Tigers. Brian Snitker stopped pitching him in high leverage situations and even went long stretches without using him at all. From May 29th to June 7th, Jiménez didn’t appear once. I’m not even sure he was with the team, but perhaps that time off was exactly what he needed to get going.
Since returning to the scene on June 8th, Jiménez has appeared four times over the last week, tossing five scoreless innings with a .063 batting average and .063 slugging against. He’s performed like the player the Braves thought they were getting when they traded for him, and his increased velocity of late is a primary reason for that.
Last season, Jiménez had an average fastball velocity of 95.7 MPH. To start this season, it was sitting around 93-94. That number has increased significantly as of late, peaking at an average of 96.1 MPH on June 12th against the Tigers.
It’s important to remember Jiménez was dealing with a lumbar strain in his back this offseason. It’s very possible he’s just now starting to feel normal, and the results are speaking for themselves. Jiménez is looking like a high leverage reliever again, which could be critical over the next few weeks with Jesse Chavez landing on the IL.
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