Braves: Three relievers in Gwinnett could soon become major league contributors

MLB: AUG 27 Braves at Blue Jays

Given the Braves lost Spencer Strider for the season after essentially just one start, the pitching staff has been far better than anybody could have expected. Every single pitcher in Atlanta’s current starting rotation has an ERA+ of 103 or better and the highest FIP among the group is 3.64. The bullpen has also been just as effective, with six of eight relievers boasting an ERA of 3.00 or less. Even without Strider, this one of the of the deepest staffs in the entire league, and it has the potential to get even better as the season progresses.

Prior to Opening Day, the Braves optioned a multitude of pitchers to Gwinnett that would have made 90% of MLB rosters. The most notable of the bunch was former star closer Ken Giles. The right-hander looked very promising during Spring Training. So much so, I thought he had a very good chance at making the Opening Day roster, but for roster purposes, it made more sense to start him in Gwinnett. Through nine appearances for the Stripers this season, Giles owns a 2.70 ERA with 13 strikeouts over 10 innings. He’s ready at a moment’s notice whenever the Braves need him.

Ray Kerr is another intriguing arm the Braves acquired this offseason. He’s had his fair share of issues with traffic on the basepaths, but the 29-year-old has some filthy stuff from the left side. For the Padres last season, he recorded an 11.7 K/9 over 22 appearances, and he has 22 strikeouts in just 14 innings this season for the Stripers. If Matzek and Aaron Bummer continue to struggle, Kerr could be next in line for an opportunity.

But perhaps the most exciting arm of them all is Daysbel Hernandez, who made his debut for the Braves last season and impressed. Again, this is a guy who would have been on the Opening Day roster for probably every other team across the league. He’s a strikeout maestro that is only 27-years-old. Hernandez could eventually become a staple of the Braves relief core, ¬†and he’s off to a fast start in Gwinnett, boasting a 2.45 ERA with 12 strikeouts over 11 innings. By the end of the season, I would be surprised if Hernandez wasn’t in Atlanta to stay.

The Braves have had a lot of problems with their pitching depth in recent years. Alex Anthopoulos recognized that and overkilled the issue this past winter, acquiring a number of versatile weapons. The depth of this group is second to none, which is really going to help this team over the grueling summer months and into the fall.

Photo: Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire

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