As Clint mentioned last week, the Braves are playing the numbers game when it comes to their bullpen. They have a solid foundation, but after that, they are throwing a lot of names at the wall and hoping a few stick. I believe it will work, but here are the guys who will be key in determining the unit’s success.
Jake talked about how Newcomb deserves another shot in the bullpen, and I have to agree. His days as a starting pitcher are over — at least in a Braves uniform they are — but he could still provide a lot of value in relief. Over his career, he has an even 3.00 ERA in 54 innings out of the bullpen.
No reason to beat around the bush: Sobotka has been awful over the past two seasons. After a marvelous stint in 2018 with the Braves, many thought he would be a key contributor to the ‘pen in 2019. Instead, he found himself back in Gwinnett after recording a 6.21 ERA over 29 innings. But as we know, relief pitching is extremely volatile; just look at Tyler Matzek and A.J. Minter. Sobotka still has a live arm, and if he can find his control, he could become a valuable piece to this club.
Webb is off to the best start a major-league reliever could possibly ask for. He posted a minuscule 1.39 ERA over 36 appearances to go along with a 4-0 record in 2019. Unfortunately, an arm injury kept him out for most of 2020, but he didn’t miss a beat when he returned, allowing no runs over ten innings. The Braves rightfully should be counting on him next season. Webb currently has a career ERA of 1.06.
Ynoa was used as a starter and a reliever last season without much success, but the stuff is why the Braves have given him so many opportunities, and there were several times last year where he appeared to be making strides. Ynoa’s still only 22, so who knows what kind of role he could play this upcoming season.
Ah, Braves Country’s favorite punching bag. I’ve been one of Jackson’s biggest advocates over his career; he saved the Braves ass in 2019 and was easily the most valuable reliever on the team. However, he was downright abysmal in 2020. Who knows what the Braves will get next season, but it would be awesome to see him revert to his 2019 form. The Braves desperately need another high-quality right-handed option in their bullpen.
A.J. Minter/Tyler Matzek
Switching gears here a bit; these were two guys that were downright fantastic all of 2020, and by moving on from Greene and Melancon, the Braves are showing just much faith they have in Minter and Matzek. However, their track records are still super shaky. Atlanta desperately needs these guys to perform, but it would be foolish to expect both of them to repeat their performances from last season.
I lumped these three together because they are all veterans that could bounce-back from forgetful 2020s. Arano has been stellar over his brief MLB career, but injuries have limited him to just 4 2/3 innings since 2019. Jones and Edwards Jr. have also had plenty of big-league success, but each could not find a groove last season. My bet is at least one of these arms, if not multiple, end up playing a significant role for the Braves next season.
Once a top-prospect, Toussaint just has not found it yet at the big-league level. Because of his stuff, it’s still too early to give up on him, but I’m not sure how many more opportunities the Braves can give him before they decide to move on.
Due to the potential these two still possess as starting pitchers, the Braves may opt to keep them in Gwinnett when they are not part of Atlanta’s rotation. However, if they both want to play a role in bringing home the Commissioner’s Trophy, contributing out of the bullpen is probably their best option.