Could Huascar Ynoa be an answer to the Braves bullpen woes when he returns?

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As I wrote recently, the Braves aren’t losing because of one singular problem. They have lost games because of their offense, missing players, and managerial decisions, but above all, it’s been their bullpen, which has been among the worst in the majors this season. After the debacle against the Phillies, which saw the bullpen give up four runs in two-plus innings of work after Ian Anderson tossed seven scoreless frames, the Braves now have the fourth-worst bullpen in baseball based on ERA, posting a 4.86-mark. Shane Greene might help that, and the group as a whole is probably due for some positive regression, but they still need help, and the trade deadline is a ways away.

Unfortunately, Huascar Ynoa likely won’t be back for a bit, either. He broke his hand idiotically punching the dugout after his worst start of the season against the Brewers. The diagnosis is that he would miss at least a couple of months, which means he will probably return around early August at the earliest. The Braves could slot him back into the rotation, where he was thriving, but it’s possible he could be more valuable out of the bullpen.

Despite everything that’s gone wrong for the Braves, the rotation has been one of the bright spots. After shaky starts, Max Fried and Charlie Morton have been lights out as of late. Ian Anderson has picked up right where he left off in 2020, and Tucker Davidson looks like he could be the next staple of Atlanta’s rotation. The fifth starter spot is up in the air. I’m on the record saying it’s time to end the Drew Smyly experiment — at least as a starter. However, I do think Bryse Wilson is up for the challenge, especially after his last two starts with the Braves, where he only allowed three earned runs over 12.2 innings.

If Wilson, Smyly, or even another pitcher like Kyle Wright, is up for the challenge, the Braves rotation will be just fine. On the other hand, the bullpen needs as many high-quality arms as they can get, and Ynoa profiles as somebody that could be an elite reliever. He has an elite two-pitch mix, which features a fastball that can touch triple digits and a wicked slider, leading to 35 strikeouts in just 44.2 innings.

Opponents have also had a challenging time scoring against Ynoa during his first time through the order. He sports a fantastic 2.00 ERA and has 21 strikeouts in such situations.

In the long-term, I firmly believe Ynoa could be a top-of-the-line starting pitcher, so I wouldn’t blame the Braves if they wanted to keep him on that path when he returns. However, I also believe he could be an elite late-inning reliever, and right now, that’s where this team needs him the most help. A lot of this may depend on how the Braves approach the trade deadline and where they are on the standings, given Ynoa won’t return until early August at the earliest, but he certainly could be

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