Coming into the season, I never expected to say the Braves need another reliever, but right now, it’s apparent that they do.
The top of the group remains steady. Despite a couple of shaky outings of late, Kenley Jansen‘s peripherals suggest he will be just fine over the course of the season; A.J Minter has quickly become one of the best relief options in baseball, and Collin McHugh has rebounded very nicely following a forgetful start to the season. However, what made Atlanta’s bullpen so deadly on paper coming into April was its depth, and that’s quickly dissipated not even two months into the season.
Luke Jackson was lost for the year without ever throwing a pitch, and Tyler Matzek joined him on the IL a couple of weeks ago. Thankfully, no structural damage was found when evaluating Matzek, so I thought the Braves wouldn’t have much of an issue keeping things afloat and letting him rest for as long as possible. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
After the top guys, this bullpen has completely fallen off for the most part. Will Smith is back to being the Will Smith that can’t be relied on in high leverage situations. His 3.72 ERA may not look abysmal, but his 5.68 FIP paints the picture of why he shouldn’t be trusted with the game on the line. Unfortunately for Brian Snitker, he doesn’t have many other appealing choices right now.
Jesse Chavez hasn’t looked anything like the guy the Braves had last season, and it feels like age is finally catching up to Darren O’Day. Jackson Stephens and Dylan Lee are intriguing options that have had some success, but their lack of experience is worrisome when talking about high leverage situations at the end of games.
With Spencer Strider looking to join the rotation full-time, the Braves need some help in the bullpen. A healthy Tyler Matzek will go a long way in alleviating those concerns, but even that may not be enough, and there’s no guarantee he ever returns to the level he was at last season. Some other guys need to step up, and if they don’t, I wouldn’t be shocked if Alex Anthopoulos added a piece to this unit before the trade deadline, which is something I never expected I would say back in April.
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