With the prices for starting pitching through the roof, the best way for Alex Anthopoulos to improve the Braves without risking the future was by loading up on bullpen arms. He did that by acquiring Chris Martin from Texas, Mark Melancon from San Francisco, and Shane Greene from Detroit. Overnight, the Braves bullpen goes from a horrendous mess to possibly the best in baseball.
Fans will no longer (hopefully) be holding their breath with a three-run lead in the seventh, eighth, or ninth. Instead, there should be many more of those patented Braves comebacks. Let’s take a look at how deep this group is going forward
Jeremy Walker– I’ve loved what I’ve seen in his three appearances as a Brave. The rookie has poise, and that sinker is no fluke. When we interviewed top prospect Drew Waters, he mentioned Walker as a teammate that was “eye-opening.” Fast forward a month, and he’s already in the majors. Walker doesn’t deserve to be sent down, but there’s no room for him right now.
AJ Minter– What I’m about to say doesn’t come from the mean piece in my heart (which is basically all of it); Minter will be sent down to make room, and under no circumstances, should he return to the major league level. The Braves have given him plenty of chances, and he’s proved time and time again that he is not ready. Minter needs to find himself in AAA and compete for a bullpen spot in 2020.
Chad Sobotka– Insert what I said above in regards to AJ Minter and put it right here as well.
Josh Tomlin– I know you’re thinking, “We only acquired three players. Why are we getting rid of four?” Well, Jacob Webb has begun his rehab assignment and is now in AAA Gwinnett. He will be ready soon and will have to take somebody’s spot. Tomlin has been reliable, and I want to keep him in Atlanta, but like Walker, there’s no room for him anymore.
Re-Shuffling the Old
Jerry Blevins– I swear sometimes I forget this guy is even on the roster. With that said, he’s been relatively productive when called upon, posting a 3.86 ERA in 21 innings, and the Braves need another left-hander in their bullpen. Blevins will be used in long relief and situationally against lefties.
Jacob Webb– Webb has been incredible in his rookie season, recording a 1.36 ERA in 36 appearances before hitting the IL. However, he’s an obvious candidate for regression, and the Braves would be playing with fire if they continued using him in critical situations as much as they were. Now, Webb will slide into a middle relief role that can be used as a set-up man occasionally when arms are overworked.
Anthony Swarzak– Swarzak’s expected regression finally hit him once he came off the IL. He’s allowed six earned runs in his last 1.2 innings pitched. Luckily, help came at the right time, and Swarzak will not have to be used as the team’s go-to reliever in critical, non-save situations. Like Webb, he can serve in middle relief and set up occasionally.
Sean Newcomb– Newcomb is the only pitcher in this group whose role will not change. He will continue to be used in high-leverage situations but could also see some long relief work given his previous experience as a starter.
Luke Jackson– This is something all of Braves Country can smile about: Luke Jackson will no longer be closing games. However, despite his recent struggles, Jackson has been a savior for the Braves this year and will be used as a set-up man at times as well as middle relief.
The New Faces
Mark Melancon– Melancon has eleven years of experience in the bullpen and remains highly productive. Before the trade deadline, he might have been the closer on this team had he been on the roster. Thankfully he is not, but Melancon will be a primary set-up man for the Braves going forward.
Chris Martin– You could say the same thing about Martin. He has better numbers than any of the Braves previous relievers and will also be a primary set-up man. However, more specifically, Martin will be used in scenarios were strikes are absolutely necessary. He’s averaging less than a walk per nine innings.
Shane Greene– Say hello to your new closer. Greene has been unhittable this season, posting a 1.18 ERA and a 0.868 WHIP. Is regression to be expected at some point? Without a doubt. But Greene could triple his ERA and be a better option than Luke Jackson.