Winning back-to-back series against the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers is always a fun thing to do. I highly recommend it every single time. What is impressive about these wins is the members of the bullpen that are contributing to them. Luke Jackson, who I have been EXTREMELY critical of in the past, is proving to have the stones to finish games. Sean Newcomb has taken his role in the bullpen in stride and has performed quite well. Touki Toussaint appears to have the potential to be a long-term bullpen solution. Jacob Webb has shown up in high leverage situations — pumping 96 MPH gas and getting outs. Wes Parsons is another member who has performed exceptionally well at times, outside of the game-winning homer he allowed yesterday afternoon.
Two of the previously mentioned names were regarded as rotation pieces back in April, but are proving to be valuable in the bullpen. With the MLB draft a few weeks away, the Braves are about to be able to make some moves to turn this bullpen into a complete stable of thoroughbreds. Here is what it might look like not too long from now:
Wes Parsons- Parsons has shown an ability to throw multiple innings and be productive. His 3.77 ERA and 12 Ks over 14.1 innings proves that. With the ability to throw mid-90s heat, Parsons could prove to be a valuable arm moving forward.
Josh Tomlin, Grant Dayton, and Dan Winkler are also quality arms that could fit in this role.
Patrick Wiegel- Assuming Patrick performs well in AAA and is healthy; I see him as the next man up in Atlanta. In shorter stints, he hits 98-99 on the radar gun with power breaking stuff. Patrick could see himself move to a late-inning role with excellent performance.
Jacob Webb- Webb stepped onto the scene and has made the most of his opportunity. Webb attacks batters with mid to upper-90s heat and is around the strike zone. He has closing experience, and there is no such thing as having too many closers.
Touki Toussaint- It has long been said that Touki could be a dominant closer — if he wanted to be. He has a live-arm — touching 97-98 when he wants too. His curveball makes grown men cry, and his splitter has evolved into a pitch that frequently makes Rob Friedman’s, also known as “Pitching Ninja,” Twitter page. Touki could slide into any bullpen role and be an improvement. It just depends on where he wants to be.
Sean Newcomb- To go from All-Star caliber starter during the first half of last season to middle reliever this year seems like a large slight to Newcomb, but it may be what is best for him. Newcomb throws easy 96 MPH gas and has a curveball that causes wives to leave their husbands. In short stints, he could prove to be unhittable — as long as he throws strikes.
AJ Minter- This is assuming AJ performs well in AAA and is healthy. Minter has closer-type stuff but has yet to put it all together. As the most highly-touted bullpen arm since Kimbrel, there is a lot of pressure on AJ not to be a bust.
Luke Jackson- While Luke has been a savior of sorts to this point, he is unlikely to hold on to the closer role for long. With that being said, he has earned the right to close games moving forward should there be a vacancy.
Craig Kimbrel- After the draft, I expect the Braves to bring Killa Craig back to Atlanta. He has remained unsigned to this point to preserve the 3rd-best selection for the Braves in the upcoming draft. He will likely require a few weeks in the minors to knock off any rust, but I expect “Welcome to the Jungle” to be blasting in SunTrust Park sooner rather than later.