One of the more questionable trades at last year’s trade deadline was the Braves swapping former first-round pick, Kolby Allard, for reliever Chris Martin. At the time, it seemed like a little much for a reliever that was not a closer, boasted a career ERA over four, and was on the last year of his contract. And now, it looks like one of those deals the Braves could regret for years.
To the Braves credit, they were desperate for relief help, in control of a seemingly endless amount of pitching prospects, and Allard was lit up in the limited time he spent in Atlanta before the trade. However, none of those are going to be a good enough excuse for trading a potentially long-term starting pitching asset for an above-average relief pitcher on an expiring contract.
In Allard’s first extended taste of the bigs with the Rangers last year, he posted some pretty encouraging numbers. His 4.96 ERA wasn’t pretty, but his 4.01 FIP suggested he deserved much better. Allard also finished the season with a 1.1 fWAR in just nine starts.
Much of Allard’s success can be attributed to a substantial uptick in velocity. With the Braves, his average fastball sat at 89.4 in 2018. The next year with the Rangers, it was three miles per hour higher (92.5). In two starts this year, his heater is sitting at 91.8, and he’s off to a tremendous start, allowing just one earned run over nine innings with nine strikeouts.
I didn’t imagine I would be saying this so soon, but given the Braves crippling rotation problems, they could desperately use Allard’s arm right about now. However, it’s worth pondering whether he would have even had the same success in Atlanta. It certainly didn’t look like it when he was a member of the Braves organization.
Allard’s fastball was a slow meatball, and there were no signs of him being close to becoming a successful major league pitcher. Perhaps all he needed was a little experience, but I’m not exactly sold that is the case. Something seemed to click — and click quickly — once he joined the Rangers organization. Like they were able to figure out a simple mechanical issue that the Braves developmental staff just overlooked.
We’ve talked about the problems the Braves have had developing all these pitching prospects a couple of times. Most recently, Lucas Sims — a former top Braves prospect that was traded to the Reds in the deal that netted Adam Duvall — called out the Braves developmental staff on Twitter.
Maybe Sims has a point. To date, he has a 0.96 ERA in 9.1 innings out of the ‘pen for the Reds. That — along with Allard’s astronomical improvements since he left the organization and Atlanta’s current crop of young arms’ results — suggests the Braves could have a problem in their pitching development department, and it’s imperative they get that corrected. This entire rebuild was built on pitching, and their success won’t last long if these prospects keep faltering once they get to Atlanta.