Relief pitching is so volatile. We are reminded of this almost every year. There is always that solid relief pitcher who underachieves whereas someone who was not on the radar before spring training is dominant.
In 2018, this guy was Shane Carle. While his numbers declined after his hot start, he was instrumental in the success the bullpen did have in 2018. After being designated for assignment by the Rockies last offseason, Carle was claimed off waivers by the Pirates. The Pirates shortly followed suit, and he was traded to the Braves while in DFA limbo. A few months later, Carle was shutting down major league hitters in Atlanta.
So who could be the surprise bullpen difference maker in 2019? Let’s go over a couple of guys who have some potential while remaining under the radar.
Jacob Webb was a 14th round pick of the Braves in 2014. After being set back by Tommy John Surgery, he has climbed the ladder up to the AAA level and has dominated the Dominican Winter League this winter. Webb has incredible swing and miss stuff, throws up to 98 mph, and seems to be getting a better harness on his control. If the Braves end up having guys go back and forth to Gwinnett, it will only be a matter of time until Webb gets a shot in 2019, and perhaps he will stick.
Another guy who has incredible potential, and has in fact shown as much at the big league level, is Grant Dayton. Now, Dayton underwent Tommy John Surgery last season, so he will not be available for at least the first half of the season. But he adds another talented lefty to the mix, assuming he is good to go for the second half.
Dayton had a tough go of it in 2017 when it was discovered he would need TJS during a minor league rehab assignment. However, he was about as dominant as they come for the Dodgers back in 2016. He had a 2.05 ERA in 25 appearances to go along with a 13.3 K/9 rate and just a 2.1 BB/9 rate. This was enough reason for Alex Anthopoulos to give him a shot despite the injury, as he had a front office position with the Dodgers at the time of the injury. Formerly a Marlins farmhand, Dayton has dominated and struck out batters at a high level at virtually every stop along the way. If he cannot contribute in 2019, you can bet on him adding something in the years after, as the Braves control him until 2023.
If you have a sleeper candidate for the bullpen in 2019, drop it in the comments section below!