Last winter, the Braves and Angels made a challenge trade of promising pitchers with injury issues. The Braves got the better end of the trade (Tommy Hanson, sent to Anaheim in the deal, made 13 mostly-ineffective starts and was non-tendered this offseason). Jordan Walden is a premier reliever when he’s right, but his value in 2014 will depend entirely on whether he can stay healthy.

From the beginning of the 2013 season through August 21, Walden was a middle relief ace. He struck out 52 batters in 43 innings, averaged almost exactly one baserunner per inning, and allowed opposing batters a .194/.259/.281 triple-slash line. After Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty went down with injuries, Walden took over as the team’s primary setup man and didn’t miss a beat.

But a groin injury kept Walden out from that last appearance until September 12. He was a different, less effective, pitcher when he returned in September. He gave up seven runs in 3.1 innings in September, and four runs in 2.2 innings in the NLDS.

Without getting in over my head as to biomechanics, the simple version of the issue here is that Jordan Walden throws 97 mph fastballs and snap-off sliders while basically jumping off the mound.

He’s been on the disabled list in both of the last two seasons and any forecast of his 2014 would have to include the possibility that he could go back again. But so long as he’s healthy, he’s the early favorite to be Craig Kimbrel’s primary set-up man this year.