Alex Anthopoulos and company have quietly built a Braves bullpen that is one of the best in baseball just in time for the three batter minimum rule. This is going to be one of the biggest reasons why Atlanta is going to be a force in the 2020 season and potentially win its third straight division title.
Braves Bullpen: A 2019 vs. 2020 Comparision
The Atlanta Braves have completely re-invented their bullpen from just a year ago. This time last year, A.J. Minter and Arodys Vizcaino were penciled in to the late inning roles. Last season the Braves took a flyer on Josh Tomlin, waited Darren O’Day’s injuries out, and used some of that glorious prospect capital to make several key additions. They added Chris Martin, Mark Melancon, and Shane Greene all in late July to propel the team into a division winner.
The Braves then made the first big splash of the offseason by inking former Giants closer Will Smith to a 3 yr/40 million dollar deal. They followed up by re-signing Martin and O’Day before adding viral sensation Chris Nunn. The Atlanta Braves bullpen in less than a year has gone from a back of the pack group to now being one of baseball’s most feared bullpens.
Rule Changes: The 3 Batter Minimum
If you are this far into this article about the Braves bullpen, then I’m assuming you already know that MLB has altered how teams will be able to utilize their bullpen this season. Pitchers must now face a minimum of three batters unless they are effectively ending an inning. This has essentially destroyed one batter specialists. I believe that this rule change will have a much larger impact than many are expecting. Relievers capable of getting through a full inning of work will become even more valuable.
Teams with weak bullpens and lesser depth will be exposed even more throughout a full 162 game slate. This could change how teams are structured by adding a greater emphasis to a strong bullpen in the future. I believe Alex Anthopoulos has recognized this early and that is why he has spent over $40 million to ensure the team will have the pitching needed. Bullpen arms are going to be expensive at the deadline this year more than ever before and Atlanta may not have to make a single bullpen addition.
Braves Bullpen: The Depth
Will Smith, Mark Melancon, Chris Martin, Shane Greene, Luke Jackson, and Darren O’Day will likely headline the bullpen this season barring injuries. I don’t believe people realize just how many quality arms this organization has. The Braves arguably have more depth in the bullpen than any other team in baseball. If there is ever an injury or lack of performance, Braves fans should not fear. The names below all have seen or are capable of seeing major league action this summer.
The Atlanta Braves have a bevy of relief pitching prospects that could all make an immediate impact. Most of the guys mentioned would be excellent options for the few spots available in this bullpen. The competition for those spots is going to be harsh all season long. The pitchers will be expected to perform, otherwise, the guys above will be waiting in the wings. My breakout candidates to solidify themselves as bullpen stalwarts this year are Patrick Weigel, Jeremy Walker, and Tucker Davidson.
Each has been impressive and would likely be penciled into the opening day staff on most teams. A.J. Minter could also be one to watch for. He could potentially return to his 2018 form after the off-season has allowed him to fully recover from his injury last spring. The most important factor for all of these guys will be the command of off-speed pitches. Whoever has the best command of his pitches will likely end up being the biggest bullpen factor this year.
Thanks for reading our piece on the 2020 Braves Bullpen. If you enjoyed this piece, you may like our piece on the Braves Non-Roster Invitees as there are players in there that could factor into the 2020 bullpen.