For all of the offensive success of 2023, as we dive into the bullpen and think about the future, I came across some interesting finds that speak to success for the Braves this season.

One of the areas that AA takes pride in, and spends most of his time annually addressing, is the bullpen. The Braves had a Top-10 bullpen in 2023. That’s not necessarily shocking, but one of the interesting finds in looking back is that Atlanta was third in MLB in K/9. That’s not a misprint. According to Fangraphs, only Houston (10.03) and the Cubs (9.88) had a higher K/9 rate than the Braves (9.83). We all know AA loves him some strikeout pitchers, and with a ‘pen lacking flame-throwers, that number stands out. Shockingly, the Braves were also seventh in BB/9 in 2023 at 3.23. Finally, the stat among the interesting finds for me is the bullpen was fourth in xFIP (3.97).

Internal candidates

There is an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” kind of mentality with AA…except when it comes to the bullpen. He usually goes out and finds some new arms. It will be interesting to see who remains from the options below:

Under control: Raisel Iglesias, Dylan Lee, Tyler Matzek.

Team options: Brad Hand, Collin McHugh, Kirby Yates.

After some rough batted-ball luck to start 2023, AJ Minter was still one of the best lefty relievers in all of baseball this season.

Arb-eligible: A.J. Minter, Yonny Chirinos, Nick Anderson, Kolby Allard, Ben Heller, Michael Tonkin, Huascar Ynoa.

Free agents: Jesse Chavez, Pierce Johnson, Joe Jimenez, Lucas Luetge, Jackson Stephens.

External options

Several big-name relievers are free agents this fall, including Josh Hader and Jordan Hicks.

• Hader is the flame-throwing lefty who was sent from Milwaukee to San Diego. Hader has a career 15.0 SO/9 rate and 3.6 BB/9 rate. The five-time All-Star fits the AA mold, and the poor guy deserves to play for a winner. Go get him, AA!

• Hicks is a high-octane flame-throwing righty who ended the season in Toronto. Hicks has a career SO/9 rate of 9.4, but his BB/9 rate of 4.9 may make AA skittish. However, I would hold up that after departing St. Louis for Toronto, in 25 appearances, he went from 5.2 BB/9 down to 3.0. I’m just say, 102 mph plays!

• For fun, it could be entertaining to add David Robertson, just to stick it to the Philthies and Mets in 2024. Robertson is a free agent with a career 11.8 SO/9 and 3.7 BB/9 rate.

2024 bullpen projection

Time will tell – as she always does – but Iglesias, Lee, Matzek, and Minter are locks to be in the 2024 bullpen – provided they are healthy. I can see AA exercising his option on Yates, and making a push to re-sign Johnson. I also believe he will tender Anderson, Chirinos, Heller, Tonkin, and Ynoa. And Josh Hader will be a Brave in 2024.