Atlanta Braves to Focus on Rebuilding Pen for 2016


The Atlanta Braves need to revamp their bullpen for the upcoming season, so John Hart made it the team’s main area of focus this offseason.

The Atlanta Braves were among the league’s worst when it came to relief pitching, so John Hart decided that the team needs to focus on strengthening their bullpen in 2016. During the 2015 season, the Braves’ relief pitchers let down the team on countless occasions, likely a key contributor to Shelby Miller‘s winless-start streak. However, the Braves plan to focus on building a strong bullpen for the upcoming 2016 season in efforts to build a better team.

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Bullpens play a pivotal role in a team’s success. The Atlanta Braves know this all-to-well with their dismal season in 2015. The Braves bullpen posted the second-highest ERA in the MLB, trailing only the Colorado Rockies (which is not surprising). Their team ERA sat at a disappointing 4.69, only one point behind the Rockies for league-worst. In addition to having the second-highest ERA, the team struggled to throw strikes, walking the fifth-most batters out of any team in the MLB.

Despite the Atlanta Braves’ bullpen struggles, Arodys Vizcaino and Edwin Jackson provided bright spots down the stretch of the 2015 season. However, Vizcaino’s 2015 season started off on the wrong foot, earning an 80-games suspension in April for PEDs. Vizcaino returned in July, and he took over the closer role in August. In 2015, Vizcaino posted a 1.60 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and an impressive 2.48 FIP.

In addition to Vizcaino’s impressive 2015 campaign, Edwin Jackson showed life for the Atlanta Braves after being released from the Chicago Cubs. Jackson made 24 appearances for the Braves and logged a 2.96 ERA but had an unsightly 4.96 FIP in his short stint with the team. Along with Vizcaino and Jackson, Jason Grilli posted solid numbers before his season-ending injury. Grilli opened the season as the Atlanta Braves’ closer, owning a 2.94 ERA and 2.12 FIP in 36 appearances. 

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The Atlanta Braves control Vizcaino and Grilli for the 2016 season; however, Jackson becomes a free agent after the 2015 season concludes. With Vizcaino and Grilli set to return next season, the Braves enter the 2016 season with the back-end of their bullpen in good shape; however, the team lacks a solid left-handed relief pitcher for next season.

If the Atlanta Braves decide to pursue a left-handed relief pitcher via free agency, only a couple of names jump out as possible candidates. Tony Sipp and Manny Parra look like viable options for the Braves’ bullpen. Both players come off of impressive seasons, Sipp posting a 1.99 ERA and 2.93 FIP against Parra’s 3.90 ERA and 3.09 FIP. Sipp’s performance this season warrants a large contract, so that may keep the Braves away. Look for the Braves to acquire a LHP this offseason; whether, it is via free agency or trade. 

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With players like Tyrell Jenkins, Manny Banuelos, and Mike Foltynewicz, the Atlanta Braves could utilize them in a relief role to limit their innings and potential injury concerns. Banuelos and Foltynewicz both suffered injuries this season, and the bullpen may better suit them going forward. As for Jenkins, he likely makes his debut next season, with the possibility of making the roster out of Spring Training. Jenkins makes for a strong bullpen candidate; since, the Braves could ween him into big-league action.

The Braves possess the tools to make a solid bullpen for the upcoming season. Whether they acquire bullpen help via free agency or trade remains to be seen, but just know that Hart wants an improved team on the field for 2016, and it starts with helping the pen.

Next: Ozhaino Albies: Atlanta Braves' Blue-Chip Prospect

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