The NL East has turned into an arms race this winter, as each of the division’s top three teams have made significant upgrades for next season. We’ve already spent time looking at the Mets and Phillies’ bullpens for 2023, as both teams have made notable additions. But about the Braves? Let’s take a look at what Atlanta has done to its bullpen, and how it shapes up for next season.
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A Look at the Braves’ Offseason Moves
Atlanta has made a number of interesting pickups to fortify the bullpen for next season. One of the first notable moves of the Braves’ offseason was the addition of right-hander Nick Anderson. The 32-year-old stormed onto the scene in 2019, as Anderson struck out 110 over 65 innings. Anderson continued his dominance in the 2020 regular season, but collapsed in the Rays’ playoff run.
Anderson has since barely pitched in the Majors, as the righty logged just six innings over the last two seasons. The right-hander suffered a partially torn UCL in 2021, and spent much of the year rehabbing from surgery to repair it. Anderson did attempt to work his way back to the Majors in AAA, but the results were less-than-ideal (5.19 ERA, 14 strikeouts in 17 IP). Reports from Anderson’s outings in 2022 indicated that his velocity was down, but that the elbow appeared fine.
Signed to a one-year deal, Anderson could be quite the pickup should he remain healthy next season. The right-hander showcased a fantastic curveball in his first two seasons, alongside a hard fastball that can blow away hitters. But, it’s been a while since we’ve seen that version of Anderson.
In addition to Anderson, Atlanta picked up RHP Joe Jiménez via trade. The former Tiger struck out 77 over 56.2 innings, thanks to a good fastball & slider combo. Jiménez recorded a 42.4% Whiff% rate on the slider, a pitch that can be particularly effective against right-handed hitters.
Walks have been a problem in the past for Jiménez. In 2021, Jiménez recorded a 16.7% walk rate, among the worst in baseball. When Jiménez has command of his stuff, though, it’s hard to hit the right-hander.
Most recently, the Braves re-signed RHP Jackson Stephens to a one-year deal. Stephens won’t blow batters away with his arsenal, but was effective in 2022. The righty recorded above-average GB% and Hard Hit% rates, and posted a modest 3.69 ERA across 53.2 innings.
What it Means
Here’s a quick look at the Braves’ bullpen options for 2023:
- RHP Raisel Iglesias
- RHP Kirby Yates
- RHP Collin McHugh
- RHP Joe Jiménez
- RHP Jackson Stephens
- RHP Nick Anderson
- LHP Dylan Lee
- LHP A.J. Minter
Additionally, right-handed starters Huascar Ynoa, Ian Anderson, Mike Soroka, and left-hander Kolby Allard could factor into the team’s bullpen come next season.
With Kenley Jansen off to Boston for 2023, Atlanta appears set to hand the closer’s position to Raisel Iglesias. Iglesias, acquired from the Angels at the Trade Deadline last August, returned to his old form after the deal that sent him to Atlanta. Iglesias recorded a sparkling 0.34 ERA and struck out 30 over 26.1 innings. Iglesias possesses plenty of experience in the closer’s spot, as the righty has 157 saves to his name. While losing Jansen will hurt, Atlanta should be fine late in games in 2023.
Aside from Iglesias, Atlanta is set to trot an eclectic & effective group of relivers for 2023. A.J. Minter, Collin McHugh, and Dylan Lee all posted ERA figures south of 3.00. Atlanta will also look for a healthy season from Kirby Yates, who has battled injuries in each of the last three seasons. One notable reliever Atlanta won’t have next season is LHP Tyler Matzek. Matzek is set to miss all of 2023 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in October 2022.
Even without Matzek or Jansen, Atlanta’s bullpen still looks set for success. The Braves have a number of pitchers who have excellent stuff and can stem the tide out of the pen. Those arms, coupled with one of the game’s best rotations, will be key in what will be a very competitive NL East, alongside the Mets and Phillies.