Atlanta Braves’ Top 5 Bullpen Arms
Atlanta Braves' Top 5 Bullpen Arms
There was one thing in 2013 that is going to be hard for the 2014 Atlanta Braves to top. They were so good at it last season that they were among the leaders in MLB at the end of the season.
The bullpen of the Braves in 2013 was quite simply the best in the entire league. So good in fact, that without it I doubt that they would have won 96 games and ran away with the NL East crown. The pen led the league in total ERA with a 2.46 mark in 460.2 innings. They finished third in saves (53) behind the Baltimore Orioles (57) and Pittsburgh Pirates (55). They also finished third in walks allowed with 155 behind the St. Louis Cardinals with 148 and the Oakland Athletics with 154. Finally they finished fourth in opponent’s batting average against them.
Simply said, the bullpen was electric in 2013. However, it is going to be quite tough for them to reproduce what they did. They will be without one of their main lefties Eric O’Flaherty, and Jonny Venters will be unavailable until at least late May but more likely early-to-mid June. Another key pitcher that left after being traded to the Braves in the middle of the season, Scott Downs, will leave the Braves three left-handers short of what they had in the bullpen last season.
They do have the best closer in all of baseball in Craig Kimbrel, and with the help of some young guys and other veteran pitchers this bullpen can be just as successful in 2014. But I don’t see how anyone could get much better than what they did in 2013.
5. Anthony Varvaro
Coming in at the No. 5 position in the Braves' bullpen is Anthony Varvaro. In 2013, which was his first full season in the major leagues, he really impressed people. His ERA was low at 2.82 and he pitched in 62 total games, tallying up 73.1 innings pitched. He doesn’t have blow-away stuff, only striking out 5.3 hitters per nine innings last season, and he can sometimes struggle with his control. However, he is a reliable arm that Fredi Gonzalez can trust and go with in the sixth or seventh inning.
4. Jordan Walden
At the No. 4 position in the Braves' bullpen, I’m putting Jordan Walden. Walden definitely has closer potential and he is young enough to be a horse in the bullpen, but with Craig closing we will see Walden in the seventh or eighth inning most of 2014. Last season he had an ERA of 3.45 and averaged just over ten strikeouts per nine innings.
3. David Carpenter
David Carpenter is someone who has been overlooked by people around the league, but Gonzalez has figured out a way to make him the best pitcher he can be. He had a 4.55 ERA in Houston and a 30.38 ERA in Toronto, but he turned that into success in Atlanta with a 1.78 ERA in 56 appearances. His WHIP was under one, and he stuck out just over ten batters per nine innings pitched, too. His control is better than Varvaro’s, and he misses more bats than Walden does on a regular basis. Look for Carpenter to compete for a setup position during spring training.
2. Luis Avilan
I put Luis Avilan at the No. 2 position for multiple reasons, but the main one is the fact that he is the best lefty in the bullpen. And we have seen the past few years what the Braves can do with a lefty late in the game. Avilan had some trouble last season with his control, but I believe he will come back in 2014 with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of about three to four.
1. Craig Kimbrel
This is a no-brainer. The Braves have the best closer in baseball in Craig Kimbrel. Since his rookie year in 2011, he has been an All-Star, in the Cy Young award race and gotten votes as an MVP in each season. His WHIP hasn’t been above 0.8 in two years, and he has led or tied the NL lead in saves each of those three seasons also. He's the best bullpen arm for the Braves, and the best bullpen arm in all of baseball.