Let me start by stating this season was 100 times better than I thought it would be. To think the Braves could win the NL East at the beginning of the season would’ve been downright absurd. However, I think this Cinderella story is doomed from the start. I don’t see the Braves making it to even the NLCS this year. A tough Dodgers draw in the NLDS, coupled with the looming Rockies/Brewers makes their road especially laborious. I think they have a solid starting rotation and bats to match that. Furthermore, the bulk of their all-star caliber talent is 27 or younger. All these conversations would have sounded like drunken nonsense a year, or even 6 months ago. It is not hard to imagine that their bullpen will be their Achilles heel this season.
Mike Foltynewicz, Julio Teheran, Sean Newcomb, Kevin Gausman, Anibal Sanchez, and other young arms are on the way. There’s a lot to be excited about in the workhorse department of their pitching. However, they still lack that sports car like Craig Kimbrell. Yes, I just went there. We’re also missing a middle reliever like the Indians’ Andrew Miller from two years ago. The Braves need a consistent set-up guy and closer. Holds and saves are becoming more and more prevalent. We’ve seen some serviceable outings from the existing cast, but all this winning leaves you longing for true greatness. Their bullpen doesn’t necessarily need a marquee name, but they’ve left something to be desired in the later innings of this year’s home stretch.
There’s been a buzz-worthy trend of the deeper bullpens and shorter outings for starters. I’m not sure if the modern form of pitching is necessarily better than those 90’s Braves teams, but the 2018 squad seems almost archaic or out-of-place these days. Sure, the guys on the bump are professionals and I mean no disrespect, but there is not a Greg Maddox in this years bullpen. As an extremely bias observer with only the Braves’ best interest in mind, I’ve seen more than a few games lost by the bullpen this season.
You’d expect next year to be better with the cultivation of young talent we’ve all been a witness to this season. I think it goes without saying that this rebuild is well ahead of a schedule. Kolby Allard, Luiz Gohara, Max Fried and Ian Anderson come to mind when thinking of a replacement for Anibal Sanchez who is in his late 30’s. However, Sanchez has been worth twice what they’ve paid him since the all-star break. Mike Soroka and Touki Toussaint have shown flashes of dominance. Is one of the above mentioned names going to be converted into a middle reliever or set-up guy? Do they have a blue chip closer, still to be found in the number one ranked farm system, or is Vizcaino the answer? With Venters and Branch knocking on the door of retirement, we’ll have to find out one way or another. These are all things that will not be answered this season. Most importantly, it’s October and we’re still playing baseball. For now and for always, Chop On!
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