It’s the Bullpen, Baby!

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One of the more popular questions coming into Spring Training was what the Braves plan was to replace the likes of Mark Melancon & still-unsigned Shane Greene. Well, the replacements happen to already be employed by the Atlanta Braves. Let’s take a look at the guys who could see themselves in new roles in 2021.

Carl Edwards Jr.

CEJ is no stranger to postseason success, winning a World Series Championship with the Cubs in 2016. In Game 3 of that World Series, he came in in the 6th inning & struck out the side. Edwards Jr. also pitched in Game 7 in the bottom of the 10th inning when he recorded the first two outs of the inning.

That postseason experience may have earned him the benefit of the doubt when held up next to his shaky career since. But Alex Anthopoulos felt he was worth a minor league deal, and I do too. I see the Edwards Jr. signing as the most overlooked & underrated free agent signing of the offseason.

Edwards is as much of a lock to make the Opening Day roster as there is among the new faces in Atlanta’s Spring Camp.

Even though we don’t know what his role will exactly be for the 2021 Braves, I suspect it’ll be primarily near the end of the ballgame in high-leverage situations. Adding yet another dependable arm for Snitker to keep opposing offenses at bay.

I LOVE THE SIGNING.

Will Smith

There’s much speculation that Smith could slide into the closer’s role this season. And I really hope that’s not the case. I’m going to be completely honest with you, I don’t trust Smith in any situation where the opposition can tie or take the lead.

Watching Smith pitch last season, I didn’t see anything about him that screams shut-down arm. I don’t know how to explain it any better than: it seems, to me, that he has to have his A+ stuff to succeed, if he’s just got his good or okay stuff then he’s liable to give up a big hit at any second; like the batter has the advantage in the matchup, not Smith.

Maybe it’s because his supposed best pitch (the slider) had a run value 2 more than the league average & the curveball was +1.

No matter how I feel about watching him pitch, a lot of people in the Braves organization like Smith. And who am I to say they’re wrong? Smith will be given every opportunity this season to cement himself as a high-leverage arm for the Braves.

AJ Minter

Talk about a career resurgence! Minter has went from “Oh no, Minter” to “We need Minter here!”. How can you not love what Minter has done? He was a revelation last season for Atlanta; shutting down offenses it seemed like every time he toed the rubber.

Last year he was in the 99th percentile in Hard Hit Percentage, 96th percentile in Exit Velocity, 89th percentile in xERA, xwOBA, & xSLG.

Translation: he was dominant.

If the Braves closer is currently on the roster, I hope it’s Minter. Give him the job, let him know. And let him take that role & run with it. He’s proven high-leverage situations don’t scare him. He’s proven he can shut the door on bats that have put other pitchers in a jam, he’s ready. And it’s hard to believe that he’s only 27 years old.

Touki Toussaint

Talk about a hot debate topic among Braves fans. Touki has Cy Young stuff, but the consistency of pudding. His days of consistently being used for multiple innings should be done. Designate Touki as a one-inning setup man; whether that inning be the 7th or 8th. Give him three outs to give maximum effort and let him park it on the pine afterwards. One single inning to spin it, to sling it, to put the batters on absolute skates.

Let him know early that he’s a late-game one-inning pitcher. Give him awhile to settle into his role and see where he takes it. I feel like his biggest obstacle is mental. And if letting him know the job is his & he’s not going to lose it after one or just a few bad outings, I feel like that lifted burden could really open Touki up to taking off in 2021.

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