• Atlanta, we have a bullpen problem. We received word yesterday that Arodys Vizcaino is having season ending surgery on his shoulder so with him out of the picture for good, the Braves bullpen is reliant on the names we have been talking about all week – A.J. Minter, Chad Sobotka, Jesse Biddle, Dan Winkler, Shane Carle, and Wes Parsons. Al went over their situation yesterday and nothing has really changed besides the fact that Jesse Biddle struggled last night in extra innings walking three batters and taking the L. While Vizcaino’s season ending injury and the struggles across the Braves bullpen makes Minter the obvious saves candidate, as Al mentioned in great detail, he hasn’t been effective. Minter threw a scoreless inning last night but also allowed two hits generating 3 whiffs on 17 pitches. His velocity still isn’t at his previous levels and while nobody is barking up the Braves tree right now, something could change…
Craig Kimbrel is still lurking as a free agent and given the Braves bullpen struggles this would be a perfect fit. The Brewers have been most attached to Kimbrel although the Braves are “monitoring” the situation. Kimbrel to Atlanta makes a ton of sense but expecting the Braves to spend money here given their recent histories doesn’t make as much sense. If the Braves pass on Kimbrel the other options aren’t that attractive, which is good for Minter owners but bad for Braves fans. One possible down-the-road option could be one or two members of the Braves bevvy of pitching talent moving to the bullpen and succeeding. Touki Touissant is now in the rotation but if someone like him moved to the pen it might not be long until they’re pitching in the 9th inning.
• Ian Kennedy was used in the 6th and 7th innings last night, getting four outs and striking out three. Jake Diekman finished the 7th inning giving up a run while getting two outs, handing the ball over to Wily Peralta in the 8th. Peralta blew the lead in the 8th but pitched a scoreless 9th and received the win after the Royals scored in extras. Scott Barlow closed the door in the 1oth for his first save. Given their success this year I would rank Kennedy first in the committee but he’s been used more as a flexible option earlier in games so we’re keeping Peralta ahead of the committee, with knowledge that truly anyone in this pen could see a save at some point.
• Over in Philadelphia, Jake Arrieta started the 9th inning, going for a complete game but was replaced with Adam Morgan after Pete Alonso led off with a single and back to back lefties due up in Robinson Cano and Michael Conforto. Morgan then hit Cano with a pitch but got Conforto to fly out. With two men on Hector Neris was then called on to finish the game. Neris struck out J.D. Davis for the first out but made things interesting when Amed Rosario singled in a run with an infield single and then hit Wilson Ramos with a pitch. With bases loaded and two out, Neris finished the game striking out Keon Broxton. Although it wasn’t a clean save, it was a save nonetheless, putting Neris atop the committee in Philadelphia. Pat Neshek, Seranthony Dominguez, Adam Morgan (when a lefty is up), and Victor Arano could all see saves moving forward as well but early on the guess is Neris will be ahead of the committee while Robertson remains on the IL.
• Entering the year Andrew Miller was in theory going to take some saves away from Jordan Hicks but a few weeks in it’s clearly Hicks’ job alone. Miller pitched in the 8th last night giving up two hits and a run, setting up a save opportunity for Hicks who allowed a walk and struck out a batter for his 4th save. John Gant pitched a scoreless 7th earlier in the game and he and John Brebbia have been great all year for the Cardinals although their peripherals are a little underwhelming. If Andrew Miller isn’t the relief ace the Cardinals thought they were getting it’s possible reinforcements are added during the season but Hicks’ job is very safe.
• The Red Sox have had a very loud and obvious bad season but their pen, which entered the season as a weakness, has been largely OK. Whether their previous success was smoke and mirrors or not they certainly failed last night blowing the lead against the Yankees with Brandon Workman and Ryan Brasier allowing a combined four runs in the 8th. Ryan Braiser has benefited on the save front with Matt Barnes pitching the higher leverage innings but it was Brasier used in that spot last night with Barnes fully rested and then not used. We still have Brasier ahead of the committee but I’m making him yellow. His 2.16 ERA is nice but a 3.55 SIERA and 5.38/4.26 FIP/xFIP tell a slightly different story and if he has a blow up or two he may not be trusted in the 9th.
• Nick Wittgren finished off Carlos Carrasco’s great start, pitching the last two innings for his 1st save. In his 6 innings this year Wittgren has 8 strikeouts against no walks and could be moving up in the pecking order. Neil Ramirez has been ineffective so far this year so I’ll put Wittgren above him on the grid.
• Felipe Vazquez threw a scoreless 10th for his 5th save of the year. Pitching in the 9th inning in the tie game was Nick Burdi who struck out a pair in a perfect inning and now supports a 3.52/-0.42/1.03 ERA/FIP/xFIP line with 15 strikeouts in 7.2 innings. Paul Sporer called him out as a middle reliever on the rise and I’m going to add him to the grid. Richard Rodriguez was intriguing last year but he has struggled in the early going this season and all the projections have Burdi as being more productive for the rest of the season. As Paul mentioned, every year a Ryan Pressly arrives seemingly out of nowhere, buying stock in Burdi early can return some solid profit later.
• Quick Hits: Kenley Jansen gave up an unearned run but nailed down his 5th save on the year. In the same game Amir Garrett pitched in the 9th for the Reds and has a1.17/3.1/2.86 ERA/FIP/xFIP line with 11/2 k/bb in 7.2 innings this year, showing signs as a potential relief ace. No save for Sean Doolittle but he got the last two outs of the game after Austen Williams imploded. Blake Parker pitched a scoreless 9th with two strikeouts for his 4th save. Taylor Rogers pitched a scoreless 8th and this committee might be nearing its end. Jose Leclerc wasn’t sharp last night allowing a double, a walk, and a HBP but also struck out a pair and held on for his 5th save. Blake Treinen did what he always does, threw a scoreless inning for a save (6).
When he's not focusing on every team's bullpen situation, Ben can be found blogging at Ben's Baseball Bias and on Twitter @BensBias