Will the bullpen be improved?
In short, it would be tough for the bullpen to be any worse in 2016. A combined 4.69 bullpen ERA was 29th in the league, and for fans that watched on a nightly basis, it seemed much worse than that. Trades, suspensions, injuries, ineffectiveness – you name it and the Braves ‘pen experienced it in 2015. Craig Kimbrel was traded just days before the season started, and the domino effect lasted throughout the season.
The lone bright spot, after his 80-game suspension of course, was Arodys Vizcaino. He posted a 1.60 ERA while striking out 37 batters in 33 innings, and will likely head into the season as the closer. Behind Vizcaino are several more question marks. Jim Johnson returns on a one-year deal, and will likely begin the season in a set-up role. He was very good in Atlanta, before a steep drop off after a trade to the Dodgers. Jason Grilli is coming off an Achilles injury, but it appears he will be ready for Spring Training. Vizacaino, Johnson and Grilli will be asked to do the heavy lifting early on as the pieces behind them shuffle into place. Shae Simmons and Chris Withrow both are high velocity arms who missed all of last season with Tommy John surgery. Ideally each of them will be ready to contribute by mid-to-late May. Daniel Winkler,a Rule 5 pick from last year, will be on the roster for the first portion of the season and given an opportunity. Mix in the potential of Foltynewicz and non-roster invitees Chacin and Alexi Ogando, the Braves are aiming for a much improved ‘pen this season.