The Lesser-Known Braves Reliever Arms You Should Know About

The Atlanta Braves bullpen has been fantastic. They entered last night fifth in MLB with a 3.72 ERA and first in strikeouts with 717. Much of their success comes from established stars like AJ Minter, Collin McHugh and Kenley Jansen.

Unfortunately, Jansen will be unavailable for some time. However, with Minter or Will Smith likely taking the closest role, Braves fans need not worry. Those little-known bullpen arms have quietly gotten the delays the Braves need.

Jesse Chavez

Chavez makes no sense. He had a career ERA of 4.52 before being traded to the Braves last season. Then he posted a 2.14 ERA and 2.01 FIP in 33 innings. The Braves let him walk the offseason and the Cubs got him back. After allowing four runs in 5.2 innings, the Braves traded him for Sean Newcomb. He now has a 2.19 ERA and 2.08 FIP with the Braves in 24.2 innings.

Every expected stat indicates that Chavez shouldn’t pitch in the major leagues. But as long as he keeps opposing teams off the scoreboard, Brian Snitker might as well keep running him there.

jackson stephens

The Braves weren’t expecting much from Stephens after signing him last offseason after a stint in the Mexican League. But he pitched 24.2 innings with a 3.28 ERA and 3.41 FIP. His low withdrawal rate should keep him out of the highest debt situations, but unlike Chavez, the analytics support his performance.

Stephens is in the 87th percentile of the allowed average exit speed and the 78th percentile of the expected ERA. And there are reasons to believe that he can improve. His curveball spin rate is elite (97th percentile), so it’s possible his mediocre strikeout rate will increase.

Dylan Lee

Rookie Lee only pitched 16.0 innings. However, he allowed just two earned runs in that span for a dazzling 1.13 ERA. Sure, he’ll regress because he has a superior (but still excellent) FIP under 3.00, and his lap numbers aren’t exactly mind-blowing. But the 27-year-old has dominated the AAA this year and last. His below-par strikeout rate in the majors is set to increase dramatically. Lee has the potential to be a solid backend bullpen guy for years to come.

With Jansen out, these lesser-known weapons will have plenty of opportunities to prove themselves, and they will need them. Tyler Matzek will return soon, and we should not forget that Kirby Yates, closer to the elite, could perhaps join the Braves later in the season. Add Kenley Jansen, and those who don’t play will be off the list.

Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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Martin E. Berry