What do you think the bullpen will look like next year? I know they talked about re-signing Wickman and we have a ton of guys in the minors who could be in the majors right now that could be good out of the pen.
The question of what this bullpen will look like next year is something I am coming across more and more from Braves fans. Both Bob Wickman and John Schuerholz have said that the option is there to re-sign Wickman one year at a time. I didn't think that would happen once the Braves acquired Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez, and now with his recent struggles, Wickman almost definitely will not be a Brave next year.
There are quite a few certainties in the pen for next year. Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano obviously have two spots locked up. I have seen fans campaigning for each of the relievers to take over as closer, but I think Bobby may go with the closer-by-committee system he used when Wickman was on the DL earlier this year. The two will be the eighth and ninth men depending on which batters are coming up in each of the innings. Then guys like Oscar Villareal, Peter Moylan, Tyler Yates, and Chad Paronto all have spots locked up. If Jarrod Saltalamacchia takes over as the everyday first baseman then the Braves will go with a seven-man pen, leaving one open spot. Wilfredo Ledezma seems more suited for the rotation to me and I think he'll get a look there in spring training if not later this year. That would leave Joey Devine, Phil Stockman, Blaine Boyer, Manny Acosta, Will Startup, and one more candidate who I'll talk about later on.
Devine or Startup would have to be considered the favorite here. Both have had great seasons and it depends whether the Braves want to add another lefty to Mike Gonzalez or go with the more talented reliever in Joey Devine. I was very impressed with Manny Acosta when I saw him pitch for Richmond and he is having a great season, but ever since a tough spring training, the Braves haven't seemed too interested in giving Acosta a chance. Stockman and Boyer are going to have a very tough time making the team. Boyer has had horrible control problems after his surgery and Stockman hasn't been able to stay off the DL. One option that hasn't been talked about much is Jo-Jo Reyes moving to the pen. If they go with another lefty, Startup would probably get the call but with durability and control issues, I think Reyes is a prime candidate to move to the pen at some point. My bet would be on Joey Devine. Obviously they are taking it slow with the righty after his confidence was shattered in his first year of pro ball but he has proven himself at double-A and looks good in the majors.
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John M. asks,