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Looking at the 2010 Bullpen

Written by Joe Lucia on .

The bullpen has had a major overhaul this offseason...who's in, and who's out? I expect the Braves to carry 12 pitchers: the 5 starters we know about, and 7 men in the bullpen. The 5 starters are obviously written in stone at this point: Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, and Kenshin Kawakami. Barring an injury, none of these 5 men will not make the roster in April. The bullpen on the other hand, is a whole different story. Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito are absolute locks, due to their lavish contracts signed this winter. Peter Moylan and Kris Medlen are also in, based on their stellar performances out of the pen last season. So that leaves 3 spots, and there are a multitude of guys who could fill the spots. I'd also consider Eric O'Flaherty a lock. He was fantastic last season as the team's LOOGY, and with the inclusion of Boone Logan in the Vazquez deal, he has no real competition for that position in the pen in 2010. So that takes us down to a pair of slots. Now, we get into debate mode. Who should fill the final 2 spots? Looking at the men currently on the Braves 40-man roster, there are a few possibilities: Manny Acosta, Jesse Chavez, Mike Dunn, Lee Hyde, and Luis Valdez are the names that immediately jump out at me...the other pitchers on the roster are either terrible starters, or youngsters put on the roster to protect them from the Rule V draft. Acosta should be immediately stricken from the list, as he was terrible in 2009 and made Braves fans wince when he came into games. I'm now going to take a look at the other 4 players. Jesse Chavez was acquired from Tampa Bay as the sole return for Rafael Soriano. He's really not too great, pairing an average to above average strikeout rate with an average to above average walk rate, and an obscene amount of homers allowed. He was pretty dreadful for the Pirates last season, and reminds me a little too much of Acosta. I'd let him rot away in Gwinnett. Mike Dunn was acquired from New York in the aforementioned Vazquez deal. He's an interesting character. Dunn has a great strikeout rate, but he also walks a metric ton of guys. In 2009, Dunn's first season as a member of the bullpen, Dunn struck out 12.10 batters per 9 over 3 levels. He also walked 5.94 batters per 9. But what jumps out at me most...he only allowed 0.58 homers per 9. He reminds me a lot of an older Craig Kimbrel. I can't discard him at this point quite yet...so he's one of my finalists. Lee Hyde is the next guy on my list. Hyde hasn't pitched above AA, but had a good performance in Arizona this fall. Hyde was recovering from Tommy John surgery, and only threw 32 2/3 innings in 2009. And to put it quite frankly...I fell in love with him. He struck out 11.30 per 9, while walking 3.62. He also only allowed 1 home run. Looking at the raw statistics, you assume he's ready. But...is he really? He's thrown 2 career innings in AAA, and those came in 2007. As much as I'd like to see Hyde make the team out of spring training, I don't think it's going to happen. He'll likely spend 2010 in Gwinnett, unfortunately. That takes me to Gwinnett's relief ace in 2009, Luis Valdez. I love Valdez. He's the man. Last season was a total coming out party for him in AAA. He had a K:BB of nearly 4 while only allowing 4 homers in 74 innings in Gwinnett and Atlanta. His ERA in Gwinnett was 3.28 despite only stranding 60.5% of runners and having a BABIP of .330. I don't need to say much more...there is no reason Valdez should NOT be a member of the Braves bullpen in 2010. He's a total stud. There's one name not on the 40-man roster that some of you are probably asking about, and that name is Craig Kimbrel. He's not ready, guys. He strikes out so many batters, but the walks...oh god, the walks. Its painful to look at. Let him spend 2010 in Gwinnett and hopefully get the walk rate down to something that doesn't look like a strikeout rate, and then we can talk. After my analysis, this is what my 2010 Braves bullpen looks like. Mike Dunn, LHP Kris Medlen, RHP Peter Moylan, RHP Eric O'Flaherty, LHP Takashi Saito, RHP Luis Valdez, RHP Billy Wagner, LHP I have inadvertently made this bullpen Bobby Cox's wet dream, with 3 lefties. That means he can play the matchup game all he wants! Happy happy, joy joy? Alright, whatever. There's a nice balance between lefties and righties now, so we can deal with the stud hitters in the division without having to get screwed on matchups all the time. I'm just hoping the Braves don't make a mistake and have Chavez or Acosta make the final roster over someone like Valdez. That would be a HUGE mistake.

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