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Braves must improve the bullpen for next season

The Braves have started the process of fixing the bullpen. Let's look at the situation as of now.

Here are 17 candidates for the Braves bullpen in 2016.

Arodys Vizcaino - He did fine as the closer for a team that was going nowhere in the second half of the season. Vizcaino deserves a chance to remain in this position, meaning the Braves do not need a big money closer through free agency.Let's see what Vizcaino can do for the full season and then make a call on 2017.

Jason Grilli - Expected back after having the Achilles' injury. He was superb in the role of closer after taing over for Craig Kimbrel. He had 24 saves and had 45 strikeouts in 33.2 innings pitched. The presence of a veteran will be crucial and could help Vizcaino. If Grilli bounces back, he could also be tradebait next summer.

Brandon Cunniff - The rookie has positives - only 27 hits allowed in 35 innings and 37 strikeouts - and negatives - 22 walks in 35 innings. Can he continue to develop and get better? 

Matt Marksberry - He pitched in 31 gamesand probably wasn't ready to pitch in the big leagues at all. So can he get better with a full spring training working with Roger McDowell? There are glimpses, but he must be consistent.

Andrew McKirahan - After the suspension, McKirahan came back and struggled. The stuff is there, but like Marksberry, can a full spring training help him? He may need more time in the minor leagues.

Danny Burawa - An interesting addition late in the season, Burawa pitched okay in his 12 games in Atlanta. He allowed 13 baserunners in 12.1 innings. The Braves want to see more of what they have in Burawa. 

Daniel Winkler -  He likely needs more time in the minor leagues, but Winkler will have to stay in Atlanta for a while to remain Braves' property. The Braves will not want to lose him, so expect him to be on the roster. There were enough positives to remain optimistic he is coming back well from his Tommy John surgery.

David Carpenter - Will come in as a non-roster player, but the Braves hope he can do what he did for them a few years ago when he was one of the best setup men in the game. He worked well with Roger McDowell before, so we'll see if he can return to that form once again.

Ryan Weber - He made five starts late in the season, but Weber is more likely a bullpen candidate for 2016. He's not overpowering, but could he find a role as a reliever?

Ian Krol - Acquired from the Tigers in the Cameron Maybin trade, Krol needs to get better. His inconsistencies have kept him from being a more valuable reliever. But the stuff is evidently there for McDowell to do his work.

Chris Withrow - Coming back from TJ surgery, so we don't know exactly when he will be ready. But if the surgery went wel, the Braves can't wait to see what they have with Withrow. Could he be the closer, if Vizcaino falters for whatever reason?

Shae Simmons - Also coming back from TJ, the expectation is he could be back in May or June. His fastball, before the elbow injury, was electric. If he gets that back, the Braves could have a good reliever here.

Williams Perez - He started 20 games last season, but if there is no room in the rotation Perez may be a bullpen piece. He did really well at times, so there's got to be a role for him somewhere.

David Peterson - He came back from TJ and did well last season, posting a 2.28 ERA in three levels. The thought is he is not far away, so don't be shocked if he's the non-roster minor leaguer that makes a play for an Opening Day roster spot in March. 

Kyle Kinman - Here's a lefty to keep in mind. Kinman had a 2.61 ERA in 44 games in three levels last season, with 65 strikeouts in 51.2 innings. He's got to improve his control (26 walks) but there is something to work with here. 

Mauricio Cabrera - He throws gas. The numbers have always been ordinary, but Cabrera could take off at any moment. The Braves need to test him in spring training a bit. He'll likely start back in AA.

Jason Hursh - It's time to leave him alone as a reliever to see how he can do. Hursh also throws hard, but never had the stuff to be a starter. This was inevitable, so now the Braves must let him show what he can do out of the bullpen.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.


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