There is a good chance the Braves will trade closer Arodys Vizcaino this month before the August 1 trade deadline. So if that happens, will the Braves be okay both for the rest of this season and for the future?
Yes. They’ll be fine.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of this season has been the promotion and success of Mauricio Cabrera, a 22-year-old right-hander who throws his fastball up to 101 miles per hour. In his first seven games, Cabrera has allowed just two runs on seven hits in six innings. Manager Brian Snitker continues to throw Cabrera out there in pressure situations, and Cabrera has done well so far.
Cabrera has two saves in his first seven outings, so the Braves could simply give Cabrera more opportunities moving forward for the rest of the season to test him as the closer. Why not? Give the kid a chance. Let him fail a bit, recover and learn in this rebuilding season for the team.
Chris Withrow may get a chance in some save situations. Withrow was considered a potential closer when the Braves acquired him from the Dodgers a little over a year ago. Withrow has pitched in 30 games out of the Atlanta bullpen this season. He’s got an ERA of 3.65 with 19 hits allowed in 24.2 innings, 12 walks and 20 strikeouts.
Should Dario Alvarez get a chance? The left-hander has been outstanding since being plucked off waivers from the Mets. He’s got an ERA of 0.93 in 10 games, with only one run on six hits allowed in 9.2 innings, with four walks and an amazing 22 strikeouts. So of the 29 outs Alvarez has gotten so far, 22 have been with strikeouts. You wonder if the Braves might be tempted to give Alvarez a shot.
In the minor leagues the best candidate is A.J. Minter. He was Atlanta’s second round pick in the 2015 draft out of Texas A&M. Minter was coming off Tommy John surgery when he was drafted, but he’s recovered well and his early results have been amazing. Minter has pitched in Rome, Carolina and now Mississippi this season, and he’s yet to allowed a run in 17.2 innings. Minter has given up just five hits, walked five and struck out 18 in his 14 games.
The Braves believed Minter would not have been far away from the big leagues if he had not been hurt coming out of the draft. But now that he’s proving he is healthy and has been successful, the Braves may feel he is worthy of a shot at being an integral part of the 2017 Atlanta bullpen.
The organization is doing a good job developing more relief pitchers in the minor leagues, but these are the names who would be in the discussion of who could close both for the end of this season and into next year if Vizcaino is traded. Bad teams don’t need closers, but when the Braves get good again it looks like they will have some options to take over the closer’s role in the bullpen.
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