BS Report: May 1st
The Braves are now through one month of the season and they are right at the .500 mark – just a game under after 29 games. We all know the bullpen must improve for them to repeat as division champions and have any chance at doing well in October. Will that come from an internal option or will they have to bring someone in from the outside? The Craig Kimbrel rumors will continue until he is signed by someone, the Braves or another team. And there are many teams that could use Kimbrel, even in the National League East. The Nationals and Mets have also had bullpen issues, and like the Braves the middle relief has been the issue. We see the Atlanta rotation rounding into shape, with Max Fried and Mike Soroka doing well and there’s no doubt Mike Foltynewicz looked good in his first game back last Saturday. Julio Teheran and Kevin Gausman, the two veterans in the rotation, need to do well or they will be pushed by pitchers like Sean Newcomb and Kyle Wright. The offense for the Braves has been solid. The lineup looks better with Ozzie Albies at the top. We’ve seen some inconsistency from Josh Donaldson. He can take a walk with the best of them, and when he’s hot, he’s hot. But the Braves need Donaldson to drive in runs, even from the two spot in the order. Freddie Freeman has been his normal solid self so far, and Ronald Acuna is going to finish with tremendous numbers. Nick Markakis has been good and Dansby Swanson has been a surprise. They need to get Ender Inciarte going, especially since Inciarte will not be at the top of the order. — This is a really good team, and it can be a great team if the bullpen does not collapse. If they had no had bullpen issues in the first month, the Braves would be in first place by several games. So, whether it’s Jacob Webb or Grant Dayton or Jerry Blevins, the new guys need to help get A.J. Minter going. We’ll see in the second month if the Braves put a young starting pitcher – like Bryse Wilson or Touki Toussaint – in the bullpen to help out. I hate to say this is all up to one area of the team, but I think it’s up to the bullpen to push this team back into first place. If not, we could be watching the Braves chase the Phillies all summer long. This is a good team, but it still has to answer whether it can be a great team. And the bullpen will provide us that answer. We’ll have a lot to enjoy, like great, young starting pitching, but if it gets wasted by bad relievers, we’re going to be counting down to football season sooner than the Braves would like. Bobby Cox used to say a baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint, but after the first month of the season the Braves have a lot more work to prove they can be as good as last season.