Breaking the format here a little to mention a couple of things before heading into the reliever previews, which are always the toughest part of this task…
First, I feel (this is one of the many things Bill James convinced me of) that it is a mistake to have many players with the same weakness, or too many pitchers who have similar styles. This is a concern with the Braves’ bullpen, because most of the righthanders anyway are similar pitchers. The three righthanders who will definitely be on the roster, Kolb, Reitsma, and Gryboski, all have two basic similarities:
- All throw hard, but don’t get many strikeouts. (To be fair, Reitsma’s strikeout rate was pretty good last year, but it hasn’t been in the past.)
- All are supposedly ground-ball pitchers.
It’s too soon to say about Roman Colon, but before last season he’d been basically similar, before his strikeout rate took a big jump in Richmond. Having one guy like this is okay. But when you have three guys like this, and they’re your top three righthanders in the pen, you have a problem. You’re going to run across some teams that will match up well with your bullpen, and you won’t have a counter for this. The Braves find themselves without a real power arm in the bullpen for the first time in a long while, and it’s a concern.
My second point is that I know I will miss somebody who makes the team, and I’m likely to say something that looks stupid in retrospect like I did about Alfonseca last season. Pitchers are unpredictable and relievers more so than starters. Also, the Braves have in the past been willing to give relief jobs to pitchers with limited track records, or who haven’t been effective in awhile. I think there’s a good chance someone will come completely out of nowhere and make the team.
A brief note on an unrelated topic… I missed NRI Roosevelt Brown in the “Additional outfield” entry. Brown won’t make the team in spring unless someone gets hurt, but could come up later. He hasn’t played in the majors in two years, but he was a pretty good outfield reserve once upon a time, hits lefty, and can play center field if your definition of “play center field” isn’t too strict. He’s probably a better player than Brian Jordan is now, but you can say that about a lot of guys.