Searching for Saves: Is A.J. Minter The Reliever To Own In Atlanta?

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Many teams have moved away from having a “set” closer, instead looking at their best relievers as weapons to be deployed in an array of situations (the best example is with Josh Hader and the Milwaukee Brewers).  Could the Braves follow the same script?  It would be easy to argue that A.J. Minter, who proved capable of handling closing duties, is Atlanta’s best option but he could be used in the earlier innings instead relinquishing the role back to Arodys Vizcaino.  Who is the best option?  Who should be targeted?  Let’s try to figure it out:

A.J. Minter
The southpaw was heavily hyped heading into 2018 and delivered, posting a 3.23 ERA courtesy of an impressive 10.13 K/9 and 3.23 BB/9.  He showed that it didn’t matter who was at the plate, he could still get the job done:

  • Right-Handed Hitters – .252/.329/.370
  • Left-Handed Hitters – .222/.279/.250

It’s also easy to argue that he has more strikeout potential, with a 14.9% SwStr% and a wipeout slider (21.44% Whiff%).  It’s an impressive skillset that can be used in a variety of situations, as he went 15-for-17 in save chances but also could be saved for left-handed hitters or in high leverage situations earlier in games.

Arodys Vizcaino
While his 2.11 ERA would make it seem like he’s the better pitcher, a 9.39 K/9 isn’t as impressive (there was more potential given his 14.3% SwStr%) though the control was solid (3.52 BB/9) as it generally has been.  There are a few potential issues in terms of skills, though:

  • He benefited from a 91.8% strand rate, which is easy to imagine regressing
  • Opposing hitters also seemed to be able to square him up (26.7% line drive rate) 

The biggest issue has always been concerns about his health.  Only once has he thrown more than 39 innings in a Major League season, with his career high being 57.1 IP (2017). 

Conclusion
At the end of the day both should be owned.  It would appear likely that Vizcaino is used in the role initially,  especially since allowing Minter to close would ultimately drive up his price tag in arbitration (and being left-handed could also work against him, as the Braves will likely look to use him against tough left-handed hitters at key spots in the game).  That said it would appear to be only a matter of time before Vizcaino went down again, forcing Minter to step in and seize the role (and likely failing to relinquish it).  Utilize Vizcaino while he’s in the role, but have proper depth because it’s only a matter of time.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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