Jackson Stephens continues to surprise for Atlanta Braves
After a strong season playing for the Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League, the Atlanta Braves took a chance on pitcher Jackson Stephens, signing him to a minor league deal on Jan. 12.
Fast forward a few months, and Stephens has become a topic of conversation after carving out a role for himself in the elite Atlanta Braves‘ bullpen.
Since having his contract selected by the Braves on April 12, Jackson Stephens has pitched a total of 22 1/3 innings, ranking 10th behind Collin McHugh (23 2/3).
During those 22 1/3 innings, Stephens has compiled a career-best 2.42 ERA, while walking just five batters and striking out 21. His low walk rate puts him in the 83rd percentile of qualifying pitchers.
In Stephens’ most recent appearance, he picked up his second save of the season after pitching three one-hit innings to close out the Braves’ 10-4 win over the Washington Nationals on Jun. 14.
After his strong showing at Nationals Park, Stephens now has the second-most saves on the Braves’ lineup, now tied with Will Smith. Kenley Jansen ranks first with 18 saves.
While A.J. Minter leads Braves pitchers in ERA+ at a dominant 449, Stephens sits second in the rankings with a 182 ERA+ in front of Spencer Strider (178).
Stephens also boasts a filthy curveball, with opponents batting a mere .118 on curveballs from the Braves pitcher this season. His curve spin also ranks in the 97th percentile among qualifying players.
This pitch to strike out Miami’s Brian Anderson should say enough:
His four-seam fastball, which he utilizes most out of any pitch in his arsenal (34% of the time), averages 94.1 mph. Opponents have hit for just a .121 average against Stephens’ four-seamer this season, down from a .281 average from his last season in the major leagues.
After the Braves signed him following stints with Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos of the Mexican League and the Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League, there were a lot of unknowns surrounding the Oxford, Alabama native.
However, Stephens has a strong hold on his place in the Atlanta bullpen after an impressive journey back to Major League Baseball. On top of that, Stephens doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon either.