Who is going to be the next closer for the Atlanta Braves?

Kenley Jansen, Atlanta Braves. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Kenley Jansen, Atlanta Braves. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

As the fresh sting of defeat slowly fades away, questions pertaining to the off season are quickly becoming topics of the day. The biggest question undoubtedly is the re-signing of shortstop Dansby Swanson and whether or not he will return as a Brave in 2023. However, once the questions regarding Swanson are answered, several others will take on increasing importance. One question that has plagued the Atlanta Braves this year regards the closer role. More specifically, should Kenley Jansen or Raisel Iglesias be the closer?

The Braves signed Jansen to a one year, $16 million dollar contract at the beginning of the 2022 season with high hopes from the veteran closer. Jansen had been the designated closer for the L.A Dodgers since 2013, and held an accomplished resume’ with several postseason saves. Not to mention Jansen recorded the most saves in the National League this season with 41.

Iglesias in contrast, struggled mightily with the Angels organization, but after being traded to the Braves at the trade deadline, Iglesias turned his season around in Atlanta. Iglesias posted a 4.04 ERA with the Angels in 39 games pitched. In his 28 games pitched for the Braves, Iglesias posted an 0.34 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, and with only one earned run allowed.

The Raisel Iglesias Era as the Atlanta Braves closer could be coming soon

Iglesias mainly served as a 7th or 8th inning setup man for the Braves, holding things down until Jansen came in for the save. However, following several rocky outings for Jansen, Braves fans began calling for a change to the closer role. Braves manager Brian Snitker only used Iglesias for one save in 2022, opting to stick with Jansen through the highs and lows of his season. Consistency varied from outing to outing for Jansen, while Iglesias pitched to near perfection.

Near the tail end of the regular season, Jansen performed much better although Iglesias did not tail off, either. In Jansen’s last seven saves of the season, he posted an ERA below 1.00 with zero earned runs allowed. Those saves were crucial to the Braves securing the division, as three of the seven came against the Mets. Jansen also clinched the save in game 160, which officially gave the Braves the National League East.

However, Iglesias doesn’t create the issues often seen in Jansen’s appearances. Jansen’s pitching motion is longer than average, so his delivery also makes it very easy for base-runners to steal off him. Jansen’s pitch selection is also limited to only two or three main pitches. Jansen’s cutter is his best pitch, but is prone to mechanical issues . These issues have proved to be difficult at times for the Braves. A good example being a blown save against the Cardinals in August, in which Jansen gave up a lead off hit, double, and a bases loaded walk off walk.  Some were quick to call this an isolated incident, but Jansen routinely created high stress situations with his mechanical issues well into the tail end of the season.

Iglesias, in contrast, rarely pitched himself into such situations and kept the baserunning game to a minimum.  Numbers don’t lie in this situation and it appears that Iglesias is a perfect option for closer. Letting Jansen walk would also free up millions of dollars that can go toward more important free agent signings and extensions.

The Braves also have the luxury that if Iglesias isn’t available for whatever reason or if the match-up is better for a lefty reliever, they have one of the better lefty bullpen arms in all of baseball in AJ Minter at their disposal. Minter has closed games before and is certainly already a high leverage option for the the team. AJ is also coming off a season where he posted a 2.1 fWAR season, so Braves fans should feel pretty good with that 1-2 punch in the late innings.

Unless the Braves re-sign Jansen, it seems plausible, if not likely, that Iglesias will become the Atlanta Braves new closer in 2023. Letting Jansen walk would also free up extra funds for other contracts and possible acquisitions for the Braves. General manager, Alex Alex Anthopoulos, hasn’t said much in regards to the closer role other than they would like to have Kenley back, but a different 9th inning face could be coming in 2023.

Raisel Iglesias seems like a natural fit for that role. Perfection is impossible when it comes to pitching, especially when it comes to high leverage relievers. Still, unless someone like Edwin Diaz or Emmanuel Clase signs with Atlanta, Iglesias is closest thing to an ideal closer the Braves have.

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