Arodys Vizcaino was electric in 2015, to the point where he is assumed to act as the closer for the Atlanta Braves in 2016. However, Vizcaino isn't the only 25-year-old right-hander with potentially dominant stuff in the back end of the bullpen for Fredi Gonzalez.
Remember Shae Simmons?
There was a two-month stretch during the summer of 2014 when it was Simmons that looked like the potential heir to Craig Kimbrel's throne as Atlanta's closer. In his first (and only) 21.2 innings in the big leagues, Shae Simmons posted a 2.91 ERA with 23 strikeouts, and he appeared to be yet another big-time bullpen arm for Roger McDowell to mold.
Unfortunately, Simmons went down with shoulder discomfort that sidelined him for the remainder of the 2014 season, missing the final two months, and since that time, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound pitcher underwent Tommy John surgery. The Braves are now well-known for their willingness to take risks with pitchers that have elbow trouble, to the point where it has become a running joke for the fan base and around baseball. At the same time, though, absence has forced Simmons to the background to the point where many have forgotten that he exists.
The now 25-year-old will not be available until May or June, according to reports, but given that the 2016 season is virtually a wash before it begins, the Braves would be wise to take a measured approach. As any diehard knows, bullpen arms are quite volatile, but at the same time, Atlanta has Simmons under control for multiple years at an incredibly cheap rate, and he profiles as a fantastic running mate to Vizcaino for the near future.
Everyone (and I mean, everyone) throws hard in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings when evaluating baseball in 2016, but Simmons sits in the mid-to-high 90's on a regular basis despite his slight frame. What separates the right-hander from the pack, though, is a dominant slider and a groundball-inducing sinker. Simmons produced a 52.8% groundball rate in his first MLB stint, and when accompanied by more than a strikeout per inning, that is a devastating recipe.
Steamer projections for the 2016 season also treat Simmons quite well, projecting the youngster for a 3.30 ERA (3.27 FIP) with a strikeout rate of more than 10 per 9 innings. It must be noted that it examines a small sample, given Simmons' late arrival date, but at any rate, the numbers love his upside.
Thanks to the seemingly never-ending parade of high-quality arms that have been added to the Atlanta Braves stable in the past year, Shae Simmons is now flying under the radar after being the "next big thing" just 18 months ago. There is certainly some possibility that he never recaptures that once-dominant form from his debut, but until then, there is plenty to get excited about for mid-2016 and beyond.