Detroit Tigers: Recent addition Braden Bristo has untapped value

Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Braden Bristo (54) reacts after striking out an opposing hitter.
Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Braden Bristo (54) reacts after striking out an opposing hitter. / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers recent addition Braden Bristo is an intriguing add.

The Detroit Tigers recently brought in Braden Bristo from the Tampa Bay Rays organization in a flurry of moves that brought three pitchers into the Tigers organization. The 28-year-old right-handed pitcher is listed as a two-way but has not picked up the bat in years, from the looks of it.

That's okay, he may not have always been with the Rays, but the fact he was getting pitching development from the Rays organization is undoubtedly worth being excited about. The Detroit Tigers may have some untapped value to grab onto here to help a bullpen that certainly will not shy away from help.

It's not to say that he is the next best reliever for the Tigers or will be a shut-down closer, but in today's game, where some junkball pitchers can get by between the high-velocity majority, Bristo might be something.

He does not throw a two- or four-seam fastball. His four-pitch arsenal is completely made up of pitches with distinct and crazy movement. He throws a heavy sinker, a lateral cutter, a big sweeper, and a depthy changeup.

All four pitches have distinct movement patterns, and the Rays may have only used him once in the big leagues, but the outing was impressive. Not to mention he made six outings in Triple-A Durham, where things did not go great, but the focus here is on the pitch mix.

The Rays have a knack for squeezing value out of unlikely sources, and Bristo might be one of those pitchers. He's certainly one of those players whose stats may be questionable, but he has the potential to be a unicorn arm in the Tigers' bullpen.

The Tigers need to capitalize on this and see if he can get things right in Triple-A with Toledo before jumping back into the big leagues with the Tigers. The stuff is funky and very interesting, leading me to believe there's some untapped value.

Bristo has four offerings as a part of his arsenal. The sinker & changeup are distinct but similar, and the cutter & slider are in the same boat. Let's talk about this more using his Baseball Savant data from his outing in the big leagues in 2023.

The sinker averages 92.1 mph, with spin averaging 2,277 RPMs. The pitch has that arm-side fade to it that can play when working glove-side. The changeup is similar, averaging 84.9 mph, with spin down to 1,709 RPMs. They both have similar movement profiles, but the changeup being in the mid-80s can be problematic for opposing hitters.

The cutter averages 87.9 mph with tighter and lateral shape but still has some depth to it; he can manipulate it to be a tighter breaking pitch and shows it with some lateral depth. The pitch averages 2,642 RPMs of spin. The slider is classified as a sweeper, and it does just that. It averages 82.2 mph with an average spin rate of 2,841 RPMs and disgusting depth.

There's also footage of him in 2021 breaking off a 3,600 RPM sweeper at 77 mph on a Trackman unit with an edgertronic camera angle, which is absolutely disgusting. The Rays certainly tweaked things, but the pitch mix is close enough together that it can miss bats.

All of the pitches' velocities are close enough top-to-bottom that he can tunnel effectively and fool hitters with the different parts of his pitch mix. The Tigers should be excited about seeing what Bristo can do. If he can find some consistency in Triple-A, he might be worth calling up to the big leagues.

Who knows, with an outlier makeup/pitch mix, he might be able to luck into success in the Tigers bullpen. Bristo's addition is not groundbreaking, but when you take a deeper look into things, the standard stats can be deceiving, and there's the makeup to be a big-league reliever.

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