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2021 Braves player review: Tanner Roark

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Roark spent a few days on the Braves active roster but didn’t make an appearance.

Toronto Blue Jays v Texas Rangers Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

In this series we have already highlighted some of the bullpen churn that the Atlanta Braves had to endure during the first half of the season. Tanner Roark was another veteran addition that spent a couple of days on the major league roster but never got into a game.

How Acquired

Roark signed a two-year, $24 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays in December of 2019 but struggled through 11 starts during the 2020 season. He lasted just three appearances with Toronto in 2021, allowing seven hits and five earned runs in seven innings before he was released on May 3. Roark signed a minor league deal with the Braves on May 11 and made his debut with Gwinnett on May 23.

Expectations

The expectations for Roark were low overall but he was an experienced option that had had previous success at the major league level. Roark’s career made his collapse kind of strange — he put up 3.3 fWAR in his first full season, then was below replacement as a swingman, and then reeled off four straight seasons of declining performance but flooring at 2.0 fWAR in 2019. However, that 2019 involved a midseason trade from Cincinnati to Oakland, where he was nearly replacement level for 10 starts after the trade. The Blue Jays gave him that modest deal, but he was horrendous from the get-go — seemingly a victim of both aging and the prejudice with which major league hitters victimize sinkers and not-too-good fastballs in general, plus the fact that he wasn’t able to throw his four-seamer up in the zone enough even as he increased usage of it. Basically, the Braves had a lot of work to do with him if they wanted him to go back to the guy that bamboozled them with the Nats from time to time.

2021 Season results

Roark struggled initially at Gwinnett but then settled in. The Braves selected his contract on June 24 as they continued to shuffle bullpen arms. He was optioned three days later without appearing in a game. Roark returned to Gwinnett and remained with the team until he elected free agency on September 5. In all, he appeared in 24 games with the Stripers while posting a 2.14 ERA and a 3.25 FIP in 46 1/3 innings.

Tanner Roark 2021 Stats

Gms IP K% BB% ERA FIP xERA
Gms IP K% BB% ERA FIP xERA
TOR - 3 7.0 16.1 6.5 6.43 8.17 8.53
GWN - 24 46.1 23.4 8.5 2.14 3.25 ------

What went right? What went wrong?

Roark put together solid numbers at Gwinnett but the Braves apparently didn’t believe that it would necessarily translate to success at the Major League level. Whatever he was doing at Gwinnett would’ve been kind of interesting to see at the major league level, since he reversed his falling grounder rate, but a 3.84 xFIP at Triple-A for a 35-year-old with over 1,100 major league innings probably doesn’t portend much success either way.

Outlook for 2022

Roark didn’t latch on with anyone for the final month of the 2021 season. He just turned 35, and will likely be looking for another opportunity next spring. To get more than a flier of a shot, though, he’d probably need to show someone he has a new approach to pitching than the fastball-heavy morass that upended him the last few years.