McKirahan was a Rule 5 pick this offseason by Miami from the Chicago Cubs. According to Baseball America, he has a power arm, and can run his fastball in the mid-90s, though his breaking ball apparently still needs work. He had Tommy John surgery in 2012.
Much like James Russell, the reliever the Braves released this past week, McKirahan is a left-hander who is much better against right-handed batters than left-handed batters. Across two levels last year, including the double-A Southern League, righties had a .203 batting average against him, while lefties hit .301.
That same pattern of better success against right-handed batters was obvious in his splits in every other season since he was drafted in the 21st round in 2011 out of the University of Texas at Austin.
The Braves seem desperate for relievers at this point in spring, and adding McKirahan smacks a bit of desperation, though it follows the youth movement they have been on this offseason. If he doesn’t work out, then he can be returned to the Cubs. But for him to remain a Brave beyond this season, he would need to stay on the 25-man roster all season, according to the roster rules for Rule 5 picks.
The Braves have a previous Rule 5 pick in Daniel Winkler who will need to meet the requirement of spending at least 90 days on the active roster at some point. He is recovering from Tommy John surgery (theme!) this season, and may not pitch until late in the year, but it will be interesting if Atlanta has to squeeze two Rule 5 picks on their roster. I don’t believe the Braves have ever carried two Rule 5 selections who need to meet roster requirements at the same time.
It will be interesting to see how his acquisition affects the chances of the other lefties still in the running for bullpen spots like Josh Outman, Luis Avilan and Brady Feigl. Avilan didn’t pitch that great in the game yesterday, but Feigl certainly got an important out in the ninth inning, which would seem to help his chances. Outman has struggled most of the spring and could be on the way out, man.
All is still in flux for the last few roster spots, but we know one of the bullpen spots will now be filled by Andrew McKirahan.