Atlanta Braves about to launch a royal rumble for rotation spots

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 14: Starting pitcher Mike Foltynewicz
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 14: Starting pitcher Mike Foltynewicz /

Two rotation spots are more-or-less settled with 3 more up in the air as the calendar page turns to a sheet that has some games scheduled.

Barring injury, Julio Teheran is going to lead the Atlanta Braves‘ rotation into the season once again.  Behind him is Mike Foltynewicz… and then a lot of uncertainty.

So said manager Brian Snitker to reporters last weekend.

Here, this Spring, Braves fans are about to get a taste of the pitching prospect logjam that we’ve been seeing on the horizon for multiple years now.

The candidates are lining up like this… and possibly in this order:

  • Brandon McCarthy – while Alex Anthopoulos has seen his work, the on-field staff largely hasn’t.  While he’s probably got an inside track, nothing is guaranteed.
  • Luiz Gohara.  Looked the part of a starter in a brief audition last Summer.
  • Sean Newcomb.  Now has 100 innings of major league experience, and that’s going to help him this Spring as he works to refine command.
  • Max Fried.  Was getting better as the season went along, culminating in an excellent performance in the Arizona Fall League.
  • Mike Soroka.  Was specifically named by Snitker.  Sneaky fast with command.  I expect he’s a AAA starter to begin the year, but would be the first ‘break glass in case of emergency’ callup.
  • Scott Kazmir.  The wild card.  “If he’s healthy” is going to be a phrase heard a lot about him until we actually learn how he’s doing after a hip issue kept him out of the majors – and almost all of baseball – in 2017.
  • Still hanging around:  Lucas Sims, possibly Matt Wisler

It is still an oft-repeated adage in the majors:  if you want to keep 5 starting pitchers healthy, you’d better have 7 of them.  The Braves have at least 8 (the list above), plus others that will be knocking on the door soon.

Snitker did not rule out a 6-man rotation, but allowed that those not starting could definitely end up in relief roles – and that probably everybody would get some starting assignments during the season in some capacity.  For now at least, he’s certainly leaning toward a traditional 5-man rotation with spot starts from the rest.

The next pitchers that could emerge – numbers 9 and 10, for the sake of counting – could be Kyle Wright and Kolby Allard.  He hasn’t yet pitched much as a Brave, but will have every chance to do so starting this Spring, and could move up quickly.

Allard was good in AA if not quite dominant, but hit 150 innings in 2017 and he’s certainly trending in the right direction with lower ERA, walk rate, FIP, xFIP (barely).  His K-rate took a dip, though (from 9.25 to 7.74).  He’s still just 20½ years old.

Outside help not likely

If there was a trade coming or a free agent pitcher to sign, the chances of this are crashing further with each successive day into February.  On MLB Radio (XM) yesterday, Jon Paul Morosi mentioned that his Atlanta sources had all but ruled out Jake Arrieta specifically and he seemed to hint that this extended to others as well.

I do anticipate that the next week could be the busiest of the off-season thus far as teams and free agents make some tough decisions, but don’t hold your breath waiting for Atlanta to join that party.

A Quick Word on Free Agents

The Braves are walking a thin line so far as they start setting up boxes and pallets for moving equipment to Orlando:  having removed most of their defensive liabilities (both being players named ‘Matt’), they still don’t really know if the defense has been shored up or not… considered a vital aspect to assist pitchers this year.

I’m with Fred on the subject of third baseTodd Frazier or Jedd Gyorko are the only real options.  But again, the calendar is now the enemy.  Though this year could actually be the exception to the normal rules, teams simply don’t say in February “you know that plan we started with for the off-season?  Let’s scrap it and go sign (insert star player with big-money aspirations here).

More from Tomahawk Take

So with left field, it might be Lane Adams‘ job until Ronald Acuna shows up.  Any new left fielder acquired now would shock me.

The only way that changes (even this year) is if the prices come down significantly…. and that’s going to be the case with 29 other teams, too.  Teams would have to believe that their Plan A either isn’t viable – a truth for a number of teams – or is outweighed big-time by Player X suddenly lowering his asking price.

So unless there’s a defender/hitter out there that wants to beg for a job, I don’t see a lot of changes coming in the field… which essentially means that our young pitchers will begin the season with a group of young position players behind them.

Next: The plug has been pulled

So let the competition begin!