As of today, the situation surrounding the Atlanta Braves’ rotation is very cloudy. Between injuries, relying on young arms, and an inconsistent Julio Teheran, the rotation did not live up to its full potential in 2015. Many have speculated that the team may perhaps test the free agency waters to find a veteran to add to the rotation. Barring moves being made, I do not currently see this as a possibility. The Braves currently have nine potential candidates to fill five rotation spots. The candidates are as follows: Shelby Miller, Julio Teheran, Mike Minor (yes, he will be back), Matt Wisler, Williams Perez, Manny Banuelos, Tyrell Jenkins, Ryan Weber and Mike Foltynewicz. There are a ton of scenarios that could fall into play, so let’s take a look:
Team Sends Arms Back to AAA
Tyrell Jenkins will most likely start his season in AAA, where he ended up last season after being promoted from AA Mississippi. While he impressed, there is no reason to rush his development. I wasn’t real big on Ryan Weber, and I expect him to be back in the minor leagues when next season begins. I’m not ruling out Williams Perez being demoted, either. However, I think it’s more likely he is moved to another team.
Team Moves Arms to the Bullpen
Three of the candidates for the rotation are realistic bullpen options for the team as well. Manny Banuelos has had an abundance of injury problems in the past, and still suffered serious elbow inflammation despite being put on an innings limit last season. This is a real shame, as I believe he and Matt Wisler have the highest potential of any of the young arms that are major league ready. Mike Foltynewicz has struggled in the big leagues, and the team may try to turn him into a late inning option given his high velocity. Williams Perez spent a little time in the bullpen this season, but he was far more effective as a starter. Don’t be surprised to see some of these guys work out of the ‘pen next season.
Trades Are Made
When it’s all said and done, I think the Braves are going to have to trade at least one of these guys in the offseason. Let’s say Jenkins and Weber start the year in AAA, and Folty is moved to the bullpen. That still leaves one odd man out. It’s going to have to be done. I think Williams Perez is the most likely candidate to be moved.
Barring trades being made, Shelby Miller and Julio Teheran will provide the 1-2 punch for the Braves next season. Teheran is still younger than many realize and had some growing pains, but given his performance at home and down the final stretch of the season, there is no reason to think he will not return to form in 2016. The team would be foolish to move him unless they got a great return. The third rotation spot will go to Mike Minor… temporarily. I think the Braves see Minor as an investment. I believe that since they still hold his rights, they may as well try to get a return on him. He will likely receive the same arbitration salary given he did not play last year. I think the team will sell high on Minor at some point in the season, get some young talent, and pave the way for Tyrell Jenkins to make his major league debut. Here’s where things get tough. I already established that I believe Tyrell Jenkins and Ryan Weber will be in AAA to start next season. I also established that I think Williams Perez may be as good as gone, given he appears to be the odd man out. This leaves Manny Banuelos, Mike Foltynewicz and Matt Wisler as the three candidates for two rotation spots. Now, I could take the easy route here and just say ManBan will be sent to the bullpen given his arm troubles. However, I think Banuelos will fare much better than Foltynewicz in the big leagues. Sure, Folty can throw hard. He also has a very flat fastball and major league hitters have tee’d off him. Given his arsenal, the team should focus on grooming him into a late inning option. I love ManBan, and I may love Wisler even more. I love the movement on his pitches, and he finished his rookie season on a strong note.
My Projected 2016 Rotation:
What do you think Braves fans?