One of the biggest surprises of the 2018 season has not been the Braves surging offense, but rather their incredible starting pitching. That’s right, the rotation has been lights out, ranking third in the entire MLB in ERA. Younger pitchers like Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb have really come into their own. Mike Soroka looks to be shaping out like a really solid middle of the rotation option if not more, and veterans Julio Teheran, Anibal Sanchez and Brandon McCarthy have provided much needed rotational depth. However, with the season starting to heat up as July approaches and the Braves on top of the NL East, Atlanta will have to hollow out their rotation and let the youth take over.
Prior to the season, if everything went perfectly, the Braves knew they would not need both McCarthy and Sanchez anchoring the rotation. Top prospects like Soroka, Allard and Gohara would battle and eventually land in the rotation. Soroka has already reached that point, while Gohara and Allard wait patiently for their opportunity. There is a chance Gohara turns into a bullpen arm, but it is still way too early for the Braves to give up on him as a starter. This is why they just sent him back to Gwinnett to start games again. As far as Allard, it seems like just a matter of time until he gets his first crack.
With 12 starts under his belt in AAA Gwinnett, Allard is 5-2 with a 2.28 ERA and a WHIP of just 1.12. Allard was drafted along side Soroka in 2015, and together they have impressed throughout the minor league system earning the right to be the #2 (Soroka) and #4 (Allard) prospects according to SportsTalkATL’s top prospect list. Allard is another left-handed pitcher with a mid-90s fastball and two good off speed pitches in a changeup and curveball.
Currently, the Braves have six quality starters and two more knocking on the door. With Julio Teheran not going anywhere, Atlanta is going to have to make decision between Brandon McCarthy and Anibal Sanchez. McCarthy has pitched valiantly so far this season, but it is clear Sanchez is the better option going forward right now. The 34-year old has a 3-0 record and 1.93 ERA in seven starts this season with Atlanta. Those kind of numbers may not be sustainable, but Sanchez has earned the right over McCarthy to be the fifth and final starter going forward.
McCarthy (5-3, 4.89 ERA) should continue to occupy a rotation spot until Mike Foltynewicz returns from the DL with tricep tightness. That should happen sooner rather than later, though, and the Braves will have a decision to make. Continue to stick with a six-man rotation, or allow the young guns to take control going forward. It may not be fair to McCarthy, but it makes sense for Atlanta to go with the latter.
McCarthy is a solid veteran pitcher, and we all know how the value of starting pitching rises around the trade deadline. The Braves will hope to get some organizational depth or a low-to-mid tier prospect in exchange for his services.