It has been a week since our last update, but after Braves’ manager Brian Snitker met with the media (and MLB.com’s Mark Bowman) on Thursday, it seems inevitable that lefty Cole Hamels will begin the 2020 season on the injured list.
While Snitker chose to hold out hope for Freeman, he was willing to concede Cole Hamels will likely be unavailable to begin the season. https://t.co/rv54y4CL6h
— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) July 16, 2020
The unfortunate update isn’t exactly surprising. Even last week’s glance at Hamels’ situation appeared grim at best, given that he had yet to throw a bullpen session, which was followed by tricep tendinitis this past weekend. And though Hamels is reportedly pain-free at the moment, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to build up the needed stamina for a regular-season start. The Braves will open their season exactly one week from today — next Friday (July 24) at Citi Field, versus the Mets — and the former All-Star hasn’t even faced live batters yet.
Regardless, Hamels’ expected workload was bound to be light (injured list or not), at least to start the season, as the Braves originally intended to limit the 36-year-old to just 3-4 innings through his first several outings. At this point, though, perhaps it is more beneficial to let the veteran rest, for if nothing else to keep unnecessary pressure off the Braves’ bullpen. Also, there are a handful of potential replacements that could hold down Hamels’ rotation spot for the time being, allowing the Braves to never miss a beat. Here are the four that are the most deserving:
Kyle Wright, RHP
With nos. 1-4 of the Braves’ current rotation featuring a consistent righty, lefty, righty, lefty transition, inserting the right-handed Kyle Wright would finish off the staff nicely and give the Braves the perfect combination of arms, and it appears Wright is currently the frontrunner to take Hamels’ spot, given he has the highest ceiling of available substitutes. Also, according to Bowman’s write-up at MLB.com on Thursday, Snitker was impressed with Wright’s three-inning, intrasquad start yesterday, and the 24-year-old is coming off a strong Spring Training from earlier this year, when he put up a 2.03 ERA in four games (two starts) while striking out 15 and walking three in 13.1 innings.
Wright’s stint in the big leagues has come with plenty of adversity, and his career 7.71 ERA through parts of the last two seasons doesn’t exactly allow for too much optimism. But as a top-100 prospect in all of MLB, with some of the best stuff in the Braves’ organization, it may pay off to give Wright another shot to start 2020.
Tucker Davidson, LHP
In terms of who I’d most like to see given a chance to start the year in the Braves’ rotation, it’s Davidson over Wright. His incredible 2019 season — in which he posted a 2.15 ERA across 25 starts combined in Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett — coupled with the massive strides he made this past winter at Driveline, make for an exciting up-and-comer for the major league starting staff. And to top it off, Davidson also had a fantastic (first) Spring Training, pitching to a 1.42 ERA in his five relief appearances.
Davidson’s not as experienced as Wright, having only logged 19 innings (4 starts) at the Triple-A level, meaning there’s bound to be some growing pains, but he could easily make up for that by catching major league hitters off guard. This season, Davidson’s high-90s mph fastball coming from the left side could be a major weapon coming out of the gate this season.
Josh Tomlin, RHP
As a Brave, the 35-year-old Tomlin has been nothing but consistent, tallying 50 relief appearances last season, including some mop-up duty on May 7 versus the Dodgers, when Max Fried allowed four runs and was chased after just one frame. If you can recall, Tomlin pitched admirably that day, lasting four innings and allowing only one run from two hits, which allowed the Braves’ bullpen to live to fight another day.
Finishing the year with just under six strikeouts per nine in 2019, Tomlin’s style on the mound isn’t flashy, but the veteran knows how to get batters out. Giving Tomlin the reigns for a month or so to start the year wouldn’t be the worst idea, and it could allow the Braves to use Wright and Davidson in a multi-inning relief role if needed.
Bryse Wilson, RHP
Wilson’s start to life as a major leaguer has gone a lot like Wright’s, as the Bulldog has managed a bloated 7.00 ERA through his first 27 innings with the Braves over the last two seasons. However, that’s perhaps where their similarities end. Wright’s repertoire is more conducive to that of a starter, while it’s becoming apparent that Wilson may be better suited in relief, which was illustrated earlier this year when he struggled during Spring Training (3 games / 8.44 ERA).
Given how well Wilson has performed as a starter everywhere but the majors, he still has a non-zero chance at earning a rotation spot. Although, I’d say it’s a bit of a stretch.
Who do you think will fill in during Hamels’ absence?
Current Braves Rotation
- Mike Soroka (RHP)
- Max Fried (LHP)
- Mike Foltynewicz (RHP)
- Sean Newcomb (LHP)