Braves: How the rotation should look going forward

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After Robbie Erlin was rocked earlier this week, the Braves were fortunate to get their 2nd three-home-run game in as many nights courtesy of Adam Duvall, leading to a sweep at Fenway Park. However, the Red Sox may be the worst team in baseball, and their rotation is in absolute shambles. Atlanta’s starting pitching won’t fly when Walker Buehler or Mike Clevinger is on the mound. Bowman has already announced that the Friday doubleheader against Washington may be tough to watch.

The Braves later announced that Huascar Ynoa will start the second game of the double-header, and Tomlin will start on Sunday, but that doesn’t change the point.

Tommy Milone is on thin ice; he may get cut before the players sent to Baltimore are even announced. Josh Tomlin was amazing out of the pen, but his starts have been dismal. Mark Bowman provided us with some good news shortly after, however.

Erlin was basically brought in to mop up once every five days. His time in Atlanta will be over shortly. I have no problem with Josh Tomlin staying in the pen, but I also have no qualms with cutting bait with Milone if he doesn’t look much better today. You have to hold the L with some trades, and unless Milone tosses six innings of one-run ball, this will be a complete wash. 

What should the team do about this? Chase and I have gone on multiple Twitter rants, considering the team is throwing Erlin and Tomlin out there while giving Ender Inciarte at-bats, but that’s another article for another day. Cole Hamels may be returning soon, but he can’t be relied on. It’s time to mix it up. Even though they are winning, the Braves can afford to allow for some development. Where can the team turn with the trade deadline already in the rearview mirror?

I still believe Anthopoulos made the right move by not giving up Drew Waters for Lance Lynn. The Rangers were greedy, and it may come back to bite them like holding on to Mike Minor at the 2019 deadline did. There’s no point in dwelling over missing on Clevinger or not acquiring Dylan Bundy or Alex Cobb. It’s done, but these rotation spots still must be filled. 

Kyle Wright

Let’s begin with the obvious. Kyle Wright has a career eight starts and hasn’t even cracked 41 innings. His walks are alarming. In 2020, he hasn’t issued less than three in an outing, but I’m not ready to give up on a guy who hasn’t even made it through 1/4 of the innings a starter would typically see in a 162-game season. 

I’m optimistic we’ll see Wright next week. He’s shown flashes of dominance in some starts, but he seems to always succumb to the “big inning.” He was cruising along against Tampa Bay until he was rocked for five runs in the 3rd inning after getting into trouble with walks. He didn’t allow any Mets to score in his next start but only made it 3.1 innings after issuing four walks and giving up five hits. He also struck out five men in that same start. 

The pitch count is troublesome, but it all comes down to walks. He has nasty stuff; he just needs to trust it and throw strikes. I would rather see Wright go six innings and give up three runs than go four innings with no runs and four walks. Ian Anderson has been so successful early on because he commands his fastball and throws strikes aggressively — even in 3-0 and 3-1 counts.

I’m not sure if this is a coaching issue or if Wright is pitching scared, but I believe he can be dominant if he starts trusting his pitches and stops worrying about the outcome. Regardless, he isn’t going to learn by pitching less than 20 innings in a season. Tell Wright the spot is his before the end of the season, so he doesn’t have to worry about getting demoted, and to quote Freddy Garcia – “Just make pitch.”

Touki Toussaint

Another youngster with walk issues, Touki has one of the best pure curveballs in baseball. He’s been relegated to mostly bullpen and mop-up duty, but with Anderson’s emergence and a big SP free agency class on the horizon, it’s time for Touki to sink or swim. He has gotten knocked all over the yard in 2020, but his 28 strikeouts in 21.2 IP is a very promising stat. However, his 13 walks and MLB leading 5 HBP are not as appealing. 

Toussaint has still only thrown 92.1 career innings, and this is the time to stretch him out and evaluate his potential as a starter going forward. Touki has been different from Kyle Wright, mainly because he’s coming out of the pen, but he’s had much better fortune. He’s also been roughed up a lot more, considering he took over mop-up duty for the better part of his time in Atlanta. His best 2 appearances came against the Mets & Blue Jays. 

Toussaint’s four innings against the Mets weren’t perfect. He walked three, hit a batter, and gave up three. However, he struck out five and held down the lead to secure a win. However, his next time out, he looked like he could be a top of the rotation arm, striking out nine over 6 2/3 innings against Toronto — the longest outing of his career.

Putting Toussaint in the bullpen hasn’t worked. It’s time to give him a rotation spot for at least a few weeks to see if he’s part of the future plan. Is he perfect? No. Is he better than what the team is currently throwing out there? Maybe. Is he a youngster who deserves a chance to make or break it? You bet.

Next Man Up

With no minor league season going on, it’s difficult for fans to evaluate who is ready and who is not. The remaining three arms that are likely to take a step forward are Tucker Davidson, Kyle Muller, and Patrick Weigel. 

Tucker Davidson – Davidson is the name Braves fans have been calling for the most. He is a friend of the podcast, and on top of being a great guy, he’s looked awfully impressive in limited action with the Stripers. After making Mississippi look like a high school team, posting a 2.03 ERA in 110.2 IP while striking out 122, Davidson didn’t miss a beat transitioning to AAA. It’s only 19 innings, but he allowed just 6 ER. Davidson may not be ready just yet, but he’s showing a lot of promise for the future — even if the Braves decide to sign a high profile starter. 

Kyle Muller – There’s a lot to be excited about when it comes to Kyle Muller. A 6’7′ lefty who pumps 99 makes me think of Randy Johnson, but Muller is still very raw. He’s never even pitched past Mississippi. However, he was awfully impressive in AA last year. Over 111.2 IP, Muller’s ERA sat at 3.14. He posted a nutty 9.7 K/9 for a starter, but his 5.5 BB/9 probably means he shouldn’t be thrown to the wolves in 2020. Muller is going to be great; I think he’ll be a dominant starter, but like Davidson — I don’t think it’s his time…. yet.

Patrick Weigel – It’s time to unleash Patrick Weigel in Atlanta. He saw limited action in 2019 after recovering from Tommy John’s surgery and was terrific. Weigel threw in Mississippi & Gwinnett, playing well at both levels. He tossed 7 “warmup” starts in AA spanning 15.2 innings, and it wasn’t perfect, walking nine batters. What he did show, however, was an ability to get out of trouble. Even with the high walk numbers, he only surrendered three earned runs and 0 HRs. 

AAA was a lot more interesting. Weigel didn’t get a ton of innings under his belt, but 63.1 is plenty enough to see where he is at. Over 21 appearances (11 starts), Weigel cut his walk rate down and only allowed 21 ER — good for a 2.98 ERA. He hit 7 batters, which is a little high, but he’s easily the most MLB-ready out of this group. Not only is Weigel the most ready, but he’s going to start getting pushed by these other prospects listed above. Is he a part of the future? Now is the time to find out.

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