This is something I could never have imagined after July 27th. Before the Braves could even gather their wits after a 14-5 shellacking at the hands of Tampa Bay, it was announced Mike Foltynewicz had lost his spot on the 40-man roster and was being designated for assignment after just one start.
Folty was roughed up, but Tampa Bay is one of baseball’s best teams. He gave up six earned runs, three home runs, and four walks in just 3.1 innings. His velocity issues that raised eyebrows during the Marlins scrimmage the week before were no fluke. Foltynewicz wasn’t “taking it easy” or “getting stretched out” — his weight loss caused his velocity to dip below 90 consistently.
The 2019 NLDS Game 5 will forever live in Braves’ infamy, but it may still haunt Folty to this day. I can’t say I blame him — headcase or not. A looper that missed Freddie Freeman’s glove by millimeters opened the floodgates, and the dismal outcome may have played a role in Folty having such a short leash.
Like many others, I was almost certain that Folty was going to be claimed. Fans of other teams were clamoring for him in Jeff Passan’s mentions, and clubs like Boston — who needed serious rotation help — made a lot of sense. Maybe it was time for a fresh start elsewhere?
Ten days later, Foltynewicz found himself back in Gwinnett. Unclaimed and still on the roster.
Even though there’s no timetable for him to return to major league action, the murmurs for a Folty come back are getting louder — especially after Max Fried’s most recent injury.
Folty is set to throw in another intrasquad game at Gwinnett today (Tuesday). As Anthopoulos said, no timetable for return to major league team.
— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) September 8, 2020
Kyle Wright (8.05 ERA) gave up five runs and three homers in four innings Tuesday. Fried has allowed no homers in 50 innings over nine starts, and the other 10 #Braves starters have served up 29 homers in 127 2/3 innings.
— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) September 9, 2020
There are also reports out of Gwinnett that Folty has gained some weight, resulting in an increase in velocity, which is hopefully true. The Braves are on their last leg. They’re in danger of missing the playoffs, and if the Marlins sweep tonight, the Fish will only be 1.5 games back — currently where the Phillies are sitting.
Philly added three bullpen pieces at the deadline, and the Marlins made a slew of moves to improve as well. Atlanta… they got Tommy Milone.
It’s too late to give prospects like Tucker Davidson, Patrick Weigel, or Kyle Muller a chance. Robbie Erlin does not need to take the mound for Atlanta again. Josh Tomlin has been hit or miss, but he’s made a solid band-aid. Hopefully, Cole Hamels is returning next week, but can he be relied on after missing so much time?
Even if Hamels is healthy and effective (which I believe he will be), that only solves one spot in the rotation. Atlanta has three massive holes, make it four with Fried on the shelf for now. The only other option is Ian Anderson, who has a grand total of (albeit impressive) 15 innings. But is he ready to face off against the Dodgers, Cubs, or Phillies in a playoff situation?
Let’s say Fried comes back healthy, and Cole Hamels is the guy he has been his entire career. Tomlin is a serviceable opener, but this model isn’t sustainable for these last 2 1/2 weeks for a playoff team. Folty had a fantastic September in 2019, tossing 30 innings while only allowing five runs and six walks. Even if the team doesn’t trust him in the postseason, they might need him to get there.