It’s been a tough week for former All-Star Mike Foltynewicz. On Monday, he was DFA’d by the Braves after showing a sharp decline in his velocity for the second season in a row, resulting in back-to-back porous outings against the Marlins and Rays. And yesterday, he was outrighted to Gwinnett because none of the other 29 teams claimed him on waivers. That just goes to show how far he’s fallen in a matter of months.
Even after an abysmal start to 2019, Foltynewicz was able to bounce-back and became the Braves best pitcher down the stretch, which eventually led to him starting a winner-take-all Game 5 against the St. Louis Cardinals. We don’t need to rehash what happened in that game, but Folty still had the stuff of a top-of-the-rotation starter. That hasn’t been the case so far in 2020.
Folty’s velocity is down a full five miles per hour from last year and over seven miles per hour from 2018, leading to many people (including myself) questioning whether there is some underlying issue. However, yesterday on MLB Network’s High Heat, Alex Anthopoulos was clear in saying that Folty returned to camp healthy and in good shape following the lengthy layoff, the stuff just wasn’t there. And for a pitcher that has always been a “stuff guy”, there’s no way for him to find much success if he cannot get that corrected.
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) July 30, 2020
That’s not to say it is impossible. The Braves are leaving the door open for a potential return. Foltynewicz will work out with the taxi squad in Gwinnett, and if he can show a sustained increase in velocity, the Braves will most likely give him another shot. After all, they don’t have many other promising options in their rotation after Mike Soroka and Max Fried.
One way that might be possible for Folty is if he gains some weight.
Even though Anthopoulos said on MLB Network that Folty came back to camp in good shape, it was overwhelmingly apparent that he was much skinnier than he has been over the years. After he was outrighted to Gwinnett, Foltynewicz acknowledged the concerns and reportedly told Brian Snitker that he is already working on it in hopes it will lead to increased velocity.
#Braves Snitker says the team hopes to put some weight on Folty through a diet and training plan. Snitker thinks they can get his velocity back if they build him back up the right way.
— 92.9 The Game (@929TheGame) July 30, 2020
It’s not going to be an easy road back for Folty, and I wouldn’t expect him to return to Atlanta anytime soon. However, as long as there are no underlying issues, there’s a chance he can sort things out in Gwinnett. Foltynewicz was able to do it last year and returned as the Braves’ best pitcher. It will be a little more challenging to do this season since there is no minor league season, but through bullpen sessions and live-action practices, the coaches will be able to tell if his stuff returns to form. For the Braves’ sake, who are desperate for rotation help, let’s hope Folty can quickly turn it around.
Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire