Braves: Today’s Opening Day starting rotation


As the days go by, it seems less and less likely the Braves are going to bolster their starting rotation with an ace before the start of the season, which is completely fine. The Braves have eight or nine arms that could potentially hold a spot in the rotation by the time April rolls around. Perhaps they add a veteran arm as they have in the past to guide their youth, but it makes more sense to hold onto this young talent and see what they have than oblige to the gaudy asking price for a top of the line starting pitcher.

For the sake of this article, we will assume there are no significant additions to the staff and analyze who the five best options are to fill out the Braves’ rotation.

#1 Mike Foltynewicz

This one is pretty easy to figure out. Foltynewicz was the Braves go-to option all last season and into the playoffs. He deserves the honor of starting his first Opening Day game for Atlanta. In 31 starts, Folty went 13-10 with a 2.85 ERA and reached his first career All-Star game. Rightfully so, there are questions about whether Foltynewicz can continue his success into 2019. That’s not always a guarantee, especially for a pitcher like Folty. But for now, he is the ace of this staff.

#2 Kevin Gausman

After battling inconsistencies in Baltimore, Gausman came into his own once he joined the Braves. In ten starts, he went 5-3 with a 2.87 ERA and displayed much more control than he ever did in Baltimore. There’s a real chance the Braves found something special here. After all, Gausman was the fourth overall pick back in 2012. Baltimore is known for wasting their pitching prospects, and the Braves have the exact opposite reputation. He will start the year at the top of the rotation, but his performance in the first half of the season will dictate whether he stays there.

#3 Sean Newcomb

People are a little down on Newcomb, and they should be after the way he finished 2018. At about the midpoint of the season, the second-year southpaw was in the conversation for the All-Star game along with Mike Foltynewicz. I don’t know if it was the pressure from the expectations that were beginning to form or the lengthy MLB season, but Newcomb fell off a cliff in the second half. In his final 12 starts, he went 4-4 with a 4.58 ERA.

However, Newcomb has the potential to be at the top of the rotation for a long time. He can throw in the mid-90s from the left side while barely exerting an ounce of effort. His repertoire also includes a deadly curveball and a developing changeup. He reminds me a lot of Jon Lester, but it takes a wealth of intangibles to reach that kind of potential. We will see what Newcomb is made of in 2019.

#4 Julio Teheran

Admittedly, I was debating whether to include Teheran on this list at all. As things stand now, it looks like Teheran will have a place at the back-end of the Braves’ rotation, but there is still the chance the Braves move him. If they do, Atlanta will still likely attempt to acquire a veteran presence to tutor some of these young arms, so file the fourth spot in the rotation as an aging veteran with some sort of upside.

#5 Mike Soroka

Soroka has been at the top of the list of Braves’ pitching prospects for close to a year now. He broke in with the Braves as a 20-year old last year and didn’t bat an eye, going six strong in a win over the Mets in his major league debut. Soroka went on to make five starts with Atlanta before hitting the DL with shoulder soreness.

Sadly, that shoulder soreness turned out to be a lot more serious than initially thought, leading to the Braves shutting down Soroka for the remainder of the season. The good news is he appears ready to go for the start of spring training. Frankly, he was about ready come playoff time, but the team did not want to take the risk. Providing there are no setbacks, Soroka should earn a starting spot on the major league squad.

Other Names to Watch

Luiz Gohara– In his two short stints in the big leagues, Gohara has not had much success. However, he has the stuff of a top of the rotation pitcher once he figures it out. The Braves might be better served with him coming out of the bullpen to begin next year, but anything can happen after that.

Max Fried– Like Gohara, Fried looks like a candidate that may transition to the bullpen. The Braves used him there often at the end of last year and into the playoffs. But it is also not ridiculous to think he could become a full-time starter if he continues to blossom.

Touki Touissant– This is probably a name most people were expecting in the starting rotation. Touissant showed some flashes of brilliance in his five starts in the major leagues last year and was even more impressive in the minors, where he dominated. In 2019, we will see if that progression is sustainable, or if he could be best suited as a multiple-inning guy out of the bullpen.

Bryse Wilson– Unexpectedly, Wilson shot up the ranks of the minor leagues and made his major league debut last season as a 20-year old. In his debut, he went five scoreless innings in a win over the Pirates. Wilson is most likely a candidate to start the year in AAA, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he found himself a part of the rotation at some point in 2019.

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