It is easy to see why the Braves were so intrigued by Sean Newcomb that they were willing to ship their elite defensive shortstop Andrelton Simmons out of town. He was everything you could want in a pitching prospect: a tall left-hander with incredible raw stuff, featuring a mid-90s fastball and an extraordinary 12-6 curveball that falls right off the table
Throughout the minors, and now as he has emerged in the big leagues, “Newk” has widely been compared to Jon Lester. At his best, it is tough to discern the difference between the two. However, the 25-year old former first-round pick will have to work on consistency, and specifically, harnessing his control if he ever wants to sustain that success.
Newcomb had a shaky 2017, but in the first half of 2018, he was one of the best pitchers in baseball. His deceptive delivery and high-tailing fastball gave hitters fits, leading to an 8-5 record and a 3.51 ERA before All-Star break. But an inability to consistently hit his spots when needed led to his struggles at the end of the season. Despite holding opposing hitters to a .226 batting average, Newcomb’s walk rate continued to be a concern. He averaged 4.4 walks per nine innings and has a career walk rate of 4.7 BB/9 innings. If he can improve in that area, there is no doubting he can be a top of the rotation pitcher in this league.
In an outing last year, he was a pitch away from throwing the Braves’ first no-hitter in over 24 years against a loaded Dodgers lineup in the heat of July. He capped the season off with an impressive performance against L.A. once again in the playoffs. Overall, Newcomb’s sophomore campaign and his first full season in the big leagues was solid, showing progression and promise. Nevertheless, his inconsistencies in the season’s second half make him one of the biggest wild cards on the team in 2019.
Braves fans have been clamoring to make a move for an ace pitcher all offseason. However, with a rotation full of young talented arms like Sean Newcomb, it may be wise to gauge their progression, let them compete, and make a move if needed at the trade deadline. If Sean Newcomb can stay in the zone more this year, he could have a Mike Foltynewicz-type breakout season in him, and internally fill that need for another frontline starter. He showed it for a stretch. The question is: which Newcomb are we going to get in 2019? The lights-out pitcher who controls the zone, reduces his walks and wins games, or the top-of-the-line talent that cannot seem to get out of his own way.