Yesterday, Huascar Ynoa was nearly perfect in his return to the majors after three months off, tossing 5.1 shutout innings with four strikeouts in just 80 pitches. But as I mentioned earlier today, he wasn’t the only member of the Braves starting rotation to show out. Down on the farm, Ian Anderson was making his third rehab start for the Stripers and looked the best he has since injuring his shoulder just before the All-Star break. He also didn’t allow a run and struck out six batters over 4.1 innings (76 pitches).
Perhaps the Braves give Anderson one more start in Gwinnett before adding him to the active roster. However, if they follow the same path as they did with Ynoa, which seemed to work just fine, he’ll be back in the Braves rotation next week. That’s fantastic news, but it does mean that someone will be losing their job as a starting pitcher.
Max Fried/Charlie Morton
I started with these two because they — along with Ian Anderson — are the obvious locks to stick around in the rotation. If Game 1 of a playoff series were tomorrow, one of these guys would get the rock.
Smyly’s first year in a Braves uniform started miserably, but for a little over two months, he’s been incredibly consistent. In his last 12 starts, he’s 6-0 with a more than respectable 3.34 ERA. The Braves are also 11-1 over that stretch in games he’s started. That’s pretty damn impressive, but still, Smyly might be best-suited for the bullpen. We’ve seen him fall off a cliff when he goes through the order a third time, and the numbers back that up.
3rd time through the order: 7.94 ERA, .338 opponents batting average, .996 opponents OPS
Of course, the sample size isn’t very large, but I think it’s enough to justify taking Smyly out after two times through the order, especially against good offenses. For that reason, I could see the Braves using him in a hybrid relief role, which can be extremely valuable come playoff time.
To me, Toussaint has been the best surprise of the 2021 campaign. I always knew he had the stuff to be a very good major-league pitcher, but with so many arms in the organization, he was running out of opportunities with the Braves. Thankfully, Alex Anthopoulos and company didn’t give up on him, and they’ve been reaping the rewards. Outside of one porous outing in which Toussaint gave up seven earned runs, he’s been elite, holding opponents to two runs or less in his five other starts.
I think Toussaint is the type of pitcher the Braves will be touch and go with. As of right now, I’m not sure how they strip him of a spot in the rotation. Given his high upside as a starting pitcher, the Braves would be fools to do so. However, if he begins to struggle over the last month, they could move him to the bullpen or send him back to Gwinnett to work on his stuff.
If you had asked me before last night, I would have said Huascar Ynoa is the favorite to move to the bullpen. Not because I don’t like him; I just think he could make an incredible impact out of the ‘pen with his 100-mph fastball and wipeout slider. However, this young man just keeps impressing me as a starter. After sitting on the shelf for three months, he comes out and completely shuts down the Marlins. Now, The Fish don’t have an imposing lineup, but 5.1 innings of shutout ball against any major-league team is elite. I still think there’s a chance Ynoa ends up in the bullpen, but his poise for a 23-year-old over the last two seasons has been incredible, which very well could keep him in the rotation for good.
I also wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Braves went to a six-man rotation. Last year was a shortened season, and several of these guys have had injury issues this season. If the Braves continue to maintain a comfortable lead in the division, there isn’t a reason to make a decision any time soon.
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